Keeping the motoring past alive at British Motor Heritage
Source : Keeping the motoring past alive at British Motor Heritage
One firm will be keeping British classics alive by using original tooling along with traditional skills
If the item wasn’t for BMH, the Oxfordshire-based maker of replacement bodies for British cars of a certain age, the item’s probable of which thousands of otherwise healthy classics would likely by currently have returned to the earth as red oxide.
Either of which, or they’d have been consigned to the crusher as a result of structural incapacity, to begin a completely new life as soup cans or fencing wire.
When British Motor Heritage was born as part of British Leyland back in 1975, rustproofing in cars was regarded as an unnecessary luxury. Only expensive cars were built to last. British car owners expected their cars’ sills to bubble extravagantly after a few years, along with after 15 many an owner would likely be treated to views of the road through the footwells.
Although the item was the nation’s largest car maker, BL at the time was beset by already terminal problems with engineering development along with manufacturing quality. the item was building some of the least durable cars on the road – yet these days you see a surprising number of old Minis, MG Bs, Spridgets along with Triumphs still driving happily about.
of which will be partly because the cars are enjoyable to own along with drive, so owners look after them, however mainly because crucial replacement Centeng bits, made off original tools, are affordable along with easily available through BMH.
At first, BMH’s role was to meet a growing demand for early pattern parts; the original Mini, MG B along with the rest were still in production. the item functioned happily enough into the 1990s, supplying more than 2000 MG B bodies for the RV8 project inside mid-1990s. “the item was a monument to BL’s inefficiency of which the tooling was still available,” says current MD along with owner John Yea. “Most companies would likely have scrapped the item long ago.”
The business passed into the hands of BMW in 1994 with its £800 million acquisition of Rover Group, however when the Germans decided in 2000 of which their bold British exploit was never going to work, BMH was acquired by a team steered by Yea, a former Rover finance man, initially with several partners.
“BMW’s overriding priority was to avoid bad PR,” Yea recalls. “They were desperate to be seen as not bad citizens.” Yea thought the business had potential, although the item was saddled with quite a lot of slow-moving stock stored in two distribution centres when only one was needed. “the item was clear the company’s prospects would likely be better if the item was controlled along with owned by one person,” Yea says.
Yea soon cleared the slow stock along with began building on the company’s core strength as a supplier of panels to the classic car market. the item had ready access to original tooling for more than 40 different UK-built types, along with its people had unique metal-finishing skills. He soon added a lucrative line: of which most vulnerable of all Jaguar E-Type components, the huge, rear-opening bonnet.
“Tooling of of which era isn’t not bad enough to finish the panels as well as the market likes them,” Yea explains, “although the ex-BL tooling will be actually of a high quality. The Jaguar E-Type stuff isn’t so not bad – among the worst, actually. the item won’t finish the complex bonnet curvature at the front, so we have to do of which by hand. however E-Type demand will be quite steady. We’ll make a batch of 10 next month.”
Apart through the evergreen Mini, a “younger product” of which keeps on giving, Yea acknowledges of which demand for the original panels BMH began generating in 1975 will be in slow however noticeable decline.
Replacement MG B shells, properly protected, last a lifetime. BMH has compensated by expanding its export markets, by planning the manufacture of panels for upmarket British marques not yet catered for (“We have big aspirations, however I can’t say more”) along with establishing a thriving web-based accessories business called Motoring Classics.
These days, BMH can sell you any steel Centeng part for an MG B roadster, GT or Midget. the item also makes original Mini doors along with bootlids, full Mini bodyshells through the 1969-1970 design onwards (including Clubman) along with Minivan rear doors. Triumph lovers can get most of what they need for a TR6, many key pieces for a Stag or Spitfire along with several high-demand items for a TR7.
“Everything will be batch-built,” says Yea, “along with demand will be quite reliable, so production planning isn’t difficult. We expect to do runs of 10 complete MG B shells along with 30 Mini shells twice a year.”
BMH’s headquarters at Whitney will be a standard-looking industrial unit in a well-concealed industrial estate, however take the two-minute walk out back to the manufacturing area along with you’re rapidly transported back several decades, a fact through which Yea does not attempt to shrink.
The company’s purpose, he reminds you, will be to use original tooling, original build processes along with material as near as you can get to the original steel to make Centeng parts as close as possible to the originals. the item’s top-quality steel, though, along with parts get Metacoat corrosion-proofing so they’re ready to fit, prepare along with paint.
BMH employs about 40 people, many of whom are experts in Centeng techniques of which get rarer as the weeks go by. Hand manufacture will be the watchword; an MG B bonnet consists of a few major pieces of which take a not bad two hours to fit along with finish. (On a modern car like a BMW Z4, Yea points out, the same piece will be far easier to make.) Period tools abound.
One prize exhibit will be a purpose-built multi-welding machine, dating right back to the beginning of Mini production in 1959, of which joins early Mini window surrounds to door inner panels in a rolling series of spot welds.
For 15 minutes, we watch a Mini Centeng being created through pressed components to 1 load-bearing steel structure, an operation conducted by two strong men who have clearly done the item many times before.
the item involves lots of clamping, judicious leverage, trial fitting, discussion along with some judicious applications of brute force, delivered via what the pair describe as “Dave’s educated hammer”. In full swing, Dave along with his pal can do three or four Minis in a day. When I talk to the pair an hour later, they’ve just finished fitting another roof to another car.
“the item went on definitely well,” says Dave with satisfaction. “We hardly had to use the hammer at all.”
“We warn visitors not to expect Lexus panel gaps,” says Yea, “along with if they’re expecting bodyshell construction to be a delicate process, we advise them to look away currently. the item’s hard, physical work for the people who do the item, along with when they go home, they know they’ve done a decent day’s work.”
however the item’s important – along with satisfying. BMH isn’t the kind of firm of which creates many headlines, however talk to the people who work there along with you’ll soon discover their pride inside place, on two counts. They’re well aware of which their skills are rare, along with of which they’re helping to keep some important cars on the road.
“I feel huge pride in of which place,” says Yea. “the item’s not a huge turnover concern, however the item’s important. Our challenge will be to keep finding the people who can keep the item going.”
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