Peter and Justin Jurgens are in the business of making dreams come true.
The father-son auto mechanic duo own British Sports Cars in downtown San Luis Obispo, where some of the world’s most enviable Jaguars and other exotic European vehicles pass through the doors of the small but always buzzing repair/body shop that’s somewhat like a museum.
“All the time. It’s amazing,” Peter Jurgens responded when asked if the shop helps fulfill the dreams of British sports car enthusiasts. “People want to get it out of their system (owning their dream car). You can never lose.”
At any given time, the small repair and body shop houses some of the world’s rarest cars, such as an unrestored 1938 SS100 Jaguar, which until 1957 sat inside someone’s garage in San Jose and now comes with a $650,000 price tag.
There’s also the pristine, topless 1945 Jaguar that was modeled after the SS100 — it’s the only vehicle of its kind in the world — and has been shown in several European museums in the 1970s. It’s for sale at British Sports Cars for $1.4 million.
Diana Ross’ original 1966 E Type Jaguar also sits inside the shop that at one time shared space with an upholstery business.
“We sell them all over the world and have clients all over the world,” Justin Jurgens said about the shop he joined in 2000 after a stint at Landis Automotive down the street from his dad’s business. “You can only do oil changes and brake jobs on Hondas for so long.”
British Sports Cars specializes in the sale, service, repair and restoration of all makes of classic and late model British and European vehicles.
The shop at 640 March St. also serves as a Mini Cooper dealer alternative, with mechanics in the bay who have been servicing and maintaining the vehicles since apprenticing in England in the 1960s.
Land Rover repair and service is also offered at the shop that opened its doors in 1980, shortly after Peter Jurgens immigrated to California from his home in Manchester, England, where he said he never planned on becoming an auto mechanic as a youth.
“It was spur of the moment coming to the U.S.A.,” Jurgens said, recalling he had only been married a week when he made the decision to leave England and start a new life in California.
Prior to relocating across the pond, Jurgens, 68, was traveling around England and working as a dancehall disk jockey during the evenings. He raced motor car during the day, and the furthest thing from his mind was becoming a mechanic when a friend approached him about moving to the Golden State to install sun roofs in vehicles.
“I didn’t want to be a mechanic,” Jurgens said. “I was going to be the guy who put in sun roofs on new cars. (But) the opportunity was right there. Someone said San Luis Obispo was a nice place.”
The elder Jurgens laughs that he got off a plane, drove up the coast and had his first meal in the United States at a Denny’s in San Luis Obispo, where he also spent the night at the Vagabond Inn.
At the time, there were no body or repair shops in the city specializing in British sports car, and Jurgens saw a void that needed to be filled, he said, making the decision to become a mechanic. He bought his partner out in 1982 and the rest is pretty much history.
“It’s really neat,” Jurgens said of British Sports Cars. “We are so lucky to be dealing with classic cars. Finding them and hunting them, you get a rush. It’s also a great sense of achievement when you tow in, restore and drive them out.”
Jurgens said it’s not just helping people getting behind the wheel of their dream car that makes his career so rewarding, it’s also about helping individuals relive a part of their past. Recently, his team was able to restore a client’s vehicle the woman learned to drive in.
“She was in tears because she hadn’t been in the car since high school,” Jurgens said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” 36-year-old Justin added. “The stuff that comes in here has sometimes never been seen. It’s a surprise to us what comes through.”
As kids, Justin and his twin brother, Jonathan, would ride their bicycles through San Luis Obispo and surrounding communities, such as Los Osos, Morro Bay and Atascadero, scouting cars for their dad to buy and restore. The pair found more than dozen over the years.
“Back in the 80s, these cars were sitting in people’s driveways,” Justin said about the restored cars he and his dad now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. “If we found anything, we would go tell him and he’d go buy it.”
The twins restored their first vehicles with their dad, who joked it was his wife Yvonne’s influence that sparked their sons’ love of cars.
“They just wanted to do it,” Peter said of his sons’ interest in auto work. “They enjoyed me doing what I was doing.”
Jonathan Jurgens owns Broad Street Automotive, where he specializes in Porsche, Audi and Westfalia service and repair. He has clients who drive their Westies across the country just so Jonathan can service the vehicles, Justin said.
Between the twins and their dad, the trio have amassed an impressive collection of fine and exotic British and European automobiles, vehicle-related memorabilia and turn-of-the-century bicycles, many of which hang from the rafters at British Sports Cars, where the showroom walls are lined with vanity license plates from many corners of the world.
Justin envisions opening some type of museum or showroom in the future where the items could be displayed for public perusal.
“Between the three of us, we have a lot of stuff,” Justin said. “I would like to do that some day.”
Despite Jurgens’ protest that he didn’t want to spend his life working on cars, it easy to conclude repairing and restoring exotic cars was truly was his destiny.
At 10, he was “building stuff” and rode with a cycle touring club. By 15, he left high school to apprentice as mechanic, spending time working on the teachers’ cars as he was mastering the craft. By his 17th birthday, he owned his own shop specializing in Jaguars, eventually transitioning into his work as a professional DJ.
Jurgens always thought the ultimate garage would have a two-door Jaguar and a four-door sedan, he said, and it’s something British Sports Cars has achieved.
Asked if he plans to retire anytime soon, Jurgens smiled big and said, “No, why? I really like what I am doing.”
“He’s not going to retire,” Justin added with his own smile. “We’re going to have to push him along in a wheelchair.”
And if the last several years are any indication of work to come, Peter and Justin Jurgens and their team of auto technicians won’t be looking for things to do at the shop.
“We have been in business for 37 years and the last three or four years have been the best years in the business, ever,” Justin said, noting the increased work load stems from shops across the country like British Sports Cars closing their doors as individuals retire.
Justin said the shop has also made itself nationwide and lists its services, as well the vehicles for sale, on the Internet.
“This stuff comes from all across the country,” he said.
Peter and Yvonne Jurgens have been married for 38 years. The couple also have a daughter, Amanda, who owns and operates AG Equestrian in Arroyo Grande, and a five-year-old grandson, Denim.
For more information about British Sports Cars, call 544-2277 or visit www.britishsportscars.com.