The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but we caught up with XK Engineering's Managing Director David Beale to see how he has dealt with the pandemic, his health condition and much more over the past two years whilst running two businesses.
In September 2019, Dave acquired one of the world’s foremost classic Jaguar specialists, XK Engineering, to add to his accident repair business which he successfully took over four years earlier.
Over the last two years, Dave has felt the weight of the pandemic. While relocating his original business, Wyndon Motors, from its original home in Kersley, across Coventry to a premise adjacent to his new venture in Shilton, the virus unfortunately claimed two of his employee’s lives. Dave and his wife also caught the virus, but were both fortunate enough to only experience minor symptoms. On top of that, sadly Dave was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he is undergoing treatment for.
Dave Beale commented, “I don’t like to do things by halves. With so much going on within both businesses, it’s taken my mind off the diagnosis as I just haven’t had time to wallow in things. Going for the treatment was a pain as I wanted to be at work, but I actually enjoyed the chemotherapy as it provided four hours of peace and quiet when I could recline the chair and catch up on my sleep. When I was first diagnosed, the cancer had spread to other parts of my body, but I received excellent care at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic and the doctors are very pleased with my progress as I’m nearly in remission now, so fingers crossed.”
It’s safe to say there is always plenty going on within his two successful businesses, with a 50 strong workforce to keep Dave’s mind occupied.
The new home for accident repair business, Wyndon Motors is an impressive 15,000 square foot purpose-built facility and is almost twice the size of the former sites combined. From a shell, the operation was up and running within eight weeks following a £225,000-investment in new equipment that included two spray booths, a mixing shop and aluminium bay together with futureproofing for repairs to electric vehicles for any of the 25 manufacturers that Wyndon Motors holds approvals for.
Dave continued, “The move was the right thing to do albeit at the wrong time because of Covid and everything else but it was a fantastic opportunity and one that wasn’t going to come along every day, so it was very much a case of if we don’t do it now, we’ll never get this chance again.”
“Ruth was superb as she project managed the move in her spare time with the help of our Operations Director, Paul French. All of the suppliers involved were brilliant, particularly Todd Engineering, BASF and of course Morelli, as were our staff. Everyone pulled together and we literally moved on the Friday and over the weekend, so we were ready to open the doors on the Monday morning.”
Wyndon Motors’ new home is just a stone’s throw across the industrial estate where XK Engineering has been located since 1981 when it was founded by Neil Smith.
XK Engineering is a classic car restoration company specialising in Jaguar marques, however their reputation for craftsmanship has attracted other marques and new workstreams. They are also one of 17 centres in the UK to hold Tier A approval for Aston Martin as well as undertaking various projects ranging from concept cars and prototypes, show vehicles, train body painting, art pieces for exhibitions and private collections.
Some very famous cars have been lovingly restored within the 23,000 square foot facility, among these vehicles is the 1987 Jaguar XJ-S Cabriolet, once the personal car of Diana Princess of Wales. The Queen Mother’s Diamler DS240 was also been booked in for some minor metalwork rectification and a repaint this summer.
Another recent visitor was one of the first 92 right-hand drive Jaguar E-Types and the first dealer demonstrator model to be sold in Scotland in 1961. Actor and comedian Steve Coogan bought the car in 2016 and commissioned XK Engineering to carry out a full nut and bolt restoration over two years. Now owned by another collector, the celebrated sports car returned to Coventry to be prepared for the Concours d’Elegance event that was held at Hampton Court Palace at the beginning of September.
“Logistically, it’s great for both operations to be located together as sitting on the M6/M69 junction, we are in easy reach of Coventry, Birmingham, Leicester, Northampton and Nottingham which is convenient for us and our customers too,” explained Dave. “Wyndon Motors had completely outgrown Kersley and we lost so much time and productivity moving vehicles around whereas here there are no such problems and we have a state-of-the-art site designed with our current and future requirements in mind.”
Dave’s two businesses operate under the recently renamed parent company, XK Engineering Shilton, but are run independently with their own management teams and workforces. Of course, there are benefits of their close proximity but there are also some major differences that will ensure they remain very separate too.
“At Wyndon Motors, we’re repairing 40 to 50 cars a week currently so you chuck everything into Audatex, it comes out with an estimate and we work to strict manufacturers’ methods without any diversification other than any work you might uncover once the job is underway,” said Dave.
“At XK, you rely on the experience of knowing how long a job is going to take so, for example, to build a body on an E-Type will be 400 hours and then to paint it will be a further 160 hours. An estimating system can never give you that know-how.”
“We’ve got several staff with incredible knowledge and skills who have been here for well over 30 years and apprentices now learning on-the-job from them. “Admittedly having two businesses so close does give you some flexibility.” continued Dave.
“We had a polisher go down at Wyndon so we just took a couple of cars over to XK to get them done and we’ve got freedom of movement with staff to a certain extent although not all of the skills are interchangeable.”
“I couldn’t take a painter out of XK and expect them to do six jobs a day at Wyndon and, vice versa, I would get short shrift if I asked a painter from there to go over the road and work on a car for 200 hours to make it concours. It would blow their brains”.
“Equally if I said to one of my Wyndon panel-beaters, I’ve got an E-Type Flat Floor in a million pieces you’ve got 400 hours to make a body out of that, they wouldn’t know where to start. Whereas at XK, I could just point them in the direction of the four crates and they’ll produce the body within the timeframe.”
He concluded: “It takes a certain kind of individual to work on a car day in day out and is passionate about those traditional methods of repair and restoration, such as using old English wheels to roll and shape a panel or lead loading. It is unbelievable to watch them take a piece of flat steel and turn it into a panel that you can’t now purchase – it's an art form. They have a completely different mindset to someone working on modern cars who is used to replacing with new rather than having to fabricate a replacement.”
“I started my career as a painter, but I couldn’t have worked on the same car day in and day out. Fortunately, we have good teams in both businesses that are highly regarded in what they do whether they’re working on a Peugeot 108 or a Ferrari 365 Queen Mary.”