This is BMT Restora­tion

Clas­sic au­to­mo­biles are re­stored to con­cours lev­els here. Damn!

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - WORDS BY JOEY BERNARDEZ PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY AL­FRED MEN­DOZA

‘Th­ese are con­cours-level restora­tions, and the re­sults are breath­tak­ing’

Byrnes Mo­tor Trust (BMT) Restora­tion, the largest auto-restora­tion shop in the world, is lo­cated in Clark, Pam­panga. Does that come as a sur­prise? It’s a place that is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing con­cours-level restora­tions for some of the world’s most valu­able clas­sic cars.

The fa­cil­ity was es­tab­lished by Aus­tralian busi­ness­man Jim Byrnes in 2010, pri­mar­ily for his own busi­ness of buy­ing, restor­ing, and sell­ing clas­sic cars. Jim is an es­tab­lished per­son­al­ity in the clas­sic-car world and is pro­foundly pas­sion­ate about his grow­ing col­lec­tion. His fo­cus has mainly been on Rolls-Royce, Bent­ley, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche, but he is by no means lim­ited to those mar­ques.

With an area of over two hectares and three foot­ball-field­sized hangars within the old Clark Air­base, BMT is cur­rently restor­ing over 100 cars, with another 150 stored in a dif­fer­ent location await­ing their turn with the grinder and torch. The cars are sourced from all over the world by Jim, re­stored to con­cours-level qual­ity, and then resold to the world’s most dis­crim­i­nat­ing buy­ers and en­thu­si­asts. Of­ten­times, cars built here are even of­fered at pres­ti­gious auc­tion houses.

The Philip­pines was cho­sen for this op­er­a­tion be­cause of the skilled yet in­ex­pen­sive la­bor rates, the space, and the tax in­cen­tives that Clark of­fers as a free port. Not only that, Clark also has an in­ter­na­tional air­port and a race­track, both of which are very ad­van­ta­geous to BMT’s line of work. In de­vel­oped Euro­pean coun­tries and the US, the cost of skilled la­bor is some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of P4,000 per hour, and the restora­tion of a sin­gle car can re­quire 3,000 hours of work. Here in the Philip­pines, skilled la­bor rates are con­sid­er­ably less. More­over, within the Clark Freeport Zone, BMT can im­port and ex­port cars and parts with­out hav­ing to pay any taxes. They’re only re­quired to pay taxes on the profit they make on the cars they sell. All th­ese ben­e­fits make the Philip­pines a very vi­able place for the busi­ness of restor­ing clas­sic cars.

Over­see­ing this op­er­a­tion is the charm­ing and af­fa­ble hus­band-and-wife team of Ja­son (CEO) and Sarah Lem­berg (mar­ket­ing man­ager), plus their “daugh­ter”-slash-shop-dog, Penny Lane. Ja­son joined BMT af­ter be­ing head­hunted and pi­rated by Jim from the restora­tion di­vi­sion of Sym­bolic Mo­tors in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia. Un­der Ja­son’s stew­ard­ship, Sym­bolic Mo­tors twice won Best in Class at the famed Peb­ble Beach Con­cours d’Ele­gance.

The cou­ple toured us around this stag­ger­ingly large space and ex­plained the unique BMT process. There are many restora­tion shops in this coun­try, but none are at this level. In

the first hangar we’re taken into, there’s a row of Jaguar E-Types and al­loy-bod­ied C-Types un­der­go­ing restora­tion. In another hangar is a row of Mercedes-Benz Pagoda SLs and 190 SLs. All the work ar­eas are clean and very or­ga­nized. Metal, elec­tri­cal, and me­chan­i­cal work are all done in-house. It also has the means to press body­work, build spe­cial tools, and even sand cast new parts if so needed.

Here’s an ex­am­ple to bet­ter il­lus­trate the ex­per­tise of this fa­cil­ity: It has the knowl­edge and skill to take a Rolls-Royce Sil­ver Cloud or a Bent­ley S, cars that were pro­duced in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and turn it into a drop­head coupe, oth­er­wise known as a con­vert­ible. Jim has a par­tic­u­lar fas­ci­na­tion with th­ese mod­els. He be­lieves them to be the most beau­ti­ful cars of the era. BMT even has copies of the orig­i­nal fac­tory build spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the vari­ants and two fac­tory-made con­ver­sions of the drop­head coupes for ref­er­ence. The doc­u­men­ta­tion and the two cars were ac­quired so that BMT tech­ni­cians and spe­cial­ists could take the cars apart to study them. Their goal was to build Rolls-Royce Sil­ver Cloud drop­head coupes from scratch in ex­actly the same man­ner that they were built 50 years ago. There are 50 Sil­ver Clouds in line to be re­stored or con­verted into drop­head coupes. The BMT team is proud to pro­claim that the cars that it builds are of equal, if not bet­ter, qual­ity than any­thing that came off the Mulliner Park Ward pro­duc­tion line in the ’50s and ’60s. Filipinos build­ing Rolls-Royces and Bent­leys? Imag­ine that!

Ja­son and Sarah have noth­ing but high praises for their team of restora­tion tech­ni­cians, ev­ery one of whom they know per­son­ally. They’re im­pressed with the pas­sion they have for the work and their great at­ten­tion to de­tail. How­ever, to build on that pas­sion and de­velop their skills for de­tailed work, lots of train­ing has to be done. This is where Ja­son Lem­berg shines. He isn’t a CEO who sits in his lux­u­ri­ous air-con­di­tioned of­fice be­hind a desk. From the day he took the po­si­tion, he has al­ways been right there with his team get­ting his hands

dirty. That’s why his pre­ferred work clothes are hospi­tal scrubs. He shares his pas­sion and knowl­edge for high-end restora­tions with his staff. Not just giv­ing com­mands, but ex­plain­ing and demon­strat­ing, in minute de­tail, to each and ev­ery mem­ber of the team the rea­sons for do­ing things in a par­tic­u­lar way.

The mem­bers of the staff are also trained to use the in­ter­net to find parts and tech­niques should they have dif­fi­culty. The staff is also shown videos of clas­sic car shows so that they can see world stan­dards. This train­ing has a pur­pose not only for the busi­ness of restor­ing clas­sic cars, but also for BMT’s vi­sion to es­tab­lish a train­ing fa­cil­ity and an ac­cred­ited col­lege de­voted to the de­vel­op­ment of local restora­tion ex­perts.

Here’s some­thing cool that is done at BMT: Dur­ing dis­as­sem­bly, parts are laid out on large sheets of pa­per and taken apart, mea­sured. And then pho­to­graphs are taken again and again in an ex­ploded view. This aids the re­assem­bly of the project. This step alone yields a trea­sure trove of in­for­ma­tion. The en­tire car must then be put back to­gether with the same level of qual­ity that it had when it left the fac­tory. When you take into con­sid­er­a­tion that a whole car is gen­er­ally com­posed of around 30,000 parts, this is a gar­gan­tuan task that re­quires at­ten­tion to the most minute of de­tails—es­pe­cially when you’re ca­ter­ing to some of the world’s most dis­crim­i­nat­ing car en­thu­si­asts.

The most in­ter­est­ing part of this tour was not the cars, the de­tailed restora­tion process, or the recre­ation of be­spoke Rolls-Royce/Bent­ley drop­head coupes. It’s the fact that Filipinos are the ones do­ing it. Our coun­try is truly at the fore­front in the world of clas­sic cars.

‘When ca­ter­ing to the most dis­crim­i­nat­ing car en­thu­si­asts, at­ten­tion to de­tail is a must’

Sarah and Ja­son over­see the mas­sive op­er­a­tion. Re­spect

It has to look good from the in­side out. That’s the right way

It’s all about at­ten­tion to the small­est de­tails in­side th­ese hangars The rarest of the rare have been brought back to life by BMT Won­der­ing where all the lat­eros are? At this shop, prob­a­bly

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