StarterMotor is a charity which Chubb is proud to partner with. Since 2019, Chubb has financially supported the organisation’s efforts to train the next generation of classic car professionals. More recently, Chubb was able to loan a Porsche 924 to StarterMotor’s fleet. We sat down with David Withers, Chief Executive of StarterMotor to learn more about the exciting things that they have in the pipeline.
Read on to find out all there is to know about the work that StarterMotor does, and where the charity is heading in the future.
Can you tell us a little about the aims behind StarterMotor?
StarterMotor formed in 2016 at Bicester Heritage, a hub for those interested in historic motoring based out of an old RAF base in Oxfordshire. Our aspiration is to introduce the next generation to the vintage and classic car sector. It’s a huge sector – worth an estimated 18 billion pounds to the UK’s GDP. That’s about three times the size of the music industry!
It’s a big world but an aging one. It’s safe to assume that the average age of a classic car driver is around 62 or 63 so there’s a huge amount of young people who simply haven’t been exposed to the world of old cars.
StarterMotor is therefore here to promote careers and apprenticeships which teach essential heritage engineering skills before they die out. Presently we are supporting around 200 apprentices in learning. Over the next two years we want to grow that to about 500 across various colleges and academies.
What is the greatest challenge in working with young people?
The biggest apprenticeship challenge is attrition. If you take all apprenticeships nationwide, only about 40 to 60% of apprentices who start a course will actually finish it. So the primary challenge is to get apprentices to stick with their course.
At our supported colleges and academies, the retention rate has been 95%. That’s because the apprentices are valued, motivated and more likely to succeed. If you’re valued when you show up to work on a Monday morning and you feel like people want you to be there, that is a massive confidence booster at an early stage of your career.
Young people don’t actually know that the classic car sector exists! They are thrilled to be a part of it when they find out about it. They absolutely love these old cars; they just haven’t been exposed to them. And so, a lot of what we do is to engage our apprentices in the world of classic cars, beyond the apprenticeship itself.
How do you engage young people in the world of classic cars?
We also provide plenty of opportunities for young people to actually get behind the wheel of a classic motor. We don’t want them just looking at or mending rich people’s cars. We want them to have a go.
We have a fleet of cars available for them to drive at Bicester Heritage including the recently acquired 1981 Porsche 924 thanks to Chubb at one end, and a 1903 Oldsmobile at the other. We have several other pre- and post-war cars. We’ve recently taken delivery of the first ever production hybrid car. Everyone thinks it’s a Prius but in fact it’s a Woods Dual Power, first manufactured in 1917. It’s battery powered up to 15mph and then the petrol engine kicks in. It all sounds familiar, but everyone thinks it’s a new invention! It’s a beautiful car, and the guy who restored it didn’t just want it to be sold, so he kindly donated it to our fleet. A new generation will get to enjoy it now.
It's also important to give young people something to look forward to. That’s why we invite them to events like Concours of Elegance, Goodwood, Bicester Heritage and motor sport like Hero ERA rallies.
StarterMotor also has a strong presence at the classic car event circuit.
We take part in plenty of rallies and our fleet gets driven around by people under 25. This gives them an opportunity to be not just an observer but a participant of this very special community.
At the forthcoming Bicester Scramble we invite young people under 16 to come over to get into our range of cars… we have everything from a Ford Model Y to cars from the 80s and early 90s and they are driven around (very slowly) by our apprentices. We’re the only organisation allowed to do that at the event and it’s a wonderful sight, seeing all these young people having the time of their lives in these splendid old cars.
We’ve also entered the Oldsmobile into the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, and it’s going to be driven entirely by apprentices. I can’t say if there’s ever been a youth entry before! We’ll also have another 6 apprentices who are going to be guest mechanics with the RAC for the day.
Tell us more about the ethos behind the work you do.
StarterMotor is about investing in the future of the classic car world and, to succeed, attracting the next generation is essential. It’s about the fun of motoring, preserving skills and introducing young blood to our rather special community. We’re confident it’s working. But, if nothing is done, eventually we’ll stop driving old cars.