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Britain By Car - A Motoring History


Created Date:

22 August 2023

Last Modified:

10 January 2024
Great Easton

P & A Wood

A company steeped in the history, preservation, repair and maintenance of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars.

Location
Great Easton, Dunmow, CM6 2HD

Date
1988 – present (although the origins of the business go back to the early 1960s).

Part of the bodywork and trim section of P & A Wood, © Tony Thorpe.
Part of the bodywork and trim section of P & A Wood, © Tony Thorpe.
A Wood’s much-travelled 1914 Silver Ghost H.J Mulliner Tourer; the car was bought new by the Duke of Westminster from Charles Jarrott’s dealership, and served as a support vehicle in the First World War, © Tony Thorpe
A Wood’s much-travelled 1914 Silver Ghost H.J Mulliner Tourer; the car was bought new by the Duke of Westminster from Charles Jarrott’s dealership, and served as a support vehicle in the First World War, © Tony Thorpe
A 1933 20/25 Rolls-Royce Saloon, similar to the model bought by Paul and Andrew Wood, source: The Tatler, 11th October 1933.
A 1933 20/25 Rolls-Royce Saloon, similar to the model bought by Paul and Andrew Wood, source: The Tatler, 11th October 1933.
The Bentley Mk V in 2023, originally repaired and the restored by Paul and Andrew Wood, © Graeme Hunt Ltd.
The Bentley Mk V in 2023, originally repaired and the restored by Paul and Andrew Wood, © Graeme Hunt Ltd.
Rolls-Royces and Bentleys from every period have passed through P & A Wood workshops, © Tony Thorpe.
Rolls-Royces and Bentleys from every period have passed through P & A Wood workshops, © Tony Thorpe.
The P & A Wood Showroom, which the coachwork department at the rear, © Tony Thorpe.
The P & A Wood Showroom, which the coachwork department at the rear, © Tony Thorpe.

Commentary
Within Rolls-Royce and Bentley circles, P & A Wood has a long-established reputation for engineering excellence, particularly with respect to the earlier models from both marques.

The hundreds of historic cars that the company has restored include the original 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (reg. AX 201), an earlier 1905 three-cylinder Rolls-Royce, and one of Sir Henry Birkin’s 1930 supercharged 'Blower' Bentleys. They have also had through their workshops at Great Easton, all the cars from the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.

The company was built on the hard work and enthusiasm of twins Paul and Andrew Wood, born in April 1946 in the London suburb of Walthamstow.

Both boys shared an early passion for motor cars, and by the age of 14 (through the sale of firewood) had managed to buy their first car, a 1936 Austin Seven Ruby, for the sum of £15. The car was initially used almost as a toy, with the boys and their friends driving it round a nearby field. However, this changed when an uncle offered to show them how to prepare and re-paint the car.  Their interest in the quality and finish of a car began to develop, and the car was ultimately sold for £50.

On leaving school, both brothers moved into engineering. Paul worked for a bodywork and car repair service in London, whilst Andrew began an apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce’s flight test centre at Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, later transferring to the company’s car service and repair centre on Hythe Road, in Willesden, north London.

At the age of 16, the boys bought their first Rolls-Royce, a 20/25 Park Ward Saloon. It had been built in the early 1930s, but had not stood up well to the passage of time. Neglected and abandoned it cost the brothers just £65 but, in many ways, this car shaped much of what was to follow.

Restored in the twins’ spare time in a rented lock-up in Wood Green, the final result was a car good enough to take the car to a meeting of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club, where it was greatly admired, leading to the first of many requests for servicing and re-commissioning. It also set the pattern in which Andrew would specialise on the mechanical side of the work, with Paul focussing on repairs and restoration of the bodywork.

A further streak of good luck came when a customer at the Rolls-Royce Service Centre offered his car (not his only vehicle), which was in need of extensive repairs, to any Rolls-Royce apprentice who might be interested in taking it on. Much to his surprise – Andrew was given the car (in fact he was the only applicant), and was allowed to carry out the repair and restoration in a spare bay at the Rolls-Royce premises in Willesden. The car was a rare 1940 Bentley Mk V – and it was through this car that Andrew and Paul, once again, attracted the interest of a considerable number of Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners, to the point at which they were able to a set up an independent business of their own, although still yet to celebrate their 21st birthday.

Over the next couple of years, the business was twice moved to larger buildings in the Ongar area, and then, in 1970 to their first ‘proper’ premises in Great Bardfield.

In 1980, after a number of applications, the company eventually became authorised Rolls-Royce & Bentley Service Dealers. The success and growth of the business once again created the perennial problem of insufficient space. (The showroom at Barfield could take only two cars.) This time a more radical option was chosen.

In 1986, the brothers bought a former commercial vehicle maintenance and repair depot at Great Easton on a two-acre site. Two years later it had been converted and extended to form a new workshop (with separate service bays), a coachwork department, a machine shop, plus offices and a large welcoming reception area.

The final piece, to date, was the construction of a new showroom in a traditionally styled clapper board building, opened in 1995. The land on which it stands, opposite the main workshop, was the site of a former village garage, whose owner had decided that it was time to close the business.

Today (2023), by prior arrangement, P & A Wood offer guided tours of the workshops, coachwork department and showrooms. Their former premises in Great Barfield has been converted to housing, perhaps appropriately named ‘The Corniche’.

Further details
• The P & A Wood website: https://pa-wood.co.uk/
• Attention to Detail, the P & A Wood Story, P & A Wood, 2022.