The classic car workshop side of our business has grown to such an extent that it's earned it's own website - www.wefixclassiccars.co.uk. On the site you'll discover how we work, what we do and our recent projects.
www.wefixclassiccars.co.uk is a big step forward for us because it brings our workshop of age. And that's a pretty special feeling for us at Great Escape Cars because we never set out to fix and restore cars when we set up the business 10 years ago. We've arrived here through necessity - but the workshop's success has shown that what we hold dear is also important to other classic car enthusiasts too.
£100,000 and counting...
My priorities when taking a car for repair probably didn't differ much from other owners, although the consequences of failure were probably greater. I needed a quality repair, fixed first time, and completed in a timely manner - not necessarily quickly but certainly to a reliable timescale. Anything else would end up costing me money through breakdowns, failed hires or cancelled bookings. These simple requirements felt like reasonable requests.
Right first time...or not
Like many who had passed this way before me, I didn't really get what I expected. I found myself paying multiple times for the same problem to be correctly fixed and agreed deadlines were regularly missed. It was very difficult to get a fixed quote - or even an indication of price - and jobs always cost more than expected. To some extent, I understand why this happened: car faults are not always easy to diagnose and meeting a deadline depends on many variables, some out of the repairer's control.
My problem with this arrangement is around the lack of communication and, by extension, lack of concern about my priorities and consequential costs. I also don't see why I should pay for a repairer to faff around finding a solution to a problem - I don't pay my dentist to learn on the job. I was rarely contacted when deadlines slipped - often I would arrive to collect a car as agreed and find it wasn't ready - and appeared to often pay for the repairer's unfamiliarity with particular cars (which meant jobs took longer than expected and cost more). As a very valuable customer of some of these workshops, this seemed like a major oversight.
If I had not had to bear the consequential costs of these problems on my business then I might have done as most classic car owners do and simply shrugged and accepted it. But I had to do something. The answer was to set up my own classic car workshop - not an easy decision when your knowledge of mechanics is extremely limited.
I invested in some equipment and worked through a couple of mechanics before finding a business partner I could genuinely work with and who shared my priorities. We spent the first few years focusing on Great Escape Cars' own fleet, managing to significantly improve turnaround times and reliability and reduce costs, all of which has helped our customer service levels immeasurably.
As the effectiveness of the model began to pay off I took on three apprentices to help grow this side of the business and take on more work in-house. We chose to recruit apprentices because of a shortage of trained mechanics who wanted to work on classics and previous issues with recruiting older qualified workshop staff. This approach has been extremely successful, creating engaged and enthusiast employees who have exactly the skills we need. Two of the first apprentices are now fully qualified and employed by us.
My path to classic car restoration has been circuitous, expensive and has taught me many lessons. And while I still couldn't do what the workshop team do, I don't see that as a barrier. In fact, perhaps its a bonus, Not all but too many classic car workshops neglect customer service and concentrate on the day to day. They ignore the wider landscape that they work in - the problems of getting broken down cars and projects to the garage, the need for clear quotes and turnaround times. The lack of communication that is too common in the industry is, I suggest, depressing its growth. Too many customers are concerned about what will happen when they relinquish their car for repair and they dread the surprise bill at the end.
I spent a long time as a garage customer and what I learned I've applied to what we do now. I've spent longer running a classic car hire fleet. The two experiences combined have given me, I think, a fairly unique insight into how old cars work and how garages should work.
We are about honest, fair and clear pricing. We're about a quality job first time. We've built a team that shares that ethos.
To find out more about what we do visit www,wefixclassiccars.co.uk or call 01527 893733 and speak to Julian or Graham.
The rubber bumper MGB GT may not appear at first glance to be a perfect candidate for a full restoration, since values have been historically low, but that is all changing. Rising values, largely driven by changing attitudes to the impact bumper style and the far better quality of these later cars, means that full renovation of a late BGT is now a realistic proposition.
We took on the restoration of this rubber bumper BGT in October 2016 after it had sat in the owner's garage for several years. The car had been dismantled apart from the running gear, and some welding work had already been undertaken.
Our first step was to inspect the car on site and then bring it to our workshop for full assessment. We provide the assessment and collection service free of charge, using our staff and low loaders. This makes life considerably easier for customers, saving them the hassle of trying to get restoration projects to us.
This BGT was structurally solid but in poor condition, mainly due to bad historic repairs. Where new panels had been fitted or filled the shut lines and panel alignment was badly out. Rectifying these faults unfortunately added considerably to the job. Luckily the car had good floors and generally good doors and boot panels.
While BGT prices are on the rise, we were concerned to help the customer keep the total cost down to a reasonable level. So the customer sourced all of the panels, avoiding our costs for doing this, and we quoted a fixed price for the repairs and repaint based on extending the restoration time so that we could fit the car around other work. This arrangement worked well for both of us.
To get the MGB to a standard suitable for painting, we identified the following work:
- Repair bottom of both front wings with replacement panels
- Grind out filler from o/s/r quarter panel and repair
- Fit new n/s/r rear wing to ensure correct match rear wing match and correct sightlines across car
- Rectify driver's door fit by removing and refitting surrounding panels and outer sill
- Replace bonnet
- Prepare car for paint and respray
We provide an estimate of 200 hrs for the work. Our aim with each project is always to provide a fixed or very accurate guide price to avoid surprises for the customer later. This was one of my key bugbears when using outside suppliers to repair my cars.
|Repair work begins to the n/s/r rear wing, which was badly aligned. New lower wing panel fitted|
|Panel alignment on the driver's door was very poor due to bad previous repairs. We removed these repairs, fitted new panels and cill and were able to realign the door|
|New front wing repair panel fitted ahead of realigning the door|
|O/s/f wing repair panel fitted due to poor previous repair|
|New passenger door skin being aligned with front wing. Repairs to rear wing|
|New front valance|
|n/s/f wing repair panel fitted following significant work to rectify poor panel fit to sill|
|Near side front and rear lower wings and outer sill fitted|
|n/s/r repair panel fitted and correct sightlines restored|
|Working on the alignment of the passenger door|
|Car being rubbed down ready for priming|
|Bodywork being rubbed down ready for paint|
|Light application of filler to smooth out repairs|
|Completing pre-paint preparation|
|Panels before rubbing down for paint|
To find out more about what we do visit www.wefixclassiccars.co.uk or call 01527 893733
Rediscovering a car after 13 years hidden in a garden shed can be a mixed blessing. Depending on how well it's been stored it will either be a basket case or a fairly expensive restoration.
Thankfully, despite the odds, this pretty Royal Blue MGB convertible was remarkably solid after its extended hibernation. When the owner called us to quote on returning it to the road our first step was to inspect it and assess whether it would be economically viable. Although it was covered in a thick layer of dust and grime, the body and underside were remarkably solid; storing the car in a drafty barn without a car cover was the best thing for it since it avoided damp and condensation and micro blistering of the paintwork.
The owner had had the car since the early 1990s when it was his daily driver. It was restored in the late 1990s and used as his wedding car. Once children and life inevitably intervened the car was garaged from 2003 and left unused.
With the job judged realistic our next step was to recover the car back to our workshop for a thorough inspection on a ramp. This is where our logistics resources and experience counted.
The car, as the photos show, was 100m up a gravel driveway, inaccessible to a truck, and then 50m across a lawn, gravelled area and behind a wood store. Using brute force plus jacks, we managed to move the car carefully across these obstacles despite one of the rear wheels initially locked on. With the wheels then freed it could be rolled down to the truck and loaded.
One of the advantages of having trucks and drivers is that we have the facilities to uplift cars like this. We provide this service free of charge where we end up taking on a project, potentially saving the customer a lot of hassle and cost. In the case of this MGB, most recovery companies would have refused the work because of its complexity.
Once back at the unit we put the car on the ramp and assess the work required. We split the project into three steps, an approach designed to give the owner visibility of the costs and progress required to return it to the road.
The MGB cleaned up very well, showing very good paint with only very minor deterioration not requiring immediate attention. The interior, floors, sills and body panels were all good.
Step 1: essential repairs to prepare the car for MOT
As the car was solid, apart from a very small area of welding, the essential repairs were largely limited to the fairly obvious and inevitable, considering its long storage. These included new brake discs and pads, brake cylinders, a service and new battery.
Step 2: safety and recommended repairs to ensure the car is reliable
Any lengthy period off-road inevitably causes ancillaries to deteriorate. We recommended replacing the water pump, alternator, slave and master brake cylinders, distributor and fuel pump. With these repairs the car could then be confidently put through a MOT.
Step 3: MOT and rectification of fail items
If Steps 1 and 2 are completed correctly then the car should stand a good chance of passing its MOT. Any fail items will be relatively minor. This approach means that we are able to quote an accurate price to the customer and avoid surprises.
Current Status: 23rd November 2016
The car went into the workshop in mid November and we have now completed Step 1. Step 2 will begin shortly so that the car can be MOT'd and returned to the road before Christmas.
To find out more about what we do visit www.wefixclassiccars.co.uk or call 01527 893733
Instead of shelling out £399 to hire an E Type for 24 hrs you can now shoot down that particular bucket list candidate for just £69. For those who quite understandably still want a more immersive experience, Great Escape Cars is still offering 24 hr hire periods, but now it's not the only option.
Our Classic Taster Experiences give you the chance to drive one or more of 10 different classics from our fleet, including E Types, Mk2s, Jensen Interceptor, MGB, Mini, XJS, Capri and Morris Minor. You get a full 60 minute driving tour in your chosen car along a provided route from our Worcestershire base - within minutes you'll be out on quiet country roads. Fuel, insurance and passenger space is of course included.
Prices start at just £29 for a Morris or Mini, with just £69 bagging you an E Type coupe. We've pitched our prices to compete favourably with track day experiences - unlike them there is no nannying instructor, you're on real roads and you can share the experience with friends and family at no extra cost.
The Classic Taster Experiences are available to buy online or by calling 01527 893733. They make inexpensive and very different Christmas gifts for couples and families to share. The vouchers are valid for 12 months and can be used on any of our Classic Taster Days during 2017. You can find out more about them here.
Great Escape Cars