The Builders – RX Autoworks

June 29, 2023

Photos and Story by: Andrew Holliday & Andrew Snucins

 The first thing you might notice while standing outside RX Autoworks is the ambient sound of industrious businesses along the small North Vancouver block going about their daily operations, combined with the curious comments of passers-by as they glance into the restoration shop’s open bay door. 

Exclamations of “wow,” and murmurs of “I wonder what that is?” were two of the most common phrases we heard as the four of us sat outside in the shade, eating a quick lunch. 

“That happen often?” I asked. 

My question was answered by three sets of shrugs. “Yep — people are always curious.”

From the street, RX Autoworks is not a flashy shop. A simple sign and a bay door are the only indications that you’ve arrived at what Miles Collier, a prominent collector of rare automobiles, once called, “the best little restoration shop no one has ever heard of.”

The three men sat in companionable silence as they ate, taking in turns to answer my questions as I learned the history of RX Autoworks: the best little restoration shop that produces Pebble Beach-winning luxury vintage and classic cars.

“So when did this start?” I asked. It seemed good to begin at, well, the beginning. I have been simply a photographer for so long, stepping back into my journalism shoes felt comfortable, albeit rusty.

The answer to this question was pretty quick — an easy way to start. It was 1987, and Mike Taylor and Ian Davey had been rebuilding Japanese engines together in a small two-car garage. 

With the theoretical idea of working on rotary engines, hence the name RX, they opened a shop in 1989, moving operations to part of an underground parking garage in East Vancouver.

Mike and Ian shared a glance, and they chuckled as they explained this set-up didn’t last long. Restoring a vehicle in an unventilated area was challenging, so the duo moved their operation back to North Vancouver on West 1st Street a couple of years later, around 1991.

We diverged from the recounting of timelines and key dates to details of the work itself. What makes their restoration shop unique? What drove them to move beyond a simple body shop into a place where clients like the aforementioned Collier and notable Vancouver collector David Cohen would entrust with their cars, out of all the available shops in the world?  

That particular question was met with silence for a brief moment before Mike tackled it.

He said simply that this was never really the plan, but their work ethic led them to where they are today. 

“We would rather eat dog food than do bad work,” he said.

Which I suppose brings me to what should have been at the start: the introductions. Or perhaps it does just as well to meet the faces behind RX Autoworks at this point in the story.

Mike and Ian, shop founders, tackle fabrication and prep and paint respectively. Mechanical work is headed up by Rob Fram. Together, they are the three mainstays of the shop. 

Their recently acquired apprentice Harry was absent that day. When I asked what Duncan’s role at the shop was, I was told, “Well, it’s Duncan”. So, I suppose that answers that.

Fabricator, prep and paint, mechanical, a keen youngster, and a Duncan.

While the conversation around their attitude towards their work — unwavering dedication to craftsmanship —  is briefly summed up above, we talked for some time while unraveling that thread. 

In our line of work, we strive for the same, as any artist or craftsman does — to always be better than your last project, your last restoration. You can see from this humble shop with an impeccable reputation that this means more to them than any amount of money, or any number of prestigious clients.

It’s what turned them from two guys wanting to work on rotary engines in an underground parking lot to a shop littered with awards from concourses across the globe.

The awards are too numerous to list here, so here is a link to RX Autoworks’ website with a list of their awards and pictures of the restored cars that earned them the accolades:


But back to the shop’s mid-1990s growing pains — a less glamorous part of the story, but a necessary stop to get to an understanding of RX Autoworks today, where the four of us are sitting in the early summer afternoon while photographer Andrew Holliday documents the automotive wonderland behind us.

This documentation included a very special car, a fine example of the type of work RX Autoworks is hired to do, and which can be seen in the photos interspersed through this story. A 1957 Mazerati 200SI currently owned by Jonathan Segal but was raced in the period by John Fitch and Dan Gurney, two legendary race car drivers. Not only was Jonathan confident in RX Autoworks ability to restore the car to the glory it deserves, he had them drive it on the prestigious California Mille earlier this year!

At RX Autoworks’ former location, there was no room for a paint bay. Growing tired of transporting vehicles to paint, the shop purchased a booth for $1,800 at an auction, hoping all the pieces were in place as it was purchased sight unseen.

Rob joined the crew in 1997, adding his mechanical knowledge to make the shop duo a trio. 

In 1999, RX Autoworks started to gain international fame with their first major awards coming from the Pebble Beach Concourse. This growth — and the need for more room to accommodate the spray booth — eventually led into the purchasing of their current building in 2001. 

The location at 270 1st East St. in North Vancouver has been the home to some world-class restorations ever since, including one particular vehicle valued at $18 million USD.

When I jokingly asked Rob if his decision to join RX Autoworks was the reason the shop really took off, he laughed, then told me his only daily goal is to help “make every car better than the one before it” — a statement Ian and Mike affirmed.

This is what makes RX Autoworks the shop that it is, with a repeat client base that has found the shop to be the ideal place to take their incredible vintage and classic automobiles.

We finished lunch and moved back inside, posing the guys for some quick portraits in their respective areas of the shop, Rob being joined by Cooper the shop dog.

As Holliday and I packed up our camera gear, we watched the three dive back into their work. I suppose it’s cliché to bring up the old saying, “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but the sentiment seems to fit the scene. 

We watched them go through practiced motions earned from decades of experience with the ease of a craftsman secure in his knowledge and comfortable in his skills. We waved good-bye and headed back home to Kamloops.

There are many restoration shops out there, and we look forward to visiting more. However, for our first story in The Builder series, it seemed appropriate to tell the story of a shop staffed by old friends, who we’ve road-tripped the mountains with, and whose cars are legendary in the classic car world.

So here’s to the journey, to the people we meet along the way, and sharing a passion for high zinc motor oil and the blending of automotive practicality and the whimsy of luxury classic cars.

Cheers RX Autoworks. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

One Response

  1. Great story and photos guys, nice job capturing who we are – not many writers ‘get it’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *