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Classic Resto Visit

January, 2013

Classic Restorations (Scotland) are the leading specialist restorers of historically important cars in Scotland and are also members of the coveted Rolls-Royce & Bentley Specialists Association.

The Cognoscenti paid a visit to find out more.

Classic Restorations was formed 26 years ago by Charles Palmer in the Perthshire village of Alyth when it was announced that Alyth High School, where he was Head of the Technical Dept., was to close. He started the company after persuading several of his most talented students to join the fledgling venture, promising to provide training. Today around a quarter of the workforce is made up of apprentices.

In the early days the company maintained agricultural equipment and locals cars. However, due to the relative abundance of classic cars, they rapidly developed a reputation for high-quality restorations of historically important cars which eventually allowed Charles to concentrate fully on restoring classics. Not only did the company expand physically but was also able to offer additional employment for craftsmen in areas where traditional skills were in danger of being lost. Charles has been responsible for ensuring that skills such as automotive woodwork, leather upholstery work, coach-building and specialist metal and paint work not only remain in Scotland, but are passed onto future generations.

Classic Restorations are busier today than ever before, with a global reputation and client base. Completing around 10 full restorations annually, the workforce are kept busy working on a range of marques including Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Austin-Healey, Daimler, Maserati, Lagonda, Alvis and even an Arrol Johnston. Clients come from all four corners of the globe including Scotland and the UK, USA and Canada, Europe and as far afield as the Bahamas’, Australia and New Zealand.

Current projects include an ex-Dutch Royal family 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith which is undergoing a full restoration after the owner discovered that the body frame had suffered an attack of woodworm and now requires a complete rebuild. This particular car is unique and irreplaceable.

Other restoration projects currently in progress are a Lancia Aurelia GT, the body of which has been stripped back to bare metal, a Porsche 356C resplendent in its new blue paint scheme and a restored Rolls-Royce Phantom II chassis in the process of being re-equipped including a power steering conversion to improve the driving experience. Other cars of interest included the only convertible Jaguar 420 built (a conversion carried out in period by Radford) and a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I which is being converted from a standard saloon to a drop-head for its Monegasque owner. This is the second such conversion the company has carried out and is completed in exactly the same way as the very rare factory cars which were also converted from a saloon body.

Meanwhile, in the trim shop a Rolls-Royce Phantom II was having some finishing touches applied before its handover to its owner, whilst a Phantom III was receiving mechanical attention to its V12 in the workshop after being shipped in from New Zealand.

The company has also recently developed a fuel-injection conversion for the older Rolls-Royce V8 and straight-six engines which can result in a near-100% increase in fuel efficiency. Neil Tuer who developed the system, showed us how he can alter the engine mapping with a laptop via a connection under the dashboard of converted cars. The view of a1960’s walnut dashboard with a discrete laptop connection below made for an interesting contrast. A nice touch is that Neil leaves the original SU carburettor bodies in place so that the under-bonnet view looks ‘right’.

Classic Restorations Scotland is now one of Alyth’s biggest employers with a total headcount of eighteen including four full-time apprentices who work at the company’s ex-jute and carpet factory premises in Perthshire. As for the man who started it all, he has no plans to retire. It is his ambition to continue the business to ensure that the skills that he has so passionately kept in Scotland not only remain here, but for Scotland to be globally regarded as a centre of excellence in classic car restoration.