Inside an independent: Keeping the old guard running


The name Triumph might not mean much to a certain section of the car driving public, but for many, the brand is synonymous with the pinnacle of British manufacturing and is responsible for creating a range of automotive icons. And in a world that needs to make itself as sustainable as possible, these icons are worth preserving, which is where Enginuity comes in. Described as ‘London’s best and most modest Triumph specialist’, the company was founded in 1986 by Mark Pattinson and Jerry Humphreys, who became friends after meeting on a technician’s course at Maidstone College.

The business has been through a number of changes as well as a relocation, but what has remained is a love of classic Triumphs and a desire to keep these classics on the road.

“As apprentices, Jerry was working at a restoration company for classic cars and I was employed by Renault,” remembers Pattinson as he settles in for the interview. “Our business started in one of the railways arches in Hammersmith where we had some toolboxes and a ramp that didn’t work properly – it was a real adventure. I was 21, Jerry was 24, and we were very green so didn’t really know What we were doing.”

How was life at the beginning of Enginuity?

We thought we would get a lot of Triumph customers because the restoration company where Jerry used to work closed down but, amazingly, few people came. We had a database of customers but back then we couldn’t send emails, so there was no way of contacting them apart from the telephone – and cold calling was never our forte. Triumphs weren’t classic cars at the time so we mainly dealt with sports and performance cars. We decided to become a Triumph specialist because Jerry had experience working on them. We originally worked on TRs because models such as the Spitfire and Herald weren’t worth much, so people didn’t spend their money on them. We did a handful of Stags, but not many as there was a specialist in Fulham at the time called Tony Hart. We didn’t bother competing with him because he’d been doing it longer than we had. Recently, Tony joined us and we started working on more Stags. All of a sudden, every model of Triumph was worth something and people were happy to invest in them!

How has the company grown over time?

We moved out of Hammersmith in 1997 and now work in South Acton. It was cheaper to have a mortgage here than to rent two railway arches, so the decision was pretty easy. We’ve got a spray booth, two bays in the body shop and another five ramps. We have nine staff in the business, including me and Jerry. We’re typically booked up a month in advance, which is great, but it would be nice to have a bit of breathing space once in a while!

Who is your typical customer?

There isn’t really such a thing. We recently finished a couple of cars that had been around for over 18 months, but other jobs are relatively small mechanical and body shop ones. Triumphs are around 85% of our work, with the remainder being Jaguars, Lotuses and a few oddments. We try to avoid modern cars but we make the odd exception, such as a widow’s car because her late husband had brought his own vehicle to us for about 30 years. Once you have that trust and bond with a customer they don’t want to go anywhere else, so we are happy to help out. We don’t have the equipment for reading codes on modern cars, but I can always sub-contract that work. We’ve got one mechanic who’s fantastic with modern cars, but I need him to work on classics!

What keeps you going?

Job satisfaction outstrips everything. When you finish working on a car and it looks fantastic, it makes all our days. If it’s a big job then we’ve all had a hand in it. We’ve seen the number of customers increase so we are busier than ever.

Under London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) rules, anything over 40 years old is considered ‘historic’ and therefore exempt. So as we are in the ULEZ zone, it helps us as a business.

Where do your customers bring their Triumphs from?

Generally, the Home Counties, but we quite often get them from the Midlands and sometimes Scotland and further afield. For example, we have one customer who works on the Hadron Collider who comes over from Geneva every couple of years, and another who lives in Lanzarote who does the same. We’ve also had cars from Taiwan and Singapore, as well as a Stag sent over from Tokyo in a container.

I remember one guy who had a TR5 that he flew over from Spain, pumped the tyres up and drove around to us. We worked on his car, he paid his bill then he drove it away again. We also looked after a car flown in from Atlanta, Georgia because the owner said if it went on a roll-on, roll- off ship it would get damaged and have to stay in customs for three months.

What’s been your most challenging job?

I’d say it’s the one we’re about to embark on: the last remaining Triumph TR3S Le Mans car from 1959. We’ve always wanted to do a factory car and it came up so we bought it. That’s going to be an absolute pain because nothing is standard; it’s got a weird engine, weird back axle and a weird chassis. Everything is going to have to be handmade. I’m hoping to find an engine but there were only 20 ever made. It will be gorgeous when we’re done and we will be able to race it at Le Mans because it’s raced there before.

Is it hard to find good quality mechanics who want to work on classic cars?

We don’t often have to advertise for staff but yes, partly because some people think it’s an easy job. When I’ve advertised in the past, some of the applicants have had no mechanical background at all. Most of our staff have been with us a long time, so we’re lucky with the team we’ve got because there’s a lot of valuable experience.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of what we’re working on in the garage, classic cars tend to change with the generations, so youngsters today might not want to drive Triumphs and instead will  lust after the likes of Escort Cosworths. So we may have to move on to the next generation of classic cars to stay in business.

Enginuity is a member of the IMI Professional Register. The IMI Professional Register is an industry-wide database of professional individuals recognised for maintaining their knowledge, skills and competency.

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.