Tanks and Artillery Restorations

We love talking with our customers- FSB members can be anything from architects to zoologists and it seems that there’s a huge range of businesses in between! We caught up with new FSB Insurance Service policyholder, Gavin Barlow, of Armoured Engineering, whose business premises are easily identified as being the one with a large tank outside… and the occasional sound of gunfire (yes, really!)

So tell us a bit about yourself- how did you get into working on tanks?

I've had a mixed career in several different sectors- retail, building industry, fragrance manufacturing, military and mechanical. I gained some really valuable experience in all of these roles, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do yet.

Working as a cosmetic repairer in the building industry, I learnt to carry out SMART repairs to baths, sinks, tiles, UPVC, etc using many different techniques- you develop a real attention to detail doing that- any tiny mistakes are so obvious working with those sorts of materials.

In 2006, I joined the Territorial Army where I trained to be a vehicle mechanic (and I’m still in the Army Reserves as a Sergeant).

I was made redundant from my job as a cosmetic repairer during the recession and I fell into a basic minimum wage job working for a local tank dealer, who I impressed with my previous training and experience as a REME vehicle mechanic in the Territorial Army.

What made you start your own business?

When I worked for the local tank dealer, my main tasks were to strip and assemble vehicles of all shapes and sizes and the repair them ready for selling on. I stayed here for 8 years and really mastered my trade.

The owner of the company was rapidly approaching his eighties and I could see that my career was going no further within the company. It was this realisation that motivated me to begin my own business restoring tanks. I could see that my skills were being wasted working for someone else and that my career was going nowhere. This, combined with my business studies, gave me the confidence to go it alone and create a business to fill a gap in the restoration market. I started Armoured Engineering in October 2016 and haven’t really looked back.

How have you made a success of the business?

After starting the company, we were lucky enough to secure two large restoration projects from day one. An M24 Chaffee (WW2 American light tank) for a private owner, and a Vickers Light MkIV (Small development tank) for the Tank Museum, Bovington.

The Chaffee is still undergoing restoration work and the Vickers Light MkIV was fully restored in 6 months ready for the Museum's biggest display - Tankfest, in 2017. We took the Vickers MkIV to the War & Peace Revival in Kent as an advert, and come away with the "Most Outstanding Vehicle" award 2017 which was really good publicity for us. The Vickers Light MkIV was also featured in the Classic Military Vehicle Magazine.

We have also been lucky enough to restore old Land Rovers, artillery pieces, tanks and trailers, and have diversified into developing safe gun simulation systems for re-enactors which meet the strict gun laws in the UK.

We’ve used Facebook as a promotional tool from day one as it allows us to show the world what we can do without taking money from the budget. It generates interest in our company and its products which helps us to attract new customers.

What are some of your favourite stories from your time as a business owner?

We regularly test our vehicles around our industrial estate, but nipping to the cafe in a tank, just because we could, was a highlight! We also visit the nearby petrol station in our company owned, road legal tank from time to time.

Testing our gun simulators on-site does create some interest - unfortunately, not everyone appreciates a large tank gun or machine gun fire…

You can check out Armoured Engineering’s website at http://www.armoured-engineering.co.uk/ and their Facebook page to keep up to date with their projects at https://www.facebook.com/armouredengineering/

If you’d like to get a quote for your business, call us on 020 3883 7976.