Brain work instead of OBD
Only 21 years old, ten years of experience and your own company? That sounds unbelievable. But nothing could be further from the truth: Tom and Renk van Koevorden registered Brooks Motors with the Chamber of Commerce on April 1, 2021. Their credo: no car leaves the door before it is good. And those are not the easiest cars, but classic Minis, Land Rovers and Jaguars. Old British machinery that you don’t just hang on the OBD plug.
A dream came true thanks to hard work, hard studying and hard living. Brooks Motors, since 2021, is the realization of a dream of two brothers who want to work together forever, gain experience, exchange knowledge and keep learning to get better and better, with only one goal: satisfied customers. Because they come back. At the same time, they are trying to get more of their peers to work on old cars. “It’s much more fun than they think,” both say. High-flying ambitions that require tremendous dedication. Enthusiasm overflowing, so on to Meerkerk.
The twins’ hearts lie with Mini and Land Rover
It actually drives on the A27 towards Gorinchem. Normally it is stuck at exit 25 at Noordeloos, but now it is holiday time and one million Dutch people are not there for a while. The old national road with its deep potholes and high bumps makes the cabs of the many trucks dance on their much-needed shock absorbers. You can check if you drive over it with an old Mini. You have to duck your neck to keep your skull from hitting the wafer-thin headliner. It is precisely this legendary car that gave Tom and Renk van Koevorden the idea of making it their life’s work. The Mini comes to life on the winding and meandering Broekseweg. In a second I feel years back in time. Suddenly there is silence. The road passes villages where time seems to stand still. Okay, the rolling stock is modern except for a single youngtimer and the traditional costume is uniform short jeans and T-shirt, with or without print. Young and old, man and woman walk in. I almost drive past number 100, but the Van Koevorden twin brothers have already seen me coming and beckon me into the driveway. They switched their T-shirts. Renk should actually be wearing a Land Rover shirt and Tom the Mini shirt. This is to indicate where their specialties and hearts lie.
Father as teacher
Both guys are infected with the classic virus at a very young age. At the age of ten, they perform crazy antics in the meadow behind the parental home with a Subaru Mini Jumbo that has been transformed into General Lee (from the series The Dukes of Hazzard). Now they run Brooks Motors as barely 21-year-olds. A lot happens in young lives between 10 and 21. Too many to list in these pages. A comparison immediately arises when you see the identical twins together and especially when the older of the two puts on a cap. They’re three minutes apart. Run with cap on and Tom without. The comparison with whom? The elderly among us know better, but for young people who do not read books, this remains a question. Then go googling: Chameleon is the magic word. But that’s where the comparison ends. Okay, their teacher is not farmhand Gerben, but their own father. He puts the twins to work when they are just 10 and unleashes a love for everything that rolls on four wheels. Mother’s 2CV is due for a cylinder head overhaul and father puts both sons under the hood and commands, figuratively adjusts and gives ‘tips and tricks’. In this way he teaches his sons how to tinker with a car in a playful way and to always think in terms of solutions. This is the run-up to Tom and Renk’s own company in a nutshell.
Broekseweg: Brooks Motors
The company name is derived from the address of their parental home, the Broekseweg between Ameide and Meerkerk. The rural environment is the ideal playground for the growing twins. This is where the seed for Brooks Motors is planted, where father Van Koevorden teaches his sons how to tinker and work for their money. All this under the motto: become self-reliant as much as possible, because the sun rises for nothing. For example, the brothers help the neighbor, who owns a construction company, to build a house. Although Van Koevorden senior taught the basics, the twins are otherwise self-taught. At the age of fourteen, Renk restores the family Land Rover 110, which is suspended due to the exemption from the MRB from 25 to 40 years, and also converts the 4×4 from Newcastle to left-hand drive. Tom is now feverishly working on his own project, a classic Mini, in which he welds a new bottom. However, he is not satisfied with this and he makes another attempt with another copy, the basis of which is a lot more solid. The Mini is ready at exactly eighteen. When that project is completed, the fun ends and Tom sells the car. With the proceeds he buys a Jaguar XJ-S of which the V12 has died. Tom overhauls the engine himself. In short, two enterprising brothers in a large family (there are also two older sisters). This should lead to your own company.
Study Mechanical Engineering
Before the time comes, the brothers each go through their own studies and internships. Tom ends up at Groeneveldt Grijpers during his education in mechanical engineering, where he can think along, design and weld to his heart’s content during his internship. He even has permission to work on his own projects. Renk is studying part-time and is doing an internship at VSH, a company that manufactures couplings and pipes. He doesn’t like a life at the drawing board. He wants to come up with solutions that he can then implement with his hands. This is reflected in the division of labor within Brooks Motors. Renk does the design of the website, the socials, designs the logo and the accompanying stickers and writes the texts. “I consider myself quite stubborn, but that means we quickly find a solution to a problem and that makes us work smoothly,” he says. Tom is the better tinkerer. “I am the go-getter and a bit more impatient.” That doesn’t change the fact that they usually work together. “Initially, that was not the intention at all,” says Renk. “We get along reasonably well, but often we don’t. Actually, we are condemned to each other, aren’t we? We are determined to make Brooks Motors a success. We have the necessary experience, the brainpower, the tools and the enthusiasm.”
That sounds quite high from the tree and the gentlemen themselves think so. “We always make it happen,” says Tom. “And you know what? We provide ready-made solutions, because we think from the customer’s point of view. For example, an older customer came to us with a criticism of the brakes. He didn’t like his Mini slowing down well. However, the braking effect was fine. The trick was to tell him that his age had caused him to lose some strength in his right leg. Then diplomacy comes into play. We solved it by proposing a brake booster to the customer. He agreed and was very pleased with the result. That’s how you gain trust, isn’t it?” The brothers are not yet concentrating on complete restorations. Their current accommodation – the barn behind the house in which they grew up – is unsuitable for that. Moreover, the barn cannot be heated in winter. “We don’t have that problem yet, but it will when we get older,” says Tom. They are therefore currently carrying out the larger key work in a friend’s garage. There is a two-column lift bridge here, so that they can also work on the underside of cars. “And it’s warm in the winter,” says Tom. “We carry out minor repairs in our own shed.” For example, Renk helps his brother with the chaotic wiring of the Innocenti Mini, the Italo version, and assists Tom with Renk’s current project: the V8 of the Range Rover Classic
All English cars ‘bad’
Why do they mainly tinker with British cars and not German ones, such as a Mercedes or a BMW? Or the current Minis designed under BMW direction? “We have less with that,” says Tom. “We think the original is more beautiful and more thoughtful, especially considering the period in which it was designed and especially why it was created. It was also the first front-wheel drive car with a transverse engine and gearbox,” says Tom. “Minis are not our only passion,” adds Renk. “We think all English cars are ‘bad’. After all, we like to work on cars that we like. With that old Jaguar XJ-S I bought we could learn. Taking such a V12 apart and putting it back together, just stand on it. I even had to take an extra job to pay for the gas and when it was finally good I got rid of it. I have never owned a nicer car. But that was then. Back then it could still cost money. Now we have to live with it. We live with our parents, have the barn, the space. Now we have to build up reserves to be able to pay for our own accommodation in the future.”
In addition to the hours they can charge for repairs and maintenance, they also sell homemade parts, such as grilles, heaters and radiator supports. Renk, who calls himself chief design engineer, builds websites and also designs logos. “The advantage of old English cars is also that they require very little maintenance,” says Renk. “As a result, most parts are still available. This keeps the waiting time for our customers within limits. And what is no longer available, we make ourselves.”
Also other hobbies
Owning your own company brings with it the necessary responsibilities and headaches, the brothers admit. “It may seem like we’re running our business 24/7, and we are. But we make sure that we also have time for relaxation,” says Renk. “Tom likes to cycle and I like to produce videos. We also like to sail and surf together on our retro windsurf boards. Of course we also make road trips, such as to Portugal. There we picked up a Mini, prepared the car on the spot at a café-racer constructor and despite heavy weather we drove home in 36 hours. And road trips to Monaco where the Mini attracts more attention than all those extravagant cars.”
Unfortunately, no more young people can be poked in the classic profession
The brothers think it is a pity that there are not more young people to be encouraged for the classics profession. “It’s not nearly as boring as many young people think,” says Tom. “You can still tinker with old cars. What’s the fun in doing maintenance on modern cars? What’s the fun of plugging in an OBD plug to find a problem? We have to think for ourselves and come up with smart solutions. Isn’t that much more satisfying than the standard work? Especially the way we approach it.”
This article was previously published AutoWeek Classics 6 2023.
– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl