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MTA Q&A – MANLY AUTOMOTIVE SERVICES

Shane Boynton has owned and run Manly Automotive Services for 18 years. Taking real pride in the relationship he has with his community, Shane has generations of families as customers and the Manly Automotive logo is a common sight on the vehicles that cruise the Brisbane bayside suburb.

What products and services does Manly Automotive provide?

SB: We offer service and maintenance of vehicles, and mainly specialise in older European cars – anything mare than five years old and all the way back to the ’50s.

What is your background in the industry and how did you come to specialise in European vehicles?

SB: I completed my apprenticeship in Auckland at a place called Percy Motors where I worked on Honda, Rover and Scimitar. We were the only Scimitar agents in New Zealand and I think there were only four Scimitars in the country, but we were it!

After I finished my apprenticeship, I went to work at a Porsche race centre for about nine months and then spent a year at another shop before, in 1989, I went to live and work in Scotland for 3½ years.

I actually went there for three months, but loved the place and ended up doing a lot of work on European vehicles there.

I then did 3½ years in London working  on DS Citroens.

The workshop in London was one of those small shops under railway arches and there was a couple of guys there who only had one jack and two axle stands, but over time we gained the reputation for being one of the best Citroen DS restoration shops in London. It was very cool.

After that I came back to Australia and worked for six months at a place in Kenmore before discovering what would become our first shop in Manly was up for sale. I borrowed $5000 from my mother-in-law and away we went.

We just opened the doors and really had no idea what we were doing! My first customer had an XD Falcon and I had never even seen an XD before! We had no internet, and didn’t know anybody, but we just got on with it and worked from 6am to midnight to make $400 a week – if we were lucky!

Then the area started changing. Houses in the Manly area started to sell and it turned out that people from Victoria and NSW were moving in. They were selling their homes for $600-700,000 down there, buying a lovely house up here for $300,000 and suddenly dad would find himself with money left over for his mid-life crisis car. That was who we were – the ‘mid-life crisis centre’!
That is how we got into the older cars. Slowly, those people started to come to us and now people from as far as Toowoomba and Springbrook come to us to get work done.

There are other guys who do that sort of work, of course, but a lot of our customers have been with us for years and trust us. In fact, now, I have a third-generation of customers coming to us. We built up a good relationship with them, their families, their neighbours, their friends – it goes on and on.

Do you work on any brands in particular?

SB: Basically, anything European such as Mercedes, BMW and VW – those sorts of mainstream cars. We also see a number of classics – an old MG or Porsche, vehicles like that.

Is it a challenge to work both on classic cars as well as modern vehicles, considering the technological advances over the years?

SB: You just have to think ‘basic’. A lot of guys overthink the job when really you just have to go back to basics. Take the electrical side of things – if there’s a problem then something has caused that to go wrong, and the thinking is the same as if an old carburettor had a problem – you just have to backtrack and find the cause. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy.

Manly Automotive recently became a mobile servicing business. How did that come about?

SB: Our original shop in Manly, that we had been in for many years, was an old building. It was built in 1927 and was actually a Model T garage. Back then it had a showroom, sold spare parts – both genuine and non-genuine – they had car rentals so people could drive around the bay, and they did tours. It was an amazing place. However, the building is old and had wooden floors which meant we had to do everything on jacks. It was hard work.

So, we moved and opened a new workshop with all mod cons – new hoists, new diagnostic equipment – but then we subsequently discovered that the area had been rezoned, and after 7 months we had to move again! That was in August last year.

We really had nowhere to go at the time, so we went mobile. I found a small workshop for sale that we use for more difficult jobs, but we are basically a mobile service. Now, we go out to the customer’s car and, if it is a small job, we will do the work on site, while the bigger jobs we take back to the workshop. For our customers it means that they come home from work to find the keys to their vehicle are there, the invoice is there, and they just have to direct debit me. Everyone’s happy and it’s actually a good system.

It was hard to start with because we were limited on how many customers we can service, but I think the council actually did me a favour and I now think going mobile may be the future for the new motor mechanic. There are many workshops closing down, and I think the way I am doing it now maybe the way to go.

The industry is evolving – hybrids, electric vehicles, even autonomous cars may be here soon. What are your thoughts on these changes?

SB: In the last few years the industry has really changed and, often, young people coming into the trade don’t seem as interested n the older skill sets and would as soon change a part as repair it. We can’t do that. We have to diagnose and work out what’s gone wrong and fix it.

They look towards the electronics side and working with scanners and so on, and it often seems that they believe if they can scan a car and use google, they are a qualified mechanic!
Having said that, hybrid and electric cars are the future and mechanics will have to learn and adapt when they do become the norm. As for me, I’ll have to decide whether to specialise in older cars, which is, I think, what I would prefer, and let the young guys do that work. Someone still has to service those older cars, after all. They’ll still be here!

You’ve been in business for nearly 20 years and have the trust of many in your community. To what do you attribute your success?

SB: Honest and reliable service. It’s as simple as that. And we do that little bit extra too. No matter the job, we’ll check the tyre pressures, the water levels and that sort of stuff. They need a light bulb? We’ll do that for free. A set of wiper blades? No problem. They are small, feel-good jobs but the customer will tell 10 other people about that. And that’s the way we’ve always done it. Busy? Just find a bit of time to do the tyre pressures and make them happy. It’s just about doing that little bit extra.

What do you do with your spare time, if you have any?

SB: I’ve always enjoyed motorsport and racing. It’s been in my blood forever and I currently have an Escort RS2000 which I race. I’m working on installing a new engine now and will be back on track soon.

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