Golden days at Uckfield firm

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens

Managers and staff at a well-known Uckfield firm are celebrating a golden anniversary.

Family company Tressler Coachworks (Tressler’s) was started by Jim Manning as a one-man-band in his dad’s garage near Henfield in 1964.

Now Jim has grown the business to employ 30 people and is proud the firm has a wide and loyal customer base.

Jim trained as a civil engineer and coupled this skill with his passion for cars.

The company moved to the Bellbrook Industrial Estate, home for the past 40 years, from Balcombe, where Jim was based for eight years with his then business partner, Colin Lay.

Unsurprisingly, he says, the past 50 years haven’t all been plain sailing, with three recessions and plenty of other challenges in its path. But Jim puts the company’s resolve down to two key factors.

“A great strength is we’ve always tried to be innovative and never afraid to do something a bit different. We were the first body shop in the town to have a paint oven, the first in the area to use body jigs and we’ve adopted other technologies such as a clever paint recycling system, all before they were commonplace.”

Along with many motor vehicles, the company has repaired frying pans, medical tools and a helicopter. More recently it played a role in world-leading architect Zaha Hadid’s creation at the newly opened Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London.

Working with Design & Display Structures, also based in Uckfield, the companies’ combined specialist skills and experience to create the fully finished modular glass reinforced plastic (GRP) panels that form the organic bullnose perimeter cladding of the gallery.

The other critical element to Tressler’s staying power, has been Jim’s team. “Successful businesses are built on their staff. We’ve been lucky to have a loyal and skilled team of whom I’m hugely proud.”

Damian Poland, 35, who spent most of his working life with Tressler’s, said: “Being a family firm means there’s flexibility and I like being involved in a variety of jobs. For a business to be going after 50 years in this day and age is, I think, quite an achievement.”