Your work sounds great Gilbert, great cars and travel all around Europe... sigh!
It's not work, work is as a professionally qualified radio and electronics specialist for a Government Department, this is what I do for fun! I love driving, I will drive anything anywhere as long as I think there is anything better than about a 20% chance of the vehicle making it.
The transporting cars came about due to me and a friend having both played with cars as a hobby for years (I started 47 years ago at the age of 11, by helping my stepfather reconditioning flat twin, air cooled engines run on LPG that were used to drive a generator in the back of an ice cream van). My friend moved to the South of France about 24 years ago and over the years we had tried to make a bit of extra pocket money by playing with what we both enjoyed playing with. At one time you could pick up LHD cars very cheaply that had been bought by squaddies while stationed in Germany only to find they were virtually worthless back in the UK. So we bought a few of those, took them to France and sold them over there. These were mostly German, Porsches and Mercs primarily but the odd Saab too. All good fun, I got to play with them over here before blasting them through France, having a free holiday on the Cote d'Azure and flying home when I had to go to work at the day job. When they were eventually sold, if we were lucky we'd make a few hundred profit each, but that wasn't the point, we were doing it because we could. More recently, we've bought a few assorted UK registered cars that were owned by British ex-pats living in France. They can be picked up for next to nothing but had been out of the UK for so long hadn't had an MoT or tax for years. A couple that we actually did quite well out of where a VW Sharan that we bought for 200 Euros. Drove it back here (with no MoT or tax but I booked it in for an MoT with my local tester while waiting at Calais for the ferry so the journey through the UK was legal as I was driving it to a pre-booked MoT test
) where I had to put two tyres on it to get it through the MoT. Advertised it and sold it within a couple of days for £1,800. We were actually given an Audi A4SE estate. The owner no longer wanted it, it was getting in the way and he was happy to let us take it away for free. Drove it back here, it went straight through the MoT without needing anything, had it valeted, advertised it and sold it for £1,300. Not bad but still not anything that would make a living.
Then, about 5 years ago, The son of friend in France move to Los Angeles for work. Friend went over for a couple of weeks to visit and have a holiday and, while there, noticed that 1950's and 1960's American cars could be picked up for very little money. He phoned a friend in France and asked if it would be simple enough to register then there. No chance. The French will only register something that has a European certificate of conformity and as the cars pre-dated that scheme would be virtually impossible to register without greasing lots of palms and getting it done 'under the counter'. So he phoned me with the same question. Piece of p*ss says I. All that is needed is an MoT and insurance and then send the papers into DVLA. Shortly afterwards, a V5 will arrive in the post. An MoT on a 1960's car is so easy too. No emissions check, no seatbelts, no rear fog lights, etc (pre-1963 and it's still legal to have the white front/red rear indicators too). It is also cheaper to ship a car to the UK too. So, a few weeks later I collected a 1957 Lincoln from Chatham docks. Completely rust free but the paint was totally flat and the interior was starting to crumble from 50 odd years of Californian sunshine. Two track rod ends later it had an MoT, a couple of bottles of rubbing compound and a power polisher and it even looked decent. He came over to collect it and drove it home and that is when the current arrangements started. He showed it to his friend over there who asked what it had cost. In all, it stood him at just under £5k but was a 12-15,000 Euro car in France due to there being so few about. So the other friend, who happens to be very well off, suggested that he would put up the money to buy some more. So that was when I decided I needed something that could tow the best part of 3 tonnes the 1950 miles to Antibes and back, hence the Range Rover.
After an assortment of big old Yanks, his son phoned him to say he had been offered a 1958 Austin Healey, would we be interested? That started things as they are at the moment. Older British classics, big Healeys, E types, Triumph TRs, etc, anything that can be considered interesting. They come into the UK in a container, I collect them from the docks and do the absolute minimum needed to get them to scrape an MoT so they can be registered here. Then I take them to France where they get pulled apart and fully restored before being advertised for sale. As they are LHD you would expect them to be sold on mainland Europe but two have been bought by Brits so I've had to go and fetch them to bring them back! We had a Healey which was absolutely mint. All original and in beautiful condition, all it needed after I'd taken it to France was a polish. That ended up being bought by someone in Northern Germany so after trailering it to the South of France I then ended up going down there again with an empty trailer, loading it up and setting off into Italy, through Switzerland into Germany and then up to almost the Dutch border to deliver it to the new owner. I filled the LPG tank on the car 13 times during that trip!
The LDV van trip to was a bonkers wedding present for my brother and his wife. She is from Bulgaria and they got married in Sofia but after the honeymoon, for various reasons, he came back here and she remained over there for a further 3 months. She had her entire world to bring over, absolutely everything she owned and hauliers either wanted stupid money or simply weren't interested. In a mad moment, I offered to go over there with a van, pick everything up and bring it back to the UK. A mate had an ex Severn & Trent Water LDV van (complete with amber rotating lights on the roof!) that looked like it wouldn't make it to the end of the road but actually only had 70,000 miles on it's Peugeot diesel engine. Rust had attacked the rear doors so the only way of being sure they wouldn't fly open was to bolt them together from the inside so everything had to go in through the side loading door. I drove it to Bulgaria where it was loaded with 60 cardboard boxes of possessions. Each box was numbered and had what it contained written on it. Sister in law had also done an inventory in English, German and Russian with details of the contents of each box. It didn't help though as Customs men at the borders weren't interested in that, they wanted to know what was actually in the boxes. The looks on their faces when they opened a box marked books and found it contained books and a box marked shoes was found to contain, oddly enough, shoes was hilarious. I'm not sure what they were expecting to find but they didn't! One border guard rubbed me up the wrong way when I was particularly tired and it's probably fortunate that he didn't speak English. He indicated that he wanted me to empty the van so I ignored him, so he indicated that he wanted me to empty the van again. My reply, in softly spoken English so he didn't guess my reply from the tone of my voice and said with a smile was, "if you want my van emptying you can empty the f*cking thing yourself because I'm not". He smiled and restricted his inspection to opening a couple more boxes of books and shoes.........