From the beginning.

Lightfoot Private Collection. Photo taken near Flinders Street Station in Melbourne circa 1910 .


A light history...

Lightfoot Engineering is owned and operated by Phil DeGruchy, a qualified Fitter and Turner with Toolmaking credentials. This gave me the grounding to build, repair, restore and engineer wheels from an engineer’s point of view. Whether it’s making spokes, dimple and piercing a blank rim or assembly; strength and reliability are the key issues.

A start

I started off in 1968 at the young age of 13 building bicycle wheels which was shown to me by an Uncle who was a good instructor and mentor. I also did my secondary schooling in the old Tech School system. It bred tradesman for the future and we had a pretty good time learning how to use machines etc. During a few holiday periods I worked in a bicycle shop rebuilding wheels. This lead to repairing motorbike wheels then followed by car wire wheels. In 1973 I started an apprenticeship as a Fitter and Turner. One thing lead to another and the thought of having my own engineering business specialising in wire wheels was never far from my mind. This was helped by having done a tough apprenticeship in the 70’s with some pretty tough tradesmen and teachers. I owe a very strong respect to all these people. They taught you well.


I commenced Lightfoot Engineering in February 1981. Prior to this, I had been building and restoring wheels part time alongside my day job as a Toolmaker. During those early years the work was a combination of motorbike and car wire wheels along with machining and special parts manufacture for race cars and race bikes. Most of the 1980’s was filled with a combination of work revolving around car and motorcycle wheel rebuilding, repairing race car chassis, special parts making and jobs of special interest. Lightfoot Engineering had evolved from my own interests, I learnt a lot by instinct as I went along. This was the era of the collector who had large collections of cars and motorbikes. It was not unusual to restore an entire car/bike collection of wheels for some customers. I am now seeing the fruits of this work around the world and am pleased to have been involved.


The 1990’s was different. Australia was having “the recession it had to have”. The collectors of the 80’s slowed down on their work and I spent most of this time rebuilding Motocross and Harley Davidson wheels. That’s where the market was. Restoration appeared to be in decline. This seemed to be a period of economic rebuilding for Australia and also taught me to watch the dollars and how you spent them.


Into the 2000’s and it all changed again. Restoration picked up and most of my work was that. At one point BSA Bantams were the in-thing and I did something like a dozen sets of wheels one year! My stock levels started to rise with rims and spokes and I was becoming more specialised. Even though I dearly loved to make and repair rare parts for rare vehicles, wire wheels were the main stay of the business and really I did not mind it either.


2010 and onwards; it is still much the same but I am probably getting more fussy as the years go by. A lot of the work is hard basket plus I now do a lot of drum brake rebuilding. People want me more as a one stop shop and need the wheels ready to fit onto the bike or car. I will still undertake special jobs that interest me along with the wheels. I try to set a high standard within the industry.

It is now the middle of 2017 and I built my first wheel nearly 50 years ago. I am now heading into my 37th year of business-same address, same phone number and same person. It has been a long haul with some incredible work and some even more incredible customers. You guys have given me some pretty interesting, tough and sometimes crazy work to do. I have made some great friends who have shared their great experiences and also their woes with me. They have taken my work all over the world and I have been proud to have helped them to succeed in their endeavours. Lightfoot Engineering will be around for a long time yet and while people keep getting great ideas and want to rebuild, restore and repair wheels along with engineering, I am happy to help out and be there for the ride of our lives! Hey, what am I talking about? I don’t have customers, I have friends!

Best Regards to all, Phil.