Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason heartily agrees, which is why he spends his spare weekends hammering round race circuits in cars so expensive they could run on gold.
Nick has played a part in all our lives, belting out anthems that crossed over the generation gap, shaking their head moodily as they went. And his propensity for banging sticks rhythmically for one of the world’s biggest selling bands has brought Nick his just rewards, riches beyond most of our wildest dreams.
Cars not nose candy
While others went the predictable route of groupies and Bolivian marching powder, Nick indulges himself with an equally expensive fix – racing vintage cars. For him, like us, it’s a horribly pointless exercise buying a car only to look at it from time to time.
“A stuffed tiger is all well and good, but it doesn’t compare to the sight of the animal in the wild,” explains the remarkably down-to-earth drummer as we take a seat on the upper tier of the Gloucestershire aircraft hangar that houses one of the world’s most impressive array of racing and road cars, together with a light plane. “In the same way these cars only rally achieve their true beauty being driven near the limit of their potential.”
He offers no further reasoning for taking some of the most exotic machines in the world to their limit in historic race meetings, and employing Pistonheads contributor and sportscar racer Mark Hales when he requires a winner at the wheel of his most hardcore cars.
Petrol in the blood
It’s in his blood, his first memories lie on the back seat of a vintage Bentley on the way to one of his father’s race meetings. It was him that instilled the passion for speed, classic cars and the ragged edge in his son.
Even without the monumental success with Pink Floyd, Nick would undoubtedly have been a racer somewhere, somehow, even if the car was worth two thousand rather than two million dollars.
Of course his desire to push the most valuable cars in the world does, occasionally, blow up in his face. When he offered his ex-Gilles Villeneuve 78 Ferrari 312T3 to an experienced driver for the Goodwood hillclimb, for instance, he ended up with a plastic bag full of bits that had to be sent off to Ferrari for repair. Nick has pledged free tickets and tour T-shirts to life to more or less the whole factory in return, which is a nifty bribe if you can manage it.
There is a number of other Ferraris in the collection, including the 512S that raced at Le Mans and in the hands of Ronnie Peterson before being burnt to the ground during filming of Steve McQueen’s Magnus Opus Le Mans when a small cockpit fire got out of hand. Nick bought it for about $12,000 in the 70s, then spent three years, several trips round Europe and an eye-watering amount of money to rebuild it.
He also has a 1972 356 GTB/4 Daytona, the 250GTO, a 512BBLM, an F40 and an Enzo, but he adamantly states he’s not interested in one particular marque. “If you collected every Ferrari, you’d end up with some dogs as well as all the great cars,” he says with the kind of reason that normally escapes classic fanatics of any ilk. “I’m only interested in having great cars, whoever made them.”
Nick is also happy to incorporate modern technology or a different approach if it’s better, which would have the purists gagging on their tea and crumpets. The 512S became a Spider to improve visibility, and Nick’s cars are full of new materials and re-engineered components that are built with the advantage of hindsight.
And what a bunch of cars they are. Those greats include the Maserati 250F, Birdcage, the agricultural Porsche 953 K3, the 1961 Lotus 18, one of the first rear-engined Grand Prix cars, and one of only three 1953 V16, yes you read that right, 1.5-litre BRM Mk2’s in existence. Then there’s the Jaguar D-Type, the 1936 ERA B-Type and the fantastic leather-trimmed box that is the 1901 Panhard B1 that remains as difficult to drive as the F40 despite its 0-40mph time of 36.4s. None of them are there to gather dust and even the Panhard sees active service on the London-Brighton rally every year.
Nick the racer
He made his race debut in an 85bhp 1935 Aston Martin Ulster at a low key and windswept race meeting. “It was important for me to go in at a low key level and most of the people at the Vintage meetings wouldn’t have had the first clue about who I was,” he recalls, but there’s a clear love of classic cars and Nick is almost dismissive of the Ferrari Enzo that sits outside.
“I’m not really a fan of modern supercars,” he said. “They’re just not practical.”
That word crops up at least five times during our 30-minute chat, but it clearly has a different meaning to Nick than most. Nick is an unusual dichotomy of reckless spending and Scrooge-like thriftiness when it comes to racing cars. He will spend whatever it takes to get a car he wants, then go to the ends of the Earth to rebuild it from a bare chassis. But no matter how beautiful or rare the car, no matter what it’s history, he won’t buy it unless he feels he’ll get “good value” from it in terms of enjoyable track time.
With that in mind he considers the 962 Porsche he bought for the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours, which would sit at the head of most private collections, a relative waste of money. “The technology was already outmoded by that on offer from the TWR Jaguars and the car doesn’t quite fit the regulations for a whole load of other series,” he says wistfully. The 962, far from a piece of motoring nirvana, is a missed opportunity as far as he is concerned.
Approximately 15 cars sit in the hangar, but there are substantially more in storage. “The McLaren’s at home,” was the bad news that greeted out arrival, as his is one of the racing cars converted for road use, rather than one of the production cars, and in truth it was the car I went to see. Maybe, one day, Nick will gift me a go behind the wheel...
If he’s crazy enough to push the limits in this amazing collection of cars, then just about anything is possible.
Into the Red
Nick and his partner in crime, Mark Hales, finally got round to writing a book about this fantastic collection of racing history and have produced a stunning book covering 100 years of motorsport through the dials of Nick’s Ten Tenth’s collection.
Hales is a driver with decades of experience at the highest level, having won more domestic and international sportscar races than we have space to mention here. He is now Nick’s confidante and regular driver, taking over when the undoubtedly talented Pink Floyd man feels his abilities won’t do the car justice.
In this book, written from two different perspectives, Hales does his best to put the reader in the driver’s seat while Mason provides the extraordinary tales behind their procurement and restoration.
Regular PistonHeads snapper Paul Harmer produced the cover shot and a few of our other contacts were heavily involved in the production of the book. We wouldn’t recommend it for that reason alone, we’re not that crooked, but the fact remains this book is one of the few to present the cars as they should be seen in terms of photography and layout.
As a novel yet obvious add-on, the pair have gone to great lengths to record the engine note of each car and a CD comes with the book. Sometimes words fall short when it comes to the raw emotion provided by a collection of valves, pistons and turbochargers, and this CD will prove more effective than any of Pink Floyd’s tracks when it comes to making the hairs on your neck stand up.
Into the Red, by Nick Mason and Mark Hales, is available through Amazon.