Jonathan Houston grew up in the business of motor vehicle restoration. You could say he was born into it. His father Max’s first car was a 1923 Alvis 12/50, recently restored after being taken off the road in 1985 following 35 years of faithful service. For many years his mother’s regular car was a 1935 Alvis Speed 20. Renowned motoring journalist and motor sports commentator Will Hagon was the first person to acknowledge Jonathan’s birth by visiting his mother Elizabeth in hospital. Jonathan lived and breathed vintage marques such as Alvis, Vauxhall and Rolls Royce while growing up, the house only metres away from the workshop side door. Vintage cars being quite the contrast to the numerous citrus orchards in the area, many a spectacle was made by just pulling out of the driveway. Once Jonathan had his drivers licence he was driving the afore said 1923 Alvis to school. Jonathan served his time as an apprentice Fitter & Machinist at Vintage Motor Garage after leaving school in the early 1980s. He spent a number of years building custom made bicycle frames and working at Rod Martin Cycles before returning to work with his father. In 2001 Max retired and Jonathan took over ownership of “the workshop” as the family call it. Over the ensuing years Jonathan has project managed and worked on many extensive restoration commissions from individuals, municipal councils and a major national museum. Jonathan has been deliberately returning to his first love of working on pre 1945 vehicles. “Pre-war era cars have been the core business of Vintage Motor Garage from the beginning.”
There are often no parts being reproduced or available for these vehicles. “Most reproduction parts these days are manufactured to an appropriate standard although this has not always been the case. We have seen new reproduction parts that have replicated the worn out dimension of the sample that was copied or have been made from incorrect material”. This is less common now than it was when Jonathan was an apprentice but unfortunately it still happens.
As there is less readily available information for pre 1945 vehicles, many people are daunted by the prospect of undertaking a restoration project of this nature. To realise their dream of owning one of these vehicles many people could benefit from experienced specialist advice and assistance.
Numerous people over recent years have asked Jonathan what will happen to all the skills and knowledge when he retires. While retirement is not on the horizon, this is a question worth pondering. “It’s interesting to contemplate the nature of restoration at this point in history. Many of the cars we work on are nearing the century mark. Lots of skills and knowledge related to these older vehicles will be lost to history if we don’t take active measures to retain and master them.”
Vintage Motor Garage continues to offer restoration services to those that require it. Jonathan is also developing new ways to share skills learnt over many years at the bench and pass on knowledge gleaned from the many and varied restoration projects that have passed through “the workshop” in the last 45 plus years.
Try our questionnaire to gauge your reasons for and commitment to your vehicle restoration project.
VMG has used a version of this tool to help new clients of major restorations take full ownership of the process. We are now sharing it to help you assess and record your own motivation behind wanting to embark on a restoration project.
It can be beneficial to revisit your stated motivation for starting a project from time to time. It can aid in clarifying why you wanted a particular vehicle transformed in the first place and helps keeps you on track.
It can also assist you in determining what direction your restoration should take.