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An eclectic mix greets you in Project Shop’s workshop.
An Audi quattro that came in for minor work has ended up having the entire underside stripped and refinished; and there’s ‘Puff’, the rally Maxi that Project Shop initially got working for its owner a couple of years ago, and is now back for a pre-repaint stripdown and engine rebuild.
Actually it’s workshops, plural: at the far end of the block, longer-term projects are taking shape alongside the trim room.
“I think it’s the only time we haven’t had an E-type in,” says workshop manager Steve Clark, an ex-TWR engineer.
Another ex-TWR employee, Clive Parker, builds the engines.
The firm doesn’t specialise in one marque, but its mission is to keep classics of all kinds on the road.
The workshop was established by Simeon Cattle to fettle the cars he was selling as half of a nearby classic dealership, and the repair work rather took over.
When he ceased the sales operation in 2013 the workshop continued, and expanded into its present location in 2016.
Preventive maintenance is the mantra here.
“Modern cars are more reliable basically because their parts are better,” says Cattle.
“I reckon you have to get three things consistent to make an old car reliable: electrics, fuel supply and cooling.
“If you can stabilise the electrics with a decent alternator, a good starter motor and future-proofed wiring, ensure stable fuel pressure from a quality pump that’s properly regulated before it reaches the carburettor, and provide dependable cooling with a deep-core radiator and an electric fan, you’ve got a car that can cope with modern traffic.”
“We don’t generally have a problem with E10 fuel on the cars we look after because the fuel lines are up to scratch, but we did tell all our customers: ‘If you smell fuel, bring it in,’” Cattle continues.
“Classic car ownership has changed since 2005. Where once buyers knew everything there was to know about their cars, now they’re not so hands-on and have to be told what their car needs and how often.
“But I reckon that of the 80 or so cars we look after, any one of them could go straight out on a round-Britain run.”
Cattle is consciously moving away from long-term projects to repair and maintenance work: “If you need something, you tend to need it now so we aim to see everyone within seven to 10 days.
“We had three breakdown jobs in last Friday and sent them on their way, fixed.”
Upgrades are popular, too, mostly in the lighting and braking departments, and Cattle takes a pragmatic approach: “Rather than spend hours rebuilding calipers, it’s cheaper to fit new ones and four-pots give better stopping power.”
The trim shop is run by father-and-son Ady and Adam Painton, who are making bespoke seat covers for parts coordinator Iwan Jones’ Sunbeam Alpine Series V.
The inserts are in a robust-looking moquette you might recognise from the London Underground, but it looks just right.
“It wasn’t available on the cars new,” Jones explains, “but it is from the right year, 1967.”
The relative youth is striking. Apart from Cattle, Clark and Parker, all staff are under 35 and four are apprentices from the nearby Heritage Skills Academy.
Five previous apprentices are now fully trained and three have set up their own companies.
“One ethos of Project Shop is to grow our own skills,” says Cattle.
“They in turn will help grow the business. We’re doing our bit to support the industry and keep classics on the road.”
Images: Luc Lacey
- Name Project Shop
- Address Unit E4, Telford Road Industrial Estate, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX26 4LD
- Specialism Classic car servicing, maintenance and restoration
- Staff 11
- Prices Hourly rate £60 plus VAT
- Tel 01869 351883
- Web projectshop.co.uk
- Email email@example.com