February 7, 2019

The restoration revival courses that are revving up apprentices and classic owners

From Heritage Engineering apprenticeships for anyone employed in restoration whatever their age, to skills training for keen privateer adult enthusiasts, there are a myriad of classic car courses producing the next generation of ‘world-class’ heritage engineers and none more so than at the The Heritage Skills Academy.

Introduced in part by leading Bentley and Rolls-Royce restorers P & A Wood, in a bid to train fresh talent in skills that are dying out, the Heritage Skills Academy was launched at Bicester Heritage in 2016.

With courses ranging from vintage to veteran, classics to coach-building as well as trim and interiors, we explore what’s available - whether you’re a budding apprentice or want to know more about how to maintain your classic at home.


Equipping apprentices with the skills and knowledge they need in the classic vehicle industry, each pupil is guided and given hands-on experience as well as classroom education. Having taken the lead with delivery of the New Standard Heritage Engineering Technician Apprenticeships, there are three major themes: Vehicle Mechanical Technician, Vehicle Coachbuilding & Trim Technician and Vehicle Trim & Coach Building Technician.

Privateer courses in classic car maintenance

For those not looking for a career in classic cars but would like to learn more about how to maintain their pride and joy, the Heritage Skills Academy also offer privateer courses. Launched in 2018 due to popular demand from home classic car hobbyists, the Academy responded with a range of weekend courses to fit into busy working schedules.

From learning the basics to advanced skills, the Academy has a range of courses on offer at its Bicester Heritage base. One such example is a one-day course designed specifically for owners of classic cars that wish to learn about the MOT safety testing of their vehicles. It promises to deliver all the skills needed to be able to inspect a classic vehicle to a professional standard, either in the place of the annual MOT test, or in preparation for it. The Pro Inspect, One Day Introduction to MOT Testing Requirements course has been put together by experts in both classic engineering and MOT test procedures. It aims to bring everyone, from total beginners through to seasoned engineers, to the same level of competence in one enjoyable day.

Footman James, a proud supporter of the Heritage Skills Academy, attended the course with the two winners of December’s Advent competition. Participants were invited to bring their own classic cars to learn on, with the added bonus of a professional and impartial safety check being given at the same time, or use a car provided by the Heritage Skills Academy.

The day began in the welcome warmth of a classroom, where a run through the three stages of inspection was given by the course leader, classic car restorer and long-term MOT testing expert, Richard Lefevre. By breaking the inspection down into three parts, ground level, mid level and underbody stages, it was easy to follow. Guided by the inspection notes that detailed what to look for, how to approach each aspect of the process, and what to record when doing so; all pupils of the course had a thorough understanding of what to expect (and inspect).

Following the classroom session, it was time to inspect the cars in the workshop. Split into groups, each team was given a classic car to appraise, under the watchful eye of the teachers. Electrical systems, bodywork, glass areas and interiors were all covered in depth, with Richard explaining what to look for, and why, at each stage. Having a qualified classic car restorer and MOT tester on hand to explain the reasoning behind a pass, an advisory and a fail of each component, gave invaluable insight into how the test is put together to maximise the safety of all road users.

A textbook underbody inspection was demonstrated on the Academy’s demonstration Triumph Stag which handily had both good and bad components fitted to it. This allowed Richard to demonstrate the differences between safe and dangerous parts, be it bushes, or brake pipes, both common MOT failures for cars more than 40 years old.

With the three stages now completed, the competition winners were invited to have their own vehicles appraised, with the help of all attendees. Owners of cars that were otherwise concours-worthy in appearance, or that had passed MOT tests recently, were able to approach their cars with fresh eyes. The results were, in certain cases, illuminating.

Run by a team with more than 50 years experience of delivering training courses and working on classic cars, you know you’re in the right hands with the highly skilled teachers and budding enthusiasts ready to pass on their wisdom. To talk to the Heritage Skills Academy team about what they can offer, email Cherry on cm@heritageskillsacademy.co.uk quoting Footman James and you may receive a discount.

How do you ensure the safety of your classic? Let us know in the comments below.