Blog : Kerbcrawling in North London…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams and Mike Humble

…and this one’s a bit special

Derek Kettingham's dealership in North London is a step back into another era.
Derek Kettingham's dealership in North London is a step back into another era.

It’s the smell that hits you first when you walk through the front doors of Derek Ketteringham’s place in North London. And it’s an odour I never thought I’d smell again – the unmistakable combination of rubber, engine oil, car brochures and the slightly down at heel interior decor – that signifies you’re in a fading car showroom. But not just any showroom – this is a step back to 1981. For an eleven year old kid like I was at the time, it bore the association with new cars, excitement, and the illicit pleasure that accompanies sitting in a car you’re not going to buy. But promise yourself that one day you will. Hell, even the decor is Austin-Morris.

Enter the showroom and those memories flood back even more potently. But the year has changed, now. It’s 1991, and I’m taken back to the time I’d trawl the showrooms, idly looking at 1980s British iron, up for sale and hopefully looking for its second owner. Would I be that owner? A shake of the head and a return to reality – and it’s 30 years hence. But my surroundings are an eery freeze frame, that hardened BL enthusiasts will know all about: Derek J Ketteringham’s Rover Centre. And literally, I am in heaven.

But it’s a confused timewarp Mike Humble and I are experiencing as we enter the place. The cars shout 1990s bargain central – don’t believe me, how about a 1986 Metro City X, Vauxhall Carlton estate or Rover 3500 Vanden Plas – but the sight and smell is one of pure 1970s nostalgia. Have a look at the wall racks – they’re crammed full of brochures for the Triumph Stag, Rover SD1 and other BL products. As for the walls themselves – you’ll love the posters for the Rover SD1 and Triumph Dolomite. Already I’m pining for a lost era.

Just like going back into your old school decades after leaving it, the aroma in air takes you back to an era of when we still had a sprawling British Motor Industry. The proprietor – Derek Ketteringham, started trading in used motor cars back in 1954 and just 10 years later opened this site in Neasden, taking on a Standard-Triumph franchise.

‘I used to visit Canley,’ he remembers with a crystal clarity that belies 60 years in the motor trade. ‘The demarcation was impossible to believe, and there was an incredible number of people building the cars. But the main issues were the stoppages – because of the strikes, I just couldn’t get the cars to sell to people. One of my customers came from Belgium to buy a Spitfire – and after placing the order, and accepting the fact that if he wasn’t to wait for months for the colour he wanted, he’d get what we could get from the factory. As he was on holiday, we made a special trip to the factory, and crossed a picket line to get the car. But we got it to him. Late.’

Sitting in his office, remembering the past really animates Derek, and he’s soon talking freely about what must seem like an alien era to his younger customers. But then so would his office, which is crudely made from wood, perched at the back of the main building and stacked full of the most amazing artefacts amassed over the years. Triumph passport to service folders sit alongside Maestro handbooks and Rover 800 electric window switch packs – and his filing system, which comprises of box files and mouldering invoices smells like an old library.

‘We upset the local Triumph agents who were up against us. We bought new stock in the quiet periods, and stored the cars locally. When they couldn’t supply their customers, they’d get on the ‘phone to me asking to buy my cars to sell on. This is business, and I said no…’ He smiles at the memory – but not at the servicing situation.

‘We ended up doing so much ourselves – the local main agent would tell me it would take a week to change a clutch for a Triumph Herald! But again, there was so much demarcation. There would be a fitter to remove the carpet, another to take off the access panels, another to disconnect the electrics on overdrive cars, and another to change the clutch! My solution was to bring these jobs in house, and get my mechanics doing all the work. In the end, I even trained the cleaner to change clutches,’ he goes on.

Following the creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968, Derek J Ketteringham Motors Ltd became a retail dealer for BL cars eventually progressing into an agent for Austin-Morris and Rover-Triumph. By the aid of innovative marketing and advertising, Derek would often sell over 200 new units a year – no mean feat for what was just a retail dealer and even more impressive considering there were also another eight dealers including the once mighty Henlys all within a ten mile radius.

He recalls the launch of the Rover 3500 SD1. ‘David Wickens of British Car Auctions made it his mission to have a car for sale in one of his auction houses on launch day. And he approached me to sell my SD1. Every dealer had just one to sell, and mine was a Turmeric Yellow manual model – useless to me, as London buyers wanted automatics. So I agreed for him to sell my car. And at that July 1976 auction, the car went for over £1000 more than its £4750 launch price. Of course BL was mad as hell with me for doing it – but my argument was that it was great publicity for them. I mean, they could have said “you’re getting great value with a Rover 3500 at the price we’re selling it at”.’

That missed golden PR opportunity was indicative of the crisis the company was undergoing in the depth of the 1970s. As the years went by, the market became tougher, and in the end, after finding that he was having to pay more to buy his BL cars in at trade than the local main agent was retailing them, Derek dropped his BL retail dealership, and became an independent trader in the mid-1980s. It was the end of a 20-plus year association with the company.

But as the Rover Service Centre, Derek far from cut his ties with the Birmingham company. And today, over 20 years later, his stock is predominantly made up of Rovers.

We ask him outright: ‘do you still feel a loyalty to the company, and is that why you still have so many Rovers?’

His answer is startling, and is capable of bringing a lump to the throat. ‘No, I don’t. But I do think you’re doing a duty to Britain to buy its products.’ In this day and age, that patriotism’s almost unheard of, and pretty much floors Mike and me. He goes on, ‘I think it’s tragic that so many young people are unemployed today, and yet there’s so much work to do.’

Certainly food for thought, as we return to the showroom for a further look around. The expansive façade gives way to a compact but wide showroom which manages to seem bigger than it is by the extensive use of ceiling height mirrors – a once very common practice in the motor trade before the days of rubber plants, plush sofas and filter coffee.

The rear of the premises include a small service bay area which still sports its Leycare signs and BL special tools peg board, truly amazing stuff indeed. Sadly the Maxis, Marinas and Dolomites round the back have been replaced with more modern metal, but everywhere you look and go, everything is still in its place as if it was 30 years ago. But it’s no museum, and all of the cars – some of which would appear to be sporting price tags from the 1990s – are very much for sale. Derek is thinking of winding up the business, and is sanguine about the future, knowing that the premises will very likely be pulled down in favour of an apartments.

But Mike and I think differently. Derek may say he’s not that attached to his business and the cars within, but we know deep down, he cares very much. When we leave, somehow we’re both overwhelmed with emotion – call it a reaction to a potent reminder of our own youth, or perhaps a gnawing feeling that we’re soon to lose what must be one of the last remaining live links with our once sprawling manufacturing empire. Were there tears? What do you think?

 

N.B., All the cars are for sale, and if you’re interested, do get in touch and we’ll put you on to Derek. And that includes the Jaguar E-type.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

66 Comments

  1. What an amazing story and what an equally amazing man who puts a different perspective on today’s scoiety. I, too, feel almost emotional that this gentleman is possibly looking to retire in the near future and bring an end to this amazing garage.

    I genuinely don’t want to see the end of either Mr Ketteringham as a motor trader, his premises or the type of cars he sells. I think a trip to his premises should be the order of the day in the new year, as this will be a trip down memory lane to a dealership that will allow me to forget that most of the cars on today’s roads are driven by people who don’t give a stuff about the demise of volume car production in Great Britain.

  2. A fascinating place thanks for sharing.

    I attended the David Leffley (former BMC-Rover group dealer) dispersal auction at Holbeach on Saturday, it too was a time-warp place- but not as far- just to the late ’80’s Roverisation period.
    The signage was in Rover maroon and it was easy to imagine buying a new Metro Maestro or Montego from there.

  3. You are right Keith… it takes me back seeing those BL style showroom signs and the car name signage.

    In South Shields we had a family run BL/Rover main dealer called Streamline Garages. They sold top notch used cars alongside new Rover products and had a respected service dept. I believe they were taken over by DC Cook, then closed down in 2001 and all staff lost their jobs.

    The site has stood derelict for over a decade and the old BL signage is still visible. Sadly though the building has weeds growing out of its gutters, broken windows and the roof has partially collapsed.

    At the time I had planned to buy my first Rover there but had to look elsewhere. Everytime I walk past, I feel very sad how it’s all gone and have memories of when I was a lad gazing through the windows at new SD1’s, Acclaims, Maestro’s, Montego’s etc… Where’s the hankerchief?

  4. Amazing that it still looks like that – and that its still operating as a business. Got to be worth a visit next time I’m on the North Circular. Some nice motors too – the 400 tourer looks interesting, and why I am wanting to have a good look at that Fiat Regata?

  5. I drive past this place quite often, and I will make it my resolve to pop in soon – my fave car in the pictures? Ooooh that Fiat Regata..

  6. Lovely, but also a poignant article charting a now, sadly, lost era. I remember an ARG dealer in Worcester that my Dad bought his 2nd Ambassador from, which was very much like this – blue & green ARG corporate signage – I think it was a Mann Egerton…..there’s also still Summit Garage in Lower Gornal, near Dudley, which has stayed loyal to BL, ARG, MGR and SAIC regardless (although it also sells Perouda)……it’d be worth a feature on them – they’ve been around forever…….http://summitgarage-px.rtrk.co.uk/about.php

  7. On a slightly different tack, there’s also a derelict Vauxhall-Opel garage in Tettenhall, outside Wolverhampton, which for many years was THE Vauxhall dealer – signage is still largely intact, and the building has been empty for some time – I think lately it has been a tile showroom……

  8. What an amazing place. I must have passed it dozens of times on my way round to Casio’s HQ.

    I find myself lusting after the SD1, and the 400 Tourer.

    Incredible – he could almost charge admission.

  9. It reminds me of my teenage visits to Mann Egerton (Austin Morris) Leicester, Sturgess Garage (Jaguar, Rover Triumph) and Lathams of Leicester – Huge Austin Morris dealer from the 1960’s. Happy memories of the late 70’s. Still got most of the brochures I collected then.

  10. That is fantastic – truly time travel. It’s the sort of car dealership we all would like to own. Top article, lads!

  11. What a lovely story, it has delighted my heart its a garage that time forgot and thats said with the utmost respect!

  12. £2495 for a Regatta! That makes the SD1 a bargain, really at £3300… Rare sight this Audi 90 now.
    I’ve kept the Rover “Kingsbury of London” Leather keyring from my first ever Cabrio! It was a 1996 model.
    Ahhh………..

  13. This reminds me of Cumbrian dealerships, now long gone, like TBH Motors and Mungo Graham with all the blue signage.

  14. Wow! I can remember going past this place on the North Circular back in my repping days, 10 years ago and thinking how amazing it was to see an intact 80’s BL/Rover facia still on a Garage and the old stock. At first it looked closed up as the place was a tad grimy but sure enough stock was for sale. Glad to see its still there.

  15. Glenn Aylett, comment 15

    Bloody hell, Mungo Graham!! Can’t remember when I last heard that name! How about J.V. Ellwood & Son and, I think, Wilde. Both dealerships were in the town of Cockermouth.
    J.V. Ellwood & Son survived after Wilde. I used to be a petrol pump attendant for the young Dennis Ellwood and spent many a happy time here viewing Itals, Metros etc

  16. Wonderful! You’re right, he could almost charge admission.

    I’ve seen something similar in Northern Ireland earlier this year – north of Cookstown but can’t remember exactly where. All authentic BL roundel signage etc – but sadly didn’t get a look at what stock was inside!

    Another garage that’s well worth a visit is Mathewson’s in Malton, North Yorks – not pure BL/ ARG but the whole works!

  17. What a wonderful story. Reminds me of the now closed Collier Jaguar in Orlando. In the mid 1980s, after BL had packed up in the U.S. and all that remained were a few hundred Jaguar dealerships, Collier refused to abandon its loyal customers who bought MG, Triumph, Rover, Austin and Land Rover from him since the early 1960s. I used to love to go back into the service department. You would see TR8s and federal SD1s, MGs and classic Jags. The parts department was wonderful. You could order anything. BL was legally bound to support the cars through the warranty period and then up to 10 years with spares. But most dealers dropped the franchise and dumped their parts and tools. Collier’s parts department employees knew TR6s as well as any current product, and were happy to order the smallest grommet for you. So, it wasn’t just in the U.K. where at least some people really cared about the people and products in the BL world. It is such an incredible waste that it all went down the drain.

  18. Wow what a wonderful place, It reminds me of being a small child and going to Rover dealers in the 80s with my parents. One in particular looked like that with the same style of signage/ interior it had a love Spitfire and E-type in it. Sadly closed now … its an Aldi :/

  19. That is pure automotive filth Mr Adams. Have you stopped dribbling yet? That place is just so full of win in epic proportions.

  20. I know I’ve driven past that in London and almost crashed doing a double take. I thought I’d imagined it but here it is in all it;s glory! Fascinating, I might just take myself along. Such a shame he’s thinking of giving it up. Can we not stir a bit of interest by circulating this round as many car clubs as we can and perhaps Keith might like to get in touch with his friends at some of the mags? CCW and Practical Classics etc?

  21. I’d have the SD1 as my first choice, then the Mk1 Rover 800s to tuck away and wait till they’re all gone, then the 400 Tourer as an impulse buy. Perhaps a cheeky Metro for the weekend shopping too. Fantastic garage and a great write-up. It’s exactly these kinds of articles that make this site brilliant.

  22. Another timewarp former AR garage still with original signage – Aston Garage on the A34 just south of Stone (Aston-by Stone), Staffs. Have a look on Google Streetview.

  23. This is a fantastic article, thank you for sharing it. I remeber as child the Douglas Garage on Sheep Street in Northampton selling my Grandad two Rover SD1 3500’s in succession (the first one a white manual, reg SRP 108R, the second a brown auto cannot remember the reg) and then a black (premium special edition) Triumph TR7 reg JVC ???V! The TR7 didnt stay with him long but it inspired me to buy one when I was 21.

  24. @ MG Midget

    Oddly enough, I was only just talking about the Douglas Garage with Derek on Saturday. They are still in business albeit involved with classic car and restoration in premises in Grafton Street.

    Bill Douglas is still kicking about!

  25. I have passed this place so many times on the North Circ (often on my way to Ikea round the corner) when I lived in London and it always made me smile.

    This is the sort of business MG cars should be considering as a dealer – you can cut the enthusiasm with a knife!

  26. Interesting feature, talk about time warp with all those nice range of cars some classics too. Well done to you both, Regards Mark

  27. that SD1 has a registration mark that could easily have been a ‘works’ car. wondered if it was. Interesting how many people liked the tourer, that was my first pick too! Praps china should start making them again!
    lovely article chaps….what does he need to keep the place going…because it shouldn’t be allowed to fade away.

  28. @ Mike 31.
    Wow! I was going to mention Bill as it was him who used to deal with my Granddad, but I did not know if it was appropriate. Bill ‘fell out’ (in a nice way) with my granddad when he moved over to Audi and bought a 100, which was followed by a string of Hondas. As I moved away from Northampton to Yorkshire many years ago, I looked on Google street view to see what had become of the Douglas Garage but do not recognise Sheep Street at all now, let alone where the garage was. I do remember it as an ‘old school’ type garage – completely unlike Bill Douglas’s more modern and larger BL rivals in Northampton – Henley’s and Wadham Stringer (three dealers in one town – classic BL).

  29. @MG Midget

    You forgot about Fred Tompkin on Billing Rd who was also BL before becoming Peugeot.

    Wadham Stringer became Wadham Kenning Peugeot. Their Jaguar showrooms became H A Fox Saab with Jag next door in a much smaller showroom prior to Monarch taking over the franchise.

    Those massive showrooms have long since been demolished now.

  30. @ Mike 37
    Tomkins garage was always a Peugeot Dealer in my time (I was born in 1973) My Mum bought a blue Renault 4 from him, I remember it as a white building. The Renault kept going wrong and the courtsey car Fred kept lending my Mum was a beige Mini Clubman. As I got older I went to Weston Favell Upper School and used to walk past Wadham Stringer. I do vaugley remember them moving to Saab – was there also a Nissan dealer on the same site or did I dream that? The other dealers of note for me were the Alfa Romeo dealer on St Michaels Road, CarNation Skoda in town, Alexanders by the WestonFavell Centre (a good source of brochures (and a bike ride to the other side of town to Airflow). Going to spend rest of lunchtime looking at Street View to see whats there now. Thanks for some great memories!

  31. WOH! I worked not even 15 minutes from this place, and have driven past it loads of time heading over tot the M1…

    I never knew, and now I live in Nottingham… Bum.

  32. Roadworthy (Skoda) in Bristol

    Family owned up until Skoda got to big for it’s boots and did a Rover / Mercedes on them.

  33. @ Mike 41.
    I remember going to Airflow Streamlines in 1982 when the Sierra was launched, and seeing them all stockpiled along the in that big yard on the left side of the site coated in their delivery wax. My Granddad was an insurance assesor in Northampton and I used to go around the garages and body shops of Northampton with him during my school holidays looking at accident damaged cars. Other notable lauches were the Triumph Acclaim, the first 200 series Rover (which was at Henleys, under cover at the time – we were given a sneak pre launch preview), and going to Moto Baldet and being fascinated by the plastic on the new BX. By far my favourite was the Westbridge scrap yard. As a child it seemed like acres of car heaven (actually literally as most of them were dead). I had a happy childhood.

  34. I used to work in a former Austin/BMC/Austin Rover garage in North Berwick, it closed in October 1982, it lay empty for about 10 years, then it was demolished in May 1992, it’s a real shame some of these old garages cannot be preserved…..I hope that dealership can be preserved for future generations to see what we used to have.

  35. Who’s up for a “Save Kettingham’s Garage” collection fund :D?…and I’m sorely temped by that silver 800!

  36. Who’s up for a “Save Kettingham’s Garage” collection fund ?…and I’m sorely temped by that silver 800!

    + 1,

    Beamish open air Museum in Co Durham has a well preserved 1910 ish Garage moved brick by brick from Carlisle, The Main Man responsible for setting up the Museum was considered quite Mad by some for wanting to preserve the past, “As He once said once its gone…. its lost forever”.

    I think Beamish is now one of the busiest Museums in Blighty! Wonder if Gaydon or another Museum would be interested in trying to house or move it? As lets face it the land it sits if sold could prossably pay for its new location, a shame to move it on and lose its character but this is modern Britain.

    Or shall we all raid the back of the sofa and keep it for ourselves….?

    p.s. Love the Rover 800s.

  37. Maybe the raiding the sofa idea is best! I think many non-petrol heads just wouldn’t get it! But in a few years time…you never know 😀 Maybe we should really get the fund off of the ground at AROnline! (we’re have the 800, the museum can have the rest!)

  38. dontbuybluemotion: My response last night was rushed and I was half asleep, but I spent much of the night dreaming about saving Kettingham’s garage! I think I have heard of Beamish, and that was the idea of one nutty bloke, and here we have a whole band of them ;-)! I can imagine Gaydon or even Beuliue (excuse the spelling) being interested in it. Even if the whole thing couldn’t be moved brick by brick then what if everything, and I mean everything was stripped from the building when Mr Kettingham decided to call it a day? One of the Motor museum’s could probably build and exhibition around it. Plus, doing it like that probably wouldn’t cost the earth. It’s not so much the building itself, more the artefacts inside that matter (and I don’t just mean that rather lovely 800!). Otherwise what will happen to the posters? The light up signs in the windows? Those wonderful doors with “Showroom” written on them taken straight from Minder? Left to rot in a pile of rubble? No way! Maybe we should take this up with Keith.

  39. Hi Mr 75 Nut !

    Cant believe you have not heard of Beamish but check this out ! http://www.beamish.org.uk/ Mr Beamish was considered quite Barking back in the 1960s Especially when the North East was still a heavy Industry which changed very little from the Big Industrial Revolution, But a visionary He was as Victorian Buildings/Machinery most of which were designed and built here started to disappear, Today if it wasn’t for this Gentleman and His loyal followers there wouldnt be any reminders of our industrial past! Quite shameful really as Durham Council has tried very hard to destroy any memory of the Once Great Durham Coal field (Biggest in the world at one time). But thats progress as they say.

    I really hope this site is saved and preserved, this was a fabulous nostalgic journey down memory lane! I recall working at a Rover franchise which had just changed over to the new found “Rover” So all the Austin-Rover signs and badges were thrown in the skip to be replaced by new Beigh and Burgundy signs, they had loads of the old grey overalls which I wanted to keep a pair but was told they had to be left for some reason?

    Dutton Forshaw (or Forskins as we called it) in Sunderland was very similar to this, It was I think the major BL/Rover stockist for the area as we had to purchase all stock from them inc ordering new cars!, It suddenly closed then was left abandoned with all the old bits left hanging, then became a retail park.

    But I somehow still want Mr Kettingham or his relatives to keep trading, He has some wonderful relics in there.

  40. And hello Dontbuybluemotion! I’m defo going to check out that link when I have more time later today, and possibly pay a visit to Beamish in the new year!

    And it’s such a shame when wonderful old places like the one in Sunderland are left and then bulldozed, taking all the relics with them.
    It’s funny you should mention the beige and brown Rover branding. I remember some time ago, not that long after the demise MGR going to a garage that had become a Chrysler Jeep franchise. Evidently to garage used to be a Rover one, as they were still a few old style Rover bits and bobs hanging around amongst the horrible Chryslers and other American tack. I remember wondering what would happen to them…I think we know.

    Yes it would be wonderful if Mr Kettingham could carry on trading in one way or another, because there’s fewer and fewer links to the BL days around now, and I admire his patriotism which is so rare today…but one way or another, nothing must ever happen to those BL relics!

  41. @ Frankie 75 nut and dontbuybluemotion
    What a great idea – an AROnline living museum, where the trading (and salting away of special examples turning hem into exhibits) of past heros from Longbridge, Cowley, Abingdon et al funds a real time museum of our memories. I wish this could become a reality one day…

  42. @ MG Midget. Nothing that isn’t possible with a bit of enthusiasm and can do attitude! I’m sure you’d find many, many, willing volunteers!
    And for me they’re sadly not memories-I’m too young to have lived through the BL or ARG era, which is why it’s important to have sites like this, I’ve learned so much about the British Car Industry through AROnline! And that’s why these things ought to be preserved. Without passionate people who really care about these things, any sense at all of our car building past will be lost forever. Or taught by Top Gear and Mr Clarkson…

  43. It’s really amazing this place is still going. From those pictures it looks like if you visited it would be like stepping into a time warp back to 1985. I wonder if he’ll move that Red SD1 for 3,500?

  44. @Will M
    I remember that dealer in whiteabbey. I grew up in Jordanstown and my father bought a couple of cars from him. He was always a dealeer for austin even back in the 60’s. Glad to see his dealership survived past the close of Rover.

  45. i would love a weekend job in there!! stumbled on it years ago! grabbed a load of brochures out of there!! mr ketteringham seemed to be a nice man very old school!! recently spent ages there after classic car night at the ace cafe just droopling over some of the cars there!!

  46. This genuinely brings a tear to my eye. more erosion of what once made britain great. My neighbour says I was born 50 years too late. Sad bit is, he’s right

  47. Just came across this blog and although very late to the party, I thought I’d help fill the missing gaps regarding the destiny of the Northampton dealers mentioned in the comments section.

    The Douglas Garage was a beautiful art deco building constructed in 1937. Despite the small frontage, it had acres of storage space out back. The business changed hands and became Swan Motors, which was a used car dealer by the late 1980s. Unfortunately permission was granted to demolish the lovely building in 2004 and it was replaced with a series of smart townhouses with underground parking which the developers named “The Viewpoint”. Before (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/researchframeworks/eastmidlands/wiki/Modern) and after (https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.2402148,-0.8980287,3a,75y,58.9h,93.22t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1siCBgUO9L7J0xVVpvGUibCA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656)

    Airflow Streamlines Hopping Hill is still standing but as of 2014 was no longer a Ford main dealer. The business is now known as Allen Ford. They dumped their Renault franchise at Riverside and moved Ford in quick because Vauxhall was building a site there. The showroom was up to Ford standard but it wasn’t pretty out back. The parts department ceiling was about 7 foot tall, it felt really claustrophobic in there. I remember the surveyors were measuring up for housing in 2012 so it’s due to go at some point. I suspect it’s still standing as there are land contamination issues, common for old garage sites.

    The site that used to occupy Henleys Rover from the 80s, 90s and some of the millennium is now Northampton Audi. Their state of the art showroom and workshops are pretty much in the same place. The Phoenix Rover site (it sold Mazdas in the mid 90s) opposite the cricket ground was knocked down soon after Rover’s demise and replaced with a big BP/M&S petrol station.

    The Wadham Stringer buildings along Wellingborough Road held many franchises over the years, in the 90s & 00s it mainly dealt with Saab & Citroen. The site eventually became property of Evans Halshaw who closed it in 2007 and sold it for redevelopment. The site is home to an Aldi supermarket and a nursing home.

    Alexander’s Ford is no more, an American team bought it in the mid 90s and within 2-3 years it was in administration. It sat unloved for about 5 or 6 years before being redeveloped. The showroom and forecourt area have been replaced by a Lidl supermarket and the workshop area has been replaced by a row of retail buildings which house the likes of Dominos Pizza, Barnados Charity Shop, all you can eat buffet, etc.

    Amazingly the Lancaster Jaguar dealership on Abington Square which once featured on “Keeping Up Appearances” (they “stole” a Rolls Royce from it!) is still trading as a Jaguar dealer today! It was sold to the Synter Group and is now part of the Guy Salmon division.

    Most of the dealerships and showrooms that were built along the Bedford Road in the 80s still exist, the massive Mercedes dealership was exited in 2004 and sat unloved for over 10 years. Thankfully Imperial Car Supermarket bought it and refurbished the original building. Top work! Bells Volvo still exists, although the showroom has been revamped a few times over the years. The Wadham Kenning Renault dealer on the corner of Bedford Road & Cliftonville was bought by Wollaston Motors in the late 90s and has been redeveloped into a massive BMW/Mini empire. The petrol station went about 10 years ago. Wollaston’s former site opposite Tony Brooks existed until 2014 when the council CPO’d the buildings, gas towers and houses around that area for a “riverside development”. It doesn’t exist yet! Tony Brooks still stands on the side of St Peter’s Way roundabout.

    Oh and finally, W Grose is no more, the family sold the business to Vertu Motors (aka Bristol Street) and they built a new site in Riverside, as mentioned earlier. The Queens Park Parade site was demolished and you can guess what they built on top of it. Yes, and Aldi..

    Whoever mentioned the Westbridge scrapyard, that’s my first scrapyard memory! My dad took me there in ’92 I think, to get some rear seat belts for his ’87 Metro. We ripped them out the back of an Allegro, I would’ve been 7 or 8. The scrapyard disappeared before I got my licence but the whole depot is now subject to a controversial power station planning application! Lets see what happens…

  48. It’s a shame to see so many of these old style dealerships go, mostly due to the rise of corporate dealers like Arnold Clark and manufacturers demanding huge plate glass showrooms that are too expensive for many smaller dealerships to build. Not far from where I work, and a victim of the Renault downsizing in 2010 that saw the company ditch most of its smaller dealerships, was a small showroom and wokshops that were built in the seventies and were close to bursting with new and used cars. It was a shame Graham and Bowness lost their franchise, and Renault owners had a 60 mile round trip to have their cars serviced, as they had built up a large following in Workington, but Renault decided to consolidate their business in a bigger dealership in Carlisle.

    • Benfield, now Lookers, who are based close to the M6. It’s likely as well that Renault needed the space to launch Dacia as their budget brand, and Graham and Bowness’s 40 year old showroom didn’t have the space. However, local Renault owners were annoyed that they had to take their cars to Carlisle to be serviced, and newer Renaults seem less common locally.

  49. It’s interesting locally how many of the old school dealerships and showrooms have gone since the nineties. After Rover reduced its three local franchises to one in the mid nineties, its sole representative was J Edgar and Son, who had started as a Morris dealer in 1922 and were still operating from the same site, which had a filling station in front of the showroom and the original workshops at the back.
    Due to a lack of money in fuel sales and a trend away from car dealerships selling petrol, the filling station closed in 2001 and the showroom was expanded to take on a Hyundai franchise in 2003 with Hyundai corporate signage appearing alongside the octagon and longship. Then in 2006, a reorganisation at Edgars saw the Hyundai franchise moved to a new site and a Nissan franchise taken on to replace Rover. In recent years the whole site has been rebuilt to Nissan corporate standards, with a new silver coloured showroom and workshops rebuilt in the Nissan corporate style.
    Luckily, the Edgars story has had a happy ending due to a good reputation and being able to move on when Rover started to fade away, and the company hasn’t been replacedby Arnold Shark selling Nissans and Hyundais from a huge showroom miles away. Sadly, the other two dealers have long gone, Mungo Graham of Workington became a car wash and Studholme and Dickson of Whitehaven is now housing.

  50. It’s sad to see many of the seventies franchises like Appleyard, who were mostly British Leyland, SMT, Kennings and Henlys go. I know Kennings were bought out by Arnold Clark, but I’m wondering what happened to the other three groups.

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