Where it all began...
Formed in 1979 by husband and wife team Vera and Richard Newton, Newton Commercial is now the industry leader in the manufacture of interior trim and upholstery for classic cars and celebrating 40 years of experience in the classic car and commercial industry. Out of necessity came the idea of Newton Commercial. Richard at the time was working for a vehicle radiator manufacturer when he was told by a client that if he couldn’t find someone to repair one of their lorry seats, he would lose the account. Unable to find a local trimmer to do the job, Richard purchased some material and Vera helped to make up a seat cover using her mother’s Singer sewing machine at home while looking after their two small children and also working as a staff nurse at Ipswich Hospital. Richard sent the seat back to his customer and thought no more of it. That was until two weeks later, when a further 10 seats turned up requiring refurbishment. Thus Newton Commercial was born from the table of their family home.
Demand steadily grew and Richard and Vera found themselves creating and repairing trim for commercial vehicles, milk floats, police cars, tractors & even A10 fighter planes. Eighteen months later they decided to take the plunge and turn a part-time enterprise into a fully-fledged business.
A move to the Suffolk coast coincided with the decision to specialise in interior trim for the thriving Morris Minor marketplace alongside support from Charles Wares Morris Minor Services, establishing our business ethos: to make each part to the original design, using original colours and materials and original production methods wherever possible. This move saw the development of the classic side of the business in which we specialise today and we began working on some British classics including the Morris Minor, MGA. MGB and the early MG T Types. Our experience in these British Classics has allowed us to create a number of contacts throughout the classic car industry and has allowed us to continue to develop products for use throughout the industry.
John White joined our team in 1987 and worked closely alongside Richard and Vera Newton to develop our increasing range of classic car interior trim. John and Richard used their contacts within the industry and their skills in developing new products to continue creating high quality classic car interior made to original specifications patterned from original products. The care and attention to detail that Richard, Vera and John kept as their main ethos was passed on to the growing team of Newton Commercial skilled craftspeople, men and women from the local area creating a strong link with the local community. Our years of experience in making classic car upholstery continue to be an important part of Newton Commercial. A number of our team from sewing, to panels, to seat fitting, to welding have been with Newton Commercial for over 25 years and continue to pass on their expertise to our expanding team.
One of our flagship production processes is our high frequency welding machine, used on a wide variety of our products. In 1986 we used a small bar welder and began the production of late Spitfire door panels. In 1988 we upgraded to our current Mita-Thor computer controlled welder that we continue to use today. This process is imperative to our ability to create our range of high frequency welded products from vinyl seat covers to door panels across our range in original specifications. We continue to invest in the brass tooling required to create our range of high frequency welded products to expand our classic car upholstery range.
Also during this period we expanded into our moulded carpet production and this video shows the incredible process vital to our products. We have acquired original tooling from some our British Classic range including the classic Mini and the our MGF range which means that we make moulded carpets exactly to original production. Our expanding range of moulded carpets now increases to our range of classic hot hatches including Ford Escort, Ford Capri and the Peugeot 205, which we have developed our own moulded carpet tooling.
In 1996 we added our complete Suffolk seats to our product range. These were originally based upon components from Rover, however after Rover manufactured products became no longer available we developed our own range of components including seat frames and foams to bring our Suffolk seat production fully in house. Made to our industry known high quality with attention to detail and high quality automotive grade vinyl and leather, our range of Suffolk seats are available for a range of cars complete with fittings including the Morris Minor, MGB, Classic Mini, TR and Volkswagen models. Fitted with headrests and raised side bolsters, the seats driving position is easily customisable with sliding mechanism and reclining mechanism using high quality production methods throughout our Suffolk factory.
After moving to our first factory on the Eastlands Industrial Estate, our main operations moved to a purpose built factory in 1990. Our original factory is now used for our moulding department and 2010 our business expanded again to include our third site on the estate for our board production. Our board team also work closely with our moulding department for the product development of our new moulded carpet ranges, creating tooling from classic car body shells. More recent expansion has seen the creation of two mezzanines in our main factory to create a bigger dedicated office space and more room to store our high quality vinyl, leather and piping. We installed solar panels on our main site in 2011 and upgraded to new LED lighting throughout the factory in 2018 as part of our eco conscious efforts.
Keeping it in the Family
Having been involved with Newton Commercial throughout his whole life, Jonny Newton officially joined the company in 2004, bringing with him a push towards the modernisation and expansion of Newton Commercial while still maintaining our company ethos of producing high quality interior trim in the original way. This drive is recognised by our work with the Institution for Manufacturing, which is essentially the public face of the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University, provides us with valuable research and insight to the latest manufacturing and management methods. Newton Commercial also provide the opportunity for university postgraduates study to work on real time manufacturing, supply chain and market research projects keeping us at the forefront of British manufacturing.
Modernisation has led to investment in computer aided cutting machinery which increases both our time and material efficiency in producing all our classic car upholstery. All original patterns are digitised into our database and cut the same each time, making sure our upholstery fits right every time while still using the skill, experience and knowledge of the Newton Commercial team. Our Gerber cutting machine cuts across all out material ranges, from carpet to vinyl to leather using the highest quality UK sourced material throughout production.
Our most recent investment is our Bullmer multi lay cutting machine which works on cutting multiple lays of the same material. This investment has allowed us to increase our cutting efficiency while still maintaining a high level of detail throughout our carpet, interior panels and seat covers across our classic car range.
During this time we have also expanded our product range from British Motor Heritage classics into the Volkswagen and hot hatches market, providing these new classics with the Newton Commercial treatment. Our moulded carpets for Golfs, Ford Escort, Ford Capri and Peugeot 205 all reproduce original moulded carpets in the way that they were from factory and we continue to develop interior trim for these up and coming classics and branch into new classic car ranges.
Celebrating Suffolk Enterprise
Newton Commercial wouldn't be complete without the hard work of the skilled individuals that make up our team. A number of our team have been with us for over 25 years and have continued to share their knowledge of manufacturing classic car interior throughout our nearly 60 strong workforce in our Suffolk factory. As part of this skill share, our apprenticeship scheme has been very successful over the last ten years and our team have continued to gain skills through the support of WS Training for both apprenticeships and NVQ diplomas to expand the skill range of our existing team members.
Our work in training our team in a range of skills set has led us to receive the Investors in People Award no more than 4 times. Our managing director, Jonny Newton, is adamant that such awards recognise a genuine drive for continuous improvement throughout the business, both in management skills and staff training and development, rather than simply being “something for the company CV”. Our classic car upholstery is made in our Suffolk factory by skilled crafts men and women, continuing our pursuit of producing interior trim in the original way.