Geoff’s claim to fame with riot vans and Aston Martins

Living the dream: Geoff Hudson
Living the dream: Geoff Hudson

A Whittle-le-Woods businessman was as shocked as many to witness the scenes of violence on the news in recent weeks.

But seeing the police using high-security riot vans on TV had a different meaning for Geoff Hudson.

Geoff is director of Coleman Milne, a company which specialises in building limousines, hearses and police vehicles, and he saw several of his riot vans being used in Manchester and Birmingham earlier this month.

“They’re fully armoured,” he said. “They literally have to go to war, so they have to be able to withstand the attacks.

“The glass is bullet-proof, so people throwing bricks shouldn’t do much damage.

“It does give you a great sense of achievement to see your vehicles doing their jobs properly.”

Geoff started working at a company called Mellor Coachcraft, now a part of Woodall Nicholson, when he was an apprentice aged 16, and became a qualified coach builder.

He soon worked his way up the ranks into foreman and management positions at the Rochdale firm, before transferring to Coleman Milne in Westhoughton, which now encompasses separate ventures, Coleman Milne and Mellor Vancraft.

Along with three colleagues, he bought the former PLC company around 23 years ago, and is now one of three directors.

He’s the only original member left though, after the others retired five years ago, and two new business partners now work with him; Neil Crowther, who lives near Nantwich, and Paul Thompson, from Leyland.

The team have also been involved in exciting projects over the years, such as restoring cars from famous films.

Geoff said: “One of my favourite jobs was converting an old Rolls-Royce. It was difficult to see it being ripped back to the shell, but when it was finished, it was pretty special.

“We’ve also restored famous cars from films such as James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which were featured in the ‘Cars of the Stars Motor Museum’ when it was in Keswick.

“It brought some real excitement to have an Aston Martin in the factory.”

He added: “We’ve also taken on more unusual projects, such as creating Lady Penelope’s pink car from Thunderbirds, and even making Noddy’s car out of a golf buggy!

“That was for promotional purposes, such as carnivals, and it’s always interesting when you get jobs like that.”

On a normal day, the firm makes classic limousines for occasions such as mayoral visits and funerals, and Geoff hasn’t felt the pinch of the recession in a market which is always in demand.

Geoff said: “A lot of people tend to use their own vehicles at funerals these days, but that’s not because of the recession.

“Close family members still use limousines, and we make hearses as well, so there’s always a demand for our business.”

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