An Austin Special is slowly taking shape in Auckland at Fagan and Hannay, thanks to an effort to teach hands-on skills to Vintage Austin Register (VAR) club members.
Some VAR stalwarts realized that fewer and fewer folk have the skills needed to make a Special, or, indeed, to work on their own cars. So they set up a regular Saturday workshop to teach those skills via building a complete car — tapping into member knowledge, as needed, along the way.
The work takes place fortnightly. VAR’S Richard Bampton said, “It started with a workshop with Joss [Campbell] to go through basic sheet-metal techniques — folding, shrinking, curves, swaging, that sort of stuff.” But participants wanted another workshop, to watch Joss make something. “Watching grass grow is more exciting,” he said, “so I thought, why don’t we just build a car?”
They picked an Ulster replica — “An ‘Ulsteroid’,” Joss quipped — as it’s fairly simple. So far, the group has made the main floorpan and tunnel, the firewall panels with relevant swaging and folding, and the main side panels. They’re now going back through to see if there’s anything they could improve on, since they’ve had more practice, before starting to build the plywood buck for the body skin.
In the meantime, the workshop is also available for people to bring their projects to and get advice, and, already, regular participants have built project-specific tools, replacement battery boxes, and more on-site, with all the materials and plenty of expert advice on hand.
Joss said, “Because Fagan and Hannay is a metalwork shop through the week, all the equipment is handy, and, as I’m based here, I can ensure any metal or supplies we’ll need will be on hand.”
Participants — there are about eight regulars, while others join from time to time, from as far afield as Whangarei — donate $10 per day they take part, which pays for the materials: a sheet of steel is $80, the aluminium equivalent $100, and it’ll take three for the skin and two for the floor. “So far, the books have balanced,” Richard says, “Mind you, I haven’t had a holiday yet …”
They hope the project pays for itself. “If we have to spend money on the mechanicals, we’ll take that call and when the car’s complete we’ll sell it, to pay that off and raise money for the club.” Richard said.
The group already has mechanical expert Ian Williams ready to take over the workshop when the time comes.
Any regrets so far? “That more people aren’t taking advantage of the sort of equipment few folk have in their garage, and the ability to learn this stuff,” Richard said.
Those interested in learning how to make a Special can call Ian on 09 442 1261. Look out for future updates here!