It’s not all about the cars on AROnline, you know. An awful lot goes on behind the scenes keeping our cacophony of clunkers shipshape for your reading delectation.
Words and photography: Mike Humble
Mark Taylor – without him running our project cars wouldn’t be quite so easy. It’s also a
family affair with his two sons Alex and James working for the business full time
Mark who? I can hear you mutter. Well, in terms of AROnline, he’s a very important bloke in every sense. You see, when it comes to aftermarket supplies, Mark has a massive amount of past exposure to most things BMC>MG and, quite simply, without him many of our Project Cars wouldn’t run as smoothly – or possibly even at all. This is by no means any kind of blatant advert for him – just our homage and thanks for all he has and continues to do for the site and its mixed bag of Project Cars past and present.
Mark owns and runs Express Car Parts in leafy Sussex and, if you’ve ever wondered about where the MLS head sets for the K-Series come from, or the recent gaskets, seals and fuel pump for our Project Montego, the consumable parts for that bloody awful gold Maestro or those various odds and ends for Keith’s old 3500, then now you know. Thanks to Mark’s knowledge of who still makes what or who still stocks it, my spannering time on the aforementioned motors and many others is made that little bit easier.
Anyway, as alluded to at the top of this page, his background is steeped in BMC>MG. Having started out working for companies including Berite and Walter Moss, both associated companies of the Unipart Group, Mark became a Regional Business Development Manager with Unipart. He got his first taste of going it alone when he was given the opportunity of setting up and running an Express Factors franchise. This operation was usually exclusive to main Rover distributors or dealerships and a great deal of complaining came from Caffyns PLC who once upon a time had the Rover franchise pretty much sewn up in Kent and Sussex.
There is more than 13,000sq ft of stock between his two branches and there’s not much he can’t source if it’s still out there
After some reorganisation within Unipart, Mark took over the original 3000 square foot operation in Haywards Heath and renamed the business Express Car Parts thus becoming an all-makes factor with no real allegiance to one particular brand or car make. Seven years ago saw the Horsham branch open with over 10,000 square feet of space right opposite a well-established motor factor rival – so close to each other that you could literally have a conversation from each other’s doorway.
Despite Horsham being a seemingly quaint, leafy and quiet little place to live, Gatwick and Crawley are within a short drive so local competition is fierce from the big boys like Andrew Page and Euro Car Parts as well as a large, but local alliance group of independent factors in all of the regional towns down this way.
However, what makes Mark and his team special in my mind is the service you get. Many of you will know I’m a bit OCD and vociferous when it comes to dealing and how people should be treated – I know I can possibly get a better price sometimes but I will always support the smaller traders and the atmosphere at the counter is a bit like what you would find in a barber’s shop or a pub.
You don’t get a good conversation in the nationwide motor factor branches and most of the time the person on the counter has little knowledge of what they are actually selling – if the computer says no, the answer is no – but, if Mark’s computer says no, he’ll certainly know a man who can.
Mark peers under the bonnet of the Project Montego and particularly likes this one. He’s
shown a lot of interest in the car from day one. His company supplied all the recent oil seals,
gaskets, battery, fuel pump and consumables along with £1000s of components for most
of our previous project vehicles, too
Mark certainly seems to have taken healthy interest in the Montego. When he first saw the car amongst the list of items mentioned to be fettled was the battery. Someone had tried to prise the tops off with a screwdriver in order to check the water levels – never a brilliant idea with a sealed for life item. I mentioned how cool it would have looked with an original looking battery and, within 24 hours, he’d ordered up a Lucas branded 065 and ‘phoned me to say that, if I didn’t want it, he would just send it back. Well, it’s now fitted and looks absolutely period under the bonnet of the Project Montego – even if I did have to carefully pick off the branding labels and place them on the other side of the battery casing.
Another point which may be of interest is that, when he cleared out a friend’s warehouse up the road in London a little while ago, Mark found three pallets worth of retro spares for 1970s and ’80s vehicles. A great deal of those just happen to be BMC>MG-related but there are far too many items to go into any specific detail on here. Most of them have now been manifested onto his computer system so it may be worth a giving him a shout – I have previously spotted Metro and Rover 800 radiators within his booty of obsolete stock.
Here is a run down of the AROnline Project Cars past and present which Mark has helped keep on the road to date:
- Montego 1.6LX
- Rover 3500 SD1
- Rover 25 1.4 Impression S
- Rover 214 16v Si
- Rover 214 16v GSi
- Rover 420iL
- Rover 75 1.8 Club SE
- Rover 75 1.8 Connoisseur
- Rover 800 Vitesse Coupe
- Saab 9-3 2.0t Ecopower SE
- Vauxhall Cavalier 1.8i LS
- Citroen Xantia LX 1.9 TD
- Renault 18TS
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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