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End of a family affair

Lamberts Engineers (circa 1961) . . . Jack Lambert, left, Bob Allen, Ken Lambert, Arthur Kemp, Robert Lambert, and Archie Parks. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
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It’s the end of an era for Robert and Richard Lambert who yesterday bid farewell to the business their grandfather started almost a century ago.

The cousins are the third generation to run Lamberts Engineers, on Lincoln Rd in Masterton.

Now past retirement age, the men say it’s time to give their bodies a break and put their feet up.

The business had been on the market for a few years before the right buyer came along. John Brogden, with a business partner, takes over the company today.

“For a while there we we’re worried we’d have to shut and walk away, which we didn’t want to do because we have a lot of customers that rely on us, and we didn’t want to let them down,” Robert said.

While the handover will be a sad day for the cousins, they are delighted their grandfather’s legacy will live on, and that two long-term employees – Peter Knowles and Neville Andersen – will keep their jobs.

Lamberts Engineers is renowned for high-quality engine reconditioning and has been responsible for one-off machines and parts for Wairarapa businesses, including Hansells, Webstar, Paua World, and the old button factory, NZ Casein Plastic Ltd.

The company was founded on Coradine St in 1922 by Robert Lambert, who immigrated to New Zealand from Bradford, England, in 1913. He set up workshop in King Country before moving it to Masterton.

Long-time employees Peter Knowles, left, and Neville Andersen, with Robert and Richard Lambert. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

According to family records, he travelled to farms on a motorbike with tools to mend machinery.

The company made its mark specialising in engine reconditioning in 1934 as the car and truck boom hit New Zealand.

In 1936, the business had the only crankshaft grinder between Auckland and Christchurch, and it was reported in 1963 that the company was “one of the best-known engine reconditioning firms in the North Island”.

The company made headlines again in 1991 with the delivery of its new high-tech Robbi-built Rex 1200, an Italian-made crankshaft grinding machine.

Lamberts Engineers moved from Coradine St to its Lincoln Rd site in 1955, the same year Robert Lambert senior retired.

His son Jack, Robert Lambert jnr’s father, then ran the business until his death in 1973, when it was taken over by Ken, Richard Lambert jnr’s father. Both Robert and Richard helped in the workshop during school holidays, before becoming full-time workers.

Richard will miss the job. “For me it’s not the bread and butter jobs that I enjoy – it’s when someone turns up with a unique awkward thing that makes you have to think outside the square to solve it.”

The cousins say they are reluctantly selling up as they have no one in the family to take over.

Tidying up the workshop in preparation for the handover to the new owner had been a big job.

Robert said engineers were notorious for hoarding and he and Richard were facing 96 years’ worth of collecting.

“We’ve come across some things we haven’t seen for a long time.”

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