by Helen Martin
Over a period of a few months last year a rundown, overgrown property near the town’s southern entrance was transformed into the smart going concern it is today, a laundromat and a panel beating business, Helensville Automotive.
The Director of Helensville Automotive, Jin Choi, has had a lifetime of fixing cars. Growing up in Korea he learned about working with metal from his father and at the age of 16 began a panel beating apprenticeship before becoming a certified welder. He then qualified as a certified mechanic. With an interest in racing cars, in the 1990s he began as a driver then moved on to becoming the chief mechanic for Hyundai, specialising in customising the racing cars that won many awards. “He was very famous there,” Jin’s partner Young tells me. “All the racing magazines were fighting to take his photo.” After many successes with Hyundai he set up on his own but found it impossible to run a racing team without big corporate backing. He has been in New Zealand for 10 years, but unfortunately has found it impossible to find a place with a racing team here.
Working firstly for a panelbeating shop in Ponsonby Jin was initially given easy jobs, but when he restored a car no-one else had been able to fix his boss realised how professional he was. He had no trouble gaining the New Zealand welding qualifications and, after working in Henderson for some years, he and Young decided it was time to own their own panel beating and spray painting business, choosing Helensville because they found a property ideal for their plans.
Although he hasn’t been here long, good word of mouth has meant there are always plenty of customers. The workshop is equipped with up-to-date machinery and tools and no car restoration job is too big, too small or too old, as Jin enjoys restoring classic cars. The business is certified to provide WINZ beneficiaries with quotes when they need apply for support with repair jobs.
“He gets through a lot of work in a short time,” says Young. “He’s very skilful and experienced and when people see his work they’re really pleased with the result.”
In the future Jin plans to build a second workshop where he’ll use his time and expertise to help youngsters work on their own cars. He will also share with youngsters his knowledge about safe driving, working from the principal that if they understand the mechanical movements of their car they will be better able to cope with the unexpected on the road.