In an age of super-fast connectivity, where the ‘internet of things’ places almost everything within smartphone controlled, immediate, global availability, it’s little wonder there’s a strong and growing obsession with the past. Old skool is most definitely cool.
Vintage home accessories, tweeds and weathered footwear, aged leather goods, retro brands & logos and of course a firm fan-base for patina classic cars. People can’t get enough of it right now and crave a huge slice of the vintage vibe. This urgent desire for historical style, can ironically bypass a significant component: heritage.
By definition, heritage takes time, dedication and experience. Characterised by inherited traditions, methods, objects and culture handed down through the years, often from one generation to the next.
It was this notion of heritage that gave my journey to Exmoor Trim an air of nostalgic anticipation. The trip itself involved driving to North Somerset, just a stone’s throw from the Quantock Hills. As England’s oldest area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Quantocks is the perfect location for cruising the roads in an open-top roadster, or better still, taking to the countryside in your classic Land Rover.
It is a long history of working with Land Rovers which has earned Exmoor Trim it’s reputation and position, as a highly respected manufacturer of trim products for the Land Rover range. The British company’s lineage can be traced back over 3 generations, where grandfather Bert Gosling cut his teeth at the Rover company’s Solihull factory in the late 1940s & ‘50s. Eventually becoming Land Rover’s Senior Design Engineer, Bert was followed by son Lew, who started out on Land Rover’s trim development, before he became Head of Experimental Trim. Finally, no doubt owing to the family influence and experience gained at Land Rover, grandson Julian set up his own aftermarket seats and trim company in Somerset. It’s from here, that Exmoor Trim manufactures and supplies its series of Land Rover focused products to a global market.
Marking a new chapter of the firm’s growth and to unveil a dedicated new showroom, I had the privilege of joining fellow guests who were invited to an open day, factory tour and an evening to celebrate the heritage of this family concern. What was evident throughout the weekend was the natural and life-long passion for all things Land Rover. Fond memories and tales from the early years of the Land Rover company, numerous adventures in a variety of these iconic off-roaders, product ideas and designs and taking risks to build up the Exmoor Trim business.
As my family and I pulled our 1971 Series III into the car park, we were immediately in good company among many examples of Defender, Discovery, Range Rover and a bounty of earlier Series models. Warmly greeted by enthusiastic members of the Exmoor Trim team, they were all eager to hear about the journey in our Land Rover (each one is an adventure of course), and equally keen to show us the new showroom, products and factory. Fully refreshed with tea and coffee, we and our fellow guests were whisked off to the factory tour.
It was very much an “as it happens” tour of the materials, machines and manufacture. No frills or staged set-ups here, this was a window into the everyday. Staff busy creating the goodies, shelves full of choice for all tastes and both traditional and modern machinery working to exacting standards. Whether it’s canvas tops for a 1948 Series I, or bespoke interiors for the latest Defender, they all pass through a critical selection process, skilled hands-on manufacture and the stiff critique of the owner, Julian. Dedication to quality is their USP and that is certainly evident as you watch each station in the factory and when you hold a final product is in your hand.
We conclude the afternoon with a visit to the new showroom, a dedicated space to showcase capability, product range and heritage. A mix of Land Rovers across the years provide the perfect display for customers to see how products look on the vehicle. From a variety of steering wheels, to numerous canvas adornments or my personal favourite, a custom leather and tweed interior. The selection is impressive and entirely complementary to the history of these green oval off-roaders. The other charming aspect to the showroom is the original 1950’s drawings of Land Rover canvas hoods and trim, framed and preserved for reference. These hand-drawn specifications by Julian’s father Lew, during his time working at Solihull, are still consulted to ensure originality and devotion to heritage.
As the day turns into a warm summer’s evening, we’re joined by more family, friends and guests. The closing event is marked with a celebration of the company’s history, memories and stories over the years, together with presentations to those who have been part of the Exmoor Trim journey so far.
As a third-generation family concern, it’s reassuring to see that traditional values and hands-on heritage is alive and well in the modern age. Long may that continue, for many more generations to come.