17 September 2014

I Say, You Say, We All Say Ding Dong

‘We have a great time and all get along, trying not to take life too seriously and remembering we only pass by this way once’

There’s a lot to be said for the lighter side of the classic car hobby. Posh events like Pebble Beach and Villa d’Este are great but it’s best not to take our cars too seriously. That’s where Tony Collins and the irreverence of his unique business I Say Ding Dong comes in.

After a lifetime spent buying, restoring, selling and sourcing parts for classic cars and bikes, Collins spent seven years in retirement as a ‘house husband’, helping to raise his two children, playing with the cars and bikes he still had, and painting.

Then he got itchy feet and decided it was time for something new. ‘I was involved in classic car racing’, Collins says, ‘running events in the UK and Europe. One chap had just spent the then-unheard-of sum of £35,000 to get his Lotus Cortina back to original mint condition, but he couldn’t find the correct stickers it wore in period. He approached me, as he knew I had a large collection of period stickers’.

Collins reasoned — quite correctly, it turns out — that if one man couldn’t find them, there might be others with similar needs. He quickly abandoned plans to buy the Top Hat Race Series (now the Masters Series) and decided to concentrate on stickers. ‘There was no “one-stop” sticker store catering to historic and classic machines so I set about creating one’.

With the advent of the web and improvements in printing, it was the right move at the right time. I Say Ding Dong launched in 2004 with 350 products, and the orders came in straight away. The firm now ships daily to every continent save Antarctica.

If you’re wondering, the name derives from the movie Carry on Nurse, where the character Jack Bell utters the expression as he surveys the ‘assets’ of a nurse. Collins says it appealed to him because it was ‘a classic piece of British nostalgia from the right period (1950s and ’60s), was vaguely naughty and instantly memorable — whether you liked it or not, knew what it meant or not’. It has been enthusiastically received, and the company’s logo stickers can be found affixed to cars on roads and tracks all over the world.

I Say Ding Dong is a beloved part of the vintage racing scene, and customers often send in photos of their cars in action. ‘It’s always lovely to see our logo at the Isle of Man, Goodwood, Philip Island or wherever’, says Collins. It even appeared on a works Aston Martin this year.

Ten years on, the company is still very much a family business, run by Tony, his wife Sue and their children, Ren and Pru. ‘Pru is well known to many customers, as she funded her way through university by trading stickers at the major motorsport events throughout the UK while staying in the company Little Guy tear-drop caravan.

You won’t find much inventory at events any more, however, as Collins says they just can’t carry the stock required to cover all interested parties. Besides, says Collins, ‘most people are very happy to browse, compare sizes, colourways and prices on the web then have it land on the doormat rather than taking a punt trying to remember the size they need at a show’.

If you go online at www.isaydingdong.co.uk you’ll find upwards of 5,000 pieces, from ‘obscure little technical stickers from engine bays in cars we didn’t know anybody cared about, right up to big event banners’. Collins is convinced he has sold more ‘piled arms’ stickers than BSA built bikes.

Even more popular is the Union Jack. ‘It’s boring but true’, Collins says. ‘The good old Union Jack sells consistently well around the world, and everyday, somebody somewhere is sticking one onto a car, bike, tank, plane, boat or a thousand other objects of desire’.

Learn more, and get your stickers at www.isaydingdong.co.uk.

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