We are delighted to welcome Duncan Russell MIAgrE to the Guild as our new Commercial Manager and our first farmer.
Duncan is a Norfolk lad, born in the village of Salter’s Load near Downham Market. He went to school in Downham Market, in a primary school with just 14 pupils, then went on to secondary school in the same town where his favourite subjects were metalwork and technical drawing. Duncan was bitten by the car and racing bug at an early age:
“I went to Snetterton to watch racing from the age of about six, I must have seen all the greats of the time, but sadly lost now to the memory, then I used to thrash around the farm in a 1939 Austin Ten that I bought for £7 pounds 10 shillings in the early sixties, when petrol was 4 shillings and 8 pence a ‘gallon’.”
Duncan started as an apprentice at Vauxhall Motors
While the family farm beckoned, Duncan had other ideas and took up an apprenticeship at Vauxhall Motors, working there from 1965-1969, and studying at Luton Technical College on block release. This won him a place in the vehicle engineering department and he helped build prototypes, tried different engines in the cars of the period and tested them at MIRA and Millbrook.
“I remember building Vauxhall Viva GTs, Victors and Crestas at Luton. But there was no competition programme then, GM in Detroit had put the block on racing. That was a pity as the old slant four engine which went on to form the basis for the Lotus etc 16 valve could be very competitive in a Viva…”
He then returned home to work on the family farm
After four years at Vauxhall, Duncan came home to take up farming as the home farm had expanded to 270 acres.
Tractors and other farm machinery caught his imagination and he went on to become County Organiser of Norfolk Farm Machinery Club (NORMAC), as well as working at Easton College where he organised training courses for the farming industry, and lectured on agricultural and machinery related subjects.
From Easton he moved to the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) the trade body for the industry. Amongst other things he got involved with event organisation and developing the Land-based Technician Accreditation Scheme for apprentices working in agricultural engineering.
He recently received an Award of Merit from the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) for services to the agricultural engineering industry.
Cars were never far from his mind though:
“I had a Dolomite Sprint when they were new; I now have a 1962 TR4, and a 1994 Porsche 993 – I believe all 911s should be air cooled, in the same way that all women should be blonde! I think I got the Porsche bug from watching Dickie Stoop racing 356s and 911s at Snetterton.”
After 17 years at the AEA he took a part-time role at in the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, again a membership organisation.
Duncan believes in apprenticehips
Duncan sees a need for apprenticeships:
“We’ve huge skills gaps in many of our industries, we don’t have enough young people inspired to take up an apprenticeship. They all seem to want to go to university. Being involved with an organisation like the Guild can help fill that skills gap, and encourage your people to think about a career. We need young people to learn from old school engineers and see opportunities in becoming the classic car restorers and historic race engineers of the future, it’s not all about electronics and computer control systems. We must replace the older engineers and mechanics and the apprentice route is there and available – there are huge opportunities for more young people to join the classic and historic racing industry.”
Duncan joins the Guild as Commercial Manager, his role is to work alongside Michael Scott and members to promote the Guild and increase the uptake of the TIGOSE apprenticeship scheme. As Duncan says ‘Farming may well be in the past but it was a good grounding’.
Please contact us for more information on our apprenticeship scheme.