|Rolling Forward the Best of Yesterday|
Across the country in small established workshops, outside towns and down country lanes, there is a dwindling army of self employed motor mechanics and sprayers who began their careers back in the 1950’s. They work long and hard hours to renovate, maintain and service classic sports cars for their current owners. Whether it is an Austin Healey 3000; MGB GT; Midget; Triumph or TR3A or any of a large number of cherished classics, all of them need many hours of maintenance to keep them rolling on. Owners want the best for their cars, making this small army of experts highly sought after as age and neglect take their toll on the classic cars of yesterday. There is no substitution for experience and craftsmanship when traditionally and correctly renovating classic cars; however, sadly, many troops in this army are coming up for or even past retirement age.
Social history shows us that during the 1950’s many boys followed their fathers into factory employment. This was a period particularly in the Midlands, when emerging and expanding factories needed larger workforces. For some youngsters this meant the beginning of a career on the factory floor, which is where they often remained. For others, their working life began as an apprentice.
During the last 30 or 40 years of the twentieth century the number of apprenticeships declined in line with the British motor industry in general. It is quite ironic that those giants of British motor manufacturing no longer exist but the cars they made and the apprentices they trained still do! Today, quality restoration work on classic cars is a very specialist art, which simply cannot be learned from a text book or in a classroom.
Despite this, if you know where to look, you will find new cadets coming up through the ranks! Colleges across the country now recognise that occasionally a student enrolled on vehicle maintenance and vehicle spray courses may actually prefer and love the ‘classic’ car, not just to look at, but to build, renovate and above all to learn with enthusiasm and vigour. The industry needs more of these young cadets. The elite squad of 1950’s apprentices are now very few in number but have vast amounts of invaluable information and practical skills they can teach to ensure that the finest classic car restoration continues. The good news is that a few of the new cadets are already being nurtured and encouraged by a few members of this elite squad, marking a positive move forward in the continuing care of our beloved classic motors.
We should celebrate the fact that the knowledge is being passed down and the passion is still in tact, and we should celebrate the fact that youngsters of today want to get involved in this type of exacting work. The real stars will always be the cars themselves, which continue to make each generation fall in love with them and want to own them; and for as long as this happens, there will always be a need for that elite army that rolls on keeping the best of yesterday for tomorrow.
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