Member Profile: Evans European Panel and Paint, Auckland
Pictured: Owen Evans, owner of Evans Auto, in front of the trophies and memorabilia from the family racing highlights.
Excellence in all things
Owen Evans wants to be the best at everything he does and his business reflects that ambition. No car leaves his pristine collision repair premises until it has been restored to gleaming perfection.
Evans European Panel and Paint specialises in returning New Zealand’s most coveted, high performance cars to factory standards.
On the day of Radiator’s visit there were three McLarens in various stages of repair, along with dozens of high-end Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Audi and other brands.
“We have around 120 cars on the site, including around 60 in our storage shed waiting for parts. For each one, we strive for excellence. Every job will be done to 110 percent of our ability,” says Owen.
One of his best memories is from the 1990s when he took on repairs to a 993 twin turbo Porsche which had spun out and been driven over by a truck. “Getting that to look brand new was a very satisfying repair. I even get called up every now and then by a new owner wanting to know what exactly was done because they can’t find any trace of it. It was $180,000 job too, so very costly for those days.”
Those sort of repair costs are not unusual today. “When a car is worth three hundred to four hundred thousand dollars, it is worth spending over a hundred thousand to fix it after an accident.”
But a repair isn’t without its challenges. Evans European has all the top gear, 45 enviously well-trained staff and is known as one of the biggest and best in business in New Zealand. But Owen still has to battle with insurance companies.
“It just gets tougher. Five years ago, we would spend about an hour of time on an estimate to invoice, now it's three to four hours. It slows management down, we have to employ more people and this all adds cost to the business.”
Then there’s the 50-60 images insurance companies want to record each repair and the often-unsuccessful battle to recover unforeseen costs.
Owen says insurance companies are also keen to save money where they can. “Our ethos is to do the right thing. People buy their vehicles for safety, for them and their families. We need to be sure we can do the job properly or we won’t take it on.”
Some of Evans European’s longest serving staff, from left:
David Schaumkel (joined 1992), Graham Pelley (1988), Garth Chitty (1982), Owen Evans. In all, 18 of the company’s 45 staff have put in more than 10 years each.
The early days
The Evans family has a strong and long association with motorsports. His father raced, rallied and was later a race official. Owen has many national and international wins to his name, son Simon has done very well in New Zealand while his son Mitchell is well into an international career, currently driving in the Formula E series for Jaguar.
Owen caught the bug early starting out with go karts when he was about 10 and moving into motorsports and rallying as soon as he was legally able to, at 15. His wins over the years included the Indy Gold Coast Porsche Race and Le Mans. Owen was also one of only two Kiwis to win the Wellington Street Race.
A tyre blowout while setting the New Zealand land speed record (386 km/hr) in 1996 set him back a couple of years while all the broken bones and internal injuries healed.
“It was a massive crash, I was blind for a while and there have been years and years of operations.”
But it didn’t stop him getting back into the driver’s seat of a new Porsche two years later for a few more races before retiring to concentrate on supporting the motorsport careers of his sons.
Pictured: The crash that badly injured Owen Evans.
During his racing career Owen finished his collision repair apprenticeship, joined his father’s chassis straightening business for a few years, before setting up his own workshop in 1990.
“I always wanted to work on high performance cars, I could see that was the market niche for me.”
He moved onto his current site in Church Street, Penrose, in 1994. “I sold everything I owned to buy the building and it took a year to get it up and running. In the meantime, we carried on at the old site before shifting over.
Today, Evans European is spread across three buildings on the large Church Street site - the team use electric golf cars and a motorbike to get around quickly.
“We grow a bit more every year and I had to learn to be a businessman. This has included putting the right people in place so I am steering the ship, not paddling as well.” He admits it’s a bit hard when his natural tendency is to micro manage.
But taking a rear seat on day to day operations has given him the time to invest in his family and motorsports.