Over the past 35 years, we gained world recognition as the most prevalent manufacturer in Europe of the AC Cobra replica and Pilgrim 356 Speedster replica. There have been over 15,000 factory-built and self-assemble products sold in Pilgrim’s lifetime, which all started in a small lock-up garage in the 1960s.
Pilgrim is now the largest classic Mustang dealer in Europe, but we have always kept to our car manufacturing roots. In 2019 we produced ‘KarGo’, the World’s first totally autonomous delivery vehicle, for the Academy of Robotics.
Evolving the business has always been a priority for us. At the factory, you will find two large classic car workshops, a standalone full paint and bodywork shop, a metal fabrication shop, a large parts warehouse, a design and technical department, a wiring /electrical workshop, and a classic car showroom. We also have an office in Phoenix, Arizona run by our English director Adrian.
We are a family-run business with twenty-five staff working throughout the factory. From a highly skilled craftsman who has been with us for thirty years to their sons and other young apprentices, we are passing down the skills too. We firmly believe in ‘grow your own’ when it comes to quality recruitment and we are very proud of our team and what they can offer to our clients.
Experts in many of the classic car marques, our staff attend our Cars and Caffeine mornings (always on the second Sunday of the month) to help with classic car questions and problems.
We work hard to maintain our reputation in every area of our business. As we say to our clients, “If we can build our Cobras and Speedsters from scratch, we can certainly look after your classic”.
Meet the Team
At a very early age, I was introduced to cars both racing and classic, Formula one to be precise. My uncle was a director of a car showroom in Brighton which ran a small owner/driver Formula 1 team.
They raced with the likes of Graham Hill and Jim Clark. In order to fund their dream, they used to buy and sell the older F1 cars, which I got the opportunity to sit in! I remember the noise their engine made; it’s no wonder that at the young age of six I was totally hooked. Even now at the Goodwood Revival meetings when they line up at the starting line, it takes me right back in a flash.
From my first classic car purchase of a TR4a when I was 20 years old, I knew I had a passion for this part of the car industry. Having been involved in car showrooms all my life I gained a great deal of experience in sales and after-sales care with customers being number 1 priority.
When the opportunity arrived to invest in Pilgrim Cars, a world-renowned manufacturer of the AC Cobra and Speedster recreations, I jumped at it with my business partner Adrian Hewetson. Adrian had been a friend of mine for some thirty years and is a renowned classic car restorer. By combining our vast experience, it became an ideal project to build a “Shelby” style Cobra and Mustang business.
At our factory, located in the picturesque surroundings of the South Downs in West Sussex, you will find all types of classics being restored. It is our vision to make our classic car business a ‘one-stop-shop’ where nearly every part of the restoration process is on-site, and where every car is shown love from our highly-experienced team of full-time mechanics and technicians.
As we have had our own personal experience of owning classics, it was always disappointing to have to deal with long delays, waiting for work to be completed on our classics motors. Adrian and I wanted to address this within our factory by installing our own paint shop, metal shop, fabrication department, electrics department, suspension and design department, all contained within two large workshops.
We have assembled a fantastic team of ‘old-school’ mechanics and craftsmen, who understand and have a clear passion for “real cars”, as they call them.
Our top mechanics also service and upgrade the new series of Mustang models, fully supported by our suppliers. We are an authorised Steeda Performance parts dealer. So, anything connected to your prized Ford Mustang or classic can be delivered.
We believe in innovation, having won the contract to design and build the Autonomous delivery vehicle for the Academy of Robotics who are partnered with Aberystwyth University.
We all love what we do, we get to meet some great people and their equally great cars. I hope you will come and visit us. I would be delighted to give you a factory tour and discuss any requirements you may have over a nice cuppa.
All the best, Paul.
Pilgrim 356 Speedster 1986
The Iconic 356 began its life as a production vehicle as early as 1986. The SWB & California versions are built using a shortened chassis from a VW Beetle, complete with all suspension and running gear. The LWB chassis does not require shortening. All the standard Beetle engines fit, and rumour has it that the flat 4 & 6 cylinder engines from Subaru and Porsche will also go in there. The National Kit Car show in 2016 saw the re-launch of the model, an example built by Dave Tassell from Car SOS, and an all new and easy to follow construction manual is now available. The LWB and California versions are currently on the back burner, with no immediate plans to bring in to production.
Pilgrim Sumo 1985
A replica of the AC Cobra, the Sumo is Pilgrim’s most successful model. Designs began in 1980, during which a small number were produced, with full production commencing in 1985. Over 12,000 have been built and put on the road. The Sumo is still in production and is the undisputed flagship of the Pilgrim range, originally built using a Ford Cortina donor car. It had a ladder frame chassis with a GRP inner tub and outer body shell. The introductory price in 1985 for a basic kit was initially £2000. As the car developed, a steel frame chassis and V6 engines followed, and later still a Jaguar chassis was added, and V8 engines could be fitted. The chassis of the later specimens were stiffened with floor plates and received box-shaped transverse beams from sheet metal, the manufacturer called this semi-monocoque. The Sumo currently uses parts from Ford Sierra’s or Mk3 Ford Granada’s.
We fabricate chassis, suspension components and manifolds and many other parts in our metal shop.
At its height, Pilgrim was producing ten kits a week as well as building turnkey cars at the factory. It is thought that Pilgrim has produced in excess of 15,000 kits as cars and kits since its inception in that small garage.
Along the way, Pilgrim has also built other cars/kits which have included the Bulldog, Family Tourer, Haldane, Jeepster, Hawthorn, Minotaur, Martini and of course the ever-famous Sumo Mk1 Mk2 & the current Mk3. In terms of production numbers, we exceed the combined output of all our competitors put together.
To give an idea of the scale of the business, the factory is 16,500 sq ft including a car sales area of 14,000 sq ft.
We produce our body shells in our fibreglass and laminating workshop from our own moulds.
The factory consists of:
1) The factory workshop where we produce right or left-hand drive cars to order. These cars are factory-built ready to drive away.
2) The metal fabrication and welding shop, where our chassis are manufactured by highly skilled craftsmen. All metal fabrication on classic cars is performed there.
3) The fibreglass and laminating shop, where our expert staff produce the Cobra bodies and associated parts.
4) The 2,000 sqft storeroom, where all your parts are housed.
5) The 500 sqft packing room, where your parts are packed.
6) The 14,000 sqft car sales area, currently under renovation.
Our cars are manufactured entirely in house (but we do send the chassis away for galvanising).