Hammersteel Rustorations, located at 60 Healey Road, provides car lovers the chance to see that vintage or desired car built in their own unique way.
“I’m still playing with toys,” described Robert Forrester, owner and operator of the business since it opened in November 1984, on his shop. “I’ve owned almost everything.”
He started out as an apprentice mechanic, and after joining the Tachman Car Club at 18, he worked on hot rods for 12 years. He had various jobs in industrial mechanics and in 1984, decided it was time to follow his dreams in building show cars. “Most people never get a chance to work their dream, and I have been blessed.”
Hammersteel has a fully equipped metal shop and wood shop, and an indoor full size sandblasting bay that can accommodate the whole vehicle body. The shop also has a frame and full size body rotisserie.
“I didn’t want to work doing regular work for people just because you had to make money to pay the bills,” Mr. Forrester explained to the Citizen.
Asked what he likes so much about vintage cars, he said their simplicity and how everything was done manually. “It was just amazing some of the stuff they dreamt up, considering they had no real technology back then.”
He added that for today’s vehicles “you can’t even see the engine,” and admitted it is difficult to choose a favorite car, as he has worked on almost anything and everything. “They all have different fascinations.”
Mr. Forrester told the paper that he brings cars “to what the person wants to do with the car,” whether that will be to make it look nice, or to last, back to the original model, or just to drive. For restoring, depending on the condition and car, it can take years. “It’s not cheap and it’s not fast.”
What makes his shop unique is that he works off smaller monthly deposits to make it easier for customers “to be able to afford to build their car,” and he doesn’t give estimates “because you have no idea what you’re going to find,” and every day is different.
He added that he does digital still shots and videos of everything he does to the vehicle, makes a copy of it, and gives it to the car’s owner, like they “stood here and watched me.”
Asked to recall the first car he worked on when he shop opened, Mr. Forrester said it was a friend’s 1976 Cordoba, and several customers who come in end up being friends because they are like him who “tinker and play wit their own cars.”
When the subject on completing the car came up, he explained that the feeling is “something totally different, because I work alone, I do everything myself.”
He added that he still gets excited when he goes to car shows. “Even though I build them everyday, I still get excited about seeing different stuff in the way people build.”
Written by Jasen Obermeyer