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The Creation of a Coachbuilder –
Meet Our Team

Article by: Hannah in General - 18 June

In the early days of automotive engineering, every pre-war Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis that left these famous manufacturers’ mechanical workshops were sent to one of several specialist coachbuilders for a body to be made that was individually hand crafted, with bespoke features for the commissioning customer. Over the years, the technical information relating to the original work by each coachbuilder on the construction of the body, its shape, design and colour has become limited or non-existent, and in some cases the original colour no longer exists. But Fiennes Classics have never let these hurdles block their way to restoring any vehicle. Instead, our highly skilled and experienced team see this as a challenge to be overcome and use whatever information is to hand, very often re-creating the outcome using only photographs coupled with their own extensive experience of working on past examples.

With this level of knowledge and craftmanship required to satisfy current owners, we are exceptionally proud of our Coachwork Team, who possess all the necessary qualities in abundance – experience, perfectionism, knowledge and a high level and breadth of practical skills; altogether they are truly craftsmen with an intense pride in their work.

So we’d like to introduce you to them:

Nik – with over 41 years of experience in coachbuilding and paintwork, Nik’s knowledge and final finish on a vehicle is outstanding. Starting at the age of 15, Nik began his career as an apprentice with Alpine Eagle in the Cotswolds. Here he spent 18 months learning the trade and skill of coach trimming. At 17 years old, Nik moved to a crash repair shop in Wantage, gaining more experience in bodywork and a variety of vehicles. After a year and a half, the family business called and Nik joined his father’s coachbuilding business, Clanfield Restoration. From here on in, Nik honed his skill and knowledge of coachbuilding and paintwork, working alongside his father, and other members of the Fiennes team today. After his father’s retirement, Nik went on to run Clanfield Restoration for 6 years with Gary, who we’ll meet shortly, before joining forces with their neighbours at Clanfield Mill, Fiennes Restoration, in 2000. Twenty-one years later, Nik’s paintwork is award-winning, with a pride in his work that shines through.

Gary – Gary’s expertise in panel craft is absolutely second to none, with his skill and expert eye he has the ability to recreate and restore a body from only photographs and images of the vehicle in textbooks. His career began as an apprentice for British Rail, after which he then joined full time as a machinist for 4 years. Being good friends with Nik at school, and when he was ready for a change, Gary joined Nik at Clanfield Restoration where he became an apprentice for Nik’s father. His panel craft skills grew and grew, learning from an extremely accomplished coachbuilder and learning the trade. He went on to spend a couple of years with another local coachbuilder, again honing his craft before returning to Clanfield Restoration and eventually running the business with Nik before their union with Fiennes Restoration. Watching Gary work is truly mesmerising, with this ability to use his years of knowledge to recreate panels and restore vehicles simply by eye.

Tim – His vast skillset in coachbuilding and fascinating ability to create mechanisms and intricate components makes Tim our go-to for anything in the Fiennes Classics Department and Fiennes Engineering. After leaving school, Tim went to Press Steel Fisher as an apprentice in thin plate sheet metalwork where he eventually spent 13 years, moving within the company, creating prototype car bodies working on a variety of vehicles. He spent a little time out of a machine shop working on roofing, before returning to engineering and in 1990, having already been aware of them some years previously, saw an advert in the newspaper and joined Clanfield Restoration working with Nik and Gary. Working as a fitter at Clanfield, Tim also saw the transition to Fiennes Restoration and today is invaluable to our team. With his resourcefulness sought throughout the Group, often are the words ‘Tim will know how to do that’ said by many!

Richard – as with the rest of the team, Richard’s years of experience in coachbuilding and paintwork add even more strength to our fantastic Coach Department. Richard’s career began in the late 70s, painting prison wagons for the Home Office in Swindon, learning the traditional ways of the trade, before moving to a crash repair centre gaining the skill of ‘2 pack’ paint in the early 1980s. Deciding the go freelance after this, Richard carried out paint repairs on a variety of vehicles during the next 10 years before stepping back into a workshop as a precision engineer for Dolores Stellite and then to Clanfield Restoration, joining the rest of the team. Ten years passed, 8 with Clanfield Restoration and 2 years with the newly re-formed Fiennes Restoration in the early 2000s before Richard decided to become self employed again working all over the UK from Carterton to Cornwall. In addition to this, Richard enjoys travelling the world and spent many years living in France and Spain carrying out repairs and property maintenance, and today still spends some of the year in France. In early 2020, Richard rejoined Fiennes, working alongside Nik in paintwork, adding yet another extremely experienced craftsman to the team once again.

So there’s our Coachwork Department, and as we think you’ll agree, an exceptional team, dedicated to keeping vintage and classic vehicles looking their finest.