Made in Britain: Twisted Automotive

Twisted LandRover

From purchasing some of the remaining Land Rover Defenders off the production line in 2016, the business now turns over £10 million Twisted Automotive provides customised versions to UK and global fans of the vehicle.

Here, Charles Fawcett, the firm’s founder, tells Business Matters about his greatest achievements and just how he set up Twisted.

What does you company do? What products services does it provide?

Twisted Automotive is the definitive authority on Land Rover’s Defender and has one sole mission – to keep the spirit of the vehicle’s rich heritage alive. One mission is to ‘celebrate the history of Defender’.

The company provides expert advice and quality modification for customer’s Defender vehicles alongside building the ‘Twisted’. It’s an interpretation of how the vehicle should have been with no product being fitted that doesn’t serve a real purpose.

It offers exceptionally high engineering standards to create enhancements exclusive to Twisted. The firm’s engineers and designers know that modifying a Land Rover properly takes more than a set of alloys and privacy glass; each client and vehicle is different and to meet exacting standards, it’s a time-intensive process.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The business itself was established in 2000, but my love affair with the Defender started at the tender age of 11. I joined my family’s business, which involved my father running a 4×4 off-road driving centre, in 1995.

In 2000, I set-up Twisted as a side operation, offering tuning and performance enhancements for the then-range of Land Rover 200/300tdi Defender, Discovery and Range Rover before focusing on growing the firm a year later.

When did you start up, and what support were you given?

Twisted was a hobby. It ran from half a desk in my office, where I also ran the family 4×4 training business and which dad still runs today. I guess, therefore, the support I was given was the freedom to grow Twisted while still being employed. It cost me dearly later on but in those early days, I guess I didn’t need to worry about paying my rent as my job did that.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I can’t really say. Before any new event, it is the biggest challenge yet and when it’s successfully completed, it’s then smaller than the next! It’s how the brain works. I remember dreaming of Twisted turning over £1 million.

I remember finally paying for my first Defender and owning it outright (I still have it). I also remember buying our first ramp for the workshop and first compressor. These were all equally big at the time as when I managed to buy 239 new Defender from a factory that was closing, borrow the money to buy them, find a shed big enough to house them when the largest order I had ever bought before was three or four.

Just recently, I was sitting in the High Court in London and found myself wondering how I got there – a tiny business in North Yorkshire, opposing the claims of an industrial giant, that being Jaguar Land Rover, turning over £21 billion, backed by Tata, a true David and Goliath moment…. and we won!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Staff. Building a team. We have some amazing people; we have to be realistic though. Thirsk in North Yorkshire is not exactly the place to find automotive people. Someone said, building your team will be your biggest challenge. It’s fair to say, we have the best team we have had. It’s not a business that can be served by anyone, you have to love it, live it and care for it. Our customers deserve that.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?

The company has worked tirelessly on product development and made them exclusive to Twisted. No change we make is detrimental in any way and often this has resulted in creations that people said weren’t possible. I believe Twisted offers a service like no other and absolutely isn’t your ‘typical workshop’.

What has been the best decision you have made to date?

To re-brand professionally. To focus on Defender and back myself when everyone else said don’t do it. It’s not always easy, there are haters, moaners, drainers and doubters, you meet them all every day. Backing yourself without being pig-headed is the challenge.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?

Twelve months from now, the new Defender will be here. Brexit will be done, new plans will have been rolled out and the next new set will be in play. I have no plan other than to keep pushing, keep growing and keep strengthening the brand.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

I don’t think of myself as an ‘entrepreneur’ in a way. I think I am creative and had a mind that is never satisfied. With that I see opportunity, and with opportunity I look for business.

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?

Creating a product that people want, making something undesirable desirable. Creating a brand and legacy. It’s mentally rewarding.