A dust-covered collection of rare and vintage prototype cars worth £1 million has been discovered by an astonished urban explorer in a garage in the Home Counties.
A prototype Bristol Bullet, a Bentley Continental Flying Spur and a 1957 vintage Beardmore taxi were among the extraordinary treasure trove.
They were found by a YouTuber, who gave his name only as Ben, who said he had known about the turreted complex for several years, and had noted its boarded-up windows and overgrown grounds.
Last week, he and a fellow urban explorer, Eran, decided to try to find a way into the property.
‘We set out to explore the abandoned building with no idea what it was,’ he said. ‘We jumped down, only to find millions of pounds worth of cars underneath this place.’
‘I’d had my eye on it for a couple of years, as it looked so interesting.’
The building was owned by Bristol Cars, the last independently-owned British car manufacturer, which went bust in May during lockdown.
A spokesman for the company claimed that the vehicles were not valuable and described them as ‘junk’.
But auctioneers assessing the value of the stock told MailOnline it was worth about £1million.
All the cars, which were mainly prototypes, were covered in a thick layer of grime. There was also a set of wooden bucks used for hand-building classic cars.
The 15-car collection included:
There was also a set of original Bristol Cars manufacturing bucks used to fit handmade panels. Dating from between 1949 and the early 1980s, they are to be auctioned with a starting price of £5,000.
The auction is expected to conclude next month.
Recalling what they found, Ben, 37, from Winchester, said: ‘There was an old sign saying Bristol Cars hanging down. There were even some old taxis with shilling machines attached.
‘You would never see these cars on the road, even if someone bought them. This was a one-chance glimpse of these cars.’
The two explorers were about to investigate the rest of the building when they heard footsteps and decided to leave. ‘We didn’t want to get on the wrong side of any security guards,’ Ben said.
‘What we do is not illegal, but it is trespass, which is a civil matter. We weren’t afraid of ending up in court, but we still didn’t want to get caught by someone.’
Bristol Cars, a manufacturer of hand-built luxury cars, was founded in 1945 as an offshoot of an aeroplane manufacturer.
In March, with the British economy affected by Coronavirus, the company was ordered into liquidation, though part of the company is continuing to trade under the name Bristol Superlight.
The small-scale manufacturer employed about 20 staff and has produced around 100 cars a year.
Kasun Waduge, the company’s financial controller, said: ‘Some of the cars are owned by us, others are privately owned and we are looking after them.
‘We were only holding them temporarily but due to Covid, they couldn’t be picked up and they remained there for some months. But none of them area really worth anything. They are just junk.’
However David Fletcher, a valuer from Wyles Hardy & Co, the auctioneers who are overseeing the disposal of the firm’s assets, said that the 15 cars in the underground facility were worth about £1million in total.
‘It’s a fascinating collection but very sad,’ he said. ‘I’m presiding over the demise of the last independently-owned British car manufacturer, which is a very poignant, historical moment.’