It’s nearly 50 years since Bob Smith started his business RS Panels in Nuneaton, England. Over that time he has slowly created a global reputation for quality and craftsmanship in the restoration of three of the greatest names in motoring history – Jaguar, Aston Martin and Ferrari. Although it is the Jaguar name that Bob and his team of time served craftsmen are probably best known, making bodies for C-type, D-type, XK-SS, and the Lightweight E-type, plus ash frames and complete bodies for the legendary XK 120. Perhaps the most sweeping and ultimate accolade to the quality and skills of the company was awarded by the Jaguar Heritage Archive magazine in 2006, when its editor Francois Prins, described their workshops as “almost a time transported capsule of the experimental workshops of Jaguar’s Browns Lane site in the 1950s.”
Bob Smith recalls, “The first body jigs that we made were for XK wings and also the Lister. Because of the work that was now coming in I decided I needed to get more workers in as panel beaters. The first person was someone I had worked with when I was an apprentice and he wanted an incentive to join me. So I set up another business called RS SVV, which stood for Sports, Veteran and Vintage. This was in partnership and separate from RS Panels. My son James has now taken over the running of RS SVV.” The Jaguar marque is just one of those RS Panels have become renowned for, “We have made other bodies, such as the Ferrari GTO, Testa Rossa and 250 Pontoon among others. I think we have made as many Ferrari bodies as we have Jaguar bodies. We make all the jigs ourselves and they are accurate. A panel from us will fit a genuine car without modification.” In fact, the quality that RS produces far outstrips the originals in many cases. Many cars from the 1950s and 1960s would not have had such time and effort lavished on them as the craftsmen at RS do. Bob has been fortunate with his workforce; they are dedicated and will work on a project for as long as it takes. There is also enormous pride in the work that RS engineers and metal workers turn out, they really care about what they are doing and delight in the finished product. Proof that they enjoy working for Bob is evident, as he remarked, “I give gold watches out for twenty-five years service and I have given nine so far. We must be doing something right.”
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