Coachlines - October 2020

04.10.20 Liveryman John Kendall

Learning the core skills of coachbuilding

Following our story on George Barrett last month, the second apprentice currently benefitting from a Coachmakers bursary is 17-year-old Kieran Coleman (pictured above). Kieran is enrolled on the Heritage Engineering – Vehicle (Mechanical) Technician apprenticeship at the Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology (MCMT) at Bridgnorth in Shropshire. The apprenticeship course is delivered in a similar way to the course being followed by George Barrett, structured in one-week blocks every month (i.e. 12 weeks per year). The course lasts for 42 months and is an accredited apprenticeship through the Skills Funding Agency.

To attend the course, Kieran has to travel a total of 50 miles each day from his home in Ludlow to Bridgnorth and back. Until he has passed his driving test – particularly difficult at the moment because of COVID-19 restrictions, he is reliant on his parents to drive him. He is especially grateful to the Coachmakers for the bursary which makes a significant contribution towards his travelling costs.

Kieran with David Cornwallis

Kieran is employed by David Cornwallis, whose business has two distinct elements. The first is the repairing and complete rebuilding of Thwaites dumper trucks. Many of these completely rebuilt and guaranteed dumper trucks are exported to markets around the world. Some of the smaller Thwaites dumper trucks are fitted with Marles steering boxes, also used on a number of classic car models produced by Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Triumph, Daimler, Healey and Allard, among others. David Cornwallis owns the registered trade mark for Marles steering boxes and all the drawings. Rebuilding and building brand new steering boxes is the second element of the business, with customers seeking the services of the business from around the world.

Kieran works across both areas of the business, having so far refurbished some six steering boxes on his own. He has been involved in refurbishing dumper trucks and has assisted with another project to restore an Alvis-based pick-up truck.

The Alvis began life as a TA14 saloon, but at some stage was fitted with a one-off pick-up body. It found its way into the hands of John Miller, the nephew of the late war time bandleader Glenn Miller. John Miller came to the UK in the late 1970s to develop the John Miller Orchestra, taking over from his father’s Herb Miller Orchestra.

David Cornwallis met John Miller through the business and has since acquired the Alvis pickup, which is in need of thorough restoration. Kieran is taking an active part in the process, having re-built the steering box for it and is now assisting with re-powering it and refurbishing the dilapidated bodywork.

The course at MCMT offers wide-ranging tuition. “There are five strands to the Heritage Engineering Technician course: marine, aviation, boiler, coachbuilding and vehicle mechanical,” explains MCMT course tutor Stuart Blakemore. “We start off with the core skills, then you have the specific skills to each strand. You’ve got people in the industry that have been doing this for years and doing it to a very, very high level and they just think it’s native to be able to do something. Even something as simple as measuring or marking out. So you have got to be able to research, survey, take a project and evaluate it all. It’s very, very broad.” The course aims to prepare its apprentices for engineering technician qualifications from bodies such as the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

The MCMT course is in its early days and Kieran is one of the first seven apprentices studying for the qualification. Once established, MCMT aims to be training around 12 apprentices in each intake.