When father and son Gordon and Craig Ranson began restoring classic cars ‘for fun’, they never could have imagined, nearly 20 years later, they’d be working on models for TV and film – or revered as one of the best in the business.

The duo are the masterminds behind Bridge Classic Cars, a company specialising in restoring and maintaining some of the UK’s most unique vintage and classic vehicles.

And it all began as a passion project – as managing director Craig explains from their Pettistree showroom.

Ipswich Star: Gordon and Craig Ranson share a love of classic carsGordon and Craig Ranson share a love of classic cars (Image: Archant)

“I grew up with a father who had many classic cars - I used to see him taking them to shows, and we’ve always been really close. He didn’t restore them himself but he knew a lot of people who did and had contacts who used to restore them for him. So I grew up with cars that were restored to a high standard, and that’s what gave me a love for them."

When Craig was working in the film and television industry and Gordon in a whisky distillery, the two had the idea to turn their side project into their full-time gig.

Ipswich Star: An Aston Martin DB4An Aston Martin DB4 (Image: Archant)

“We started off buying and selling cars in Colchester, and that’s where the name came from, as we were based at the little yard next to the railway bridge. We met a guy who was a part-time restorer, and asked him if he wanted to come work with us.”

The rest is history. “We set up Bridge Classic Cars as it’s always the same old story with classic car restoration companies. You give them a car, they put it in a corner and then 10 years later they start to work on it. And you’re left without your car for 10 to 15 years – some people die before they get their car back.

“If you bring a car to us, we may not be able to get started on it right away, but the date we’ll give you is the date we will start working on it.”

Ipswich Star: A MiniA Mini (Image: Archant)

Fast forward to present day, and Craig’s company has expanded to include a 20-strong team – all of whom are as passionate about classic cars as he and his father are. “You can’t just be a general mechanic – you've got to have a love, passion, and understanding for classic cars. Otherwise you’ll get bored.”

The team don’t pigeon-hole themselves into one or two types of cars – if it’s classic, they’ll be more than happy to work on it.

“In theory, you could bring us a 1930s car, or a car from the 1990s, and we’ve got the guys here who are skilled enough to do the work on them. We work on Jaguars, Mercedes, and BMWs – but the ones we love the most are Jensens, which we specialise in.

Ipswich Star: Restoring classic cars is a skill and an artRestoring classic cars is a skill and an art (Image: Archant)

“There’s a particular model called the 541, and Jensen made around 260 of them. It’s such a pretty car, and we found one in a barn years ago. It was actually meant to be the car James Bond had - it was between them and Aston Martin, but Jensen never came to a deal with them so it ended up going to Aston Martin instead.”

After coming across such a rare find, Craig, Gordon and the rest of the crew soon got to work on the coveted machine.

“We thought it would be a sideline project for us, but we soon realised how difficult it was going to be. Every Jensen specialist we spoke to didn’t want to touch it, so we built it ourselves.”

Admitting it cost ‘probably twice as much as it should’ve done’, Craig adds that it was a learning curve for all involved – and gave them the skills needed to make them masters in the world of Jensen restoration.

“It ended up becoming the nicest Jensen ever made, and we soon had people contacting us to see if we could do their 541. A couple of months ago, we had 13 of them in a row, and Jensen themselves said they’d never seen that many together.”

Ipswich Star: Inside the showroom at Bridge Classic CarsInside the showroom at Bridge Classic Cars (Image: Archant)

Several models of classic car are no longer made - but the work never stops for Craig and Gordon.

“People tend to contact us. Often, people will hold onto them but they’ll hold onto them for too long. It’s usually that someone’s grandad has put a classic car away in the 1980s and it hasn’t seen the light of day since, so they’ll want to drag it out and do something with it. Very rarely will we find one in scrap – people tend not to scrap them because there’s value even in the parts.”

Whether they can restore a vehicle "depends how bad the car is to start with," adds Craig.

"Say it’s been sat in a field for 20 years, we’ll drag it out as the wheels won’t move and we’ll bring it to the workshop. We’ll then lift it up, get it mobile, and see if the engine will turn over by hand. We’ll then get the wheels moving and put air in the tyres so we can push it around.”

Ipswich Star: Any car that comes to the showroom is stripped to its bare bones before the technicians start the restoration processAny car that comes to the showroom is stripped to its bare bones before the technicians start the restoration process (Image: Archant)

Then begins the process of stripping the car to its bare bones.

“Every single nut and bolt will come off. The body will then get taken away and blasted or chemically dipped in acid. We take it back to its rawest form, and that’s where you can see all of its imperfections, holes, and rust.”

The welders will then make new body panels, while technicians work on the brakes and axles. “It’s stripped apart, cleaned, polished, and put back together with new seals and rubbers so it can work again. This will take a year or two – after that it’s taken into the paintshop where they will shape the body.”

Ipswich Star: A classic VW undergoing restorationA classic VW undergoing restoration (Image: Archant)

When the car comes back as a painted shell, every nut and bolt (which has been kept in storage for safe keeping) is put back on.

“There’s so much to it – the interiors have to be stripped and redone, and new seats and a roof are made. This whole process can take up to three years, as you’ve got to treat everything with care. We’re preserving these cars, and bringing them back to life.”

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, as the old adage goes, and the same can certainly be said for restoring a classic car.

But once it is done, it’s a work of art. And seeing classic cars on the road once again is what brings Craig joy.

Ipswich Star: Bridge Classic Cars in PettistreeBridge Classic Cars in Pettistree (Image: Archant)

However, it’s not just on the road and at car shows where you’ll see Craig’s cars. Some of his restored beauties have found themselves on the small and silver screen, including a MW 5 Series which appeared in the London chase scene of Fast & Furious 6, a 1974 De Tomaso Pantera which featured on ITV’s This Morning, and a 1972 Vauxhall Victor which made its way into the third season of Netflix’s The Crown.

And in a bid to make classic cars more accessible to all, Craig started running a series of regular giveaways three years ago, allowing anyone who enters the chance to win one of his restored motors.

“It’s not just about working on cars, it’s about making a community around them – that’s the bit I love so much.

“At the time, a lot of people in the classic car world were against what I was doing. They thought to own a classic car, you should be privileged and have money behind you, and that it’s a luxury. But I wanted to bring classic cars to people who love them but haven’t got the money to buy one. So why not win one? The nice thing is the people who’ve won one now come to the summer car shows and meet other enthusiasts. That’s what we’re all about – making sure everyone is welcome.”

To find out more visit bridgeclassiccars.co.uk