In the vintage and collector car world there is no better, certainly no more valuable car descriptor than those two little words, barn find. While we can’t all be lucky enough to discover these automotive treasures, there is one guy who did, Colin Crabbe. His autobiography, Thrill of The Chase, is what I can call the absolute best gift for someone who loves vintage cars, especially European sports and racing cars. Colin was the original 007 at finding many of the great vintage cars we see today on the show fields and crossing the auction blocks for stratospheric prices. The cars which have come in and out of his procession are amazing, the book is loaded full of all the glorious photos.
This modern day automotive swashbuckler recounts his tales of catching the automotive bug early on when his father and a friend made an unexpected visit to Colin’s school one summer, in a Jaguar D-Type and Aston Martin DB3S Coupe. After this Colin’s adventures take him all over the world chasing and racing cars, from Australia to India, throughout Europe, Africa and even South America.
Now in 8th decade, Colin shares the real stories of locating, importing, fixing and selling some of the most spectacular cars ever built. Including finding, procuring via Checkpoint Charlie and restoring one of the great Mercedes Silver Arrows a 1937 W 125 believed (even by Mercedes-Benz) lost and destroyed during WWII. His finds are legendary. Each story reads like you are sitting right next to him in his library sharing a whiskey (though he’s likely finished his the last drop from his final bottle of Crabbie – the long gone family brew) as he relives his exotic and sometimes perilous encounters of racing, road rallies, car sales, and securing great and not-so-great cars throughout the years. He provides antidotes, intrigue, and photographic evidence of his exploits.
As an autobiography he introduces his family, his ancestry and how he became the owner of his dream garage and restoration shop as well as being a rare F1 privateer. Rest assured autos are centerstage of this autobiography. Chapters are short, but juicy. In one he details his love affair with what he titles “An Early Italian Error” a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C 2.9 Coupe.
The amount of what are now multi-million dollar Ferraris, he has touched is mind-blowing. In one container he shipped back to England from Brazil, what Colin calls “A day shopping!”, there sat a Ferrari 250 MM, Ferrari 4.5 GP, Maserati 250F and a Maserati 8CM.
One can attempt to fantasize about driving amongst run down warehouses when off in the distance, something catches the eye. Brake, reverse, turn towards what looks to be a rusty garden of industrial scrap, there it is, up against battered fence. Wedged between some nondescript pieces of scrap metal and tipped skyward is a dingy rounded metal nose with those distinctive D shaped air intakes found on the bonnet of a Ferrari 250 GTO. Colin lived what we can only dream of.
Thrill of the Chase is an enjoyable read for any vintage automobile enthusiast and a great historic record. The photos alone will satiate those who covet vintage european cars, but is is Colin’s craft at storytelling which will have you hopping on his Facebook page to say “thank you.”