Twisted’s anti-ordinary people.
Owen Mortimer. Research and Development Manager.
Are you considering a career in Research and Development, particularly in the automotive sector?
Owen Mortimer, R&D Manager of Twisted Automotive, has some advice.
By his admission, Owen’s path into R&D began when he chose the college his nanna worked at because he knew he’d get free food. Since then, he’s completed his degree, trained at the Twisted workshop, spent a year as Parts Manager and now heads up Twisted R&D. He has recently led the development of many Twisted projects, most notably the bespoke TV8 powertrain.
What would you say to someone thinking about a career in R&D?
You must understand what sort of person you are and what company you will suit. Are you a person that will enjoy a set role as part of a large department and become a specialist in a large corporation? Or are you someone who wants to be involved in a smaller business where you’ll have a say in everything and have to adapt?
Also, think about your interests and carve a career from them because it’s important not to get bored. I did off-road vehicle design, which is specialised - there were only 13 of us on that course. You can do a general automotive course and head anywhere.
Why is R&D necessary?
In a specialist market like Land Rover restoration and modification, people see things elsewhere, decide what they want and then ask Twisted to do it because we’re the best. However, that only gets you so far. To grow as a business, you must be bold and pioneer change. That’s why R&D is important.
However, you must ensure the numbers stack up, and the new parts work beyond a single build. After all, we need to generate profit.
Today’s supplier price increases mean that something I worked on a year ago needs to be re-costed to make it viable. However, we’ll have learned much about fitting it effectively in that time.
Where do you take inspiration?
I’m into mountain biking. Every year, every manufacturer launches a new frame. They don’t create a bike and say, “that’s it, we’re finished,” they always look to push boundaries. That’s the same as my role at Twisted - to drive constant improvement.
I ride an Orbea, so I watch that brand closely, along with a company called Unite. I have Unite components on my bike - they’re always looking into new coatings for a better product, inspiring me to do the same.
3D printing and rapid prototyping are also interesting. It’s impressive what people out there are creating - working from home with a cheap printer.
The automotive industry can be inward-looking, so it’s crucial to look up and see what’s being innovated elsewhere.
Tell us about the career path that got you here.
I fell into it. I knew I didn’t want to do A-levels when I finished school. I considered Graphic Design at college but opted for Land-Based Engineering (mainly because my nanna worked at the cafe, so I got free food). I chose the course because it was more practical theory, and the free food was a bonus!
Two weeks before college ended, one of the lecturers told me about the Off-Road Vehicles course at Harper Adams University. It sounded fun. “Why not?” I thought.
I was the last accepted to the course and had to share my uni room because I was so late to join.
Many people in my course went to large companies like JLR and JCB. I just felt that wasn’t for me. I wanted to find something smaller, where I would learn quickly.
I started on placement in the Twisted workshop for a year as part of the uni course. When I graduated, I returned for three months to cover for someone and never left. I met my partner, Sara, at Twisted, and now we have two children.
How does Twisted approach R&D?
We’re working with Defender. No two came off the line the same. You’re battling that fact. I’ll draw something out to the millimetre, but it was built to the inch. It’s a flawed vehicle and that’s why people love it.
Everyone drives differently and expects something different from a Defender. It’s not a case of “that works, that doesn’t”; it’s balancing the pros and cons of each part, feel and cost.
We work in low numbers, so if we develop something better in the R&D process, we can implement it immediately. If you’re working for a large company that does all its R&D and launches 100,000 units, you can’t react. You can’t change. Twisted can. We can change it on the car there and then.
The relationship between R&D and the technicians at Twisted is fundamental. Anything I develop, they have to build so I rely on their feedback. I spent years as a technician, so I know what it takes to build, but every single technician is part of the R&D department because they live and breathe Defender. I just make their brilliant ideas a reality.
What’s the best thing about working at Twisted?
I love the varied nature of the role. It makes me proud when I see something that goes out. The TV8 is an example.
Being part of a small team is special. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work together. One of the best things about Twisted is the team.