Great little article in The Horn which is the magazine for Hoults Yard Newcastle.
Hoults Yard – The Horn
The Yard’s first garage specialises in Land Rovers.
SPANNER Monkeys are a first for the Yard – a garage!
Couple Peter Ellis started the business eight years ago and had previously been based in Birtley, Washington and Gateshead. The business specialises in repairing, restoring and modifying Land Rovers and 4x4s.
Peter, who owns several Land Rovers himself, started as a mechanic before becoming an electrical engineer. He then had a complete career change, moving into youth work while studying for a music degree.
He worked in the music industry as a sound and light engineer before returning to his original career as a car mechanic.
“One of the reasons we set the business up is that we have two autistic sons who will need to work and we wanted to develop a sustainable business for them to work in,” explained Peter.
The specialism in Land Rovers and 4x4s started soon after Spanner Monkeys was established: “I’ve always loved Land Rover’s and the freedom they give you to literally drive anywhere, and we had a couple in for repairs. There is a Land Rover community and we’ve become part of that, so word spread quickly.”
Peter and his team recently worked on a Land Rover for a New Zealander who planned to drive from the UK to his homeland, overland all the way.
“That was a really interesting job preparing the Land Rover for such a massive journey. We basically took everything back to the chasis and rebuilt it, adding things like extra fuel tanks and water tanks.”
“He set off a month or so ago with his wife and children and we get regular updates from them– they’re currently crossing Africa and the vehicle is holding up well.”
Another specialist job they took on was modifying a Land Rover owned by Buxton Mountain Rescue Team.
“The team’s Land Rover Defender had a roof rack on, and they basically wanted to swap it for a specially-built roll cage. This was pretty complicated as the roof rack had the ambulance’s blue light system built into it and it was so heavy it needed a forklift to shift it. The roll cage was designed and manufactured by us and they were delighted with the finished result. We had to turn everything round in record time because the vehicle was urgently needed by the team,” explained Peter.
Spanner Monkeys are also involved in the region’s ‘green laning’ scene. Green laning is the practice of driving off-road vehicles or 4x4s on a UK network of largely unsurfaced, seldom used public byways.
Peter explained: “We go green laning and to off road sites. We go out with groups of clients who are new to green lane driving to make sure they stay on legal routes and to help if they get into difficulties
“We also offer free support for people in bad weather including vehicle recovery from snow or muddy situations and transporting medical staff if they need it.
“We can offer MOTs off-site but want to offer them at the garage, which wasn’t possible where we were and that’s another reason why we’ve moved to Hoults Yard,” added Peter.
Fabricating specially-built, bespoke parts for vehicles has become an important part of the business – and also led to Spanner Monkeys branching out into another direction.
“We have a fully-kitted out fabrication shop in which we produce things like exhaust systems and roll cages. But increasingly, we’re also producing more and more non-vehicle related items – with the team we have and the machines we have we can build anything out of metal,” said Peter.
Specifically, the company has produced memorial benches for ex-servicemen and women. This side of the business started with a request from Peter’s mother, who is ex-forces and who served in Iraq with Territorial Army volunteers
“My mam saw a memorial bench online and asked if we could fabricate something similar. We made one for her and we’ve gone on to make benches for individuals and the likes of the Royal British Legion in Newcastle.
“We’ve since had order for all sorts of things – name plaques, fire pits for instance. We have a plasma cutting machine and the capacity for mandrel tube bending, shearing and sheet bending so basically we can make anything out of metal’’ said Peter