PAUL CHIPP-SMITH is a man who isn’t afraid to try new things. After building up a successful and lucrative garage in South London, he started a Jaguar specialist in East Sussex. Yet he realised his former achievements would mean nothing in his new home. “I knew that I was technically starting afresh. And so I wanted to get the basics right; having the right appearance and making sure the customers were comfortable.” It was the right move – in just two years JAGtechnic has become a major force for servicing and repairing Jaguars of all ages. When he left school in the mid-1980s, Paul had no plans for a career in the motor trade. His first job was with a company that did structural steelwork. “We made shopping mall staircases and fire escapes,” he says. “Anything structural from steel.” Sadly Paul was twice made redundant before the end of the decade, but the second instance would prove to be a turning point in his life – one that would shape his future career. “After training as a draughtsman,” says Paul, “I got a job at local dealer called Evans Autos that was based near my home in Sutton, South London as a valeter.” A family-owned business that along with a busy servicing department, also dealt in one-owner, low mileage, three to four-year old vehicles. It was the perfect position for Paul. “I’d always had an interest in cars,” he told me, “and I’d already restored a TR7, even spraying it myself in a tent on my parents’ drive.” Evans Autos was well known for its large selection of Jaguars for sale, and serviced a few too. “We still looked after Series 3 E-types as well as more modern XJ-Ss and XJ40s. It’s where my love affair with the cars started.” Paul began buying Evans’ part exchanges, the cars not deemed suitable for its showroom. “The first one I bought cost me £20. By the time I left a couple of years later, I had over £45,000 worth of stock. I got a great deal of satisfaction from buying a car and then returning it to its former glory.” After a few years with the company, Paul realised he wasn’t going to get any further. “I wanted to get into the sales department but they didn’t need anyone.” And so he left and bought the contract to valet the vehicles belonging to a large construction company. And then in 1998 he bought the lease for a large garage, Oakhill Garage, in Sutton. Although a general garage that offered both sales and servicing for any make of car, the previous owner was Jaguar-trained and in the 1970s had worked at a BL dealership and so a number of Jaguar owners still brought their cars to him. It was during this time that Paul learned more and more about mechanical engineering by getting his hands dirty. “I may have been the owner,” he says with a wry smile, “but out there on the workshop floor I was the apprentice, learning from the guys I had employed.”
In around 2003 Paul purchased the remaining stock and tooling from a local Jaguar specialist with a view to growing that side of the business. But to do so he needed a totally new approach. “I realised that Oakhill Garage didn’t mean much to a Jaguar owner; it’s just a garage. What I wanted was to give it the ‘Ronseal’ treatment – for it to say what it does on the tin. And so I came up with the name JAGtechnic. We began advertising in the Exchange&Mart and soon started to get more and more work.” This lead to Paul buying expensive diagnostic equipment, an essential tool for working on any modern Jaguar. It could be a successful move – he bought the garage with just 280 existing customers and sold it 12 years later with 3,300. By the end of the decade Paul was ready to move on both personally and professionally. “My parents had bought a house in Eastbourne in the early 2000s,” he explains, “and my family and I went to visit most weekends. After falling in love with the area, in 2005 we came to live here full time and I began commuting daily to Sutton.” Paul had had enough of the M25 by 2010 and sold Oakhill Garage but retained the name JAGtechnic because he knew what he wanted to do next – to specialise in Jaguar. But just as with everything he’d done in the past, Paul had his own way of achieving his ambition. Not for him renting some damp, oily workshop – no, his aspirations were higher. “First impressions are everything,” he says, “and customer service must always come first.” And so after finding an empty facility in Eastbourne he readily admits he spent a small fortune on preparing its interior appearance, laying marble floors and even buying the same furniture as you’d find in a Jaguar main dealer. But his reasoning was simple, “if the customers are used to a main dealer, they’re used to its comforts.” A few months before JAGtechnic was established in its Eastbourne premises, Paul took part in Jaguar’s 75th anniversary tour in September 2010 with his own 1973 Daimler Sovereign 4.2. It was here that he met Tony O’Keeffe (former curator for Jaguar Heritage). After Paul explained his plans, following the company’s 2011 opening, Jaguar Heritage agreed for the engine of its ex-Mike Hawthorn D-type to be rebuilt at JAGtechnic’s workshop. Today the company employs two full time mechanics. James Miller is a Master Technician and a former Jaguar main dealer mechanic with 20 years experience and a passion for electronics. “What he doesn’t know about modern stuff,” Paul tells me, “isn’t worth knowing.” And then there’s Callum Brady, JAGtechnic’s young apprentice. Thanks to James and Paul’s knowledge, plus their diagnostic equipment, the company has the ability to service and repair all current and recent Jaguars plus older and classic models. JAGtechnic can also offer full restorations with engine rebuilds and structural work carried out in-house, while more specialist tasks are outsourced to trusted experts. “If it has Jaguar on the badge,” says Paul, “we’re interested because we’re all passionate about the brand and the cars.” In just two years JAGtechnic has grown from being an offshoot of a local garage to a major independent specialist with customers all over the UK. The company has also achieved Jaguar Extended Warranty approved repairer status. Unsurprisingly, Paul has plans for the future, but he’s well aware that growing too quickly could damage JAGtechnic’s core value of putting customers first. “Owners come to us because we deal them directly and explain what’s happening. I don’t want to get to the point where that connection is lost – my passion isn’t just the cars, it’s about meeting people too.” And so whatever Paul’s next vision for JAGtechnic may be, one thing is clear – it will be done in his own unique, professional way.
Member since: 1st March 2014
The only independent factory-trained Jaguar & Land Rover workshop to offer a full range of Jaguar & Land Rover services in East Sussex. JAGtechnic provides professional maintenance and repair for over...