Meet the distinctive figure that gives top classic cars the expert treatment they deserve.
Some classic car workshops specialise in certain manufacturers, countries or eras. Not Pennant Classics, though. Hidden away in a nondescript barn in the Warwickshire countryside, Pennant’s workshop is small by industry standards, but the collection of cars it houses is remarkably eclectic.
There’s an early oval-window Beetle (belonging to C&M co-founder Phil), an upright little Standard saloon from the 1920s, and a stately Rover P5 Coupé (probably the first car to commit the cardinal sin of applying that name to a four-door body), bonnet up to reveal the aluminium V8.
Elsewhere is a Series 1 E-Type racer, a tool-room copy of a staggeringly gorgeous 1930s Alfa Romeo 8C Monza grand prix racer and, most intriguingly, the CEGGA Ferrari 250 TR. This car has a fascinating history, but the short version is that it’s a perfect recreation, with input from the original designers, of a one-off bodied Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa built by a little-known Swiss outfit, Scuderia CEGGA, in 1960. The original was crashed in period and rebuilt as an original 250 TR – this car was built a few years ago with original Ferrari parts.
Overlooking everything from the back of the workshop is the hulking, boxy form of an early Rolls-Royce. Like we said – eclectic.
Pennant is the kind of place where things take time, and attention to details is always a priority. It’s a young, small and fiercely independent company, established in 2021 and run by a team of just three, led by Karim de Mynn. He cuts a distinctive figure, face framed by a mass of hair and impressive beard and often hidden behind sunglasses. His daily transport tends to be either a heavily patinated Ford Galaxie 500 or a vintage Harley-Davidson Bobber. He is not the typical classic car mechanic.
His office, overlooking the Pennant workshop, reflects this. It’s all salvaged antique furniture – huge wood writing desk, weathered Chesterfield sofa, original mechanical blueprints on the walls and a drinks cabinet made from a genuine Jack Daniels barrel.
“My father and my uncle both had classic car workshops, and when I was a kid, I used to spend as much time in them as possible, seeing all these beautiful old machines. I was just surrounded by spanners and oil and grease,” says Karim.
“When I was 14, my father passed away, and left me with his 1934 Standard Ten. I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I put it into storage, and as the years went on, I decided that I’d figure out how to fix it.” It was this early tinkering that led Karim down the route of training as a mechanical engineer.
“I worked for a garage that did a lot of stage rallying, then went to a company that restored pre-war Rolls Royces for shows like Pebble Beach… but it didn’t really excite me.” After working for a while with vintage specialist Jeremy Brewster, Karim decided to set up his own business.
Pennant started as a one-man band, but quickly grew to the point where the work outgrew the capabilities of just one person – even one as knowledgeable as Karim. “We’re a small team – me, Greg and Ollie. They both came to work for me at the same time, and I decided to hand the reins over a little bit. We’ve decided to keep it as a small team, because it’s a bit more personal for the customers.
“We tend to have about nine cars in the workshop and six in storage at a time. We balance the work out – I tend to work on engines while the boys are in the workshop, servicing and fixing the cars.”
Motorsport clients are a big part of Pennant’s customer base. “We tend to have about three race cars on [at once], which keeps us going throughout the season between events.” This also means the opportunity to get involved with the historic racing scene, with Pennant regularly looking after cars at all three of Goodwood’s flagship events.
Karim’s real highlights are the historic rallies, though: “I always loved the rallying – it’s a completely different breed of people. They’re a bit wackier, they love a drink, they love a laugh.” He served as the ride-along mechanic for the owner of the Alfa 8C Monza on the 2022 Modena Cento Ore road rally. “That’s always going to be one of my favourite cars – there’s nothing like the sound of that straight-eight supercharged engine as you open it up.”
Small outfits like Pennant and people like Karim and his team are perfect examples of a shift in a classic car world that’s long been seen as rather stuffy and uptight. If the industry continues to fill up with similar firms and likeminded people, then it has a very bright future indeed.