Anyone who has traversed the A509 trunk road between Wellingborough and Milton Keynes will surely agree that it’s a boring and busy road swamped with fun spoiling speed restrictions and traffic calming measures. When I lived in the County of spires and squires known as Northamptonshire, I used this road on thousands of occasions as my rat run when the M1 was choked up with Friday commuter traffic.
The only thing that made the journey tolerable was driving through the achingly pretty village of Olney which nestles in an isolated and unspoilt part of the Beds, Bucks and Northamptonshire triangle. Retail car dealers are almost a thing of the past with volume car manufacturers – Dealer Groups command the unit price of cars with retail dealers often having to source their new stock via the nearest main franchise.
Olney once featured two new car dealers. Soul Garages once ran a very highly regarded Rover dealership in the village opposite the market square which, against all the odds, survived the dealer cull of 1994, and survived right up to the demise of MG Rover in 2005. Director David Soul relocated the showroom to Milton Keynes taking on other franchises but kept their very busy workshop in the village – that still operates to this day with the old showroom being leased to Desmond J Smail, a renowned Aston Martin specialist.
At the other end of the High Street you would pass one of the prettiest looking garage premises imaginable – think of a small dealer circa 1975 and you would be bang on the money. Hilary Brock Limited was a tiny independent Ford dealer with premises bedecked with pretty flowers and plants featuring assistant-operated, period-style petrol pumps. It really was just travelling back in time, even a V8 Pilot slumbered in the showroom alongside the current latest Ford car.
How this family dealer prospered with colossal Ford Gin palaces in Bedford, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Wellingborough – all within a 10 mile radius – revolved around the fact they were just that, an independent dealer who excelled in customer care. Sadly, with ever-escalating costs squeezing the small dealer out of the game, they have closed their Olney showroom and workshop which first traded in the stunning Buckinghamshire hamlet way back in 1922.
Yet another victim of the changing face of the motor dealer, the Brocks punched well above their weight selling a considerable number of cars not only to local residents, but to to customers in neighbouring counties simply because of their well-known attitude towards client retention and customer care. Their pretty premises, which seemed stuck in a time warp, will be missed while the period Ford signs have already gone. The Brocks have, however, kept their private hire and taxi business.
AROnline wishes Norton and Patrick Brock all the best for future business.