Studio 434: A car collection that’s just the ticket
Car enthusiasts quite often own more than one car. But, if two or three just isn’t enough for membership to the devotees’ club, how about 420?
A 1955 Morris Minor and a 1968 Jensen Interceptor FF may seem odd bedfellows, but this pair or British classics kicked off Rodger Dudding’s very extensive car collection. Dudding, creator of the familiar Lonsto automated ticketing machine system used in supermarkets and retailers the world over, has curated a group of cars, motorcycles and memorabilia now ‘conservatively valued’ at £40 million, and housed at a pair of Hertfordshire locations.
While Dudding has a sentimental attachment to his beloved father’s Minor (“Even if you offered me five million quid, I wouldn’t sell it!” he quips), the complete Studio 434 collection spans over 100 years of motoring. The earliest car is a dicky-seat 1911 Vulcan 15.9bhp Tourer, with one of the latest an ex-George Martin 2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith, complete with Beatles’ song title upholstery. In-between, there are is a vast assortment of classic machinery from just about every part of the motoring spectrum. From the eccentric to the everyday, from the iconic to the extraordinary, Dudding has every type of car covered.
Where else would 24 – yes, 24! – 1980s Aston Martin Lagondas rub tyres with a Bond Bug, a similarly orange-hued and retina-popping 1970s Zagato Zele electric car, a Citroën DS Décapotable, a DeLorean DMC-12, a Lamborghini Countach, a Mercedes-Benz 500SL as well as other exotic motors from brands such as Ferrari, Jaguar, Lancia and Porsche. Braces of Zagato-bodied Aston Martins, elegant Citroën DSs and mid-1970s Jensen GTs occupy space with vehicles from the long-forgotten Clyno Engineering Company. Based in both Thrapston and Wolverhampton from the turn of the 20th century to the 1930s, it was once Britain’s third largest car manufacturer.
There are other oddities, such as the Lotus ‘M250’ full-size clay concept model, which was set to sit in-between the Elise and Esprit, and a 1954 Series 1 Land Rover Fire Tender. One of 47 originally built for the Ministry of Supply, the red Landie saw service at the Atomic Research Establishment. Dotted around the original Studio 434 site are period garage forecourt signs, shiningly resplendent in their light-up glory. A stunning period line-up of fully working children’s miniature classic sports cars also litter – in the most beautiful way – the floor of the original premises.
As you’d expect, bona fide classics play a starring role in the Studio 434 collection. Original Land Rovers shout their square edges to flauntingly curvaceous E-Types, while piccolo Fiat 500s are nestled across from equally miniature Minis. A rare 1967 Volkswagen Type 34 ‘Razor Edge’ Karmann Ghia is the second lowest-mileage example in the world (only the car which is in VW’s own museum has fewer miles) and elsewhere, a sprinkling of other familiar motors from days gone by feature in the rows and rows of three, four, and six-wheeled machines which make up the Studio 434 family.
There’s modern machinery, too. How about a pristine 1984 Ford Escort XR3i, found in one of the 14,000 lock-up garages Dudding also owns around southern England and the Midlands. Still wearing its original Dagenham Motors registration plate, it’s achingly authentic. As well as examples of other workaday Fords (Dudding keeps a single Ka and Orion), there’s also the 1994 Audi 80 Cabriolet driven by the late Princess of Wales. Stored for eight years before it was transported to the aluminium checker-plate-floored Studio 434, the black convertible was loaned to her by Dovercourt Audi of St John’s Wood. Dudding also has the dark blue Aston Martin Lagonda (yes, one of those!) owned by Dodi Al Fayed.
Cars with Royal connections, and cars for the stars, Studio 434’s world of wheels also earns its keep. The motors are available for hire for movies and TV work, and members of Studio 434’s eclectic collection have appeared in Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge, Peaky Blinders, and The Crown. There’s also film and photographic studios, chauffeur and wedding hire services, as well as executive event and ‘dine with the cars’ opportunities. Want secure storage for your valuable classic? Yep, that’s a Studio 434 speciality, too, with many classics slumbering under bespoke covers on the day of our visit.
Even though there was no plan to gather such a collection, Dudding, now 81, still loves old cars. “From a personal standpoint, and it might be an age thing, new cars take away a lot of the fun you get with ‘proper’ motor cars. I bought our original single-storey building 14 years ago, and we planned to build the mezzanine floor to store my own vehicles and to rent out the ground floor to other collectors. But some bloke called Rodger Dudding kept buying more and more cars, and there was soon no space for others!” he says with a cheeky glint in his eye.
Built up over 40 years, and most likely the largest private collection of cars in the UK, Studio 434 is more than a glorious testament to Dudding’s classic car passion and preservation. It’s also a business, but come on, which car enthusiast wouldn’t want a business loaning out this gorgeous bunch of motors? Yes, Studio 434 is undoubtedly just the ticket for a classic car enthusiast, but… Which car would you drive first?
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