Article from "Classic & Sports Car" Magazineby Paul Hardiman
It's encouraging for the enthusiast when the boss of an engineering firm has oil under his fingernails. And Tim Payne is most definitely a hands-on boss. He's the third generation of Paynes to run the family engineering business, taking over just a couple of years ago from his father John.
First he independently built up his own business designing and manufacturing overdrives for vintage Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, of which more than 100 have been fitted: "When the old man decided he'd had enough I bought him out and moved the overdrive business up here. We also do them for LandRovers now, after I became curious and fitted one to my own Defender."
Classics are in the family Tim has a 1937 AJS motorcycle in 'gentle restoration', a 1950 LandRover and an MGB. And while Paynes - established in 1914 as 'engineers to the motor trade' and probably the best-known engineering shop in Oxfordshire - will carry out any machining and engine reconditioning work, from cylinder boring to drum skimming, more time is being given over to classic specialist services, especially with many owners now clamouring for unleaded valve seat conversions.
This involves boring out the old seat area, pushing in a hardened seat insert and recutting it to the right profile. In a bright corner of he workshop a Lagonda cylinder head is taking shape, a Bentley block is having its valve guides reamed by hand, and a Bugatti crank awaits balancing.
Tim Payne prides himself on he fact that his firm can reclaim just about anything, and an on-going project is the huge Hispano Suiza alloy block which is being gradually stitched back together after being comprehensively butchered to get it out of the car. Helicoiling can replace damaged internal threads. An 8ft-long crank from a Gardner marine diesel resides on the floor awaiting rotary welding and grinding, which will restore it to its original dimensions, and elsewhere you'll find everything from outboard engines to the guts of a mud pump. The reception desk also has a small black museum of amusingly failed components.
Since Tim took over, the workforce has doubled in size to 25, and turnaround times have come down, usually to a day or two. Paynes also keeps a good stock of consumables, such as Vandervell and Glacier bearings, gaskets, Hepolite, Mahle and Schmidt pistons, plus valves and cylinder head stretch bolts.
Aside from making the overdrives - complete kits with propshaft and wiring for a Derby Bentley are £2,800 - Paynes will also manufacture small batches of components if they are unobtainable. "A customer was having trouble with the cam followers breaking on his pre-war racing Maserati," explains Tim, "so we made him some new ones." And they keep a blacksmith's corner for white-metalling bearings.
In short, whatever it is, if it's worn out or broken they can fix it, and if they can't they can make it. Classic owners can rest easy.