Matt Meares’- A Career Future Proofed

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Updated: November 23, 2020

Matt Meares may have waited to embark on a mechanic’s life, but his thirst to learn has ensured a hugely varied career so far.

Not many life journeys include being a flying trapeze instructor, classic car mechanic and design engineer in the renewable energy sector. A reminder, if it were needed, of the varied paths available to those working in the realm of mechanics. Public perception of people in automotive trades may involve oily rags and rattle guns, but Matt Meares’ skills run significantly deeper. That said, the 41-year-old’s seen his fair share of sump plugs and bald tyres in his time.

Matt came relatively late to the mechanic’s trade. For six years he worked overseas at Club Med first as DJ and light engineer, before switching to its sports team to teach flying trapeze. It may sound like a dodgy but impressive barroom pick-up line, but Matt guarantees it’s the truth, even though opportunities are limited to show off such skills, especially in a garage workshop.

“I got burnt out, came back to Australia and as I’d always been into cars, applied for mechanical apprenticeships,” he said. “I started with Kmart Tyre and Auto Service in Sydney while going to TAFE.

I was 28 so an older apprentice, while everyone else in class was 16 or 17. It was a challenge due to sometimes having to deal with childish behaviour in the classes; while at work all I was doing were tyres and wheel alignments. There was an emphasis on speed and quantity over quality, which jarred with my work ethic, which is to strive for a high level of quality and achievement.”

Clearly not suited to this environment, after two months Matt left Kmart and transferred his apprenticeship to Cummins Classic Cars in Mortlake, who specialise in restoration, repair and service. “When I went for the interview I walked into the workshop and there’s a Ferrari on the hoist, Porsches, Mercedes, Aston Martins and Jaguar E-Types,” he said. “I thought ‘oh yes, this is what I want,’ and I think it helped I was a mature age apprentice in this environment.

Matt had much to learn due to the variation between classic cars – mainly British and European – and not always having access to workshop manuals for them. He said the team at Cummins were generous with helping him get comfortable around such cars’ mechanicals, and he found himself also doing retrimming and home servicing for customers unable to visit the workshop.

“I enjoyed the pace we were able to Classic Cars in Mortlake, who specialise in restoration, repair and service. “When I went for the interview I walked into the workshop and there’s a Ferrari on the hoist, Porsches, Mercedes, Aston Martins and Jaguar E-Types,” he said. “I thought ‘oh yes, this is what I want,’ and I think it helped I was a mature age apprentice in this environment.”

Matt had much to learn due to the variation between classic cars – mainly British and European – and not always having access to workshop manuals for them. He said the team at Cummins were generous with helping him get comfortable around such cars’ mechanicals, and he found himself also doing retrimming and home servicing for customers unable to visit the workshop.

“I enjoyed the pace we were able to work at,” Matt said. “Each car could have weeks or months spent on it, we weren’t rushed, and could do the quality of work I appreciated. I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist by nature, and always want to do things to the best of my ability.”

“Now’s The Time To Look At Getting Into The Renewables Space. There Are Going To Be Lots Of Job Opportunities In The Next Five Years In Australia.”

After qualifying and staying on at Cummins for a few more years – picking up numerous apprentice awards for his work along the way – it was time to set up on his own and focus on the cars he really loves. “I’ve had many 1980s Japanese cars, and any from the 1970s to 1990s are my real passion,” he said. “My wife and I decided we’d had enough of Sydney so moved to the Sunshine Coast where I set up my own workshop, JDM Classic Restorations.”

Matt worked from his home garage at first, but soon moved to a commercial space and rebranded as Kyusha Garage– Kyusha meaning “old car” in Japanese. Work included full restoration of a Suzuki Sierra, a twin-charged engine swap on a Nissan Pao, and a 12A rotary conversion on a Mazda 1200 sedan, but after a few years the itch to upskill took over and he enrolled at the University of the Sunshine Coast to study mechanical engineering. “I went part-time for the first semester to see how I’d go, but then committed full time. I was fortunate as my wife had a good job to support us.”

Matt was inspired by following 3D_ Magic_Mike on Instagram. “All his 3D modelling and custom fabrication was what I wanted to do but I didn’t have the skills or knowledge,” he said. “At Uni I learnt 3D computer modelling and using CAD software, and some of the other subject content included renewables. I got really interested in this, and in my third year secured an internship at H2H Energy, a hydrogen energy specialist.”

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may not be on many radars yet, but Matt and H2H Energy know it’s just a matter of time. Hyundai’s Nexo has recently become the first fuel cell EV to be certified for sale in Australia. “They’re an extension of electric vehicles,” Matt explains, “and especially for commercial vehicles I think fuel cells are a winner.” Matt’s currently helping design hydrogen refuelling stations, doing 3D CAD modelling of components and site layouts, plus selecting components for H2H’s systems. A big leap from wheel balancing as an apprentice.

“Now’s the time to look at getting into the renewables space,” Matt said. “There are going to be lots of job opportunities in the next five years in Australia. There’s lots of hype, and many bigger companies and governments are getting involved and want to invest. Electrical engineering will be in big demand in this space for sure, and hydrogen-specific courses are coming. I’ve just done a hybrid vehicle servicing course at Queensland’s MTA Institute, I know they’ve just launched a battery electric vehicle module, and hydrogen’s just a matter of time.”

Matt advised interested parties to keep their eyes and ears open as the market’s growth potential is mighty. He’s been able to pivot his skills to tap into different areas of expertise throughout his career, but his love of Japanese classics hasn’t changed. His immaculate-looking 1988 Toyota MR2 with subtle enhancements – well, apart from the coilover suspension and white Tom’s Racing aero wheels – is his passion, and who knows, his current trajectory may see it harbouring a custom battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell setup before long.

For more information visit www.h2henergy.com.au

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