Grand Tourer - Workshop Profile

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen

Presented by

ford falcon ford falcon

One of the country's leading resto houses is spreading its wings into manufacturing

 

Grand Tourer - Resto Pros

Tucked away in an industrial estate to the north of Melbourne are two closely-related and influential businesses: Savy Motorsport and Grand Tourer. Both managed by well-known industry bod Dick Savy, the former builds and runs historic race cars, while Grand Tourer has an enviable reputation for reviving some of the sweetest Falcon GTs you’ll ever come across.

That includes the stunning Phase II that graced our cover on issue 403, after taking out a major national show award.

What makes the people behind all this tick? Savy recalls that his career got off to a bumpy start. "The beginnings of the recession we had to have were appearing and the little engine reconditioning shop in a country town where I worked shut down, and so I started another apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.

Grand -tourer -10

"I finished the apprenticeship, and got involved in motorsport really early on. In the late 80s I was going out to Calder Park Thunderdome, helping with Auscars and HQs.

"I ran my own little shop in country Victoria for a few years, worked out I wasn’t making any money, and so sold that off and went to Perth for a couple of years in the mid-90s.

"I met a lot of good people there and was really fortunate that gave me an opportunity to learn a whole bunch of other stuff later on.

"For a while I came back to country Victoria building engines for people and working on race cars. Then through a variety of circumstances I got an opportunity in Perth working for a company doing research and development for Caterpillar.

Grand -tourer -9

"That sounds different, I thought, let’s do that. While I was there I met a whole bunch of engineers – this was late 90s to early 2000s – and learned some engineering practice and how to design on CAD, which was a really big step forward for me. It meant that all the things I used to make on a mill or lathe or by hand, I could then do in CAD, produce drawings and have other people make stuff.

"I had some good clients and ended up looking after race cars for around six years.

"We made the decision to move back to Victoria and we already had Savy Motorsport as a brand and started the shop here. We maintain and build historic touring cars, Touring Car Masters cars and build engines for people.

Grand -tourer -8Cars are lining up to the point where there is now a modest waiting list

"Somehow I met the late Neil Thompson (then owner of the Grand Tourer Falcon GT restoration business), which was an experience all on its own and we became good mates. He passed away and the business shut down for a while. We spoke with the Thompson family and, with my business partner Justin Anderson, we reopened it. Then we convinced this bloke (car builder and manager Dan McAliece) to come back on board, which was the best thing we could have done.

"Since then we’ve tried to put more people in here who are passionate about the cars and used to work here, and slowly we’re putting the wheels back on this trolley."

Grand Tourer reopened around 20 months ago, and is now packed.

Grand -tourer -7Dick Savy has his hands pretty full with two businesses, plus manufacturing

"We’ve been really pleased. There are a number of different levels of jobs. Some people want full concours restoration, and anyone who’s been through that process will know it’s a big job. It takes the right people and the right budget.

"But there are also a number of jobs in there that are general tidy-up and repair. For example the boys did a conversion the other day from auto to manual. We’ll do just about any job on those cars. There’s probably a little bit of a waiting list."

Meanwhile McAliece’s connection with Falcons is long term. "It was actually through my dad," he says, "He always had Falcons over the years and he was actually a mechanic himself, so I followed in his footsteps.

Ford -falcon -engine -bayConcours-standard cars like this swallow a lot of time and effort

"I met Neil because my best friend was actually going out with him! Neil said ‘do you want to come and do some work experience’ – I was still at school at the time, back in ’97. From there, he asked if I wanted an apprenticeship.

"I was there for 15 years. Then Dick rang me and asked if I wanted to come back." Dan has an enviable reputation as a top-flight tradesman and one of the country’s leading experts on GTs.

So what’s involved in getting a project off the ground? "Most people need to have a core car to start with," says Savy. "They’ll have something they’re attached to – most have a ‘calling’ to go for a particular type or model. If they’ve made a decision and have a car, what we say is we can’t give you a quote.

Grand -tourer -5The crew is now making and retailing its own hydraulic lines

"Instead we give you some idea and estimates, and you’ve at least got an idea of a budget. We need to work out what you want. Some people want concours – we can do every nut, bolt, screw, paint markings, decals – the whole thing. But you need to understand the time and budget that’s involved in doing that.

"Everyone wants a concours car but not everyone can afford one, so it’s a matter of finding the right budget.

"We like to get the car stripped and assess what the car needs. We also do a reasonable price on assembling a car, if everything is there and ready to go.

"There is a lot of detail that needs to be done for the full job, even down to restoring the heater box, the wiper motor, and so on.

Grand -tourerMore and more they're making their own components

"A lot of people get us to do engines, diffs and gearboxes. We also do plating and water blasting – it makes a difference in how long it takes to do a job. The only thing we don’t do between here and Savy Motorsport (just up the street) is autos, which we farm out."

The business has also seen an opportunity making components. "We manufacture product for the motorsport industry, such as suspension components," explains Savy. "Now we’re going down the road of manufacturing more and more Falcon product. Some we sell wholesale and retail."

McAliece adds, "That’s probably our main goal, to be able to do everything in-house, even parts manufacturing. If we can do it to a quality that’s above everyone else’s and more to the point the component is correct. All too often you’ll get something and it’s close, but not right." As the bloke who over the years was usually fitting the part, he’s got a unique point of view.

Ford -falcon -2The show-winning Phase II

Savy is clearly keen to keep things close. "I’m not against manufacturing offshore, but I love the idea of manufacturing here in Australia. We’ve lost too much of it. It costs a little more, but for a lot of the products we make, it’s not huge runs, it’s not hundreds of thousands. It’s easy for us to laser cut down the road, walk into my place and press the part, plate it and it’s on the shelf ready to go.

"The other good thing about that is, because we can CAD model the stuff, and have access to all those other processes, within a week to ten days we can reverse-engineer a product and have it in our hands.

"We’re not always going to be the only one in this space, but what is important to us is the product is correct. You can get a few examples of the same part from different makers and they’re all different, and different to the genuine part. Our aim is to make it exactly the same as the genuine part. If we can’t do that, we tend to steer away from it until we can."

The way things are looking, we’ll be hearing plenty more about this crew….

Contact:

Grand Tourer
Website: grandtourer.com.au
Phone: 03 9357 7757

 

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