When it comes to the art of coachbuilding in New Zealand, it’s fair to say that we are blessed with internationally renowned craftsmen with skill, passion, and immense talent. The New Zealand coachbuilding industry can be traced back to the early 1900s, after a few attempts were made at creating locally made vehicles, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that coachbuilders quickly moved into building bodies for imported motor-vehicle chassis. Additionally, the coachbuilding trade extended to the manufacture and assembly of frames and parts for special cars and commercial vehicles such as buses, vans, trucks, caravans, and motor homes.
Fast forward several decades to today, and coachbuilding craftsmen — some who are from second- and thirdgeneration coachbuilding families — hone their skills on restoring rusty and fatigued classics to return them to their former glory, or recreating from scratch such exotics as early Ferraris, Jaguars, and Alfa Romeos, to name but three. In many cases, amazing results were, and continue to be, achieved with equipment that is considered primitive in today’s quick-turnaround modern consumerist world. Many enthusiasts involved in the classic car fraternity believe that this traditional art is slowly but surely dying as the older master craftsmen hang up their tools after decades of plying their trade.
With this in mind, we decided to check out some of the businesses currently specializing in this form of work within New Zealand and found that the art of coachbuilding is alive and well, with more businesses than ever before offering an elite level of workmanship.
These skills and talents are not only put to great use in the coachbuilding sector, but extend to just about every conceivable facet of classic car restoration. We'll be highlighting more of this skilled local ability in upcoming issues, so watch this space.
Auto Restorations Ltd in Christchurch specializes in versatility. It offers full-service restoration and custom building and undertakes nearly all work and quality control in-house. The fact it does so much in-house allows it to coordinate the job and makes for a streamlined operation.
Auto Restorations was started in 1973 by a trio of car collectors who wanted to employ an expert tradesman to do panel work on their cars. That original employee, Allan Stanton, was set up in a small premises and began work. Soon, other owners of cherished cars showed interest in having work done, and the business began to expand to meet the demand to the point where it outgrew its original site. Following three moves to bigger and better premises each time, the company now employs over 25 people.
Currently in the shop is a duo of custom bodies — one coupé and one roadster, being built on 1950s Delahaye chassis — and also two Alfa 8C 2300 replicas, one of which has just been completed, while another is underway. Auto Restorations has also recently embarked on a 1959 Testarossa replica.
Alongside its customs and one-offs, the shop is kept busy with day-to-day restoration work, including everything from Ford V8 coupés to a full job on an Aston DB4 and race preparation on a Maserati 150S race car. Coming soon are a Messerschmitt bubble car and a BMW Isetta to counter the big with some small.
Berry Panelbeaters prides itself on its workmanship and being true to its word. This, coupled with its use of the latest technology and modern techniques alongside old-fashioned flair and knowledge, ensure Berry Panelbeaters will do a fantastic job of your restoration project, classic or hot rod, show car or patina.
Keith and his team understand that classic cars are expensive, and, with the cost of everything else in the world going up, Keith says, “It’s nice to jump in your old girl and enjoy the stress relief that a classic brings, ear-toear smiles all round.”
Berry Panelbeaters is more than happy to discuss budget, length of repairs, and preventive maintenance. The team is skilled in the art of fabrication and can build anything imaginable, so those hardto-source expensive parts won’t be a problem at all. Understanding you first and not the budget is what Berry Panelbeaters stands for.
Keith and his team believe communication is golden when it comes to repairing or restoring your vehicle — whether it’s your work truck with rust issues or an awardwinning classic, every step of the process is recorded, and you, the customer, will be kept in the loop and are welcome to pop in any time.
Keith has an assortment of classic vehicles himself, and has recently taken ownership of a ’69 Buick Rivera, having previously leaned towards the Holden banner. He carries extensive knowledge of old Holdens and enjoys helping to keep them on the road.
As well as traditional insurance work, all other work — big, small, strange, or simple — is welcome. Berry Panelbeaters 15 Fairfax Avenue, Penrose, Auckland
Coventry Classics 20 Oldham Street, Gore