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28 September 2018

Restoration guru Brian Tanti says, 'Get on the tools'

By James ClearyJames Cleary
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: James Cleary)

Brian Tanti is nothing less than a car restoration and coach-building legend. For close to 30 years he's been responsible for the welfare of transport billionaire Lindsay Fox's amazing classic car collection.

Fox's roughly 50 car selection is reportedly worth around $45 million, with highlights including a Ferrari F40, Jaguar XJ220, Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' (and Roadster), as well as a Porsche 550RS Spyder (a model made famous for all the wrong reasons by James Dean).

Tanti's metal manipulation skills would put Yuri Geller to shame, and his regular fettling and specialised fabrication work has helped keep the big-buck stable in pristine, fully-operational condition.

Along the way he's developed side projects including a role as co-presenter of Car Chronicles on the Discovery Channel (Turbo), developing the striking FR-1, and (electric) FR-2 concepts spawned by his not-for-profit Auto Horizon Foundation, and he even found time to create dramatic sculptures that have been exhibited in the Heidi Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Australia.

  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)

This year, Brian decided to strike out on his own, heading north from Melbourne to set up an uber-cool workshop and function space in Artarmon on Sydney's Lower-North Shore.

Oversteer was invited to the official launch of Brian Tanti's Workshop (BTW), and it soon became obvious why Tanti is well known as a compelling public speaker.

In his welcome speech Brian made it clear he's a champion for the development of manual craft skills; building a regard for the integrity of design and engineering, and training in those areas.

He believes we're caring less about how well something is made because it's so cheap to replace. Why repair when it's easier to turf and buy new?

  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)
  • Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/) Brian Tanti's Workshop in Artarmon. (image: https://briantantisworkshop.com/)

Of course, there's an environmental issue in there, but Tanti says, "This kind of learned helplessness is leaving us all bereft of something that's at the core of being human. A form of individual agency. The experience of seeing a direct effect of your actions in the world.

"Some of us are worried we're actually becoming stupider. And beginning to wonder if getting a handle on the world intellectually might actually depend on getting a grip on it in some literal, active sense."

He says if young people in particular spend more time making things, tinkering with things, maintaining them and repairing them, it's good for us all.

He adds that in Germany "if a smart and aspiring 16-year-old decides they want to be a prototype machinist at Mercedes-Benz, in that country that's a respectable aspiration to have." But not so much here.

In other words, kids should get off the computer and get on the tools.

And we say more power to him.

Getting your hands dirty is good for you