Southways Automotive Ltd was formed in October 2009 by Steve Dunford and Paul Buckthorpe in Fareham, Hampshire. Initially conceived to provide support and assistance for the thriving UK kit-car market, the company was able to utilise the skills of Steve, who, after 33 years of working in the design and manufacture of missiles with BAE Systems relished the opportunity to turn a part-time hobby into a full-time occupation. Having already built his Ultima GTR from scratch, he, along with Paul (also an Ultima GTR builder along with various Tiger Racing models) set about making the dream a reality. With Steve in the workshop, and Paul at the controls, the small company began making a bigger name for itself in the kit-car world, appearing in articles from established publications such as Complete Kit Car magazine and Total Kit Car magazine.
In 2010, Southways Automotive made the very bold leap into becoming a fully-fledged kit-car manufacturer, having purchased the design & build rights to the successful SuperCat model from Tiger Racing. The small workshop was exchanged for a larger workshop and Fareham had itself a car manufacturer! Later in 2010, the company was able to secure the services of TVR-fanatic Richard Kitchen as a full-time technician. Having had no prior experience with kit-cars, it was actually Richard’s TVR-based knowledge that would prove to benefit the company, and it wasn’t long before TVR Chimaeras and Griffiths started popping up in amongst the ranks of Westfields, DAXs and Tigers in Southways’ 2800sq ft. workshop.
2011 picked up where 2010 had left off, and proved another busy year for the business. Along with the installation of TVR-based work, the company became involved in some general servicing and repairs, as well as one or two BMW custom-build projects. The company supported team Maven CP (http://www.mavencp.com) in the Scottish off-road championships and began evolving the SuperCat model, as well as introducing upgrades and modifications that proved to be a hit with current owners.
2012 saw some bigger changes. Paul Buckthorpe, whose vision it was to start the business, left the company. Full-time running was handed over to Richard Kitchen, who split between time in the workshop and time devoted to learning how to run a small business, while Steve continued as normal with the tools and as the main cog that kept Southways turning. While Southways has been fortunate enough to call every year since inception a ‘good’ year, 2012 was certainly the most turbulent. It was a period of big change for the company and on reflection, though it coped remarkably well, there was still a large adjustment needed. In many ways, 2012 was also the pivotal year for the company. TVR-related work really turned the corner, even with next to no advertising commissioned; it proved to be more ‘word of mouth’ than anything that led to the growth of TVR-related business in 2012. The company also launched a Facebook page, with a minor revolutionary feature of introducing “Live Blog Updates” where cars that were in for larger-scale work would also be photo-blogged throughout the works. It proved especially popular with customers who weren’t local, as it allowed them to visually keep up to date with their projects.
On to 2013, and the ball continued to roll. TVR business was now outgrossing kit-car related work on 3 or 4 months of the year, and the scale of the projects brought to Southways continued to grow. Processes continued to be refined, and knowledge and understanding of the more obscure one-off issues continued to expand. The Facebook page continued to provide people with photographic insights into the work being produced, and in terms of turnover, 2013 proved to be the biggest year to date. Following on with the trend-bucking Live Blogs of 2012, Southways introduced Live Project Data Sheets for 2013. Rather than dropping their car off and waiting for the bill, customers would be able to log into a secure page detailing their works and account to date, including details of work carried out on a daily basis as well as itemised parts used and current costings. Since the basic versions introduced in 2013, this system has evolved and continues to be used today.
Thankfully, 2014 kicked-off where 2013 finished. Processes continued to be refined to make work turnover more efficient, and the amount of TVR-related business was now equalling (or bettering) that of the kit-car workshop. The company has continued to mature in an ever-increasing effort to reward customers with complete honesty and integrity in return for the valued business they provide, and in terms of customer-satisfaction and output efficiency, 2014 has been the best year to date, equalling the record-turnover of 2013 but bringing with it more adaptability and accessibility. At the end of 2014, the company (finally) managed to secure the option of payment through credit or debit card, and currently nearly all work going through the business is documented through the aforementioned Live Project Sheets, meaning customers have more insight into the business than ever before.
And now, with 2014 nearly at a close, we look to 2015. It’s a year we’re very excited about, as the improvements made during the last couple of years should make an even larger improvement to the majority of areas of the business. In October 2015, the company will be six years old, and that’s something we’ll all be proud to achieve. In such a short space of time, Southways is now trading punches with more larger, more established businesses, and we feel that’s no coincidence. Through hard-work, sheer grit and determination and an overwhelming desire to succeed, we’ve tried to apply honesty, integrity and building good relationships with our valued customers as our no.1 targets. Yes, we’re a business, but we’re petrolheads too, and your car isn’t a paying job, it’s your pride and joy.
However, none of it would be possible without our customers, so thank you so much to all if you’re reading! You’ve helped us achieve what what some said wasn’t possible, and we’ll keep striving in 2015 to meet (and hopefully exceed) your expectations.