On a recent burst of travel to the so-called first world nations, at least that is what they think they are, I was amused to come across on a dark rainy day in the fishing port of Peel in the Isle of Man, perhaps the smallest body repair shop in the world.
Tom Shimmin Car Repair, runs a one room do-it-all repair centre. What became quickly evident is that he really doesn’t care too much about appearances for in one corner sits his former rally car surrounded by a selection of oil and grease cans. His workshop shows that he has the ability to manufacture the odd engineering piece of work that gets dropped by.
“It’s best not to get too much in debt,” he says, “just mend what rolls through the front door. My customers on the island mostly suffer driveable damage in crashes that take place. Remember we have strict policing on drunk driving and speed limits.” So by South African standards and the sheer size of the pile ups we’re always going to be second.
Shimmin prides himself on conducting business with all the local and big insurers in the business. It’s the same old grind of cut, cut, cut and baiting the assessor for more money to get the work done.
What Tom doesn’t have to do is work against a very unlevel playing field of work suppliers and dogmatic insurance houses who want things all their way all of the time, then add the constant barrage of BEE, law changing discrepancies of company ownership regulations. No, this is a very small meritocracy plodding along on a daily basis and it’s quite clear that in the eventual end he won’t have to whisper in his banker’s ear for more credit or to be planning to rush on luxury spending on a retirement home in the South of France.
No, Tom and his 1960’s type of repair centre, are not practioners of the hospital type looking like some of our collision repair shops of which there are many in business in the market back home. Getting right down to it he wouldn’t even get a glance through the window from our demanding customers and insurers. So the nitwit who coined the expression of third world emerging nations must clearly have been off their head when viewed against what goes for good practice here in this remote fishing town in the Irish Sea.
Shimmin definitely does have one thing going for him. His is the only shop in town! Now that’s what it’s all about, having a locational monopoly far from the big city lights means you can make a profit for work done, which is a vast difference from our repair game. Our game is where your quotation often gets utterly slaughtered by some incompetent assessor who couldn’t care less whether you get the repair or not.
Still, leaving this small body shop seemed to jog my memory as to just how far and efficient the business has become in the last 50 years plus. This type of time warp concern in real terms means there is room for just about everyone in damage repair. Even though we thought we had pressed the delete button on this type of operation.