Adrian Hamilton, one of the most significant figures in the world of collectable cars, died last Saturday night, 21 August 2021.
The larger-than-life Hamilton – forever known as ‘Hammy’ – had suffered a massive stroke a few days previously and never recovered.
As son of Le Mans winner Duncan Hamilton, Hammy was born into motor racing aristocracy, taking over the family business of selling very expensive cars to very wealthy people when his father retired in 1975. Before then, he’d learnt the trade at the family’s retail premises. Later, he worked from his beautiful own period home near Odiham in Hampshire, then moving the business some 20 miles to state-of-the-art buildings at Micheldever .
James Page interviewed Hammy for a feature on K500 in November 2018, when Adrian recalled being “bundled off into the Merchant Navy” at an earlier age, before joining his father, himself an ex-Fleet Air Arm flyer.
Over the years, Hammy has sold them all: 24 GT40s, nine 250 GTOs, countless significant Cobras, Astons, Bentleys and Jaguars. And most of the world’s collectors have come under the spell of the ‘blazered Barney Bear of a man’, as noted historian and great friend of Hammy, Doug Nye, put it. Ralph Lauren is one, and can be seen, top, with Adrian in typically cheerful form.
One of Adrian’s most recent accomplishments was helping friend and client Roald Goethe create the Rofgo Collection of mainly Gulf-liveried racing cars.
Hammy’s reputation for charm and as an entertaining raconteur was legendary. He had his serious side, and was unfailingly a good and true friend to those in need. But let’s end our tribute to someone who will be a much-missed character on the collecting scene with some of his tales of owning and trading cars, as recounted to Charles Harbord of Cars for the Connoisseur:
His first car was a Jaguar XK150 Roadster. His second?
“It was after I came out of the Merchant Navy and it was a Ford GT40, which I shared with my father. The old man had bought it from Girling for £3,000. It was one of the original road cars with wire wheels and two luggage lockers in the back.
“It was like lying in bed, connected up to a sauna, being blasted by sound from every quarter and gassed at the same time. You needed a periscope, wet suit, earplugs and gasmask to handle it properly
“I well remember going to a Christmas party in the GT40 and by the time I emerged at about 03:00 there were three or four inches of snow on the ground. I had a journey of about thirty miles home and the snow became packed in the treads. Made the handling quite interesting!”
An early trade was buying a Jaguar SS100 in the US:
“I tracked it down at a place called Marblehead outside Boston in the States. It was under a chicken shed in a pretty dreadful state with the interior gutted. I managed to agree terms with the owner, after which we went out to dinner when he casually asked me whether I had ever been to prison.
“I replied: ‘No, have you?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘for murder.’ Which made me rather nervous.”
An unusual car in Duncan Hamilton's stock was a 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400, delivered new to the Sultan of Brunei, registered WEE 55K:
“That was used for a modelling shoot before I managed to chop it in half after a lunch with Stuart Rolt [son of Tony, with whom Duncan Hamilton won the 1953 Le Mans]. I had rounded a corner on my way home to find this little old lady edging out into the middle of the road. The Miura just folded up in front of the engine. Luckily, I was able to crawl out and the little old lady seemed unperturbed – particularly as I offered to buy her a new car on the spot.
“The old man wasn’t amused as it was one of his current road cars. However, the laugh was on me soon after when he put his Mercedes 600 Pullman into our sunken garden. Landed on my sister’s tortoise – she was most upset.”
Away from the motor trade, Adrian was happiest sailing in the Solent. Bon voyage, Hammy, you will be greatly missed.
Photos by Duncan Hamilton Rofgo