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Motor Racing Guru has Classic Rally Workshop fitted by Bott Ltd

Former McLaren team boss Alastair Caldwell retired from Formula 1 to set up the UK’s longest standing self-storage company Space Station – and the racing legend continues his colourful life both on the road and in business with a passion for classic rally tours. To support his passion, Alastair needed a workshop tailored to accommodate his specific requirements. Bott caught up with Alastair and his team as the workshop was completed.

Former McLaren team boss Alastair Caldwell retired from Formula 1 to set up the UK’s longest standing self-storage company Space Station – and the racing legend continues his colourful life both on the road and in business with a passion for classic rally tours. To support his passion, Alastair needed a workshop tailored to accommodate his specific requirements. Bott caught up with Alastair and his team as the workshop was completed.

Born in 1943 to an English mother and a Scottish father, Alastair spent his early years in Sheffield. Following the war, his father spent time in Hamburg helping to establish the local government, and when he returned to England to find things were no better here, they emigrated to New Zealand. The family, including Alastair’s brother Bill, travelled by boat and Alastair spent his 7th birthday on the crossing.

Bill was a huge fan of motor racing and Alastair would help his brother to work on his cars in his spare time. Sadly, Bill was killed in an accident in Tonga Park in 1965.

In 1967 Alastair moved back to England and took a job as a cleaner at McLaren, a turn that would see him rise through the ranks to become Team Manager and boss to racing legends such as Nelson Piquet and James Hunt in their most successful years of '74 and '76. Alastair spent 14 years in Formula 1.

Motor Racing Guru has Classic Rally Workshop fitted by Bott Ltd

The impact that he had on the racing world at that time was so respected that Alastair has been advising on the set of the forthcoming movie Rush, directed by Ron Howard, set in the high-speed world of Formula 1 in the 1970s. Based on the biography of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda the film tells the story of the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life, and his rivalry with James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth). Alastair is played in the movie by British actor Stephen Mangan, and has a walk on part as an FIA official.
Rush Official Trailer

But, before his glamorous future could begin, Alastair had to ‘sign on’ to start the next chapter in his life. In 1982 Alastair wanted a grant of £40 per week from the government to start his own self-storage business, something that couldn’t be applied for unless you were on the dole – so he took himself to the unemployment office in Maidenhead, which in his own words was ‘an adventure in itself’. Having to sign on for a minimum of 8 weeks before he could claim his grant, Alastair realised what a sheltered life he’d had growing up in the world of Grand Prix racing, when if he needed something all he had to do was mention he worked for McLaren and doors would open; out in the real world making his way wasn’t such an easy task.

Eventually Space Station was created, a friend gave Alastair a quarter acre which he levelled, paved and filled with shipping containers. Within months he had 50 containers, and then 70, then 100. He had to open another site and has now grown to be the longest established self-storage company in the UK.

Although storage is his business, Alastair’s passion still lies with racing. He currently has a collection of 14 classic cars that range from a 1963, 6.3 V8 Rolls Royce Sliver Cloud to a 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C SS Torpedino and includes other interesting British and European classics, all of which he takes all over the world to participate in classic and veteran rallies.

Alastair challenges himself by often using cars that might not seem the right choice for the particular rally. The cars need to be shipped out to the location where the rally begins and Alastair has a reputation for really ‘driving’ the car and pushing it to the max, so once the rally is finished, the car comes home to his workshop and is fixed up and prepared for the next trip!

Organisation is key when it comes to taking part in classic rally sport and an aspiration of Alastair’s was to have a state-of-the-art workshop to enable these repairs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Joe MacNeil, who works on the cars with with Alastair, says: “We needed the workshop to be well organised, with tools and equipment close to hand in order for us to repair and overhaul the cars, normally to tight deadlines, driven by the rally schedule. We asked Bott to put a proposal together; one particular requirement was for a work surface on top of a cabinet at a height of 950cm. Alastair and I are both quite tall, and we needed the correct bench heights to ensure comfortable working. Bott explained that all cabinets are made to order in the UK, so they could provide our exact specification. This combination of storage and worktop is ideal as you are effectively maximising the space and utility you get from the units. We have a vice mounted to one and it’s totally stable and rigid. It was the ideal choice, and Alastair is thrilled with the results.”

History shows that whatever Alastair’s aims are in life, he always makes his dreams a reality, with a workshop full of rally plates, each one telling its own story. One alone would be an achievement enough for most people, but not so for Alastair. Joe concludes: “These plates are a real testament to his drive, ability, commitment and passion; it’s his passion for everything he does that sets him apart.”