Getting some hands-on, real-life work while training for a career can be a priceless learning experience for any apprentice. Be it in a working business dealing with real customers or toiling over a training project that demands industry-standard results, there’s a real benefit to be had in that type of experience.
And that’s exactly what a group of MTA Institute panel repair apprentices are experiencing as they work to restore the body of a classic 1966 XR Falcon.
The XR in question is in need of some serious TLC and has found its way into the hands of the MTA Institute and senior trainer Alfio Rotolone who, with a group of his apprentices will, over the next few months, be working to repair the XR’s bodywork to a point where it is ready for paint.
Owned by Darren Luback, who trained as a mechanic and is now Managing Director of a Goodyear Autocare business that encompasses workshops at Albion, Chermside, Ennogera, Milton and Woollongabba, the XR is a prized possession and one to which he has something of a personal connection.
“It is a 1966 Falcon, one of the first ever made and was actually built in Brisbane,” he said. “It had one owner through to the mid-90s and had been serviced in its early life at Coach Craft Ford in Brisbane. Coach Craft is now Southside Ford which was where I did my apprenticeship. When I discovered that, I had to buy it.
“It was in pretty dire condition,” he added. “It had been soda-blasted and you could see all the nastiness and the rust, but the bones of it were pretty good.”
For the MTA Institute, getting hold of the XR for training purposes came through fortuitous circumstance. After attending a meeting at MTA Queensland, Darren bumped into the Association’s Business Development Manager Anthony Bonaccorso who completed his own apprenticeship alongside Darren at Southside Ford. After some discussion with Anthony and Alfio, and a tour of MTA Institute’s workshop, the trio agreed that Darren’s XR would be a great project and challenge for panel repair apprentices.
“One of the conversations I had with the guys was that this was an opportunity for them to teach some of the old-school, craftsmanship-type work, and was an opportunity that doesn’t come around often,” said Darren.
The XR is suffering from plenty of dints and a fair bit of rust so it will be a long job, but one that will be rewarding and, said Alfio, will expose the students to some traditional techniques and processes.
“This is being done right,” he said. “Take the rust, for example. It’s is like a cancer. If you don’t get it all out it will come back. So, we’ll be cutting it out, making replacement pieces and butt welding those pieces into place. That means the apprentices are learning to shape and bend metal, learning welding techniques – all the good stuff.”
The goal of the project is not just to have a rust-free, dint-free body, but to have it prepared to a standard to which professional restoration shops would aspire. It’s challenging and intricate work but, said Alfio,challenging can also be fun.
“The apprentices are really enjoying the work,” he said. “They’re excited about the project as a lot of them haven’t touched anything like this before, and they love having the opportunity.
“In fact, I’m really enjoying it too. This was what I did when I was younger, working on rusted areas and making up panels and so on. It’s a lot of fun.”