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As sheet-metal workers with coachbuilding backgrounds, Sam Grudgings and Andy Hall of Vintage Machines can not only craft an excellent bodyshell, but also do it very accurately.
Both men have a long history in the prototype body-making side of modern car manufacturing.
Hall finished his apprenticeship in 1990 at Park Sheet Metal in Coventry and then worked for bespoke coachbuilder Carat Duchatelet in Belgium before overseeing the first run of the Jaguar Classic division’s Reborn E-type bodyshell restorations.
Meanwhile, Grudgings’ CV includes several years at XK specialist Leaping Cats in Warwickshire, then working in Germany on low-volume Mercedes-AMG conversions and, more recently, playing a leading role in the Jaguar Land Rover Project 7 F-type and Project 8 XE bodies.
As contractors, the two found themselves drawn to the same sorts of jobs over the years so, at the end of 2019, it seemed like a natural step to set up on their own as Vintage Machines, in a workshop in Marton, near Rugby.
“Our absolute passion is for traditional skills such as wheeling and lead-loading,” says Hall, “while also seeing the value in using modern techniques where it helps the process.
“There is an attitude in the classic-car restoration trade that says ‘if it looks right – and it closes right – then it is right’, but that is not always the case.”
Thanks to Hall and Grudgings’ past with modern vehicles, Vintage Machines has the ability to capture information and make it repeatable time and time again.
“For instance, with our door jigs and aperture gauges for rear hatches on the E-type we invested in making these tools because then we know things are going to fit,” says Hall.
The first E-type the firm worked on was a good, honest shell from which the tooling was made, capturing the information by having the outside of the body laser-scanned.
The tool Hall and Grudgings have devised for the E-type fhc picks up on four points on the bulkhead, plus four mounting points on the rear suspension, and gives the correct parallel lines for the rear quarters.
“This way,” says Hall, “we can immediately tell a customer what was – and was not – in the correct position if, say, the car has had an accident.
“If we know the centre point is good we can dry-assemble the B-post; when we move on, everything lines up nicely.
“Also, the paint shop doesn’t have to work on the gaps or the profiles: it should all be there in the steel, other than minor surfacing work.
“In theory, we can bring down painting costs because the painters will lose less time during assembly.”
Hall and Grudgings are now at stage where they want to earn a living but also grow the business.
One of many ideas for the future is to offer off-the-shelf panels for certain cars where the costs make sense: they are currently reverse-engineering Porsche 356 rear wings using the resin ‘splash’ technique, for example.
Two weeks after they got the keys to the unit in Marton, Warwickshire, the 2020 lockdown hit, but Vintage Machines has never been short of customers as word spread about its high standards.
By the time you read this the duo will have moved to a new, larger workshop on the same site, where the extra space will make life a lot easier.
“The customers we are aiming for are the ones who want to project manage their own builds,” says Hall.
“For instance, one client has a particular engine builder, trimmer and painter he uses, and – in his mind – if he ticks all of those boxes he will have the best car he can possibly have: we want to tick that box for the metalwork.”
With customers reporting very positive feedback from the traditionally discerning painters, it seems certain that Hall and Grudgings are doing something right.
Images: Olgun Kordal
- Name Vintage Machines
- Address Unit J, Old Station Yard, Marton, Rugby CV23 9RU
- Specialism Panelbeating and bodyshell construction
- Staff Two
- Prices £45 per hour
- Tel 07557 518602
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org