Tak­ing care of busi­ness

Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

Af­ter do­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship and work­ing with his dad for a decade, Brian Samp­son de­cided to turn his part­time en­gine-build­ing work into a full-time busi­ness and in 1959 formed Mo­tor Im­prove­ments – a name that would be­come fa­mous in rac­ing cir­cles, though it was not meant to be called that.

“I wanted to regis­ter the name as Samp­son Rac­ing En­gines or some­thing, and the Ti­tles Of­fice wouldn’t regis­ter it be­cause it was too close to Sam­son En­gine Re­con­di­tion­ing [ ED: that’s not a typo; his dad’s busi­ness was spelt with­out the ‘p’],” Samp­son ex­plains. “Ev­i­dently the guy in there said, ‘Why don’t you call your­self Mo­tor Im­prove­ments?’ – so it wasn’t even my idea. In fact, I wasn’t even there. Some­body else took in the pa­per­work!”

Mo­tor Im­prove­ments started with one em­ployee, but quickly ex­panded to eight by 1964 when they moved to Eastern Road, South Mel­bourne. Ex­pan­sion con­tin­ued and in 1978 they moved to Brighton Road, St Kilda with more than 20 staff, a move that would last 30 years.

“It was a case of ‘Race on Sun­day, Sell on Mon­day’,” Samp­son said. “On many oc­ca­sions I would win a race on Sun­day and when I came to open the work­shop the fol­low­ing morn­ing there would be a queue of cus­tomers wait­ing to spend money with us.

“The mo­tor rac­ing helped make my busi­ness and keep it go­ing. And the busi­ness paid for my mo­tor rac­ing.”

In 1968 Samp­son bought the well-known Ed­die Thomas Speed Shop, which was ac­tu­ally a pro­ducer of gearshift kits (to con­vert col­umn shifts to oor­shifts) and car­bu­ret­tor adap­tors, and he re­named it Speco Thomas. Speco stands for Speed Equip­ment Com­pany, a South Aus­tralian brand that Thomas owned. The busi­ness soon grew from 100 units a month to 700 thanks to a nifty four-speed oor­shift con­ver­sion Brian helped de­velop for Hold­ens and Fal­cons.

Samp­son also took over Norm Beechey’s speed shop, which for a few years op­er­ated as Mo­tor Im­prove­ments Bruns­wick be­fore clos­ing. “We had Norm’s guy in there, but you can’t run a busi­ness like that by re­mote con­trol.”

Speco Thomas ex­panded its range by im­port­ing from the US spe­cialised per­for­mance prod­ucts such as STP oil treat­ment and VHT heat­proof coat­ings for en­gines and ex­haust sys­tems.

Although STP dis­ap­peared af­ter the Amer­i­can com­pany switched to an­other agent, the VHT as­so­ci­a­tion went from strength to strength. As Samp­son’s com­pany grew, Aus­tralia be­came VHT’s big­gest ex­port mar­ket and the as­so­ci­a­tion re­mains strong af­ter half a cen­tury.

Speco Thomas has for many years op­er­ated out of its present Moorab­bin base and, while Brian re­mains the owner, it is now run by his step­son, part-owner and For­mula Ford racer Bren­dan Jones, whose fa­ther Pe­ter man­aged Mo­tor Im­prove­ments from 1964 to 1999 and won 132 races in a one-off Chee­tah Club­man sports car built by Brian Shead.

In­ter­est­ingly, Bren­dan has won the past four Vic­to­rian For­mula Ford 1600 Cham­pi­onships (2015-18) driv­ing Brian’s old Spec­trum chas­sis, which is pre­pared by its con­struc­tor Mike Bor­land – the nephew of Brian Shead, who built the many Chee­tah cars raced by Samp­son in the 1970s. Fam­ily cir­cles run tight around Sambo…

Slight prob­lem on the dyno for Samp­son (left); Pe­ter Jones (top) and friends – Jones was a top Club­man racer and ran Samp­son’s busi­ness for more than 30 years. Samp­son with Bren­dan Jones (above), and check­ing a cam grind at Mo­tor Im­prove­ments (be­low).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.