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“Without a wiring harness, you don’t have a vehicle,” says Wayne Wallace, 30-year veteran and managing director of Autosparks.
The Nottingham firm has been remanufacturing wiring harnesses for classic cars since the 1970s, and has a range of thousands of looms.
“What we haven’t made already in terms of British cars, we will probably never make,” he adds.
Founded by Roger Davis, who is still the company’s CEO, in 1971 as RD Components, it began with harnesses for motorcycles.
Owners of cars soon came calling, too, and then, in the early 1980s, the company bought competing Hull firm Autosparks and adopted its name, absorbing the business into its own premises.
“Land-Rover and Mini harnesses are our best sellers, with Jaguar not far behind,” says director Debbie Johnson.
“There’s a big variety in the harnesses we build,” Debbie continues.
“There are old-school enthusiasts who want it exactly as it used to be, which we can do, but then there are those who want to add accessories and so forth.”
“Someone rallying a Mini will want a lighter loom and to add spotlights,” Wayne adds.
“We also supply harnesses unfinished so the owner can modify things to their wishes. Then they can return it and we will cover it for them. It’s all done without seeing the car itself.”
Autosparks’ flexibility is crucial to the other side of the company’s business: producing original equipment systems for commercial conversions, including ambulances. It also does some low-volume work for manufacturers.
Yet classic vehicles still represent the largest part of the business, and the firm’s most popular lines result in hundreds of sales each year.
All of the looms are built with paper guides, some of which are decades-old handwritten diagrams – though a process of digitisation is under way.
When harnesses are requested that Autosparks hasn’t yet built, a new diagram is developed by examining the old loom.
“We have nearly everything covered in terms of British cars, but we serve European marques, too,” says Debbie.
Time brings new cars and customers as modern classics’ wiring breaks down, though the increasing complexity of the connectors used is becoming an issue.
“Things get more challenging come the 1980s,” Debbie explains.
“There’s a lot of Japanese influence and that is more difficult, because the plugs either aren’t being made or have massive minimum-order quantities, which aren’t economical for us.
“In some cases they are still being used in new cars, so we’re locked out.”
Autosparks’ catalogues often stop at around 1990, although the Mini and Land-Rover lines go further.
Its process in Nottingham is remarkably self-contained. The basic copper wiring, some connectors and cloth yarn are the only major external inputs.
The two-building site includes a long, narrow room in which stretches of thread are combined to make the variously coloured wire wrappings.
Meanwhile, a pair of 3D printers recreates plastic connectors from the 1960s and ’70s that are less commonly available. Some more modern, complicated and metal connectors can’t yet be reproduced and are bought in.
Administration and distribution is all based here, too – a bulk shipment to the USA every six weeks helps support America’s fleet of British sports cars.
Contrary to many heritage businesses, Autosparks doesn’t worry about replacing old skills, because its workforce is fairly young and employee turnover is low.
“Many of us have been here for 10 years or longer,” says Wayne, “and we’re pretty confident that people will still be buying wiring harnesses in 10 years’ time and beyond.”
Images: Max Edleston
- Name Autosparks
- Address 80-88 Derby Road, Sandiacre, Nottingham NG10 5HU
- Specialism Wiring harnesses
- Staff 45
- Prices £242.62 for a full Mk1 Mini harness
- Tel 0115 949 7211
- Web autosparks.co.uk
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