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Traditional English Restoration


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Hi Guys

My business partner and I run a vintage and classic car restoration company in the UK (Ashley & James coacbuilding ) and are looking to start a permanent branch of our business in the U.S. in the New England area this year. We specialize in the manufacture of aluminium and steel bodywork from sheet metal, and also have experience in ash frame repair. we are also capable of making American hot rod bodies to your design, vintage aircraft panels, etc.

The question is would the  the U.S. Vintage, classic , Veteran and hotrod community find a use for our very unique and traditional skills? to have a look at what we can do have a look at our website where you will see among others, pictures of a Bentley corniche we recently re created for Bentley Motors http://www.ashleyandjames.uk  or our instagram page https://www.instagram.com/ashley_and_james_coachbuilding/?hl=en

Thanks Guys

Andy & Miles

.

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Sounds like a great idea. Looking this direction due to Brexit?  Around here in Canada I only know of one small shop near Toronto and the sole proprietor is always swamped with work..Of course you will be better of in the States where most of the action and dollars are! 

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a very niche market. many have attempted this and failed.............. dont know if it is too labor intensive or what.

 

there is a definite market, but you will need to weave and turn to find it correctly. I recently was looking for someone who makes Auburn speedster bodies and the few who used tin, were out of business.

I had no interest in fiberglass............

 

Rootlieb in Cali has been making metal parts for years and has apparently been successful at it.

 

best of luck!

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There is a market for panel fabrication,  but I agree it is not very big.   But then again,  how may shops are there in the U.S. that can hand form a metal body?    I've known Wray Schelin since I was a kid and he has a HUGE shop,  but I'm willing to bet that 75% of his revenue comes from his metal shaping classes,  and not from customer fabrication work.

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We are not looking to be Huge, maybe only one car at a time but normally we are involved in high end cars that you just can't buy anything for like Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari etc, or one off cars wherwe the client just brings a rolling chassis to us so we can can design the body with the client's ideas in mind or sometimes they just leave it up to us.

 

Follow these links to see a recently completed project for Bentley Motors

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1Wu4-YD0xB/?igshid=qbe4v8nj1szg&fbclid=IwAR0D6hZWo4QNj8Ui0TgZY20gjuNY6iMHcV704nIMMZ_2lB_lMyqTskeb_2Qhttps://www.bentleymedia.com/en/newsitem/971-the-missing-link-mulliner-completely-re-creates-pivotal-1939-bentley-cornich?fbclid=iwar0mukcy-mc7uypno4aswhpsns094byw27nftn1a8wy1wfkva6npg0nj0q4.https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/bentley-1939-corniche-convertible-salon-prive-mulliner-a9050226.html?fbclid=IwAR0PfdWi5rL9RCYGef36CulWvrYon5PwRzNp5W9rbjvsawbKzSbx1EpobBs

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It might be a good idea to do some in depth market research. Restorations in general seem to be slowing down. Demand for your service may be unaffected by this slowdown as you definitely are at the high end of the spectrum , however this sort of work generally has a quite 

small clientele base.

Distances can be very much greater in North America than what you are used to in the U.K. / Western Europe. The whole industry / suppliers / customers are much more spread out geographically.  At times this can be a hinderance. England is an amazing place due to the

concentration of vintage and specialist vehicle service and component providers. 

As well you may want to have a good look at factors like health care costs. I am Canadian so I am covered by a national program similar to the British national program. And I have at times considered a move next door to the U.S.A. In my case the health care costs with a private 

provider necessary in the U.S. are quite substantial and tip the balance in favor of remaining in Canada.

Wonderful work !

 

Greg in Canada

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Greg makes a good point- much high end work is being produced in Canada over the US, due to currency devaluation.

 

If I was restoring a top end car, I would send it north and save a good 20%.

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Very nice work, having a class winner on Pebble Beach is a great introduction to the hobby. That Type 57 Bugatti is very nice looking, a restoration of an existing car or a scratch built design? There is a Vintage Sports Car Racing group that may be in need of panel work, along with the high end Sunday cars & coffee crowd. Will you be doing finish paint work as well? I wish you well, cost of a shop in New England vs a warmer spot is something to consider, getting customers that can keep up with payments is an other. Bob 

Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
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Forget about Canada. We have a miserable climate , unless you are obsessed with  hunting and fishing .Our health care is probably worse than yours. Set up in California and that way even if your business fails you will not need an umbrella or a snow shovel ! A Canadian  friend just sent his type 57 to New Hampshire for body work and his engine to Colorado which should tell you something. 

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I think it is safe to say that from a vintage car point of view almost every geographic location has advantages and disadvantages. It's often the bigger picture things that make or break a given location. Healthcare, cost of real estate, Gov. red tape, taxes, overall cost of living and rate of inflation to name a few. 

And yes, climate conditions.  Some very skilled people out here in British Columbia,  as there are in many places around the world. Locally we have some of the most unaffordable real estate on the planet, and the effects of that ripple through the entire economy / culture. I have often thought that somewhere else 

might be a better solution. For my situation a move to the U.K. could be a step forward.

P.S. bruffsup, don't overlook snowmobiling.

 

Greg in Canada

 

 

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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4 hours ago, mercer09 said:

a very niche market. many have attempted this and failed.............. dont know if it is too labor intensive or what.

 

there is a definite market, but you will need to weave and turn to find it correctly. I recently was looking for someone who makes Auburn speedster bodies and the few who used tin, were out of business.

I had no interest in fiberglass............

 

Rootlieb in Cali has been making metal parts for years and has apparently been successful at it.

 

best of luck!


 

There are a handful of very talented craftsmen in New England doing similar work........but many are starting to age out..........most are in their 60’s or more. Same goes for restoration shops that are exclusively pre war. I think many of the heroic restoration of important cars are just about run the course of supply. Rerestoration, service, maintenance, and that type of work will continue for decades. The hobby basically started in the mid to late 30’s. It has constantly changed since then, and I expect it will continue. What will be the most active section of the hobby? Who knows, mostly cost of restoration, shipping, and maintenance will dictate the new direction. You can have a brass Ford T and tour HCCA using an F150 and an open trailer very economically..............like V-12 Packard sedans of the late 30’s and you need a much more expensive rig to move it around, and while most people can keep a T going easily with a book and YouTube, a V-12 or V-16 is another story. Supply of pre 1943 cars for sale is certainly increasing, and with many in medium to large collections, there will be even more supply as collections are dispersed. Recently I had lunch with one of the top early American art dealers in the world, who runs one of the big three auction houses............his comment on the Early American art market was simple and to the point........the great stuff is in demand, selling, and doesn’t stay on the market for long. The very good stuff is soft, but moving over time.........the beginning and moderately priced stuff is now almost no longer art.......it’s decorative material that only sells for wall covering...........everything goes in cycles..........some markets will recover and continue upwards......others will never recover.......which ones are the best bet???? The ones you like...............we will need tradespeople and craftsmen to service all this stuff forever, how many people the industry will support is still unknown. At my age and area of interest, I will be busy till the put me under.

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In addition to Wray's place, Morton Coach in CT does this type of work as well.  Not looking to discourage you only educate you on competitive market particularly in New England.  Jesse and son have been in business over a decade, he does general restoration as well, though, so I cannot say fabrication is 100% of his business.  Good luck with your efforts!

 

As a former Brit car owner, and still a fan, the post title traditional English restoration made me think you were re-attaching bits that fell off and replacing Lucas connectors! 😁

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, bruffsup said:

Forget about Canada. We have a miserable climate , unless you are obsessed with  hunting and fishing .Our health care is probably worse than yours...

 

Really? 

 

I'm 400 miles north of Montana and it's 4°C / 37°F this morning and warmer yet near the border. I've been driving my '26 T all week. 

 

I had a heart attack 22 months ago... into Emergency at 8 pm, had my bed at 5 the next morning with any angiogram scheduled for 11 am. Back in the ward by 2 after that test and inserting a stent. Home the next morning. Six weekly rehab classes and some testing. 

 

What were my out of pocket expenses, deductible, co-pay, etc. and how many times did I pull out my wallet?

 

$0.     Never.  

 

At that time I was covered by my bride's work benefits (she has since retired) but here's the thing... even without her benefits, my cash outlay would still be $0. On the other hand, the kids maybe spent $20 on hospital parking when they came by to visit, so there's that.

 

I dunno what bad health care experiences you've had or what you like for weather, but a blanket statement like yours does Canada a disservice.

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I stand by my statements and am happy to elaborate for anyone thinking emigrating to Canada would be a good idea. Here in Ontario our hospitals are overflowing. My wife has been waiting for an MRI since last July as it is suspected she has bleeding in the brain. You were lucky as chest pain is the ONLY thing that will get you looked at right away. The third leading cause of death in Canada is from medical errors !  I could write a book about our crappy health care system. And as far as being free  have you checked your tax bills?  All our really good doctors go south as the system sucks for them too.

 As far as weather you are not fooling anyone.I know what a fluke a Chinook is. I  lived in Prince Albert Sask and know was minus 55 F is Also lived in a hellhole called Winnipeg ( nicknamed "Winterpeg" also know for mosquito infestations which rival  the Congo.) Spent most of my life around Ottawa the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulan Bator Mongolia ! 

 There are a great many reasons why the USA has over 300 million people and we have just over 30 million. I tell anyone that is young and ambitious to get out of here. I am an old man now but if I could do it over again I would opt for New Zealand. 

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Canada, like many places is just Ducky for the top 20%. When I look around my area it is pretty obvious many within that group worldwide are coming to Canada, particularly to the Vancouver B.C. region. It's the other 80% of us that find things evolving in a difficult direction.

Canada has a tremendous amount of positives. Economic inequality is becoming a significant negative for a large and growing group of Canadians. The old car situation is just one of many sectors being effected.

 

 

Greg in Canada

 

 

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not taking sides here..........but my wife works in Syracuse NY at Upstate. Every week Canadians come down for operations,,,,,,,,,, because of the long wait and poor healthcare in Canada.  fact.

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Hi everyone 

all of your advice is very much appreciated.......But my partner has ties to Newport RI so Canada is not really in the game. As I said New England/ Rhode Island is where we wilL be based. So with respect we are getting a little off of the original topic.

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40 minutes ago, bruffsup said:

I stand by my statements and am happy to elaborate for anyone thinking emigrating to Canada would be a good idea. Here in Ontario our hospitals are overflowing. My wife has been waiting for an MRI since last July as it is suspected she has bleeding in the brain. You were lucky as chest pain is the ONLY thing that will get you looked at right away. The third leading cause of death in Canada is from medical errors !  I could write a book about our crappy health care system. And as far as being free  have you checked your tax bills?  All our really good doctors go south as the system sucks for them too.

 As far as weather you are not fooling anyone.I know what a fluke a Chinook is. I  lived in Prince Albert Sask and know was minus 55 F is Also lived in a hellhole called Winnipeg ( nicknamed "Winterpeg" also know for mosquito infestations which rival  the Congo.) Spent most of my life around Ottawa the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulan Bator Mongolia ! 

 There are a great many reasons why the USA has over 300 million people and we have just over 30 million. I tell anyone that is young and ambitious to get out of here. I am an old man now but if I could do it over again I would opt for New Zealand. 

I applaud your brutal honesty. I read once that 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border. I suppose that tells you something.

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I've lived in RI my entire life and owned business here. While I have plenty to complain about, I doubt it is the worst spot. We had a thriving yacht building business until the State decided to tax it into oblivion - never thinking that people who could million dollar yachts could afford to have them built anywhere. That said, I am certain you will do your homework before trying to set up here and I doubt our state and local governments are any more bothersome than the County Council is wherever you are (I looked at the web site but didn't see the location). Ed makes a good point in that that the few people who do this sort of work are aging out. The fact that it is a very limited market is just as true in the UK as it is here. Distances in the US may be greater but Americans are accustomed to that. I doubt that for a custom built body, the distances would be much of an issue.

 

Its clear from your web site and the attached links that you know the business. Location is more a matter of convenience (although I would stay clear of California). You might try contacting the RI Dept. of Business Regulation. The state is so small that your enquiry will probably end up on the evening news. They will, of course try to make the place sound enticing but also can tell you what the average costs are and perhaps steer you in the direction of an area where such a business would be welcome.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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11 hours ago, Andyjw001 said:

Hi Guys

My business partner and I run a vintage and classic car restoration company in the UK (Ashley & James coacbuilding ) and are looking to start a permanent branch of our business in the U.S. in the New England area this year. We specialize in the manufacture of aluminium and steel bodywork from sheet metal, and also have experience in ash frame repair. we are also capable of making American hot rod bodies to your design, vintage aircraft panels, etc.

The question is would the  the U.S. Vintage, classic , Veteran and hotrod community find a use for our very unique and traditional skills? to have a look at what we can do have a look at our website where you will see among others, pictures of a Bentley corniche we recently re created for Bentley Motors http://www.ashleyandjames.uk  or our instagram page https://www.instagram.com/ashley_and_james_coachbuilding/?hl=en

Thanks Guys

Andy & Miles

.

I think that the real answer looking at your work is ...if you build it they will come.   You clearly have the talent and business knowledge.

 

The border issue between Canada and the US is a non-starter, particularly for the quality of work that you do.  The dollar fluctuates so much that right now the US dollar is high and two years from now the Canadian dollar might be on par, who knows.  Even the size of the countries doesn't really matter given the context of the level of work you perform.  Shipping across the country is definitely much cheaper than shipping across the pond. 

 

I wish you good luck and good fortune and if you choose to locate a branch in North America let everyone here know!  

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Would it be better to establish a customer base here first and then locate later if needed?  With the quality and excellence of the cars you have shown, I can’t imagine the fact that needing to ship such work across the pond would kill a deal.  

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I've spent about 3 days a month for the last two years at Wray Schelin's Pro Shaper shop in Charlton, MA (see proshaper.com).  Wray has 20,000 sq ft of shop, more equipment than almost any shop could imagine.  It's about 75 miles north from Newport, RI.  Wray used to take on major projects, but has nearly given it up to focus on giving classes and selling his own line of English wheels and power hammers.  Frankly, I've been amazed at the number and quality of youngish, e.g. 40s and under, people who have been there for classes, some for weeks on end.  The students have come from all over the country -and Canada, South America, Europe.  Some of them are already doing restoration or building street rods.  [See my Indy car thread under the Speedsters part of this forum.] So, at least some people believe in a future market for coach building skills.

 

Wray's biggest issue with the restoration and coach building business is the ability of customers to actually pay for the project through completion.  Too many people start a restoration or custom build project and run out of cash in the middle, leaving the shop owner with unpaid bills and an unfinished car cluttering the shop.  Admittedly, it is difficult to accurately estimate the time required to coach-build a car to high standards.  Few people have pockets deep enough to fully fund such a project, but they are out there.  I don't think material costs are a major cost item:  my Studebaker Indy car project has consumed 4 or 5 sheets of aluminum for the body, say $500.  But, the cost of the machines, space, and overheads can be very significant, as indicated by the above discussions of health insurance costs.

 

When I started on the body for my car, I couldn't find anyone in New England who would take on the whole project and make the body the shape I wanted.  I didn't want someone else's view of how it should look or be assembled, I wanted to copy the original Indy cars.  Had your business been in operation back then, I might have become a customer.  But, I've been hammering and wheeling aluminum for a couple of years now, might just make it to journeyman status about the time the body is finished.  Wray is a full black-belt master and artist of the forming stump, English wheel, TIG welder, power hammer, and more.  Maybe you should just make Wray an offer he can't refuse, take over his shop, and keep him on to advise and assist.  I don't know anyone else who wants to work 9:00 am to 10:00 pm 7 days a week.  He's there every day, so go talk to him.  He could steer some business your way.  Good luck, and I hope you get started in New England soon.

 

1575197444_WraySchelinatEnglishwheel.jpg.7986a04df0f452a8a1441b4e2fe03f5d.jpg

Wray Schelin at one of his English wheels.

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well, Rhode Island is not known for its tax breaks. An expensive place to start up a business.......................................

 

not many businesses there- for that very reason.

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Market yes, once you have earned a reputation which of course you are well on your way. I would wonder more how you keep quality up with two shops separated by the Atlantic ocean. Is your existing business very profitable? Would you be better suited focusing on making the existing shop as proficient and profitable as possible? Fantastic work by the way.

 

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