"As I walked into Hexagon Modern Classics, which now barely reveals its former incarnation as a petrol station, I was expecting the oil, dirt, and running engines so indigenous at so many of my shoots. But this workshop and showroom were far from my expectations. Pristine grey floors and a daring white workshop greeted me, along with Paul, Hexagon's owner.
Paul left college in the summer of 1963 and already knew exactly what he wanted to do. By November of the same year, Paul had a leased a garage and had hired three of the best mechanics he could find. ‘Hexagon’ wasn’t his first choice of names however, as his preferred ‘Octagon’ was already being used by MG cars. This little hiccup also led to Paul receiving a number of phone calls inquiring about another type of tuning–pianos. Unbeknownst to Paul, there was also a ‘Hexagon’ piano tuning business right around the corner. Since then, however, the name stuck and he's spent the past fifty years trading, racing and restoring classic road and race cars.
When Paul first opened up his garage, the majority of the cars in his possession were Jaguars and later, Lotus competition cars. Just three years after that fateful November, business was booming and he had taken over four other buildings on the street. He was forced to upsize and moved his business to North Hill in Highgate. There was, for a time in the 1960s, one of the original Ferrari P4s sitting in the window of the same building, staring out the same windows that BMW’s now occupy.
Paul tells me that the good thing about cities, London especially, is that people who live and work there don’t necessarily need a long-distance performance car.
“Classic cars are about beauty, not efficiency. Yes, the screens may de-mist in 20 minutes rather than 20 seconds but it’s the honest weigh up between inefficiency versus character. New cars—they can go from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. Yep…then what?”
One of Paul’s prized cars sits as a centerpiece to the sparkling showroom – a Porsche 962 C Le Mans racer. Having completed only two Le Mans races where it finished 4th and 8th, this beautiful car still wears its racing stresses such as cracks and chips of paint. Paul even has the overalls of the drivers who raced the car.
Hexagon themselves had an era under Hexagon Racing and raced D-Type Jaguars and Formula 5000. Then in 1972, they had a season in Formula One with driver John Watson.
I asked Paul what it is about classic cars that he has such an enthusiasm about and he replied, “Classic cars become members of the family! You can rent a new Audi for £300 per month, drive it the same journeys down the same roads, but it’s a machine that just becomes a tool and nothing to do with touch or feel, it’s all automatic and electric.
Cars these days, people just don’t become attached to them any more. I knew a man who owned a 1913 Rolls Royce from new. He drove that car until he died at the age of 102. After that, it went straight into a museum! A new car just wouldn’t last that long!”
I couldn’t tell you if an Audi would last me until my dying day but I can tell you that I agree with Paul that classic cars really do become memorable family members that are loved with characters and quirks that only the owner knows and appreciates.
Then again, Paul does own the Aston Martin DB4 GT that was raced at Goodwood by Sir Stirling Moss in the 60s–who wouldn’t be in love with that car?!"