This evening I talked to Charlie Parker, Rotary-Mastermind and founder of Scotia Tint and Audio. From his time in the Royal Air Force to tapping into the industry’s best in the UK and working on cars that would go on to grace the pages of magazines, Charlie took us on an intimate tour of his past, present and future.
BLD: For our readers who may not be familiar, tell us a bit about yourself.
Charlie @ Scotia Tint & Audio: Where to begin…
I am British to start with. I moved here with my family 7 years ago to start a new life. I was just finishing with the Royal Air Force as an aircraft electrical engineer and got a job here working on the Canadian Forces aircraft as an aircraft avionics engineer.
Before joining the UK military I was extremely involved in the higher end custom car scene.
It started back for me officially in 2000. I was involved with custom car audio and custom car builds. I ended up working with some of the biggest names in car audio at the time. I designed and produced demo cars for Audiobahn Inc. which were used all over the UK and featured in every major magazine at some point. That car later went on to be displayed as one of the top 100 cars built in Britain.
One of my friends was involved with tinting. The local car shop scene in my home town of Sheffield was small, everyone was friends with everyone else and socialized together as our paths crossed on a daily basis. The relationships forged meant we all helped each other out and that was the start of me tinting…
Needless to say, the car audio scene was in full swing in across the globe but there was a big change in the UK in 2002. The writing was on the wall for a lot of us – especially car audio shops. Manufacturers were selling car audio cheaper on eBay direct than we could buy as distributors, and ultimately we ended up just being installers.
I needed a plan B. The plan B was to join the RAF – still within electrical, but on a bigger scale. Whilst in the forces, I still worked on cars but as a hobby and for friends. The passion never died and actually reignited my enthusiasm as it wasn’t a job anymore.
Now in Canada, I found that the company I worked for wasn’t the best and the pay wasn’t great enough to support a family on its own. I decided to start offering mobile tinting and to see how it goes. That was 4 years ago. It was a hobby still and didn’t pay much, but it was enough to see that I could be on to something here. My reputation grew, my phone started ringing more and more, people had started to ask what else I do and as time went on I added more and more services and products to my list.
Fourteen months ago I lost my main job. I had to make a tough decision – either I try and find another job and travel or move, or I make a go of what I have started to build…
Welcome Scotia Tint and Audio. Everything fell into place July the 2nd last year. My own shop, national brand support behind me and a loyal following of car enthusiast, local clubs and car dealerships.
Today, Scotia Tint offers virtually every service you can think of in the car customizing world, from custom fabrication and engine development to window tint to remote starters to full vinyl wraps. Basically, we don’t do body work and fill in all the other blanks.
I am recognized as a 3M gold installer for vinyl, and teach window tint and paint protection installation to new shops and technicians across Atlantic Canada. It’s been a busy 6 months!
BLD: Sounds like it’s been a bit of a crazy ride! From your origins with custom car audio & builds in the early 2000’s — where does your interest in cars come from?
Charlie: I think I was 13 when I realized I actually love cars. Don’t get me wrong, I loved cars from the time I was a toddler. I used to have the biggest collection of micro machines you have ever seen.
In fact, at 8 years old I was hospitalized because I was unscrewing the chassis off one of my micro machines to change its wheels with another and slipped with the watch maker screw driver and inserted it about 1 inch under my left thumb nail. The finger turned black over a week and needed the nail removing. So my modding started young… laughs
A friend of mine brought a UK magazine called Fast Car into high school. On the cover was this amazing car – it was a Renault 5 GT Turbo. It was the first time I really noticed and appreciated custom cars. I still to this day pine for a Renault 5 Turbo… (Wife won’t let me have one, she says they are way too ugly) laughs
All through my life I have supported motorsport. Back in the 1990s I was a huge fan of Touring Cars and the British Touring Car Championship. My main motorsport obsession was the WRC. Colin Mcrea literally was my hero and is the reason I have owned two Subaru Impreza STi’s and love the Subaru brand.
I think it’s just easy to say I was born a car nut!
BLD: How does the car scene in the UK compare to the Canadian car scene? Anything we could learn from our European friends?
Charlie: I went back to the UK for the first time last June for a month since moving here. When I left, the scene was different but the same as here too. Car audio died. Full stop. Some of my closest friends disappeared as I thought would happen sadly, just like here.
The UK scene has turned into one genre – speed. No one is fitting body-kits, no one is building audio systems or jamming 8 cows worth of custom leather into the interior of the car — it’s pure horsepower chasing.
I am extremely good friends with one of the best hand crafted exhausts manufacturers on the planet. Since 1960, the family has built exhausts by hand (www.exhaustsuk.com). I made a point of visiting them whilst there as they are one of the few of us still around and going strong. They were saying now it’s all about sleepers. Audis and VWs with 600+ brake HP is not uncommon. But from the outside, you would think it’s a standard executive sedan. Sleeper – that’s the scene now.
Cars are fashion in the UK. No one would be seen dead in a 1991 Nissan 240SX, and basically you’re homeless scum if you drive a 1986 Toyota Corolla AE86. The height of fashion is who has the newest and most expensive car on the road.
I think the scene here in Canada is actually far superior to the UK. It blows me away, I get young guys and gals in the store beaming from ear to ear they just bought a 240sx or a ‘92 Chaser. The scene is fresh and diverse and I am very privileged to be immersed in it with you all.
Two thing I dearly miss about the UK car culture:
- Motorsport is extremely accessible to all on a pro-am basis. I raced rally since 18 years old and did time attack and auto cross. It’s extremely well organized and cheap to do.
- You can drive your nice car all year around… damn I miss that.
BLD: I think that’s something we need more of here in Canada as well. So many enthusiasts take to the streets or back roads because they have no legal outlet for racing — especially if they aren’t into drag racing or stock-car racing. As for driving year round, British Colombia seems to be the only place you can get away with that in Canada.
I couldn’t help but notice the AE86 reference – what does Initial D mean to you?
Charlie: Initial D… There is no word in the English language that sums up how I feel about that show. Closest would be obsession. I literally finish the seasons and then start at the beginning again. My ring tone is the closing credits from the second half of Stage 2. The RX7 I am building is an exact replica of the season 4.5 Takahashi FD. I was even going to wrap it exactly the same yellow but 3M as a sponsor of the car wanted a colour that didn’t look like factory paint job… This is my third FD.
I sold my Nissan 350z Nismo just before Christmas 2014. I was actually looking to import another Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, as my last one left such an unbelievable impression on me. But the car gods saw to it I own another rotary.
I bid on three cars: two Evo 6’s and threw a stupid-low bid in on a 1999 Mazda RX7 Type RS. It was rough and modified, but for the money I bid I should still have not won the car – but I thought “Hey, you never know…”
I woke the next morning to an email saying you won – I thought great! Did I get the white Evo or the silver one… I won the 1999 FD. It was early FEB and I thought Christmas had come again. My wife was pissed! She hates rotaries with as much passion as I love them – she knows how much of my love and attention they need.
Well, it was bad from the very start. My guy in Japan received the car from the auction and it wouldn’t start, so now the Japanese Mazda dealership start working on the car in the dock. It had a new starter, new battery, new ignition barrel and all new locks by this time it had missed three ships. I hear nothing back from Japan apart from the car is finally on a ship and inbound to arrive in Halifax on the 2nd of July – the day I opened the shop.
So the car arrives as expected and I go to clear it and pick it up. I arrive at the CERES port to find my new pride and joy destroyed. The bumper was hanging by a thread and was smashed in several placed with the pieces of fiber glass missing. The fenders were rolled under themselves, the rear bumper was smashed, the seats were cut, the exhaust tip was hanging off, the rear brake light was cracked and the front slam panel structure had been folded in. The car was not fixed in Japan. They pulled it by rope into the ship and then towed it on and off two more ships to Halifax by the front frame under the hood. This caused the whole front structure to fold under itself. You could see teeth marks from the ramp scraped into the exhaust underneath where they didn’t take care to lead it.
I had insurance, so for 2 months I argued with insurance agents in Halifax, Baltimore, New Zealand, Japan and a nice guy from Holland as to who was responsible. It was either they pay me something or write off an extremely rare car, that even if I got all my money back was not even close to buying another one if I could find one. It was with that money I bought the RE Amemiya AD GT05 body-kit. This gave me a new bumper, fenders, and skirts which fixed the bulk of the damage. I fixed the structure myself in the end.
The build became one of need rather than of want. So the car is a 1999 Mazda RX7 FD3s Type RS.
Basically, the car has become two things for me – a demonstration test-bed to show what I can do to your car and for prototyping new products. The other plan for the car is to win races this year!
BLD: What a journey… I hear you’re hoping to take home some trophies this year with it!
Charlie: That was the plan for sure! I got my time attack license last year specifically for the Atlantic Time Attack Championship of 2016. I just found out about a week ago they won’t be running it again this year due to poor turnout last year – it lost money. It does look like there will be 4 other time attack events, just not the same format.
My new goal is to break local records now. Create a legend. I have spent $6000 on carbon fiber aero alone to try and achieve that. The single turbo is also to help increases reliability – the FD is known for massive heat problems. I want to be consistent and put fast times down.
BLD: “If it isn’t perfect, it isn’t finished” – Would you say you’re a perfectionist?
Charlie: I use the word “perfectionist” because saying online you have OCD looks creepy. laughs
When I tint, if it isn’t perfect, I rip it out. I have had customers watch as I rip sheet of tint out which to them looks perfect, but to me there may be a little piece of dirt or something I am not happy with. I lose sleep over that kind of thing. But, for building rotary engines where the tolerances are 20,000th of an inch for seals – OCD is nothing but a good thing
BLD: Not everyone has that degree of attention to detail, you’re extremely gifted in that regard.
Charlie: Thank you! It’s now what I am known for. Don’t get me wrong – things happen sometimes. It’s cars, and it’s custom – but I always aim for perfection. Plus, I see every single car as my own. No matter what it is, I treat it with the same pride.
BLD: If you weren’t doing Scotia Tint and Audio, where do you think you would be today?
Charlie: Working with aircraft. As much as I love cars, in the same way I love aircraft. Even today not a day goes by I don’t wish I was still in the military. I got to do some amazing things.
BLD: Charlie, I would sincerely like to thank you for your time this evening and sharing your story with us. Any closing thoughts?
Charlie: I want to say just the biggest thank you to absolutely everyone that has, and continues to support me and my little but growing business. The community here in Nova Scotia is extremely special, and the way I have been greeted with open arms is heartwarming.
With everyone’s continued support, I hope to bring even more products and services to car enthusiasts locally through Scotia tint and Audio.