On more than one occasion, Richard Hammond has come back against all odds. He has survived crashing at 288mph while driving a jet-powered dragster, at Elvington airfield near York, in 2006. Eleven years later, while driving an electrically powered Rimac supercar, he skidded off a hillclimb course in Switzerland and rolled down a mountain side, before crawling from the wreckage only to see the car catch fire and burn to the ground.
Now Hammond faces a challenge of a different sort: Help revitalise a classic car restoration business.
His first hurdle appears to have been cleared without incident. Last weekend, the television presenter and host of The Grand Tour, sold three cars and five motorcycles from his private collection as he sets about raising funds to help oil the wheels of his latest venture, The Smallest Cog, a car restoration business.
In total, Hammond raised £231,524, which will go some way to helping The Smallest Cog get established in the competitive restoration sector.
Hammond has formed the business with restoration experts Neil and Anthony Greenhouse, a father and son team that have successfully renovated a number of Hammond’s own collection of classics. They are based on the outskirts of Hereford.
Richard Hammond has spoken of how he was motivated by his grandfather, who was a who was a coachbuilder working with Mulliners in Birmingham and at Jensen in West Bromwich. “It’s in my bones,” he said when announcing the launch of The Smallest Cog. “I’ve always wanted to prove to him that there’s more to me than driving around the world, talking about other people’s supercars, crashing them and then pretending to weld them up in a desert.”
The most expensive of the three cars and five motorcycles to be sold on Sunday, by Silverstone Auctions, was a rare Lotus Esprit Sport 350. The 1999 Esprit is number 5 of 42 sold to buyers in Britain, and raised £65,250 for Hammond to put to good use.
It was closely followed by a 1969 Porsche 911 T, which fetched £60,750, while a rather regal 1959 Bentley S2 raised a further £32,625.
On Instagram, Hammond said: “I’m emptying out my toybox. Reasons are complicated, there’s been a bit of a bump in the road with my huge workshop project. If you want to find out why and how it goes, well the show will be on air later this year. Meanwhile, wish me luck because this is going to hurt a bit. But it’s all for a good cause.”
Suggesting he is prepared to sacrifice more than just blood, sweat and the occasional tear, Hammond also put up for auction five motorcycles, some which were bought as presents to himself for his 40th and 50th birthdays.
A 1976 Kawasaki Z900 and 2019 Norton Dominator 961 Street Limited Edition, a 350cc, single-cylinder 1927 Sunbeam Model 2 motorcycle, a pre-war 1932 Velocette KSS Mk1 and a highly collectable 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk1 banked the new venture a further £72,899. The most valued of the lot proved to be the Norton, which sold for £25,650.
A Ford Escort RS2000 is to be auctioned for the same cause, later this year.
At some point, viewers will doubtless get to witness the auction first hand. The Smallest Cog will be star of a new six-part TV series, described as ‘an entertaining character-driven series and a window into the world of the classic car repair business.’ It will be shown on Discovery+ later this year, and viewers will get to know Mindy Hammond, Richard’s wife, daughters, close friends and celebrities, all working hard to get the new venture off the ground. Alongside barn finds, prestige cars and restored classics, the team will also work on Richard’s own extensive collection of cars and bikes.