Disabled tenant discovers passion for restoring vintage model cars

It’s a hobby that not only keeps him entertained for hours each day but also helps him to meet others and stay independent.

Seventy-four-year-old David Long, from Chatham spends up to four hours a day at a garage unit in Rainham, fixing up children’s pedal cars from the 1930s.

“I buy the cars in a really rough condition, some are totally rusted away. I rebuild them and make new parts for them – they’re such old cars that no one sells parts for them anymore”.

David Long, resident

The hobby started five years ago after losing hearing in one of his ears and retiring.

David, who lives in Thorndike House in Chatham, used to make artificial limbs when they were made of aluminium, he’d spend hours beating the metal into shape.

He also worked as a panel beater, making repairs to crash cars. That’s how his love for repairing cars first started.

“Doing this gets me up in the morning – I think it's amazing, especially because I'm disabled”.

David Long, resident

David has arthritis and sometimes can’t make it down to the garage if he’s in too much pain.

That’s why the renovation work he does can take quite a long time. He recently completed a green 1960s Triang Vanwall, which took six months in total.

He’s only ever sold one model: “I put one on eBay once it was finished but I don’t do it to make money”.

The money he made went back into buying more cars to renovate. David’s currently got 15 other projects to work on. “It keeps you occupied, keeps your brain occupied. It’s nice to meet people and I’ve coupled up with a guy in Deal who collects cars as well”, he said.

David is known around Thorndike House for being a bit of a handyman, always helping others with little jobs.

It’s great to see one of our residents so engaged in such a fascinating hobby. David is a really friendly and polite man who’s always more than happy to help others”.

Tina Keers, Senior Supported Living Advisor at mhs homes

Thorndike House is home to 36 people, aged 60-99 and there are also three bungalows at Thorndike Close.

It’s one of our supported living schemes, where older people live in separate flats in the same location, normally with some shared places like a lounge.

“All of the residents here get on well and it’s quite a social space. One resident set up art classes and they’re really helping others to avoid loneliness”, said Tina.

David’s lived there for six years and although he’s happy to help out where he can, his real passion is cars and he’s planning to continue that hobby for as long as possible.

“You start to get known for what you do, it keeps me going”, David said.