Men (and women) in sheds, building cars are, surely, an essential part of Britain’s automotive culture, keeping alive the country’s passion for fixing and fabricating.
Tucked away in the shed at the back of the garden, in the garage or in a workshop hidden on a farm, they keep a low profile until the wraps come off and out through the doors passes an eye-popping creation, the like of which no one but the dog has seen before. There are thousands of these enthusiasts across the land, but we could only spare a day to meet three of them. For our purposes, they weren’t your usual weekend tinkerers; rather, small businesses doing quite remarkable things. Even more remarkably, all three (plus a fourth we spoke to by phone) are based in, or very near to, Worcestershire.
What is it about the region that it should attract so many small, specialist car makers? Being on the edge of the Midlands, the home of UK engineering, must help. Then there’s the venerable Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, long a competitive test ground for generations of motor engineers, and the Morgan Motor Company, a beacon for specialist car builders.
Add the county’s hundreds of farms with workshop space to spare and miles of quiet roads on which creations can be put through their paces, and Worcestershire would seem to be the perfect location for one man (or woman) and his (or her) shed. Let’s meet some of them…
Tempest of England
Joe Mason’s workshop is a car builder’s dream shed, far from prying eyes in the corner of a farmyard in the wilds of Worcestershire. Outside there’s ample space for his collection of around 100 vehicles, most of them Reliant cars in various stages of decay, plus a few trucks and fairground vehicles and a sprinkling of the Fox and Kitten-based four-wheel, two-seat Tempest Tourers he builds, restores and maintains. A large Reliant sign that used to hang at the maker’s Tamworth factory takes pride of place above the door.
Dressed in oily overalls, he comes down his shed’s concrete ramp to bring me up to speed with his firm, which he started in 2002 with the purchase of his first Reliant Robin.