SITTING COMFORTABLY?
Volks World|January 2020
Newton Commercial has been producing automotive interior trim products for the last 40 years, though the history behind this family-run firm goes back much further. Paul Knight finds out more...
Paul Knight

Newton Commercial is well known throughout the classic car scene for making some of the very best automotive interior trim kits available for an ever-growing range of vehicles. Currently employing around 60 staff, the Suffolk-based outfit combines the latest machinery and technology with traditional skilled machinists and experienced coach trimmers to produce a range of unique hand-finished products. Carpet kits, seat covers, formed mats, door cards, sun visors and even a range of complete seats trimmed to your individual specifications – there really isn’t much that these guys can’t do to help restore your vehicle interior.

However, before we dive into a guided tour, let’s take a trip back in time to find out how and why the Newton family business began…

The apprentice While the business opened its doors 40 years ago, Richard Newton’s introduction to the automotive industry dates back to 1962 when he was enlisted as an apprentice at the Morris Motors factory in Cowley. Each year just a dozen candidates were enrolled on a five-year apprenticeship course, hence this was a quite an achievement for an enthusiastic 16-year-old. Every few months Richard would move to a different department, which provided him with a wealth of experience regarding all aspects of vehicle production and assembly processes.

As a fan of motorsport, he enquired about the possibility of working at the Competitions Department, in Abingdon. In the space of a year, not only did he learn about the importance of proper engineering processes but he also met his future wife, Vera. Helping to develop and maintain the fleet of Mini Cooper S race and rally cars, he was in his element. However, the fun and games were shortlived as a company shake up resulted in the closure of the department and, consequently, Richard was moved back to Cowley to complete his apprenticeship.

The BMC training proved to be the first rung on the industry ladder for Richard, who then worked his way up to a sales position at Downton Engineering Works before moving to Germany, where he helped run a Mini Cooper S race team at DL Wooding.

Richard and Vera married in 1970 while living in Germany and both their children (Juliet and Jonny) were born in Hamburg. However, the oil crisis of ’73 resulted in the closure of the business and consequently, Richard moved his family back to England.

Having secured a position at a radiator repair business in Ipswich, Richard set up home in Suffolk and the family had soon settled in nicely. And it wasn’t long before Richard got his first taste of trimming… albeit via quite an unusual situation!

To cut a long story short, having dropped offa radiator for repair, a local rep asked if Richard knew anyone that could help tidy up a torn and scruffy digger seat. Not wanting to let the customer down, Richard asked Vera if it would be possible to fire up her trusty sewing machine and stitch together some vinyl panels to freshen up the old seat. Vera made a great job of the re-trim hence the rep returned with another, then another and so on…

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