MGOCNI members had a very entertaining evening on Monday 23rd February 2015 at the monthly club meeting. The guest speaker was Fuzz Townshend of Car S.O.S fame. Fuzz is also a musician, motoring journalist, bus enthusiast and car restorer.
There was a change of venue this month with the event being held in the 45 Club, Belfast, where we were joined by members of the Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association Ireland.
Fuzz was introduced by Peter McIlvenny of Carole Nash Insurance. Peter and Fuzz have being doing several pub talks around the United Kingdom and would like to come back to Northern Ireland in the summer.
Car S.O.S, Fuzz’s programme, is a National Geographic show which is on Channel 4/More 4 at the moment. Series 3 is currently being finalised so Fuzz concentrated mainly on the programme but wouldn’t be drawn on what cars will feature in the new season.
Fuzz started by recounting how his car career came out of nowhere. He was a bus mechanic in Dudley and was involved with writing local history books about Birmingham. Answering an ad for a writer led him to working for Practical Classics and ultimately to starting his own business, Westgate Classics, where Car S.O.S is filmed.
Car S.O.S restores classic cars on behalf of an owner who is unable to complete the restoration themselves, usually because of a disability or illness. Participants are usually selected if they have made a difference to someone’s life. The car and owner must be nominated by a friend or family member and they must not know that their car will be on the programme until the final ‘big reveal’.
The programme originally planned on restoring 10 cars in three months, but when that deadline proved too tight, the format was altered to allow for 10 cars to be restored in a 24 week period, although the six person garage can work 12 hour days to achieve the final result.
Fuzz’s co-presenter is Tim Shaw, a broadcaster who has a knack of sourcing and blagging the parts necessary for the build. Tim’s other claim to fame is a Young Engineer of the Year award in 1993 for designing a Zimmer frame with wheels, now in use worldwide.
After a few stories about the programme and the cars featured, Fuzz opened up the talk to questions from the members which included personal projects, cars he would like to restore, rust proofing, using lead on joins, bodge jobs, his opinion on the scrappage scheme and its’ effect on classics, and life after Car S.O.S (more writing for Classic Car Weekly and building up the Westgate Garage business).
Among the answers we learned that…
~ The team had a pick of 20 to 25 cars for the first series through placing advertisements in magazines. That rose to 2000 applications for series 3 and will be well over 2500 applications for series 4.
~ Fuzz inspects each car on the shortlist with the time and budget in mind. He prefers doing a proper restoration rather than cosmetic changes but the ‘story’ is equally important. The programme won’t consider cars which have already been featured.
~ The programme generally manages to remove a car from the owner’s garage without them noticing, having had only one close shave so far when the owner turned up early. The family pretended that they were sending the car out to get a new windscreen fitted. Removing the car is getting more difficult as Car S.O.S becomes better known.
~ The budget is the same for each restoration and includes the cost of parts. Each car gets about 500 hours of labour input but this can rise to 650 hours in some cases. It is vital to be able to source parts and outside experts such as engine rebuilds, upholstery, etc. There are plenty of suppliers around the Birmingham area where Car S.O.S is filmed although sometimes Fuzz needs to go further afield for more specialist services such as cold stitching. which is a dying art.
~ The most difficult cars to restore are those which were not built to last, such as Ford Zephyrs and Consuls. There is also a problem with cars from the 1980s and 1990s as there is no real back-up available. Many manufacturers will stop supporting models after 10 years, although some enthusiasts do manage to buy up excess parts stock. A parts manufacturing industry won’t really begin until the cars and parts become scarce.
Responding to a question about 3D printing of parts, Fuzz expressed the opinion that car clubs will become important as a source of original parts, facilitating copies of rare parts to be made. He is looking forward to being able to include a 3D printed part on a Car S.O.S restoration.
Bob Sharpe, MGOCNI Chairman, asked about the best way to bring young members into classic car clubs. The short answer was that younger car enthusiasts tend to focus on the cars they grew up with – clubs must be open to these interests. It can be intimidating for these car enthusiasts to attend monthly car club meetings so clubs should think about attending the events where these owners are present. A shared love of cars doesn’t depend on age!
The club would like to thank Fuzz for an interesting and lively talk. We look forward to watching the new series of Car S.O.S to see Fuzz and the team in action.