Zagame Autobody is the Formula 1 of luxury car repairs and restoration

A new crash repair and restoration centre in Melbourne is delivering the clinical cleanliness of a hospital with attention to detail and craftsmanship befitting the multi-million-dollar machines that will roll through it.

Looking more like a cross between a James Bond lair and a state-of-the-art medical facility, the Bespoke division of Zagame Autobody will cover everything from crash repairs of expensive and exotic machinery to full restorations of rare and collectible cars.

Known for selling some of the most desirable car brands on the planet – including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren and Rolls-Royce – the Zagame Autobody facility has approval to perform factory approved repairs for Lamborghini, Tesla, Alfa Romeo and BMW, as well as the aluminium-bodied Audi R8 and Honda NSX.

Torture test

There is also an advanced ultrasonic sensor called Dolphicam that can detect hairline cracks in carbon fibre.

"The capability now exists to have exotic cars rejuvenated locally to the same exacting standards as their original place of build," says Zagame Automotive Group CEO Michael Winkler.  

"There is no independent facility quite like Zagame Autobody Bespoke anywhere in Australasia."

Winkler, the former head of Porsche, Jaguar and Land Rover in Australia, likens the attention to detail at the facility to that in Formula 1.

"The sophistication and expertise that exists within Bespoke is, to the autobody world, what Formula 1 is to motorsport. It's the best of the best."

Clear as…

Transparency is key to the grand Zagame facility, which is in the former print plant of The Age, not far from Melbourne's Tullamarine airport.

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While there is a lounge area with coffee facilities, the general manager, Andre Selliah, encourages customers to look around.

A lot of panel shops have a nice front-end," he says, adding that the work going out at the back is often not too glamorous.

"We're encouraging our customers to go in the back-end first. Don't worry about the lounge, you can do that any time."

He says keeping the facility meticulously clean is key to its appeal.

"Providing our staff with a clean environment also produces quality work … they take pride in what they do."

Open house

Part of the open-house thinking will also lead to an advanced live stream monitoring service that allows owners to watch their repair or restoration from a smartphone or computer.

When each car enters the facility, it is fitted with a tracking beacon that can monitor its movements.

As it passes sensors it can send alerts that keep the customer informed about what stage of the repair the car is at.

While the beacon and sensor technology will initially be used internally to track cars, Selliah hopes to have it online by the end of 2019, giving customers a complete view of what their car is up to.

Livestream repair viewing

"We've got the capability there and the infrastructure is already there so that's going to be the next stage," he says.

"Customer notifications and customer updates are probably the key aspect of keeping the customer notified in the whole repair process."

Selliah says by keeping customers informed and allowing them to watch repairs in real time it will free up manpower for other aspects, including welcoming people in person and allowing them to see where the car is at.

"We want to get the customers involved in the repair process … they want to come and have a coffee with us, they want to talk about their car, talk about possible customisation, so it leads on to other revenue streams for us."

Skilled up

The 10 dedicated workers at the facility have undergone extensive training, including some at specialist facilities overseas.

One can even operate a classic English wheel, a simple looking machine that decades ago was used to craft panels of some of the world's most desirable cars.

Selliah admits operating such a machine is a dying art, but one he wants to maintain to ensure cars can be restored to their original condition using the original manufacturing tools and techniques.

"It's certainly a very unique skillset," he says. "You need to have that skillset. You can't just grab any panel beater off the tools and get them to use that machine.

"We want to encourage and get more customers to use his services but also teach young apprentices the trade and grow that side of it. I believe we're going to need it."

Traditional thinking

While restorations of classic cars are already big business, Selliah believes the industry will continue to boom over the next decade.

He pinpoints the imminent onslaught of electric and autonomous cars as a trigger point to reliving the glory days of motoring.

"I believe that the more we have autonomous and electric cars you find that the restoration is going to automatically increase. We're already seeing that," says Selliah.

"The car enthusiast loves to feel like they're driving a car.

"I think it's something that's going to open up in five or 10 years' time and it'll be a big business."

Factory approval

For now, Zagame Autobody can provide manufacturer approval for various exotic brands, as well as electric car maker Tesla.

The company describes the facility as an "extension of original equipment manufacturers' (OEMs) factory floors, albeit on the opposite side of the globe".

The company is working on approval from other brands, including Ferrari and Porsche.

Selliah says having the reassurance and backup of manufacturer approval is vital in the world of high-end cars.

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