Coachlines - June 2024

28.06.24 Liveryman Nick Lyford

Our support for Heritage Skills apprentices

Each year the Charity Committee allocates funds to support five young apprentices from the Heritage Skills Academy (HSA). (More about the Academy itself in a future edition of Coachlines). The bursaries made are primarily for travel and subsistence when on block release at the two HSA sites of Brooklands (mainly coachbuilding skills) and Bicester (primarily mechanical restoration skills).

Funds are allocated when the HSA identifies apprentices who otherwise would not be able to afford to be at the Academy and away from their day jobs as apprentices in their various employments.

In this article we hear from four of the HSA apprentices, in their own words, about their employment and time with the HSA. There will be a follow-up article in the coming months on the remaining HSA apprentice; William Smith as well as our Bentley Heritage Skills award winning apprentice Billy Strutt.

William Lufta

William Lufta

My name is William Lufta and I am in my final year of a three-year coachbuilding apprenticeship offered by the Heritage Skills Academy. I am currently working for a small business called Frogeye Spares Co. based in Carnforth, Lancashire, building Austin Healey Sprite bodies. I have been building a new Frogeye from the floor up. We do this for people with a Frogeye Sprite whose body and chassis (monocoque) is “too far gone” to be restored. They buy the complete bodyshell off us and transplant their original running gear, interior, engine, and wiring to create a new Frogeye. The body panels are supplied by a company called Creative Classics based in Coventry and we press the rest of the panels in-house. Anything that is not available from suppliers, I fabricate from scratch.

I am one of three employees who are on the tools and the only apprentice in the business. I moved to Lancaster with my partner at the start of this apprenticeship for the job. We are originally both from Surrey so this was a big move – but I was determined to make the most of the opportunity at HSA. My work in Carnforth is just up the road from where we live in Lancaster so when the weather is good, I cycle to work on my 1979 Peugeot road bike (restored myself).

My work consists mostly of fabrication and panel work and I have been working on my own since starting the apprenticeship. Not having a full-time mentor to provide ‘on-the-job training’ has meant that my current skill set has been self-taught through my work experience and with help from YouTube and Instagram – as well as through our monthly off-the-job training with tutors at the Brooklands Motor Museum.

Without the HSA and the skilled tutors we have at Brooklands I would not be in the position I am in – these resources have been invaluable. My tutors Andy Kelly and Grace Roaf are both experts in their fields so I make sure to get the most out of them when we are on block release.

My goal with the apprenticeship and the skills we are learning is to one day have my own business making panels and doing restorations/custom work. The creative side of being able to shape metal also really appeals to me. Before starting the apprenticeship, I was a musician and self-taught wood turner so having the skills to also create non-automotive design was a big part of why I applied.

Lancaster is a great place to live and suits our lives perfectly. The Lake District is on the doorstep, my partner and I are both keen walkers and love climbing. There is also plenty of great cycling (although big hills!) and Manchester and London are short train rides away, which also makes this a great spot for us.

As the only apprentice in our cohort to not live at home with family, the financial aid the Coachmakers has provided has been a great help. Moving 300-ish miles from home and starting the apprenticeship and a new career was a big personal milestone and this was made easier by your support.

Adam Shaw

Adam Shaw

I work at Windsor Classics which specialises in made-to-order Land Rover Series and Defender v8s, which are renovated to the highest levels of detail and specification. Windsor Classics started in 2019 where I shortly after joined as an apprentice. When I joined, there was a workshop manager, a mechanic and myself. Now we are a team of seven including two more mechanics and two painters. I have really enjoyed being there since the beginning and being part of a strong and growing team. I have been able to learn from those who are experienced in the classic car industry and teach newcomers joining the company. We all get on very well and work well together to support each other in our day-to-day jobs.

What I love about my work is that high standards of workmanship are the priority. Whilst each car is made to a customer order and there is a long waiting list, quality always comes before getting the job done quick. For example, we may decide to add power steering or add front disk brakes. It is always important that each car leaves the garage enhanced and in its best working condition.

When I saw the advert on the HSA website for my apprenticeship placement, despite being an hour’s commute from home, I knew I really wanted to work at Windsor Classics. It was the perfect fit for my passion and area of interest. I have always been passionate about cars since I could sit up and at 16, I was lucky enough to be able to start restoring an old Land Rover at my home. As my main hobby is cars, I spend most of my free time working on mine or friends’ cars. I can often be found covered in oil under the bonnet, at the breakers’ yard sourcing parts, or at Goodwood motoring events. I am proud to have my own Land Rover Series 3 up and running now and when I can afford to insure it, I look forward to driving it regularly. The HSA course and Windsor Classics has given me the skills and confidence to work independently and as a team member on a range of different classic cars. Without the help of the Coachmakers all this would have been very difficult for me.

I have now only got three blocks left of my HSA course with a completion date around October or November of this year. The course has given me the opportunities and the skills to work in an area I am very passionate about. I have grown immensely in my mechanical skills, industry knowledge, personal confidence, and work ethic. I have met many like-minded people at college, work and at shows such as Goodwood. I have been able to make good connections and I have made some good friends and business contacts.

Alfie Woodward

Alfie Woodward

My workplace is called Hall’s Garage, situated in Morton, a town near Bourne in Lincolnshire. We are MG specialists, but work with all types of cars; for example, one day I could be changing a clutch on an MGB and the next I could be doing a service on a 2020 Volvo. It has been great to get such a broad range of experience in one place. There are seven people who work at Hall’s Garage, one in the body shop, three (including myself) in the workshop, Danielle Hall in reception and administration and two MOT testers including Steve Hall, the owner of the garage. I got the apprentice job here by approaching the garage with a folder demonstrating my experience through my CV, a portfolio and information about the Heritage Skills Academy, and after careful consideration I was offered the job.

I enjoy the variety of work at the garage and especially working collaboratively within a team. Now I am gaining confidence in my skills, I am enjoying working more independently on jobs. Luckily for me, my commute to work is small and I often enjoy cycling to work in the summer. I aspire to continue working at the local garage in the coming years, continuing to increase my knowledge and develop more autonomy as a mechanic.

I have just completed my first year at Heritage Skills Academy which has taught me many of the foundation skills required for car mechanics, the insight I have gained from my weeks at the Bicester Heritage site I have even brought back to Hall’s Garage to teach the team there. Outside of my working career I play football regularly for Bourne Town A team, recently we won our league, I also spend time restoring cars with my dad who is also passionate about vintage vehicles.

As an apprentice I am lucky to have the variation of learning opportunities both at my workplace and during my monthly stays in Bicester, spending the week with the cohort of apprentices provides a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge, help each other develop new skills and feel part of a community of young people passionate about old cars. Without the funding support for Hall’s as a small garage there would not have been an apprenticeship opportunity local to me, with the financial support of the Coachmakers, Halls has offered me the opportunity to develop my skills close to home within this family-run business and complete my apprenticeship.

David Glover

James David Glover

Engineering was a goal of mine set by my young self, a constantly fascinated young lad by anything and all things mechanical. I was a tyrant constantly dismantling objects as if I was going to discover some sort of magic inside, which as you grow up and discover it’s all cleverness and fiddly moving parts, you sort of wish you were back in the mind of your younger self.

Now all grown up and handsome, I work at a small firm called Nical Engineering under the wing of an infinitely experienced chap called Nick Freeman. I approached him after achieving my level 3 BTEC in engineering at Brockenhurst College and I must admit I have learned more in three years with Nick hands-on and practical, than a piece of paper could have ever taught me.

Nick formed Nical Engineering in the 1970s after being a machinist at a precision engineering firm. It was a time when he decided motorcycles were no longer his thing and pursued his interest in Austin Healeys, and of course boats. What’s brilliant about it is Nick has managed to run a business based on his greatest interests for which he has enjoyed running for nearly 50 years. As for me, currently I work at the business as a solo apprentice which means the experience is solely one to one. This does also make me the primary labourer as Nick will spend half his time working on the back-end side of things on his computer. Within the three and a half years I have been working for Nick I have undertaken full restorations, mainly on a Mk1 Frogeye Sprite and Alvis TD21 drophead.

Alongside the main restoration projects we undertake, there are also customers that we deal with regarding servicing and fault-finding not to mention the fact we are one of the only firms to reproduce to original standards several variants of Austin Healey fibreglass hardtops. Luckily for me Nical Engineering is not far from where I live, only taking me 10 minutes to commute and the building is a barn on a farm located in the stunningly beautiful village of Beaulieu, which in itself has a lot of motoring heritage and the really rather good National Motor Museum.

At the time of writing, I am preparing for my final week block release at the Heritage Skills Academy and to say I’m going to miss it is an understatement. Everything from the intuition to the camaraderie of the class has been life changing. The skills I’ve proudly taken away are those that cannot be attained by simply working at an automotive firm, because they take those skills learned from experience and build onto it, which has effects such as speed, accuracy and overall professional confidence when undertaking tasks at the workplace.

Some things HSA has taught me, I’ll use at work and then Nick will benefit from them. Most importantly, HSA has given me the skills to build confidence and with that I can comfortably and confidently present my worth as a skilled technician. At home I am avidly into my history in general, especially historic conflicts, which I find are important to appreciate as they have helped form our beloved society today granting many freedoms. I tend to have mad ideas while idling at home, which gets me in the garage making small projects, my proudest moment being the creation of a pizza oven using a propane tank, some steel offcuts and a paving slab.