NICK Mason has amassed one of the world’s most celebrated car collections, yet he remains dissatisfied. The Pink Floyd drummer’s warehouse is home to a priceless hoard of Ferraris, Maseratis, Aston Martins, Bugattis and Porsches, but what’s missing, he feels, is a certain 1930 Austin Seven.
Not just any old Seven, but the Chummy with the registration MT 5109, for which he paid £20 in 1962. Since then perhaps as many as 300 cars have passed through his hands, and while he regrets selling almost every one, he particularly hankers after the car that propelled him from teenage pedestrian to full-on motorist.
So much so, in fact, that he once engaged a sleuth to track it down, with no luck. “Such a shame,” says Mason wistfully. “My mum and dad towed it home for me with our Mk 2 Jaguar, Mum driving the Jag and Dad in the Austin — I just had a provisional licence. But one day I drove it to Beaulieu and it got all the way there and back!”
His yearning is tempered by the memory of all the times the Chummy stood outside his home in Hampstead Garden Suburb waiting to be fixed — and those fixes were not always of a professional standard.
“I remember Aralditing the exhaust studs in,” he says. “I knew nothing of taps and dies back then. And when it was going, it was notably slow — 45mph flat-out. I can’t remember who I sold it to, but I bought a rather speedier 1934 Austin Nippy — my first step on the slippery slope …”
Mason knows his stuff. A five-time Le Mans competitor, he race-prepped his cars himself and has a fathomless knowledge of car design and manufacture, as well as racing history.
While outsiders fixate on the value of his collection — his Ferrari 250 GTO alone is said to be worth £30m — nobody mentions his Trabant, his Sinclair C5 or his Model T Ford, once owned by Coco the Clown.
“When I paid £35,000 for the 250 GTO in 1977, I felt stupid to be spending so much — I didn’t think it would be worth £30m in 2016.”
“Most of my collection has a racing pedigree, and I’ve raced many of the cars myself, but their increasing value is incidental,” he says. “People who pay a lot of money for a car have one thing in common — they all feel complete idiots, no matter how rich they are. When I paid £35,000 for the 250 GTO in 1977, I felt naggingly stupid to be spending so much — I certainly didn’t buy it because I thought it would be worth £30m in 2016.”
This is not a poor man’s pastime. Mason sold his 1950s BRM V16 Formula One car after calculating that it would have been cheaper to cover the total distance it had driven with Wilton carpet. And while every car in the collection is kept in working order, he no longer uses them as runabouts.
“I once took the kids to school in the Ferrari 250 GTO because the other cars wouldn’t start,” he says. “But they’re not all as reliable, and while I loved to drive them, they couldn’t be guaranteed to get me where I needed to be. It’s no use the drummer standing by the M4 waiting for the RAC while the band is about to go on. It never actually happened, but I came close.”
In the 1960s his everyday cars included a Mini Cooper and a succession of Lotus Elans, and when the cheques started to come in in the early 1970s, he bought a Ferrari 275 GTB/4. “Worst of the lot,” he says. “No brakes and constant plug-wetting. It’s a wonder I kept buying Ferraris after that.”
He did — he and his bandmate David Gilmour drove the first F40s back from Maranello. But there has been a lot of sensible metal in the Mason driveway in the past 40 years: Golfs, 5, 6 and 7-series and even a Renault 6.
“What was that all about, I wonder,” Mason muses.
Nick Mason: My life in cars
- 1964 Aston Martin International
- 1965 Mini Cooper
- 1969 Lotus Elan 2 +2
- 1977 Ferrari 250 GTO
- 1983 Porsche 928 S
- 2015 Audi RS 6
- My dream car The Austin Seven that I owned as a teenager