Vintage Horse Power Restoring and recycling old and vintage small boat engines is such a passion for Chesterfield’s Gary Wilkinson that he has turned it in to his new business, PNP Outboards, with the support of the Work for Yourself programme. Recently he has been working on an engine that could have taken part in the Second World War Dunkirk evacuation.  Gary said, “It is a 1939 1.6 single cylinder water-cooled outboard.  It looked as if it had been sitting underwater in a harbour for the last 60 years – all the alloy had oxidised and was crumbling.  I restored what was salvageable, sourced replacement parts, polished it like new and it runs beautifully now.  It was state-of- the-art technology in it’s day.  I bet the manufacturers would be thrilled to see that it’s still running and in great condition.  It has all the style and beauty of the time before engines became just practical power.” “Older engines, especially from the mid-1960s and earlier, tended to be hand-built in good quality metal,” Gary commented.  “They have the right design – a classic wooden boat can just look silly with a 21 st  century plastic-topped engine strapped to it.  Working on old engines like this brings back nostalgia and their decades of history.  It’s really satisfying to transform them to look and work as good as new.  If I can’t source a replacement part, I just machine a new one.” Talking about his background, Gary said, “I’d been in the motor trade for over 20 years since training as a BMW technician and have always been interested in boats.  I was working for a breakdown recovery firm when I was hit by a car at work in 2009.  A major head injury gave me cognitive problems and memory loss but my specialist suggested that a hobby would help.  I started with a small outboard but had more health problems.  Last year, the Jobcentre put me in touch with my Business Adviser who helped me become self-employed.  It was completely new for me – it’s quite strange being your own boss after years of being an employee.  Now I have better home/work balance and a real sense of achievement in being able to earn my own way again.  I‘ve proved that I have the nounce and knowledge to give an old engine another 30 or more years of life.  The new business has changed my life: after three years of bad luck that were pretty depressing, now I love tinkering in my workshop even if it’s blowing a gale and there’s ice on the roof.” Gary is already doing steady business through his network of contacts in the UK, in Scotland, Ireland and, increasingly, Europe and the United States.  He is selling and restoring outboard engines as word-of mouth and recommendations spread.  Focussing on engines under 10 horsepower, they can be couriered on a pallet to any destination once the repair work is completed.  Each engine is rigorously tested at full load in his test tank.  Gary said, “I’m very happy to give advice over the phone which can sort out simple problems – then customers have confidence to turn to me if it’s too complicated.  Restoring an engine can cost less than a quarter of the price of a new one.”
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