RACA hosts a "Tour of England’s Great Coachbuilding Workshops"

28 Feb 2020

RACA hosts a
Pictured: Churchill Fellow Robert Siemsen

Congratulations to recently returned NSW Fellow and coachbuilder Robert Siemsen for his enterprising spirit and initiative in sharing his Fellowship findings in presentation and exhibition at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia (RACA) in February. The Trust also extends their gratitude to the RACA for their generous support in hosting and supporting Robert.

Robert undertook his Fellowship journey in the second half of 2019, visiting and working in many of England’s leading coachbuilding houses to study the art of classic car repair and restoration.

“My Churchill Fellowship gave me unmeasurable inspiration to what is possible when working with motor cars. To restore or manufacture car bodies is an incredibly tough industry and one that requires more than just hard work. To see the results achieved by tradesmen who are passionate and loyal to superior craftsmanship is something that I will always hold dear,” says Robert.

In addition to his coachbuilding passion and skills, Robert has a keen eye and talent as a photographer, and while on his travels he managed to capture an impressive collection of behind the scenes photos of the English coachbuilding culture, many of which are featured in his report.

On his return, Robert reached out to the RACA to see if they would be interested in sharing his experiences and his photos. They responded with enthusiasm:

“I immediately recognised that as entirely consistent with our own desire to give recognition and assistance to young people entering the automotive skills trades,” said Alan Hunt, recently retired convenor of the RACA motoring group.

In addition to offering and preparing a presentation about this journey, Robert made use of the Churchill Trust’s Post Fellowship Resources, successfully applying for dissemination funding to help with the costs of printing and framing thirty of his photographs.

The photographic exhibition “A Tour of England’s Great Coachbuilding Workshops” was held over three days, from the 10th – 12th February. The initial evening presentation by Robert was quickly sold out and a second one planned, which was also booked out.

Robert gave a detailed and entertaining account of his time in various UK coachbuilding houses, and stayed on to answer a variety of questions from the keen audiences. The Chair of the Churchill Trust Board, David Trebeck, was also invited to speak on both evenings about the Trust and the Fellowship opportunities.

The event was an “outstanding success for us,” said Alan, “in that we’ve given Robert his chance to disseminate the story, and that we’ve had about 160 people come in over the two nights, people from car clubs and from the industry, to hear what he had to say about his experiences.”

“We’re delighted to have introduced so many new people to the Royal Automobile Club, and we have found a new relationship with the Winston Churchill Trust, which I think will be a benefit to both organisations,” said Alan.

RACA Director Peter Reed attended both evenings. “It is our pleasure to host an event like this to really reconnect the club back to its motoring origins. The Royal Automobile club of Australia started in 1903 and it was the people who brought the first automobiles into Australia, into Sydney – basically motoring enthusiasts like the people who are here tonight – who were the ones who started the club.”

“The club is just very, very happy to have on our premises the Churchill Trust and have a Fellow such as Robert who’s such an enthusiastic person, which is great. The number of members and friends who have come here tonight just shows you the interest in what he’s done,” said Peter.

Stephen Wells, the new convenor of the RACA motoring group was equally as impressed by Robert’s presentation: “We could see tonight his passion in being able to go over to the UK to find those experts in his field, bring it back, and what he was showing us tonight was very much about his desire to save those skills here locally …. If he can bring those back and we can rebuild manufacturing, we’ve rebuilt our economy locally and that’s so important for Australia today.”

As Stephen pointed out, in addition to “looking to protect the heritage of the Club” the RACA is “also looking to the future and how future personal transportation is going to change over the next five to ten years. We’re looking at ways in which we can bring knowledge into Australia to have local artisans and local technologies being developed that can then be sold overseas, and we can highlight the importance of Australia still in a global automotive market.”

Stephen supported the opportunities offered by the Churchill Trust, in particular the new Auto Skills Australia Churchill Fellowships to “help people who wish to start learning about newer technologies that are nascent in Europe or in the States” and to potentially “foster a whole new industry or a resurgence of the automotive industry.”

To help encourage others in the automotive industry to consider applying for a Fellowship, we also took the opportunity while at the RACA to interview Robert about his experience for a new promotional video to be launched soon.

If you would like to kept in the loop about this, or other automotive news, please get in touch with us.

The Churchill Trust was thrilled to go behind the scenes on Robert’s journey, and collaborate on this exhibition with the RACA. We look forward to the possibility future events with the Club, whether on automotive topics or other themes of interest to their diverse membership.

Read more about Robert’s Motoring Exhibition at the RACA in the Robb Report or in Trade Unique Cars.

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