Who's Restoring The Classic Car Industry?

Restoring Classic Car Industry - MAT Foundry

The classic car industry is worth a staggering £5.5 billion to the UK economy but is now faced with the very real prospect of extinction. Indeed of the 34,900 people believed to work within the sector an average age of 42 hints at, or more accurately screams at, a precarious disconnect amongst today’s youth.

Strident efforts are predictably being made to breathe new life into the restoration of vintage vehicles and by extension pique the interest of a whole new generation. They’re needed.

If estimates are to be believed up to 1000 new apprentices are required here in Britain alone. Ominously 40% of employees are struggling to find staff as a skills gap threatens to become a skills chasm.

Welcome then are new charities such as StarterMotor, and their commitment to revitalising a dying breed…

Based in Bicester Heritage this organisation has teamed-up with the local college in a bid to put youngsters to work. The intention? To not only educate students in the workings of a trade but secure them full time employment thereafter. Worth noting is any output is hardly restricted to engineers either. Every bit as important are the sales people, insurers and auctioneers that come through their doors turned garages and coalesce to sustain this most precious of sectors.

UK Classic Cars - MAT Foundry

The scheme onto which under grads will be enrolled is titled the Classic Vehicle Apprentice Course, one established as far back as 2013. New impetus has however been realised since StarterMotor entered the fray and began providing a key ingredient – cars!

For too long courses of this ilk were undermined by a dearth in actual motors. Those that did find their way into the hands of budding mechanics all too often came with dubious intention. Free labour was never far from the mind. Before long cars were recalled by owners no doubt boasting at an expense saved.

StarterMotor seek to buck that trend. Their involvement has facilitated a constant supply of vehicles that can not only be worked on for the duration but enjoyed afterwards. Indeed once restored students are free to enter competitions, shows and events wherein they can present the fruits of their labour.

Chairman Adrian Shooter explained the motives behind this most noble of initiatives: “I was lucky enough to be able to persuade my father to buy me an old Morris 8 engine to tinker with when I was 11. That got me started on a lifetime of restoring and driving old cars, which is why I am so enthusiastic about giving young people the chance to experience the excitement for themselves.”

UK Classic Car Industry - MAT Foundry

The surroundings too lend themselves to a rounded experience. Bicester Heritage is rightly held up as Britain’s Centre of Excellence for Historic Motoring and Aviation. As many as 30 businesses linked to motoring are based upon the one time WWII RAF base which is historic yes but forward thinking also. Countless garages and workshops are dotted around a vast lawn proudly showcasing the likes of pre-war Bentley’s no less. Quite the inspiration.

Time is split between the classroom and shop floor as students are afforded a broad knowledge base to underpin all practical learning. The history and heritage of classic cars is taught in conjunction with rudimentary repairs and further skills such as how to approach body and paintwork respectively.

Any incoming vehicles are first evaluated, teaching those involved the invaluable lesson of quoting for their work and earning a living.

StarterMotor’s commitment to supplying cars from its own fleet is admirable but they are not blessed with a limitless reserve. Indeed their website appeals for further donations come loans by way of a top-up.

Through teaching young people how to maintain and restore classic models they hope to hold sway over companies when urging them to take on new apprentices. Similar attempts at persuasion are made to colleges they hope will run such courses. Bicester is just the start.

If 150 new apprentices a year are unearthed in the next five years the classic are industry will live on a little while yet. The hope is innovative courses will allow it to not only endure but thrive.


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