Shaped by hand, by eye and by years of experience
At Fiennes Classics we’ve had the privilege of working on some of the rarest and most beautiful cars ever made – from Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts and Phantoms, through to Bentley 3.5L and 4.5L, plus a full range of other classics, with bodies originally created by individual coachbuilders. This means that there’s a handcrafted touch to every single body and it’s the job of our panel craftsmen to recreate those original lines using authentic sheet material, hand craftsmanship blended with an in-depth knowledge of the marques and how they were originally made.
A flat sheet of metal is our blank canvas
The process starts with a flat sheet of aluminium or steel, depending on what the original was made from or the customers wishes. Following best practice, our panel craftsmen start at the front of the vehicle from the door shuts and scuttle, working backwards shaping each new panel to be in perfect unison with the lines and form of the original. This work is done by a combination of eye, knowledge, experience and constant measurement. Of course, given the unique original build, these panels are often not the same on either side of the car, so the golden rule is “if it looks right, it is right” but only when that judgement is made through the trained eye of the expert panel craftsman.
To achieve such beautiful forms from metal, our craftsmen undertake a variety of skilled processes. Once such process is wheeling – beating the panel over a sandbag and using a machine called an English Wheel to create an individual form. Our panel craftsmen also use stretching to create more curves, or shrinking to take curves out and planishing to remove any imperfections. Each stage in panel craft is entirely the opposite of mass production. A front wing can take 2 weeks to craft, a rear wing 1 week and a full body 12 to 14 weeks or even longer if the job requires it. But at Fiennes Classics time is not of the essence – craftsmanship is.
Whether using the original material or, if preferred, substituting steel with lighter aluminium, the look and finish is created in the same way as the original using authentic tools because, for us, this is the only way to recreate and restore classics to their original condition. Our traditional tools include ‘dollies’ (weights made from steel in different shapes) or ‘flippers’ (used in conjunction with dollies to remove dents and levelling panels) or ‘spoons’ (used when you can’t get into an area with a dolly). These tools let us carry the authenticity of the original through as authenticity in the finished restoration.