A Big Future for a Little Car

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 by The Manufacturer

James Caan’s investment in the new series of BBC TV’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ breathes renewed fire into a British manufacturing legend.

The Peel Engineering Company holds to this day the Guinness World R.ecord for producing the smallest production car of all time – the Peel P50. The company originally made the micro cars on the Isle of Man in the 1960s before it ceased trading in the 1970s.

In stepped car enthusiast Gary Hillman who saw one of the only 20 remaining original Peel P50’s at an auction and knew that he wanted to be part of the invigoration of the brand. He took over the task of reinventing Peel from the original inventor Cyril Cannell.

Gary found himself a business partner in Faizal Khan and together they have started to produce the Peel 50 and Peel Trident (with the bubble roof) exactly to Cannell’s specifications – except that they have employed a ‘green’ electric motor.

No strangers to publicity, the cars received huge coverage when they were featured on Top Gear, London Tonight and the Paul O’Grady Show. However, the duo entered the Den with some trepidation. Their pitch was to open up new revenue streams from their business by producing a merchandise product range that epitomised the Peel brand: British, quirky and compact.

The guys were delighted with the eventual deal they struck with James Caan of £80,000 for 30% of the company (plus two Peel cars, one of each model) which will allow them to push the Peel brand to new heights.

“When investing, I often look for things that are a little bit different. Rare opportunities can surprise you and add a bit of fun to the process,” said Caan. “As a British-made product, Peel encompasses traditional values and manufacturing. Not only will there be plenty of people who want to own a piece of history by having a Peel but the brand is ideally placed to expand into a larger product range. You never know, soon you might even see me driving around Mayfair in my own Peel Engineering car”.

Peel cars are currently exhibited in Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums. Ripley’s 15 million annual paying customers come to see the cars in the world’s busiest tourist locations including New York, London and Niagara Falls.

Peel Engineering’s plan is to produce a range of merchandise to sell within retail outlets and through their website- including mugs, t-shirts, key-rings and stationery.

They are also selling a limited amount of cars via the website to an ever-growing waiting list.

Since the Den, the duo has launched an online competition to design Peel-inspired products. Anyone can apply and the winner will get to pitch their idea to James Caan himself. If he likes the idea then it will go on to be produced and sold worldwide as official Peel merchandise. Details can be found on their website at http://www.peelengineering.co.uk/