Ladies with Drive – Andrea Quirrenbach

Ladies with Drive is back! This time, it’s interior designer, gyrocopter pilot (yes, you read that right) and Mustang enthusiast Andrea Quirrenbach who accepted our invitation to feature on this series. 

A boss in all aspects of life, Andrea talks to us about the rollercoaster experience of purchasing a classic Ford Mustang without any prior research (!), throwing herself at everything in life and her most memorable automotive trips.

Andrea, you bought your classic Mustang right here from Muscle Car UK. How did cars enter your life?

Both my father and grandfather were Mercedes dealers in Germany, so I spent time around workshops and cars from an early age. My first car was an egg-yolk yellow Mercedes 240D with green lamb fur upholstery, from the era when Mercedes were built like tanks; it was certainly a very safe ride for a teenager as it only had 72hp and a top speed of 86mph, with a strong tailwind. I don’t think I ever managed to overtake anyone while I owned it. It was definitely not a love affair at the time but, growing up in the countryside, it gave me a lot of freedom and I still think very fondly of it whenever I see one on the road these days.

When I was six, my dad gave me a remote control model of a Mercedes C111 prototype with working pop-up lights, and I loved that car so much that I don’t think I ever played with a doll again from then on. I took my son to the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart a few years ago to look at the real thing. So yes, cars have been a lifelong passion, even though my father was in the business of selling modern ones rather than classics. We never had a classic car, but I was always a little envious of my friends who did. I loved driving in them and always hankered after one, but it just never happened….until six years ago.

Tell us about your Mustang and your visit to Pilgrim Motorsports.

My son and I both like car programmes, so when Jodie Kidd and Quentin Wilson launched ‘The Classic Car Show’ in January of 2015, we watched the first episode together. It started with the two of them driving down Highway 1 in California in an open-topped 1965 Mustang and, having done that same trip a few years earlier, it brought back many happy memories.

We both really liked the car so I got my laptop out, and a week later I test-drove one in North London, but it was in poor condition and needed far too much work. I remember being very surprised at how differently it handled compared to modern cars – like the love child of a trampoline and a water bed.  I had become hooked, though, and kept searching online for my perfect Mustang.

Then suddenly, the Pilgrim Motorsports business popped up and, as it was just a 30-minute drive away, I gave Paul a call and asked if I could have a look at the turquoise Mustang he had advertised for sale on their website. A couple of days later I went for a test drive and we shook hands on it there and then: suddenly, I was a Mustang owner, when just a few weeks before there hadn’t even been a plan at all!

I just instantly fell in love with the car and had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, but what a fantastic ride it would be for the coming years. Hopefully forever.

You mentioned research. What did you look into before contacting us?

The whole process from watching the TV programme to being handed the keys only took about three weeks and my Mustang was a complete impulse buy, so when I purchased it I hadn’t researched the cars that much. To be honest, I hadn’t looked up anything about classic cars and had no idea that I could eventually fill a photo album with pictures of me on the back of a RAC truck until all the little niggles were sorted out.

(Above: “Paul (from MCUK) at the rescue during one of my breakdowns!”)

You’re always going to car shows, salons and events. What has been your most recent experience? 

My last trip was to the Isle of Wight in October with sixteen other classic cars; a fantastic event, organised by Classic Travelling. Due to Covid regulations, we couldn’t visit the sights as one big group so we kept meeting at well-known beauty spots throughout the day for socially distanced coffees, served from our photographer’s van. The island isn’t that big, but there were plenty of places to visit and discover over four days, from Osborne House and the Needles to vineyards, a gin distillery and great seafood restaurants on the beach.  The weather was amazing too, we never once put the roof up. It was a fantastic short trip and I am now planning to go on longer driving trips with the same company, both in the UK and in Europe, once we can travel again safely.

I also take my cars to GRRC events at Goodwood, the American Classic day at Brooklands and to Mustang meets, which happen once or twice a month in Surrey. It’s nice to meet fellow Classic car lovers through clubs as their members are always very welcoming and happy to share their knowledge with a rookie like me.

(Above: Isle of Wight, October 2020.)

You mentioned you take your ‘cars’, plural. What other cars do you have?

My everyday car is a Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake; very practical and comfortable rather than exciting.

The year after I got the Mustang, I bought a 1971 Corvette Stingray Convertible from a collector in Germany and I kept it for four years. It was a beautiful car in Steel Cities Grey but we had a love/hate relationship right from the start. The bodywork and interior were in perfect condition but it had a long list of technical niggles and I soon found out that it was too uncomfortable and impractical for anything longer than the odd weekend trip. It also had a habit of breaking down just before or during rallies and eventually I sold it before the first lockdown through Pilgrim and bought a more modern and faster car instead: a Mercedes 2009 SL63 AMG.

So now, with the Mustang and the SL, I feel like I’ve got the perfect combination of a wonderful cruiser to take out when the weather is nice and use for trips in summer, as well as a fast convertible which I can use all year round and take on driving holidays abroad.

(Above: Andrea’s 1971 Stingray Corvette.)

So what made you instantly fall in love with your Mustang?

The beautiful shape and the unusual colour; one you rarely see on a car in this country. In fact, there seems to be only one other lady with a Mustang in the same turquoise and she also happens to live in Brighton!

This original Ford Tropical Turquoise is really ‘in your face’ and the perfect feel-good colour down here by the seaside, whereas in London it would look rather exotic and out of place.

I love the Mustang more than any other car I’ve ever driven and, while I am not sentimental about modern cars, this is the one I simply could not imagine ever selling. There’s a nice story behind it, actually. The previous owner was a 25-year-old girl. She and her brother had both been given a Mustang on the day of their birth by their father. She kept it for 25 years and sold it to buy her first home.

I’m the first owner of the car in the UK since Paul and Adrian brought it over from America. I don’t know anything about its earlier history, but I like the idea that it was owned by another woman, from the day of her birth. Such a cool present to get on the day you’re born!

From all your globe-trotting automotive experience, what remains your most unforgettable moment associated with this passion of yours?

(Above: Day rally from Blendheim Palace to London via the Aston Martin factory.)

That’s a difficult question! But if I had to pin it down, I would say my two trips following the Mille Miglia around Italy. Of course, I did not take part in the actual Mille Miglia (the yearly Italian 1000 mile car rally that takes place on open roads over four days with around 400 classic cars), but some German friends of mine organise a great trip for fellow car enthusiasts every year to drive amongst the vintage rally cars, many of them dating from the 1920s. We follow the same route as the Mille Miglia classics as it’s all on public roads. The atmosphere is amazing and the only time ever that a policeman told me to break the speed limit!  

On my first trip, a few months after I had bought the Mustang, we stopped at a little roadside cafe in Tuscany. Next to me at the counter stood Jodie Kidd who was doing the rally in a Jaguar XK120; she found it rather amusing to hear how she had inspired me to buy my first classic.

What are your thoughts on classic car restoration? What kind of work have you had done on your cars?

The bodywork of both the Mustang and the Stingray was in excellent condition, neither of them had a speck of rust on them and the interiors also looked great. The Stingray had been in a warehouse in Germany for 20 years though and had only been driven about once a year, so several pipes and hoses needed replacing and it had a number of technical issues over the years and spent quite some time in the workshop. Those were all necessary repairs and not alterations.

In the Mustang, however, I changed the drum brakes to disc brakes which made a big difference to its handling. I made that decision after a scary experience when the drum brakes overheated and failed on a downhill slope during a rally in the Cotswolds. Three years ago, the engine needed replacing so I upgraded from the original 4.7-litre to a slightly more powerful 4.9-litre model. Other alterations were made purely for safety’s sake, such as shoulder seat belts, hazard lights, upgraded headlights and most recently, custom made front headrests. Other than the headrests, the look of the car hasn’t been affected at all.

All repair works, as well as general maintenance, is carried out by Pilgrim – I wouldn’t let anyone else touch the old Yanks. As I can’t look after the cars myself it is important to have a reliable workshop and Paul and Adrian and their team of mechanics have always provided an excellent service and often gone out of their way to get the Mustang or Stingray ready for special events and even helped with a breakdown in the middle of the night.

In terms of the restore/preserve debate, I think the small changes I have made to the Mustang are probably not acceptable to classic car purists. Ideally, I would not want to change the look of a classic car at all, but if it enhances the safety or the quality of driving, like disc brakes do, I am more relaxed about it. I can see both sides of the discussion, though.

While mine is now in perfect condition and drives like a dream, the Mustang is not in the same league as many rarer and more expensive investment classic cars. It gets a lot of use for six months of the year and I don’t ever intend to sell it, so my comfort, safety and those of my passengers come first. I look at those invisible alterations as being similar to refurbishing an old house, putting in modern underfloor heating instead of heating it with a coal fire.

Speaking of women and owning cars, what advice would you give other ladies who are fascinated by the motorsports industry?

I have always had a love of cars but modern ones come and go, whereas a classic car is very different and special. And while I have stopped short of giving the Mustang a name, it’s almost a car love affair and has become one of my life’s greatest pleasures so, of course, I would say ‘Go for it!’.

If you are not mechanically minded, I hope someone in your family likes to tinker with old cars or find a reliable garage to look after it for you. Owning a classic can at times be quite frustrating as, unlike with modern cars, there are always niggles, more often small but also some rather expensive ones, and they usually happen when the English weather is at its best and you want to take her out for a spin.

But most of all, enjoy it! Owning a classic car can be a bit of a learning curve but it’s great fun.

I love spending time with fellow classic car enthusiast and making new friends, but above all driving the car. Nothing beats cruising through the beautiful English countryside to a vineyard or a great country pub on a sunny day with the roof down. In this country, classic cars are much loved and it is wonderful to see how much pleasure the Mustang seems to give people wherever I go. Over the last few years, I have chatted with hundreds of complete strangers at traffic lights, petrol stations and wherever I park the car and that’s a big part of the fun.

Thank you very much, Andrea! Readers and fellow enthusiasts can follow Andrea on her adventures via her Instagram account: @aquirrenbach.


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