Growing up with two car mad brothers, it’s safe to say I have probably seen a miniature model of every Aston Martin in existence. Not having a clue how they work or run (or what makes them James Bond worthy), I sat down to talk to Aston Martin car maintenance mechanic, Fergus McIver. Joining the Surrey based classic Aston Martin specialists R.S Williams in 1991 for a two week work placement, Fergus ended up being taken on as an apprentice technician during the build of Sanction II DB4G7 Zagatos. Several years later, he is now a valued member of the team, gaining more responsibility and specialising on the V8 models. Happy to talk all things cars and share his advice with those hoping to follow in his footsteps, I’m surprised to say Fergus managed to convince me there is indeed something special about the models he lives and breathes.
First things first, how did you get to where you are today?
I applied for work experience while studying my A-Levels at college, attended for a fortnight in the summer and was fortunate enough to be offered a position as an apprentice mechanic. I definitely lucked out and landed firmly on my feet with this job.
Have you always been interested in cars?
I have, in fact I’ve always had a passion for anything with an engine. As a kid, this led me to buying and fixing vintage lawnmowers. I wasn’t allowed a car when I first became interested in mechanical things, but lawnmowers provided moving parts and all the right noises with a need for maintenance and a method of earning pocket money cutting neighbours’ lawns. When I was 15 I was allowed a Mini to tinker with in the driveway.
Can you describe a typical day in your working life?
I might meet a new customer who would like his 40-year-old Aston Martin improved to the point of being able to use it on a day-to-day basis without the niggles associated with a classic car.
I’d carry out a road test and draw up a fault list, then work through this and present the car in a fine state of health to a delighted customer. This process usually takes weeks rather than days.
What’s it like working for a specialist firm, rather than a normal garage?
It’s truly fantastic. It’s a very clean and tidy environment, which leads to responsible work ethics and it really helps keep matters focused on ensuring the cars leave just right. I work with a great bunch of people, who are extremely knowledgeable in their field.
Apart from working with machines that inspire you, what is the best part of your job?
Well aside from a great working environment and super bunch of colleagues, seeing a seriously unloved car come in and then leave in fine fettle. One of our engine upgrades and some brake and suspension enhancements totally transform these classic cars into powerful, capable, continent-swallowing machines.
On the other hand, what is the most difficult part?
Knowing where to draw the line with a partial restoration. It’s easy when the budget is there to aim for perfection. There’s no question if something should be removed and overhauled but when the budget is tight, some things have to be restored with sympathy for the client’s wallet. Knowing where to stop requires experience.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Probably being flown out to Nice to repair and service a very important client’s Aston Martin DB4 Convertible. They were very generous and provided business class travel and hotel plus expenses. I tried to persuade my boss to open a French Riviera branch; that’s yet to happen!
What tips could you give to someone helping to follow in your footsteps?
Make sure you have a genuine interest in the line of work you intend to pursue. It shouldn’t simply be a job to earn money to live. Look around you; what inspires you? My basic understanding of how a car works got me my apprenticeship and career. Get yourself a decent understanding of how cars actually work. Four out of five work experience applicants lack the basic understanding they really ought to have by age 16. Also, be keen and genuinely interested. Ask questions. Have opinions. Seek to improve yourself; you’re no longer doing the minimum to keep the teacher pacified – you’re working for yourself now, for your future. Don’t let yourself down.
If Fergus has inspired you to learn how to repair, restore and rebuild the most beautiful cars in the world, why not kick things off with a car maintenance course? Who knows, all that time watching Top Gear might finally pay off...?