Meet the Founder of Portugal's Coolest Vintage Car Company
On a recent trip to Portugal, cook, travel photographer, and Huckberry ambassador Mychael Henry had the chance to drive a Land Rover Defender restored by Cool & Vintage. The Lisbon-based company has been renovating old Land Rovers since 2012. Their creative approach, attention to detail, and adventurous spirit caught Mychael's eye, so he sat down with the founder and CEO, Ricardo Pessoa, to learn more about the Cool & Vintage craft.
"For me, the Land Rover silhouette has always represented the shape of freedom."
How did you get involved in building vehicles? Did you have any prior experience in the automotive space?
As long as I’ve had my license, I’ve tinkered with autos. My first vehicle was a UMM (União Metalo-Mecânica) Cournil. I did all the mechanical work on it. I painted it too — no primer, just a bucket of house paint. I’ve come a long way since and, in 2012, started Cool & Vintage. It was around that time I had decided that I wanted to work with the iconic imagery of a Land Rover. For me, its silhouette has always represented the shape of freedom. I was aware from the onset that I had to do something to the Land Rovers because I couldn’t make any money just off the romance of adventure, travel, and photography. So we started buying them and doing some minor work on them. That evolved into the nuts-and-bolts restorations we have today.
How many builds does Cool & Vintage do a year?
We did 14 last year, 12 this year, and I would like to go down to 10. I’m not looking to scale the workshop. I don’t want to stress the team on producing for production’s sake. My idea is, if I can free the team up a bit, we can work on a few unique and special builds that I have on my mind.
What are some of the challenges you face with each one?
We’re sold out until June of next year, so production-wise, we’re good there. If there are any challenges, it would be creatively. With some of the upcoming builds, I don’t have creative control because clients ordered them to their personal specifications. That said, I will only build them if they are basically on brand, and if they respect the style I do. The biggest challenge with them is doing something new. Each build needs to have a level of creativity and be tasteful while keeping with the simplicity of the whole Cool & Vintage concept. I’m not in the market of just building attention grabbers. There is something deeper to what I do, and the build has to make sense.
"There's always a fantasy build, and it's the next one."
Is there a fantasy build?
There’s always a fantasy build, and it’s the next one. I was recently at Wheels and Waves in Biarritz, France, and I saw a motorcycle helmet with a beautiful flecked-paint finish that really inspired me. I have it in my head now, and it’s all I can think about.
Are there any special projects or collaborations you’re excited to be a part of?
Right now we’re doing this hand-painted chassis (the base frame of the car) with a Lisbon artist by the name of Vasco Costa. The theme is about the city. It’s a very unique project, and it’s something I’ve never seen done before on a Land Rover — or any other automobile for that matter. People thought I was crazy when I told them I was painting the chassis. Then they see it and are like, “wow!” It’s very exciting to do something that’s subtle but has a lot of work and effort invested in it.
"The main focus is about what the vehicles enable you to do and what you can do with them — the places it can take you to enjoy activities and experiences."
Can you talk more about your philosophy and what differentiates you from the pack?
A lot of places cater to car guys, but Cool & Vintage is really not about that. We’re definitely not a technical company; it’s not the most important component for us. I mean, we take a lot of pride and effort in our builds. Everything takes craftsmanship and is handmade. We put about 1,000 man hours into each one because that’s what we need to do to create a perfect and beautiful product, but that’s really not the main focus of the company. The main focus is about what the vehicles enable you to do and what you can do with them — the places it can take you to enjoy activities and experiences. So it’s not really about technical numbers or car guys. Our vehicles tell a story. That doesn’t necessarily mean leaving everything behind to go on a one-year trip around the world. More so, it’s about those small things you do every day that can change your life in a positive way. It’s about creating new stuff and having experiences. Not so much about cars as numbers or technical objects.
You’re based in Lisbon, Portugal. If I had a weekend to spend with one of your vehicles where would you recommend I go?
My recommendation is always the same, which is to drive from Lisbon to Sagres along the coast. It’s the Southern part of the country and has some of the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever seen. Go down one day and come up that next. That is always my pitch.
Do you have any big plans on the horizon?
Right now we have a store at LX Factory, which is at the base of the 25 de Abril Bridge (the one that looks like the Golden Gate). We’ve been working hard on the retail aspect of the brand. We’ll be introducing a set of products, garments, and prints that elevate the telling of the Cool & Vintage story.
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