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We owe our name to a
fascinating character

Article by: Hannah Gannon in Group - 26 January

Will Fiennes is a fascinating character with a surprising mix of skills that at first sight might not obviously go together. Academically a nuclear physicist and tribologist he was also a talented gymnast, with a half blue at Oxford, and a bassoon player at Winchester College before that.

Although, on further consideration, perhaps the physical and manual dexterity exhibited in his early days were an indicator of what was to come and, when coupled with an analytical mind, make it less surprising that Will went on to found a world-renowned engineering and restoration business within the classic car sector. When you also realise that tribology, in case you were wondering, is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion covering friction, lubrication and wear, it’s perhaps not surprising at all that such knowledge and ability would be applied to a relevant business use. 

Fiennes Engineering was founded in 1976 but before that there was other relevant experience that shaped his ultimate career direction. Will was bitten by the car bug after buying a 1936 Riley Merlin with a friend whilst at Oxford and working on it to keep it on the road during his student days. After a false career start with Smiths Industries in Cheltenham Will decided he could actually make a living working on other people’s cars and found some workshop space through a mutually beneficial division of labour arrangement with the then owner from whom he also learnt a lot.

Two of the first cars he worked on were Derby Bentleys which did not have the reputation or cachet then that they have deservedly gained since. His reputation grew amongst enthusiastic owners willing to invest in their vehicles and the foundations of the business were laid. Will’s light bulb moment came with the realisation that spares were difficult to come by and, by now in the early 70s, it was evident that Rolls-Royce did not seem interested in supporting pre-war cars with parts so the only option was to make new. 

From humble beginnings with 20hp Rolls-Royce cylinder heads the scale and expertise grew and became Fiennes Restoration also becoming the world leaders in production of parts for pre-war Rolls-Royce and Bentley from original blue-prints to equivalent or better technical specifications with modern materials. Furthermore, if a part can’t be made from archive drawings, there may be the option to reverse engineer, restore or reclaim them. Underpinning this the most authoritative database in existence for Rolls-Royce Bentley chassis numbers and parts references that Will has uniquely compiled over time. 

Today the Fiennes brand has become the platform for Fiennes Group and Will is delighted that the heritage and legacy he was instrumental in creating will continue in this new guise and gives his unequivocal endorsement.

Paintwork

“I’m confident that the new business structure and direction is what’s needed to best support collectors, enthusiasts and the trade in general in sustaining classic automobiles and those already bitten by the bug as I was 50 years ago. Perhaps, more importantly, we’ll encourage a younger generation to discover the enjoyment that ownership can bring as we will also be supporting modern classics and a broader range of marques in addition to those that my reputation was built on”.