Singapore - We’re at the tidy British Motor Services to have a chat with the affable owner/founder/chief handyman, Neil Weaver.
He’s not exactly new to the automotive trade – some might even say cars are in his blood! – because we’ve known him in his past life as a ‘suit’ at McLaren Automotive first and then Aston Martin Lagonda.
At British Motor Services, he’s traded corporate for casual work-wear, but the amount of satisfaction he gets from his current role far outweighs the corporate grind’s hundreds of daily emails and interminable meetings that end up discussing the same issues.
Neil tells us, “I was dreaming of escaping the big corporate machine and starting my own business as my own boss. They say you should stick to what you know, and seeing as I’ve spent the past 25 years fixing cars – both directly and indirectly – it only seemed logical to open a workshop.”
After a decade spent engaging the discerning clientele of McLaren and Aston Martin, Neil understands that even though he is working on cars, the bigger (and arguably more important) job is building a reputation and a relationship of trust with the owners – what’s even more critical is ensuring you have a team that shares the same vision.
I think there is a very strong demand for an open, honest and friendly workshop
“I got a head-start by hiring Ben Ong as General Manager. Ben is a veteran in the luxury car industry and has worked with the Aston Martin dealer in Singapore for more than 12 years. When I was working for the Principal, we used to receive letters from Aston Martin clients commending Ben’s service, so when he left, I asked if he wanted to join me. He said yes and he’s been the catalyst for getting the business off the ground – much of the success of British Motor Services is owed to him,” Neil explains.
Neil’s outfit may be called ‘British Motor Services’, but in addition to repairing and maintaining familiar British luxury staples from Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren, Morgan and Rolls-Royce, it also dabbles in other sportscar brands and the occasional classic car... or ten.
On separate visits, we spotted classic Ferraris, Porsches and BMWs rubbing shoulders with Austins, MGs, McLarens, Morgans and even a London Taxi!
“On some days, the Germans and Italians take over the workshop! I think there is a strong demand for an open, honest and friendly workshop, so as word spreads it’s inevitable we’re asked to help with other cars that form part of our clients’ collections and we become a one-stop shop for their automotive needs. I try not to turn down any work if we are confident that we can do it. As long as we can find the information and we have the necessary equipment, there’s nothing stopping us.”
British Motor Services is also the authorised service centre for Morgan sportscars, the latest ‘new old’ British brand to emerge in Singapore that is distributed by NB Auto. “Morgan is very British and it’s a niche brand with unique products. The sportscars’ classic design is built around modern BMW technology and priced very competitively for those who want a fun weekend car to blast around in.”
How did that relationship come about? “In the early days, I was looking at ways to generate new business and contacted ex-colleagues who had moved on to other car brands. One of the brands was Morgan, but it wanted a full dealership point with sales and service. I didn’t have the funds to set up a full dealership, so I asked one of my customers if he was interested. Coincidentally, he had been talking to Morgan Motor Company about securing the dealership for some time. We put our heads together, sent them the proposal and NB Auto won the franchise for Morgan Singapore.”
Now for the million dollar question: If you had to do everything all over again, would you? “Well, the answer to that question changes every day, but today has been a good day, so yes!” Neil beams.
PHOTOS Clifford Chow