When it comes to the world of cars, Mike Brewer and Edd China have contributed more than their fair share. Running a Wheeler Dealers ‘car hospital’ of sorts, they’ve taken more than 110 cars under their wing, diagnosing their problems and then nursing them back to good health so they can head back out onto the road for many more years of trouble free motoring.
The first half of Wheeler Dealers series 12 saw Brewer and China base themselves in America, working on the West Coast and hitting the highways to discover some rare finds on the road.
“We’ve buying and selling now for 12 years, and in this 12th season we realized that we spent an awful amount of time with me flying to the U.S., buying cars, bringing them back to England and selling them within England and the rest of Europe,” Brewer said recently during a phone interview. “We realized that the market has also grown immeasurably in the U.S. for classic and collectors’ cars. So we decided this time around, why don’t we just set up shop in a nice part of the US, come to the beach and bring the whole workshop there where we can buy cars in the US, fix them up in the US, and sell them in the US and play on the market that’s happening out there.”
China said that working in the U.S. has several advantages, with the main one being American car parts are readily available. “We have done American cars in the past in the U.K., but actually doing them in America was a lot easier because, of course, you’re right next to all the suppliers. That’s the great thing about American cars, you pretty much got some kind of store that does all the parts you need for almost all the cars we could work on. In fact, we were working on a GTO this season, and we were playing around with the air-conditioning system. And it turns out even the really rare upgrade from the factory, there was a store literally just down the street from us from our shop who actually sold all the parts we needed off the shelf, which is absolutely amazing. That rarely happens quite so easily in the UK. It’s always much more of a search. That’s a real bonus actually of being in the States.”
When Brewer looks for cars on the road, while China handles the mechanics, dollars and pounds aren’t his sole desire. Yes, turning a profit on the eventual sale of the car is important, but these two car lovers have other items on their checklist.
“We’re not driven by the money,” Brewer said. “Both Edd and I are just passionate about rescuing cars. We’re very blessed to be working in an industry where we can find something that’s on its way to the scrap heap, and we can take that vehicle, turn it around, and let that vehicle live another life, and go on and give joy to other people. We are, in a sense, the ultimate recyclers. You know, we recycle cars, and we’re more proud of that than ever making money. Of course, it’s always nice when we sell a car and we make a decent profit. Why not? But the truth is we’re never going to get rich improving cars because there’s a lot of work going into these cars, and a lot of time goes into them.”
China has met several challenges on the mechanical side of the business, but he’s not one to give up. Plus, his partner only buys cars that have a chance at survival. “Mike does a very good job of buying the right car,” China said. “If you buy a car with too many things wrong with it, you might never win. Mike does a very good job of finding the right cars where the right stuff is wrong with them. It’s not necessarily an easy bit, but it makes all the difference to the value of the vehicle.”
Brewer and China both have unique backgrounds that prepped them for lives in the car restoration business. Brewer said he was born into the car world because his father was a famous custom-car restorer in the U.K. The cars his father worked on even graced the covers of magazines and were featured in shows.
“From the age of 8, 9, 10, I was driving around custom-car shows and sitting in these weird and wacky vehicles,” Brewer said. “I grew up around the workshop. On my school holidays I would sit on the workshop floor and pass my dad a wrench and a tool, and make sure it was clean before it went back into the toolbox. I learned some [mechanic] skills then. I learned all about cars, you know, what makes a good car and what makes a bad car. And from the age of 17, I started buying and selling cars — buying cars, flipping them, and fixing them and selling them. And that never left me.”
China’s background is different but, because of his father’s profession, cars were never too far away. The mechanic’s father was actually a rocket scientist. “I was sort of always into design and building stuff,” he said. “I grew up with Legos, so I was very good at building things. Then I got very good at taking things apart, and eventually I’d put them back together again … Then I discovered cars and realized it was kind of much more than an instant gratification.”
Some of the cars that the team will work on in the new season include a 1965 Pontiac GTO, a Ford F1 pickup truck, a 1950s DeSoto Firedome and the infamous AMC Pacer. “These are all wonderful cars that we don’t normally have access to in the U.K., so it’s a real treat,” China said.