What do vintage car owners do when their wheels go awry? Order a rim from Veteran Car Rims, roll-formed on machines tailor-made by Angus Robertson Mechanical Ltd.
Veteran Car Rims (VC Rims) owner Brian Black loves vintage cars. He rebuilds them and enjoys taking them around for a spin. In the early 1990s he acquired a trailer full of rusted parts to build a Clement Bayard, but could not get rims for it. So he decided to make the rims himself in a small facility in Christchurch’s central business district.
Mr Black wanted to make sure all vintage cars have proper rims, and tried different ways to make them to no avail – until he teamed up with Angus Robertson, owner of Angus Robertson Mechanical, in the mid 1990s.
“He was trying to rollform the profile and then roll the rims. If you rollform the profile properly and then you roll them into a ring and you weld them, you can’t get a nice round ring,” says Mr Robertson. “So we built him a rollformer and installed the theoretical tooling, tried them, modified them, did them in various stages. It was like putting theories into practice.”
Mr Black remembers the first rollformer prototype sitting in Mr Robertson’s workshop in West Eyreton, and the hours they spent working together. It took them about two months before they were able to get perfect rims.
Feedback received from one client that the rims weren’t true enough sent them back to the drawing board. “We determined that we had to expand the rims, so we made the expander in about two months. This time a London-based client said he likes the ‘new rims’ as they were absolutely perfect. Since then, VC Rims has kept on exporting.”
“Brian and Angus spent a lot of time developing a machine that would work. They spent months before they could get a perfect rim off. That was some 20 years ago. Today we have two of those rollformers running in our shop,” VC Rims manager Mike Whall says.
Mr Robertson continued developing machines and tooling that would make the process more efficient. Apart from the rollformers and expander, he modified a second-hand shrinker and the tooling that goes with it, fabricated a ring roller, built a welder machine with a mill to debur the weld, modified a lathe to turn the rims after welding, made rollers for lock rims and a computerised rim lock machine – basically all the equipment and tooling at VC Rims.
“It helped that we had computer-aided designs back then. We would design the machine parts and outsource some of the bulkier parts we could not produce in our workshop,” Mr Robertson says.
Today, Angus Robertson Mechanical Ltd has modern equipment to make most of the machine parts. Among them are Leadwell V-50L CNC Vertical Machining Centres, a Chevalier QP2040-L Vertical Machining Centre, a Kiheung Universal Bed Type Machining Centre, Harrison Alpha 400 & 550 CNC Flat Bed Lathes, Gildemeister CTX 510 CNC Lathes, FST CNC Wire cut EDM Machine and Perfect PFG-60150AHR Column Type Surface Grinding Machine.
After two decades, the relationship forged between VC Rims and Angus Robertson Mechanical is still strong.
“Angus continues to fabricate and supply us with the tooling we need. So far we have 130 different rim types for cars built from the 1800s to the 1930s and hopefully beyond,” Mr Whall comments.
VC Rims exports its rims mostly to Wales and Australia. A Christchurch-based agent, Gary Morton of Vintage Rims Ltd, exports completely spoked rims to the US.
“We always get photos of cars that use our rims,” Mr Whall says. “The Great Gatsby car, that big yellow car from the movie with Leonado deCaprio, used our rims spoked by Gary. There’s also the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car which Gary spoked for a customer from Northern Ireland. The wheels were copied from photographs from the movie, and this car is now owned by Peter Jackson.
“Thank you to Angus Robertson for providing rollforming solutions that allowed us to make quality rims apt for quality vintage cars. We are proud to see New Zealand made rims on icons like The Great Gatsby car and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”