About an hour south of London lays the Jim Stokes Workshops Ltd. (JSWL) and as you guessed it, Jim Stokes oversees the operation. And what a special group of workshops he has built up over some 40 odd years in the business. Early on, Jim worked after school maintaining a collection of cars for a private individual that had him traveling the length and breadth of England. After 11 years of working for others, he formed the Jim Stokes Workshops Ltd. in 1982; he hasn’t looked back since. The JSWL actually consists of several operations within the group. The primary company restores and recreates significant classic cars. Triple M (Motorsport Manufacturing Machining ) is the manufacturing side of JSWL responsible for engine blocks, cylinder heads and other components. Classics by JSWL covers service, repair, and upgrades for the grassroots enthusiast. The JSWL is a very special place catering to those who are privileged enough to own and race very significant pre and post war cars. While JSWL has gained a reputation for maintaining the pre and post war Alfa Romeo brand, they are skilled across the range and can restore and recommission just about anything.
When you enter the main reception at JSWL you know you are in for a treat as the first thing you notice is the unmistakable smell of engines, metal, and cars. It’s almost like walking into bakery for those of us with petrol in our blood. Just beyond the doors to the main work area you’ll find an array of rare cars, engines, and gearboxes being assembled as well as an impressive collection of mills, lathes, and modern machining centers. It’s here where the talented staff of skilled craftsmen create working pieces of mechanical art from solid slabs of high grade steel and precision castings of mixed alloys.
Aside from restoring and re-commissioning cars, JSWL produces parts, components, and assemblies to keep these cars on the road. As you can imagine, many of the cars serviced by JSWL are no longer supported by their original makers. You might be out of luck if your 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C required a new engine block, cylinder head, or even a distributor. Fortunately JSWL reproduces many of the parts through their Triple M division that are now obsolete, often to higher specification than originally offered but always with an eye towards originality. Using original drawings and reverse engineering along with modern CAD design JSWL has been able to amass a significant list of replacement parts that now make up a substantial portion of the total business.
Some of the components and assemblies offered by JSWL deserve special recognition. The early Alfa Romeo 8C engines were impressive in the their own right with mag alloy blocks and sumps, and supercharged induction. JSWL recreates these magnificent engines with options suited to each customer’s application, such as circuit racing or long distance touring, when available fuel qualities may require special attention to the engine’s compression ratio or boost pressure from the supercharger.
JSWL casts the major components such as the engine block, head, and sump offsite and then completes the final machine work in-house to ensure complete quality. Many of the parts offered are machined from solid steel or other alloys using new HAAS multi-axis CNC machining centers. Jim believes in keeping as much work in-house to maintain quality but does use a few outside suppliers when it makes sense.
One of the primary components to the Alfa engine is the supercharger. Jim and his team have updated the original design with Teflon coatings on the rotor and housing along with improved material. Each blower is also tested to validate performance and air flow on the JSWL blower test bench.
Jim holds up a partially machined rotor: These are machined from solid EN29U steel. The supercharger itself is driven directly by the crankshaft via a compound gear that mates the two halves of the crankshaft. This complex arrangement functions without failure and spins the supercharger fast enough to produce about 1bar of boost pressure resulting in 317bhp when fueled by methanol in Grand Prix trim.
JSWL has also recreated several versions the early Alfa Romeo gearbox and differential. Using modern material analysis and simulation techniques, improvements have been made to ensure maximum reliable performance without the expense of altering the historical significance of the vehicle. Gearboxes have been improved with modern clutch types allowing smooth operation without the risk of damaging driveline components.
Differentials and drivelines have been recreated using modern materials and manufacturing techniques allowing reliable performance when used in competition environments. One of the more unique items I spotted at JSWL was the driveline for an early 1930’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B Grand Prix car. The split driveshaft was engineered in an attempt to allow the driver to sit lower in the car….racing always leads to interesting developments.
Even though JSWL offers many parts and components to keep the more unique cars on the road and track, it’s just not possible or realistic to manufacture everything. In the case a casting or component is damaged , JSWL performs services such as the repair of cylinder blocks and heads using the metal stitching method. The damaged area is machined away and a replacement panel is inserted and secured using the Lock-N-Stich method or other means of installation. This procedure is time consuming but is cost effective considering the scarcity of some parts.
All types of renovation are carried out at JSWL and the facility is equipped to handle just about any task including cylinder head and engine block repair. In fact, JSWL also performs general engine machine work to the highest standard.
Many of the cars restored at JSWL arrive with damaged or incomplete body work. This is no problem since Jim has established a complete division within the workshop called Southshore Coachworks staffed with highly skilled international craftsman capable of creating body panels from a blank sheet of alloy. Panels are formed on bucks made from wood or steel. The near complete panel is worked by hand to a perfect fit and finish on the car. During our visit, an Alfa Romeo from the States was in for a complete restoration requiring all new alloy body panels crafted from aluminum.
It’s not just about rare prewar cars at JSWL, the staff also prepare and maintain cars for customers’ use in various forms of motorsport. This Lancia Aurelia was in for an alignment and inspection before the Monte Carlo Historique.
Notice the original Castrol service sticker still on the door of the Lancia…next service 6-59.
So what started over forty years ago in the back garden of Jim and Hilary Stokes has evolved into a multifaceted array of specialty services dedicated to offering the best in service and products that allow some of the most unique and rare automobiles to stay on the road and track. I think you can compare JSWL to that childhood vision of Santa’s workshop filled with workers busy crafting toys for all of us good boys and girls. Jim Stokes Workshops Limited is certainly the equivalent of that same workshop…only for more mature good boys and girls.