One needn’t be an automobile and motorcycle expert to appreciate the vehicles at Barlow & Company on South Main Street in Wolfeboro. From European cars that are mostly unknown in the United States to more familiar vehicles such as Ferrari and Triumph, the cars and motorcycles that are repaired, maintained or sold by Steve Barlow from his shop are beautiful.
“Beautiful” hardly seems an apt word to describe a vehicle or motorcycle, but there is no other word to do justice to the various vehicles. Steve would agree that each car or bike he comes across or works on is special in its own way.
If anyone knows about European vehicles, it is definitely Steve. One can tell right away he too is European, with a decided English accent. “I am originally from Derbyshire, England,” he says. “As a kid, I always liked to fix things that we couldn’t afford to have someone else repair.”
By the time he was a teenager, Steve was buying cars and fixing them up. “My mom would get frustrated with the cars I was fixing blocking the driveway,” he recalls with a smile.
Being around beautiful cars wasn’t far from Steve’s world as a kid; his father worked for the Rolls Royce company.
In 1976 Steve moved to the United States. He lived in Massachusetts (in England he was a professional plumber), and had an HVAC company and was later an R & D expert for the plastics industry. “In 1996 I got out of the HVAC industry. We moved to Wolfeboro because we’d been up here and loved the area.” He speaks fondly of the quiet he has found in the Lakes Region and shudders at the memory of the hurried and intense traffic in and around Boston.
In the eight years Steve has lived in Wolfeboro, he has gained a following as an expert at repairing European cars and motorcycles. His shop is next to his home, making it a very short commute of a few steps to work each day.
“I work on my own,” he explains. “People like and expect me and no one else to do the work on their vehicles. I do have a following, mostly by word-of-mouth.”
As well as the detailed repair work on vehicles, Steve takes care of the cars of collectors, such as one client who has 60 cars. “Some of my customers are retired, and the cars are their retirement toys. They’ve worked hard all their lives and this is something they have chosen to collect in their retirement years,” he says.
Steve says there are surprisingly many European cars owned by Americans, and he has clients from all over the country, as far away as Florida, Ohio, Seattle, California and closer to NH in Massachusetts.
In his business, Steve sees an equal amount of cars and motorcycles, mostly European models. He works on older, harder-to-find vehicles; if he cannot locate the parts he needs, he fabricates them himself, which also makes him a unique one-man operation.
“If the vehicle is popular, I can find parts. The older cars are harder to locate parts for repairs,” he explains.
The vehicles and bikes Steve works on are usually dated between 1913 and 1980 and indeed the older vehicles, manufactured so far away in Europe are difficult to repair and locate parts for, unless one really knows how to do it. (Steve says he likes that time frame of cars and bikes because things weren’t computer controlled, as is often the case in newer cars.)
Although he has built a good life in the United States, Steve admits he still misses England. “I miss my mom and my sister, who still live in England. And I miss the country and the culture. The characters in England can’t be found elsewhere. Unless you have lived there, you don’t really understand that.”
The thrill of working on cars he has not seen before, such as extremely rare models, keeps the job fresh. “I love my job; it’s always educational, especially when someone brings in a car I haven’t seen before.”
Steve has to stop and think when asked what his favorite car and favorite motorcycle are. “I would have to say a BSA Goldstar motorcycle and a Ferrari Dino are my favorites.”
With a gleam of excitement in his eyes, he adds he will be working on a 1973 Ferrari Dino soon.
As well as repairs and servicing vehicles, those hankering for a European car or motorcycle can locate and purchase one (or more!) through Steve. Cars such as a 1960 MGA Roadster, a 1949 MG TC Roadster, a 1977 Lotus Esprit or a 1981 Delorean are just a few of the vehicles Steve sells, along with race cars.
Motorcycles he sells include a 1971 Norton Commando, a 1967 BSA Lightning and a 1968 Triumph Bonneville to name but a few.
Perhaps the words on Steve’s website say it best, “There is no better feeling than looking at a fully restored classic that perhaps sat dormant for 30 years in someone’s old barn or shed — and now is back in top form, running the country lanes once again.”
(For information on Barlow & Company, visit www.barlowvintage.com or call 569-9099.)