by Dan Bysouth
Memories from my apprenticeship
I left school on a Friday in 1977 and the following Monday I started work where Jock Skinner had secured me an opportunity to an apprenticeship at Mann Egertons, a member of the Inc Cape group.
I was put to work straight away with the Trimmer who was the number two coachbuilder, a man by the name of Keith Chilvers. He was straitlaced, highly skilled and a brilliant tutor. We had to supply our own tools so I had brought my own spanners from home as well as a set of AF combination open end and ring, an old screwdriver set, a pair of pliers and a hammer.
My first opportunity to get dirty was on a Triumph Stag that had been stuffed up the rear end. The job was to completely strip out the rear end to enable the panel beaters to do their bit. It was white , clean and as this was still 1977, in lovely condition.
I was told to remove the rear bumper by releasing the bumper irons from the chassis and the two end bolts. I had to find the bolts first, buried under at least 6 inches of rock hard dirt, it took me at least an hour first to find them then to clean the heads, apply WD40 and assess the size. A 9/16th ring spanner was the outcome.
It took me an age to loosen all 4 bolts, then remove the two end ones. Once again, WD40 and two spanners did the trick. Where was Keith all this time, you may ask? Sitting right next to me laughing at my inability to coordinate what to sort first and telling me under no circumstances to drop, damage or scratch anything. Although these parts were going to be replaced, it taught me to take care and consideration with anything that was removed from a customer's vehicle. The company motto was, "We all share in customer's care". Today that may sound corny but they really meant it, and it had a profound effect on the 16 year old me - eager as I was to learn and to do well.
Each nut and bolt was bagged in its components labeled package, and all parts were removed, cleaned and placed in a neat pile in the trim shop. It took me a whole morning to do this; a skilled man could have done it within 2 hours.
Keith told me, "After lunch lad, you can go and buy yourself a socket set at Affiliated Factors" (a motor stores and tool distributor a few yards down the road). I had no money, but the company would pay and I could pay them back at a rate of £1 a week. I bought a half inch drive 16 piece Britol socket set for £16.00 My weekly wage at the time was £16.50.
The afternoon was just as good, as we sorted new parts for the Stag , polished my sockets, and waited for a Jensen Interceptor 111 to arrive. That was our next job. I'll tell that tale next time, it didn't go too well, as the fire brigade and an ambulance got involved!
So, all in all it had been an easy first day for me and I loved it. Cars were going to be my life and right then at just 16 years of age I already knew it.