Working as a panel beater at his Wellington shop, 52-year-old Glen is proud of the service he can offer his customers. He has been in the game for a while now and has seen his fair share of change in the industry.
“Repairing stuff is a skill that’s almost gone. A lot of stuff is getting replaced, whereas, when I was taught, you had to repair everything. Now they have to replace everything, even if it’s minor damage. ”
That doesn’t mean that the skill in the job is lost, though. Glen emphasises that the millimetre-perfect measurements that need to be made require great practice and effort. There are a lot more intricacies to panel beating than many would think.
“The hardest part is getting the dimensions of a car absolutely perfect, especially when it’s smashed. There’s no room for being even a millimetre out because of the way they’re built. If you’re a builder you might get away with three or four millimetres out but in this industry you can’t; it’s got to be absolutely perfect otherwise it won’t operate properly and [the components] will be out of touch.”
This is made increasingly hard by the ever-developing car market as well as the wide variety of motor vehicles that come into Glen’s shop. New cars are made each year and obviously, with that, comes new body kits that need to be learnt. Tied in with the range of objects that need fixing such as campervans, ambulances, boats and trailers, it all gets a bit intense just trying to keep up.
Metalwork, woodwork and maths (the measuring/angles side of the subject) from Glen’s time at Tawa College have been what really helped him in the industry. The skills required to make the precise measurements he makes on an everyday basis were all taught in these classes.
Glen discovered his passion for this type of work throughout school and went into panel beating with a bit of encouragement from his family.
“I was going to do marine engineering but then I ended up doing panel beating because it was a family business, and also because I wanted to work with my hands.”
Since then, Glen has been dealing with all sorts of cars that once looked destined for the tip, turning them into vehicles that look like they’re straight out of the car dealer’s showroom.
While Glen is passionate about his profession and encourages young New Zealanders to join him in the panel beating industry, he also suggests spray painting as a wise option. But if you have an eye for detail while also being fit and strong, then panel beating may well be the job for you.