Mike Collingburn is known the world over for his M.G. interiors. He specializes in Triple-M and T- Types and has patterns for just about every model.
How did he start in business? Well, back in 1966 Mike bought a TC in Retford, Nottinghamshire for £70 having been told about it by a friend. Mike also knew of a TC for sale in Sheffield but plumped for the car in Retford. As luck would have it, Mike did well to steer clear as the Sheffield car was bought by his friend and almost immediately ran a big end!
Looking back, £70 was probably quite a few quid under the going rate for a TC at the time and consequently the car needed a rebuild. When it came to the interior Mike thought he would save himself a few bob and bought a sewing machine for a fiver. Unfortunately it proved to be the wrong type of sewing machine as it was actually a cobbler’s patching machine for doing runs on the inside of shoes.
Undaunted, Mike persevered and obviously made such a good job of his TC’s interior that he was approached by a fellow owner who asked “Can you do my interior?”
Yes, this really was the start of things to come as Mike was becoming increasingly disenchanted with his job at the time as a manager of a Men’s Outfitters for the Co-op. (There are only so many times you can kneel at groin level and ask a man to cough whilst measuring his inside leg…..ahem!) He was getting more offers of upholstery and car trimming work so he decided to take the plunge and start up on his own. He has never looked back!
A welcome (and profitable!) distraction was in repairing Waltzer seats whenever the travelling Fair came to Richmond in North Yorkshire. As well as being paid for the seat repair there was often the added bonus of finding money down the back of the seats!
Over the years Mike has managed to acquire patterns for virtually all Triple-M and T-Type models, including the rarer ones. Readers might remember that he restored the interior on a P-type Airline Coupe, the rebuild of which was featured in MG Enthusiast a few years back.
He has always dealt solely with M.G. interiors, the principal reason being that restoration supplies have to be specially made. For example, spring units have to be made to order but the biggest issue is the leather, which has to be right as original colours are offered (the list can be viewed at wmmcollingburn.com) with the grained pattern and the darker shading within the grain on most colours. Therefore, the PVC has to be a good match and complement the leather, and as both are sourced separately, all this takes time. It is not unknown for ‘brick walls to be hit’ i.e. if the PVC isn’t a good match for the leather then it is next to useless, it ends up as dead stock and it’s back to the drawing board. Mike argues that he doesn’t see why he or his customers should compromise on perfection, and ‘getting it right’ in a world where not enough producers strive for excellence, is a constant challenge.
Nowadays the workforce has doubled with eldest son James employed on a variety of tasks to help promote the business and keep the waiting list down to size; however, due to the need to source materials mentioned previously, delays are inevitable as Mike and James are completely reliant on good raw materials with all interiors being made to order.
The only ‘off the shelf’ items offered are ready to sell goods such as the reproduction oilcans and panel kits etc. The artwork for these was produced by James with most of it being hand drawn and the labels are rolled onto the cans ‘in house’.
Over the years, Mike has exported far more than he has sold in the Home market (in keeping with the MG export statistics!) and he reckons that at its peak the percentage going abroad was as high as 70%.
Mike’s aim is still the same as it was 45 years ago, which James articulates as:
“We strive to make the best quality interiors we can, that are as original as possible, so that the finished interior looks beautiful and impressive in your lovingly restored MG”.