This time, our Memories picture comes from the ‘coalface’ of the motor industry – the dealerships. A nice one, this is from a time long ago when business was buoyant and local businessmen were often seen as local captains of industry.
Let’s take a quick drive up the A1(M) to soak in the vibes from a local dealer during a launch weekend in 1983.
Purely on a personal level, the former Vauxhall dealership of Sherwoods in Darlington, Co. Durham is a business I hold close to my heart with many fond memories I’ll cherish for years to come. The picture above, which was taken in 1983, shows then Managing Director, Alasdair MacConachie, entertaining 1977 Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Champion Virginia Wade during an event to mark the launch of the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 Estate. Monkeying around in the shot are his sons Simon and James – the former is now the successor company’s Managing Director.
When I was just a pup, I would often visit the dealerships in the town – there were plenty of them in those days – quenching my thirst for brochure collecting. Alasdair was one of those rare kind of men who saw ambition and passion in a person and had an uncanny knack of bringing it out. Rather than shove you out of the showroom onto the footpath slightly ahead of a well-polished Oxford brogue, he was usually warm, friendly and, if not too busy, happy to spend a little while with a car-crazy schoolboy.
My work experience was done through this company some years later – I was even offered a workshop apprenticeship when I left school, but I declined and opted to move south when my late father’s work at Leyland DAF was relocated. Sherwoods became a well-respected company winning numerous awards for customer service. The premises were huge and the company’s portfolio also included being agents for Bedford trucks and main AC Delco parts distributors.
Alasdair, who was later awarded an OBE, took a well-deserved retirement a few years ago and the successor company, Sherwoods Motor Group Limited, disposed of its three long-standing Vauxhall franchises to Drive Motor Retail Limited in September 2018. The latter company still trades from the Chesnut Street site in Darlington, while Sherwoods Motor Group Limited currently operates Citroën, Isuzu, Peugeot and Suzuki franchises from locations in Durham, Gateshead and Washington.
So, tell us about the cars…
Well, car really… The Mk2 was the only Cavalier offered with the estate bodystyle. The subsequent Mk3 of 1988 was only offered in saloon or hatchback guise. The estate, albeit assembled at the Kimpton Road plant in Luton, featured a bodyshell welded and painted in Luton with body panels pressed by Holden in Australia and shipped to the UK.
If you lived in Darlington at this time and you called the local cab firm 1AB Taxis, the odds-on bet was that a Carmine Red Cavalier 1.6LD would be tooting its horn outside your front door soon after you had replaced the receiver.
- Essays : Selling the brand - 18 November 2023
- Review : Land Rover Discovery – first off the line - 15 September 2023
- Events : Leyland National 51 gathering, Whitehaven 29-30 April - 5 April 2023