After a started making and selling billycarts to his school friends at 10 years old – Mark left school at the age of 15 to complete a Motor Mechanic apprenticeship at Nash Holden, Lakemba. With a hunger to learn new skills, he decided to also become a Spray Painter by putting himself through TAFE. Before long, he was running the Nash Dealership Paintshop. After finishing both trades and an introduction to fabrication equipment (whilst doing up his and other’s cars), Mark decided to leave his job and set off in a new direction.
In 1983 Mark started a lawn mowing business with his brother Paul, that allowed him to spend a number of years at TAFE learning vehicle trimming, fibreglass reinforced plastics and vintage restoration. It also gave him time to hone his skills in metal shaping, from which he then completed a third trade in Panel Beating. People would ask him to make them parts for their own projects, which led to him to sell the lawn mowing business in 1988 and turn his hobby into a career!
Mark purchased some old school tools and equipment from an 85 year old tradesman and friend Jack Prigg to start his own business, “Vintage Panel Crafts”. Working on T and A Model Fords evolved into Vintage Cars, Classic Cars, Motorcycles as well as Historic Racing Cars (from Speedway to Formula 1). He worked on body panels, mudguards, radiator grills, motorcycle fuel tanks and shaping metal for anything else that he or his customers could imagine. This led to Mark finding a niche’ market in replacement parts for Pedal cars – grills, body panels and range of accessories and parts for Cyclops, Peerless and Lines Bros to name a few.
In 2001 Mark was approached by a Special Effects crew to build some aluminium & light weight steel body panels for the folding car gag on the Matrix Movies. This opened up an entirely new career path for him within the Film industry. These days he’s still working with Australian cinema vehicles and SFX, able to use his diverse knowledge in the supplying, creating and modification of film vehicles. But between films, he still consistently produces work for clients.
Driving Mark’s passion are new challenges and his love for the “old school” way of shaping metal. Mark reinvented himself under “Natoli Panel Creations” in 2011, to identify himself and his unique line of work in the industry. 2012 saw plenty of success for Mark as he headed off to South Africa (Namibia) for 6 months to finish what he started on the Mad Max 4 Fury Road Production. During his stint there, he was invited to join friend and racing car driver Scotty Taylor (owner of the Cooper Climax T45) to attend the Historic Motor Racing at Goodwood Revival and Spa in Belgium.
After heading back to Sydney, Mark became an accredited TAFE teacher and was given the opportunity to teach students about metalwork at both St George and Ultimo TAFE institutions.
In the past few years, Mark was lucky enough to travel to the USA to meet and work alongside some of his idols and car legends – Gene Winfield, Charlie Hutton, George Barris (and more), with many of them travelling to Australia to visit him in his workshop since then. The pandemic really threw a spanner in the works for travel, but gave a big boost to the Australian film industry – which got Mark back into the workshop for a few upcoming films.
The Natoli Panel Creations Instructional Video Series was originally created for Mark to teach people how to work with metal, just as he does. We’re amazed that it’s taken off and have had people contact him from all over the world. There are plans for a new video series in the future – but moving house and workshop, films and lots of other projects have come up!
From his humble beginnings, Mark looks forward to whatever challenges and projects come next for him and his business. He believes that work is all about doing what you love.