Old Era Panels

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Peter Bateman

Presented by

Old Era Services - Peter Jackson Old Era Services - Peter Jackson Old Era Services - Peter Jackson
Hand-stamping a running board Hand-stamping a running board Hand-stamping a running board
Classic Heine guillotine guarantees a consistent panel edge profile Classic Heine guillotine guarantees a consistent panel edge profile Classic Heine guillotine guarantees a consistent panel edge profile
A forensic attention to detail is a hallmark of Peter Jackson's work A forensic attention to detail is a hallmark of Peter Jackson's work A forensic attention to detail is a hallmark of Peter Jackson's work
Panel templates for Ford, Dodge, Oldsmobile and Plymouth front aprons Panel templates for Ford, Dodge, Oldsmobile and Plymouth front aprons Panel templates for Ford, Dodge, Oldsmobile and Plymouth front aprons
No G&M codes were utilised in the production of these parts No G&M codes were utilised in the production of these parts No G&M codes were utilised in the production of these parts
Recreated panels Recreated panels Recreated panels
Old Era Services' Peter Jackson Old Era Services' Peter Jackson Old Era Services' Peter Jackson
Old Era Services Old Era Services Old Era Services
The old days - self-built trim, finished by self-built spray kit The old days - self-built trim, finished by self-built spray kit The old days - self-built trim, finished by self-built spray kit

Peter Jackson spends his life re-creating panels for some of the rarest cars on the planet...

Old Era Panels
Old Era Panels

 

OLD ERA PANELS

THE PANEL MAN

We’ll begin with a door sill panel for a 1925-28 Chev Tourer. Because that’s where Old Era Services’ Peter Jackson started his remarkable career reproducing panels for classic cars.

"That was the first part I made," Peter reveals. "I had to make it because I had a little business called PJ’s Resprays, in Toongabbie, Sydney in the 1960s. This old Chev came along for some paint and I found a few rusty bits that needed replacing. I asked a sheet metal shop for help. He made a pattern so I went home and cut out the corners on the kitchen table.

"I thought I might as well make a batch. Then a fellow from the Chev car club spotted them on the shelf and invited me to a meeting to show what I was doing. I took these bits along in a wooden box and came home with a pocketful of cash…

"That’s how it started – ‘Can you make me this? Can you make me that?’ - which developed the Chev range of bits and pieces."

Within three years he’d stopped painting and was doing only sheet metal for Chevs and other makes. Rubber replacement parts came along in the 1980s, driven largely by the demand for Morris Minor restoration.

"People would ask me about stuff – rubbers and the like – and often I’d know how to get it," Peter recalls. "And if I didn’t know where to get it, I’d make where to get it by making tools and dies, whatever was needed. You have to make the tool to suit the task."

There must be a bit of mad professor or crazy inventor in Peter’s personality as he has no formal training as a foundation for his skills. He’s never done so much as a day at tech for this. Even his painting skill came from painting kids’ bikes with a vacuum-cleaner based sprayer.

"I tell ’em I did the S.E.L.F course... it gives you a lot of knowledge," Pete laughs, moving his hands around in the air to explain. "You must be able to picture it in your mind then say to yourself: If I bend this here, I can bend that there, but not before I do that…I guess it’s a bit of a gift!" By the mid-1990s, Peter Jackson Panels had 19 staff but these days Peter’s Old Era Services is a one-man concern. Some years ago, Peter and wife Beverley left suburban Sydney for the wide open space around Gloucester in rural NSW.

Despite the scaling-back of operations, Peter still hand-manufactures around 600 items for all the vintage cars of the alphabet and works on new designs when required. To an outsider, it’s a formidable task: Peter must analyse how to make a panel from the first bend to the last. Radii that disappear to folds; curves that plane out to flat. And often he must make the tools to do it. Sometimes, samples sent by customers are rusted almost to nothing with edges and corners missing, which adds to the complexity of the task and the skill and time required to complete a panel.

"A lot of the products were made to sample – not so much now as I have the patterns," Peter explains. Those patterns - hundreds of them carefully stored against the walls of the rural shed Peter works from - have instructions written onto them: roll this, fold that. Basically, from an instructional point of view, it’s all there. There’s a book but no CNC machines. There are a couple of containers of panels and assorted bits lying in the ‘graveyard’; original bits of cars that Peter can refer to.

Sometimes his traditional metalworking equipment can’t do a full-size panel so Peter will start by using two pieces, with the final step being to weld them together. The most complicated panel he recreates is a 1925 Dodge valance. It’s immense. It’s closely followed by a 1914 Hupmobile valance.

"It’s a lot of hand-work," says Peter of the larger pieces he creates. "A running board may have 340 diamonds in it – each. Each one of those diamonds has to be hand-stamped."

Most business comes from his website after word-of-mouth referrals from the ‘old mates’ network’ of enthusiasts and restorers scattered around the planet – Australia and New Zealand as well as USA, Canada and the UK.

He’s also a presence at shows: "I’ve been going to swap meets all that time [since the 1970s]. I try and get to all the majors – Toowoomba, Clarendon, Cessnock, Bendigo - plus a few smaller ones."

A vintage car restorer’s – or hot rodder’s – needs are the same the world over. On the floor ready for packing and export the day we visit are a set of door skins and pillars for a 1926 Dodge. Destination? Canada.

"I speak fluent hot rod and I speak fluent vintage!" Peter quips. "Sometimes our customers might be working on a resto for years. It’s not a craft where anyone can ever be in a hurry. Some people are a bit apprehensive to let you know their cars have been hot-rodded. The giveaway is when they ask for something without any holes in it – for instance, for a crank handle. You often don’t need a crank handle for something with a blown Chev transplant.

"But if man made it once, man can make it again."

 

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