A tiny village in the middle of the Fens might not seem the obvious place to find a thriving car dealership, but for the last 90 years the Brand family have been busily selling, servicing and maintaining huge numbers of cars from the local area, with a business built-up through trust, word of mouth and an incredible reputation for customer service.
The dealership celebrates its 90th anniversary this year in style, having become the country’s best performing MG retailer – but then it has a long relationship with the MG and Rover brands. AROnline’s Editor, Craig Cheetham, paid them a visit to delve through the family’s photo archive…
Established in 1925 by William Horace Brand, an orphan who came to live in Lincolnshire thanks to his adoptive family, the business began life as a bicycle repair workshop in the village of Whaplode Drove, hidden away in the flatlands between Peterborough, Spalding and Wisbech. William began selling petrol as well as repairing bicycles and, by 1936, had earned enough money to expand onto a three-acre site, which became the land on which the current W.H. Brand dealership is still based.
The site is currently managed by Martyn and Adam Brand, grandson and great-grandson of the dealership’s founder. Martyn’s father, Fred, was the one who took the decision to start selling cars in 1956, and from there a long and largely fruitful relationship with BMC/BL/Austin-Rover/Rover Group/MG Rover was formed.
Brand’s continued to sell MGs and Rovers right up until the company’s demise in 2005, which Sales Manager Adam Brand recalls as a chaotic and expensive time for the family run business.
“We were due to host a family weekend and had special guests and catering booked and a list of customers we’d already invited,” he recalls. “But that week, MG Rover went under and we had to quickly call the whole thing off – the last thing we wanted was a dealership full of customers with questions we simply didn’t have the answers for.”
Luckily, the vast majority of W.H. Brand’s customers remained loyal, and the company went on to spend the next 10 years as a Chevrolet dealer. There’s a certain irony, then, in the fact that Chevrolet’s withdrawal from the European market once again saw the Brands without a brand. The family wasted no time courting a new franchise and there’s an element of things going full circle as the building is once again adorned with MG logos and flags.
Some customers may not even realise that the brand has been away, such is the spectrum of customers that use the dealership – Adam is aware of several older Rovers and MGs in the local area that are not only still on the road with relatively low mileages, but are still brought back to the dealership for regular servicing and MoTs.
“We’re a family business,” said Adam. “And with that comes a need to look after your customers and treat them properly – something that William Horace Brand did and has been passed on through each generation.”
Many thanks to Adam Brand for his help with this article – to find out more about W.H. Brand or the current MG range, please visit their own site, here.
More photos follow: