BMW April 2022

The onslaught of the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the way many people work, as well as the way businesses operate, but it is also proving tremendously stressful, particularly when one’s income and job security are threatened.

Automotive technicians have been among the casualties when staff cuts have been made due to a slowing down of servicing and low sales requiring less pre-delivery service. Generally, they were only busy until lunchtime.

One dealer in the United States produced a novel – and in the end profitable – way of keeping all the technicians in his four dealerships while also building camaraderie and a strong team spirit. 

What he did, according to an interesting article in Automotive News was to get his technicians involved in his long-time hobby of “tinkering on classic cars.” He asked the technicians of they would like to work on restoring and – in some cases customising – old vehicles when they had slack time. 

All agreed to participate in the project, so dealership owner John Hiester, went out and bought 19 old model cars and trucks built by his OEMs – Fiat Chrysler Auto (FCA) and Chevrolet – between 1965 (a Chevrolet C10 pickup) and 1991 (a Chevrolet Silverado truck). 

Each dealership was given three or four cars and the technicians were divided into teams, each of them a mix of youth and experience to tackle the project vehicles. The work had to be completed in 12 weeks and when the end was nearing some of the teams worked until midnight to make sure they got their vehicles into peak condition for the judging.

Among the 14 vehicles that were completed by the various teams were interesting models such as a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, 1978 Jeep J10 Golden Eagle pickup), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro, and a 1988 Dodge Ram Charger.

A financial service provider gave the project a fillip by making it into a competition that would be filmed for a U-Tube programme made by local celebrity and car customiser Danny Koker, who produces the TV programme “Counting Cars.” In the end viewers voted for the winning car, which was a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner which was then auctioned for charity. 

The buyer paid US$42 000 for the winning car, which was donated to the Military Missions in Action. An additional US$1 000 was added to this amount being a spot prize won at the auction by dealer principal John Hiester. The other 13 cars restored as part of this project were also auction at the same event with the proceeds going to the dealership to offset the costs of buying and restoring all these cars.

The dealership also benefitted from wide coverage of the innovative event across the United States and globally.

Classic vehicle business is big in the UK

The classic vehicle industry in the United Kingdom is booming, despite the global pandemic and makes a huge contribution to the overall UK economy, according to a major report released recently. The objective is to promote the value of this industry to the economy and job opportunities to the general public in the UK,

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) brought forward its five-yearly survey into the world of historic vehicles by a year due to COVID-19. Vehicles over 30 years old are classified as classics by this organisation and includes cars, motorcycles, lorries, tractors and even steam engines. 

This survey is considered the largest and most detailed of its type in the world. More than      15 000 people, owning 32 062 vehicles, completed the online questionnaire, which is a high percentage for such a survey.

The survey showed that the number of registered historic vehicles in the UK had risen again, significantly, and now numbered more than 1.5 million. This is significantly up on the 1 039 050 historic vehicles reported in the 2016 report, while the number of owners went up from about 500 000 to almost 700 000 people. This means that about 1% of the UK population owns at least one classic vehicle. 

The average distance travelled annually by classic car owners in the UK is 1 200 miles.

The historic vehicle industry supports 4 000 businesses employing almost 35 000 people and with 700 000 historic vehicle enthusiasts in the country it now contributes more than R140-billion to the economy, compared to about R110-billion in 2016, with R19-billion being spent by people living outside the UK.

Importantly, 3 820 companies are involved in the British classic vehicle industry in some way or another and the number of jobs they now provide numbers more than 34 000. Encouragingly, about 12% of these companies employ apprentices for skills transfer and the picture looks even brighter going forward, with 39% of the companies saying they are looking at developing apprenticeship programmes in the future.

There are, unfortunately, no similar research statistics on the classic vehicle movement in South Africa. Replying to a query on the subject, Pam Hall, the secretary of the SA Vintage and Veteran Association (SAVVA), said that this organisation does not hold a database of all classic vehicles in SA. She explained that, historically, many owners of these vehicles are not keen on sharing details of their vehicle stables and would certainly not like this information to be in the public domain.

By Roger Houghton