French & Son is a household name in Heathfield, Sussex as for over three generations it has served the local community with garage and taxi services. While these businesses continue to thrive, fourth generation Charlie French is looking in a different direction to keep the family business expanding, making full use of his motorsport connections.
Charlie’s involvement with motorsport, including assisting in the pits as a mechanic for some Rally Cross teams, as well as racing his own bright green Ford Escort mk2 at track days led him away from the family businesses to work for engine builder and British Rally Cross Champion Julian Godfrey, whose engineering company is just up the road from French & Son Engineering. After eight years with Julian, Charlie had become familiar with the operation of the XYZ machines used so, with the support of his father Stuart, decided to set up his own manufacturing business.
Initially focussing on supplying aftermarket parts for car and motorcycle enthusiasts, French & Son Engineering took space in a local industrial unit and invested in an XYZ 710 VMC vertical machining centre. That was in February 2016. Since then the reputation of Charlie French and his ability to problem solve and add value to existing components, has brought him to the attention of several businesses who are putting work his way.
The choice of XYZ Machine Tools for French & Son’s move into machining was influenced by Charlie’s experience with Julian Godfrey. In terms of experience Charlie is virtually self-taught in both CADCAM and machine operation. Up until purchasing the XYZ 710 VMC he had received no formal training and even now has only taken two of his allocated training days from XYZ on the new machine. The XYZ VMC is central to the XYZ VMC range and provides impressive capability at a very competitive price. As standard it is equipped with a 20 hp, 8000 revs/min, BT40 spindle axis travels of 710 x 450 x 500 mm, with performance enhanced through use of a 4000 kg solid ribbed casting in its construction.
“We know we have a long way to go, but our plans are to achieve more in the next 12 to 18 months in order to allow us to carry out our expansion plan,” says Charlie French. “In addition, we hope to develop our own product range by enhancing existing aftermarket motorsport parts, developing them to improve their performance and longevity for customers. For our business to business expansion, we see our ability to work with customers to enhance their current products by helping to reduce weight, improve performance and lower manufacturing costs.