Backstage at Louwman Exclusive –Gerrit Wijmenga
Gerrit Wijmenga worked for years on Maserati's and Lamborghini's. He not only maintained them but he even used to make his own tools to make work easier. Since a couple of years he swapped the Italian sportscars for Lexus. Now that he doesn't need to design tools himself he uses his ingenuity to make real art out of the workshop leftovers.
After the years of Italian cars you made the switch-over to Lexus. How does that feel for someone who loves to tinker?
It is quite a different experience than working on exclusive sportscars. Lexus are made in large numbers and are much different. Physically it is less demanding than working on a Lamborghini where everything is large and difficult to reach. That was the reason to make the switch. The same work costs less time now. A major overhaul of a Lexus takes a couple of hours. When I started at Maserati a major overhaul took much more time.
You worked for a long time with Lamborghini and Maserati, did you ever work on something else?
When I studied to become a technician I worked at a Volvo dealership in Zeist. There I learned a lot from my supervisor. He was a real specialist and twice a week after working hours he taught us all the tricks of the trade. It is the same as after passing your driving test you have to drive for hours to get the real experience.
To replace a spark plug in school is quite different than doing the same in the workshop. He also taught us to work at a certain pace because that is important in a workshop. During the training this was not necessary. After my education I had to join the army. I was part of the final conscription to join the military service. Because of my education the land forces were an obvious choice but I wanted to work on large machinery and so I ended up with the navy. I became a driver on a submarine hunter. That was quite an experience. I could have stayed on with the navy but I had a deal with the Volvo dealership that I would return to them after my conscription, so I did. After a couple of months the company entered into a merger and twenty five people were fired, I was one of them.
How did you end up with Maserati?
It was a difficult time in the car industry then. There was little potential for job creation. An employment agency was advertising with the slogan: “We find a job for you”. So each day at nine o’clock I went there to ask if they had a job for me until they got real tired of me. However they came up with a job at Hessing. I only had to apply officially. During the interview the question came up: “do you think you can work on a V8?”. I answered: I wouldn’t know why not, to me there is no difference between unscrewing 4 or 8 spark plugs. That seemed to be the right answer because I was accepted for the job. I started with the maintenance of American Fords from General Motors.
A couple of years later I got Maserati and Lamborghini. These were all beautiful cars to work on, but you had to be creative. I made the tools myself to simplify the valve adjustment of a Maserati. With the Italian tools you could only adjust one valve at a time. Such a job took two whole days. I invented a tool with which I could adjust two valves at one time and then it took me only three and a half hours. At the factory they thought that was really great.
Nowadays you are not making tools anymore but you still get inspiration out of the workshop?
I produce art objects out of old parts. I make trophies for the rallies which we organize. At the moment I am making a lampshade. I already made one for a friend on his wedding. It consisted of a camshaft of a McLaren, a piston of a TVR, a flywheel of a Maserati and wiring from the Gamma. It once began with two bends of an exhaust. Watching at it I saw a car. I welded them together and put 4 small brake pistons under it. I regularly look into the waste bins with old parts and so come up with new ideas. It will not become my work, but it is fun to do.
Lexus Technician / Employed since 2012 / Age: 60 / Children: 2 daughters / What keeps him busy besides work: Gerrit has got roots in the UK, so he regularly visits family and friends in England.