"Buy it, Fit it, Drive it"
Alan Schofield has been making replacement parts for split screen vans for over twenty five years. His first Split led him into the underworld of the Volkswagen enthusiast, real people who owned a camper van so they could go on family holidays and travel.
When the MOT came round, his first split, BJA 970B, failed on sills, inner wheel arch, battery tray and lower front inner and outer panels. So Alan used his many years experience as a panel beater to cut out the rust, and using what was left of the original panels fabricate good replacements.
At the Stockport and District VW owners club meeting, another member had a similar problem with his bus, Alan showed him what he'd done and was asked if he could make the panels needed to keep their beloved on the road for just a bit longer. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Back in the old days Alan, his wife Stephanie and their three sons would go to the VW shows in their 23 Window Samba, which has been with the family since 1987 and was featured in the 5th edition of Volksworld magazine. They would spread out a blue sheet, and on it would be his hand-made panels, by lunch time he would be sold out and have taken many orders, as well as securing a list of people who wanted their van restoring. So Classic Volkswagen Restoration was born.
From those first shows at Stanford Hall, VW Action (then at the Royal Showground Stoneleigh), Dubfreeze, BVF, VW Northwest at Tatton Park and Vanfest, Alan realised that his panels would be in demand.
Through the Split Screen Van Club (Alan is member 240) more and more people were contacting him for advice and to request a particular panel or rubber seal for the windows and doors. Alan always carried at least three photograph albums of his own restoration projects and these were used to explain parts and fitting.
Soon many many parts and seals were developed. These parts and photographs were added to the broken down illustrations of each van which helped immensely with the task of identification and understanding. The development of these catalogues was undertaken by Alan's eldest son Peter. In 2012 Schofields sent a brand new website live. it doesn't have the exploded diagrams on most of the parts, but it did make it a lot easier to order parts and see the pictures of what you're ordering.
Within a few years of starting the restoration business, Alan realised that there simply wasn't enough time to restore vans and make the panels enthusiasts had ordered, even with several employees including middle son Steve, who at the time was a mechanic at a VW Audi main dealer near Manchester.
Even after extending the 60ft garage to the rear of their family home the business still needed more space and family discussions would go late into the night about whether this "VW scene" was going to last and whether it would be worth moving to a bigger premises. About this time a friend of youngest son Stuart showed an interest, Alan, showed him the workshop, and then passed him a pair of tin snips. He clearly had the skill and Rick soon became a full time member of the Schofield team.
By the end of the 1990s you could identify Alan's trade plot by the familiar sight of a full mock up of a Split and Bay window van made purely from replacement panels and genuine Volkswagen panels (N.O.S) and replacement seals. The company was developing a website helped along by the youngest of his three sons, Stuart, the parts catalogues were becoming more and more comprehensive, a Family business in the true sense of the word.
Today, A H Schofield simply manufactures and supplies the metal and pretty much everything else. They strive to stock the best quality possible including Genuine VW panels and seals, as well as Brazilian, German and American reproductions, so you can repair your van, more importantly; they provide advice on the best way to fit them, based on years of experience. Their new company slogan is "Buy it, Fit Drive it" which pretty much says it all.
Not only do they supply customers direct, but ship parts World Wide including Europe, America, and Australia and as far as the Falkland Isles.
Alan and the team have always prided themselves on the personal touch and to that end ensure that whoever calls is given the help and advice needed to keep their pride and joy on the road. The Schofields workforce now includes: Alan, Rick, Dan, Big Dan, Ste, The other Ste, Pete, Martin, Kieran, Bill, Ben, Eric and Teresa. The demand for more parts means more work & the team keep growing all the time.
As you look around the workshop you can see folders, guillotines, spot welders, press and CNC machines and all manner of templates and jigs which are used to produce the panels. Many of the parts supplied by Alan Schofield's are the best you can get, but as we all know, some of the pattern parts out there are not exactly perfect. "We have always tried to provide good fitting panels, that's why in the early days I spent a large amount of time sourcing N.O.S panels, we use these as templates to make exact, or better replicas" We now stock a huge amount of Wolfsburg West panels too, all of which are superb quality. Luckily that saves us every having to tool up ourselves to manufacture certain parts.
Not only do they make their own, but like most other parts retailers, sell mass produced panels and as Alan explains some need modifying. "...for example if there are certain parts not up to standard but we do not produce them in house, we will do our best to improve them as best we can. Like the early bay inner step repairs. The holes have been put in the wrong position, so we will make a plate with the new holes and fit the captive nuts for the bumper steps, and then spot weld to the panel to improve it, which no other company currently does.
It is clear that Alan and Rick's experience of working on the vehicles has given them the knowledge, and they understand that at the heart of the VW scene are enthusiasts that want to do the work themselves "That's how it all came about, we want people to buy our panels and rubbers with the knowledge that they are right and if we can advise and help them out with the fitting then that's a bonus." As Alan says "the fact that right hand drive vans are becoming thin on the ground means that more enthusiasts are prepared to repair a really corroded vehicle, we are currently developing a easy way to convert our left hand drive (LHD) full cargo floor panels to RHD. Due to customer demand for special orders we are constantly developing our range of panels."
Alan Schofield is now an established name on the VW scene, some say he's a fanatic, others say he is a visionary, but what Alan H Schofield stands for is the family side of the VW scene. "My aim has always been to help people keep their campers on the road, it's become a way of life now, we are all enthusiast here and love the VW scene, we look forward to the shows and have a great time putting a face to the folks on the end of the telephone, and it's great when we have the chance to check out a van that's been put back on the road because we've supplied the panels."
"I honestly didn't think the VW scene would last this long, it's been brilliant, but we wouldn't be here today if wasn't for the customers and I would like to say thanks to them all, We have made many good friends through the Volkswagen scene, it's part of our lives, so thanks and see you at the next show"