Operating from a rural location outside the Victorian township of Yarram, The Fibreglass Factory (TFF) is owned and operated by husband and wife, Ben and Bek Muir along with a growing team of traditional fabrication workers.
Commencing as an extension of Ben’s hobby of restoring Bedford vans, TFF offers fibreglass fabricating services for a multitude of end uses – from water slides to BIG tourist structures (such as the BIG Brussel sprout at the start of Melba Highway in Coldstream Victoria). They also offer a repair service for boats, trucks, and car parts as well as almost anything that is composite. Bek left her career as an accountant in 2020 to work in the business full- time as it grew.
But it is their business in fabricating vintage and classic car parts that has exploded in the last two years – particularity since COVID-19 afflicted the country in early 2020. With borders closed, and travel and events cancelled, car enthusiasts turned to the restoration job that had been parked patiently in their garage for years. Others went online and bought the vintage or classic car they’d dreamed of, or towed in rust-ravaged paddock-finds. “When Australian borders were closed, we were inundated with enquiries for vintage and classic car parts, especially for Australian cars by those nostalgic for their youth. The phone just kept ringing and our inbox kept filling up!” said Bek.
Observing that options to fix, replace or personalise vintage and classic car parts were limited, Bek and Ben set about collecting moulds of every part and model they could find. Today, they have one of the most comprehensive collections in the country of close to 1,000 moulds stored across several sites. According to Bek, the most popular models are those that qualify for the VicRoads club permit scheme that allows members of recognised vehicle clubs to drive eligible historic vehicles on the road network, subject to certain conditions.
Marketing and ordering for car parts and body kits are done online through TFF’s website – https://thefibreglassfactory.com.au – that lists its catalogue of scoops, roofs, guards, skirts, front bars, spoilers, bonnets, doors and bumpers. Parts are paid for in advance, manufactured to order and sent directly to customers. TFF operates out of two large sheds and has expansion plans which include a third and larger shed on the front of the current block.
Yarram is a three-hour drive from the Melbourne airport in southeast Gippsland, between Bass Strait and the Strzelecki ranges. According to Bek, starting and operating from a regional location is an advantage: “We weren’t locked into city rents so our startup and expansion costs were lower. Storage of our moulds would have been expensive in the city. Our town is reliably serviced by Australia Post and other transport services that are critical for our online model.” Bek added that their rural locale makes it easier to control the work-life balance.
The couple has plans to upgrade their fabrication practices to include closed moulding for popular parts as well as introducing carbon fibre as an option. They are also working with the local TAFE College to appoint an apprentice later in the year.
Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director of Composites Australia Inc.