Skip to content

Weird and wonderful car collection of TV’s Paul Cowland


“If I like a car, I’ll love it to bits, and I’ll be obsessed with it for two weeks, but then I’ll get bored of it,” admits Paul Cowland of Turbo Pickers and Salvage Hunters fame. No kidding! We’re standing in what Paul affectionately describes as his “man cave”, a workshop in Nottingham, UK that’s stacked to the rafters with automotive oddities. 

A strange Morganesque Panther Kallista and GM’s ill-fated supercar, the Pontiac Tojan, are parked mere inches from the lock-up’s roller-shutter door. I then spot a Dodge Viper RT/10 and a TVR Cerbera parked some way behind them, while a Lincoln Town Car Limousine and a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II are among the cars suspended on lifts above. In the middle of it all are a trio of Subarus: a red Impreza Turbo bought from Salvage Hunters co-presenter Drew Pritchard, an oddball Subaru SVX coupé and an equally quirky Subaru 360 kei car.

Away from the Subarus, I spy a wide-hipped Riviera Blue Porsche 997 Carrera GTS, a grape purple Plymouth Prowler, a Mercedes-Benz W123 with the plastic protection still on the rear seats, a two-stroke Saab 96 and a Saab 9000, to name but a few. It’s overwhelming.

If you ask me what my favourite car is in my collection, you’ll get a different answer depending on what day of the week it is

If you ask me what my favourite car is in my collection, you’ll get a different answer depending on what day of the week it is

“If you ask me what my favourite car is in my collection, you’ll get a different answer depending on what day of the week it is,” Paul laughs. “I often don’t know what the next car I want to buy will be until I see it. There have been cars I’ve always wanted to own. I’m lucky enough to have a Flatnose Porsche, which was a car I had on my bedroom wall as a kid, and it’s the same story with the Viper. Other cars have just come into my life because I happened to be at an auction and thought ‘That’s cheap,’ or ‘That’s quirky,’” he explains. “The weird thing about being a collector is it’s often the cars that come to you.”

Paul’s whimsical approach ensures that his collection isn’t just eclectic; each car also often comes with a captivating story to tell. His Pontiac Tojan is a brilliant example of this. It’s a model few people have ever even heard of, and was GM’s attempt at making a 200mph production car back in the early 1980s. “The Tojan is so of its time. I knew about it after reading about it in a book, but I didn’t know if I’d ever see one in my life, because it’s a US-only car and they only built 136 of them. Not only did one come into my life, but it also happened to be the prototype.”

The Panther Kallista parked next to the Pontiac also has an interesting backstory, and is perhaps the most treasured car in the collection. It previously belonged to Paul’s uncle, and Paul recommissioned it “Car SOS-style” when his uncle became ill with cancer. “My uncle’s still with us, but he passed the car onto me so that he could see me enjoy it while he’s still here. It’s very special, and I’ll never sell it – it’s a family heirloom.”

Paul’s Pontiac Tojan (L) parked next to the Panther Kallista that belonged to his uncle

Today, Paul’s collection comprises around 70 models. Over 30 cars are stored in the main workshop, but Paul reckons that number could grow to around 50 if a mezzanine was put in. An adjacent building constructed during lockdown holds another handful of cars, however, including an immaculate Saab 99, a JDM VW Beetle 1303 S and a GTi Engineering VW Golf that was purchased from a fellow enthusiast after a chance encounter at the Nürburgring. 

The car park between the two buildings is also littered with curiosities, including a Mk1 Renault Espace purchased from a billionaire businessman in London, a bizarre Dax Kamala kit car, a muscular Vauxhall Calibra and a long-wheelbase Rover 75 that was built for the British Government.

After seeing all this, I realise it’s no wonder Paul describes himself as a “hoarder”, but I’m interested to hear if, as with many of us, he has ever sold a car and regretted it. “Only my Subaru 22B,” he winces. “That was a stupid thing to do. I had to do it because, at the time, we had a Subaru specialist, but we wanted to start tuning Mitsubishis, and the only way I could afford to buy an Evo V development car was to sell the 22B. It sounds ridiculous to do that today. That car burned me, and I think losing it is one of the things that has shaped my collecting hobby. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.”

Paul’s unit is jam-packed with automotive curiosities

Paul’s collection has grown slowly but surely over his varied career in the car world – from stints as a salesman in his family’s Saab, and later Subaru, dealership to working as a tuner, restorer, PR, motoring writer and TV personality. With experience as varied as the cars in his collection, he must be able to shed some light on how to cannily buy your next classic? 

“The businessman and car salesman in me say a good restoration is always better value than a car you restore yourself. You’ll never make money buying a bad car, putting loads of money into it, and selling it. We often see cars at Manor Park Classics (which Paul works for as a brand ambassador) that have had £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000 restorations, which you can buy for £35,000-£40,000. Those cars are the ones to buy. 

“But as someone who has spent their entire life restoring cars and building show cars, I know that for a lot of people the fun is in the journey of that improvement and development. So, to get into a car where all the work is done, there’s no fun in that for me – I like the journey.”

Get Magneto Magazine straight from publication to your door with a subscription.

2 Year Subscription £94 1 Year Subscription £54