Days When Car Dealers Were Really Motoring; OLD COVENTRY VIII

Article excerpt

AS CAR MAKERS brought out their ground-breaking models in the 1920s, motoring, which had previously been the preserve of the wealthy, was now within reach of an emerging middle-class.

Aimed at the impoverished motorcycle and sidecar owner, the Austin Seven which came out in 1922 was one of the first. With its for-cylinder 698cc engine and four-wheel brakes, it was a real car in miniature. Many other mass-produced small cars followed - the Triumph Super Seven, Morris Minor, Standards, and pounds 100 cars of the 30s.

As car ownership increased, the need to show off these new models and provide sophisticated servicing facilities was soon apparent. Like their counterparts all over Britain, businessmen in Coventry were quick to respond, building their multi-level showrooms around the city.

In the 1960s many local dealers were bought out by major national concerns like Henleys, Quicks, Bewac, Brown and White.

W BRANDISH AND SONS

BRANCHING OUT: Brandish's Light Car House, a two-storey building with an imposing front, opened in 1929

BRANDISH'S Light Car House, a two-storey building with an imposing front, opened in Whitefriar's Street on February 15, 1929. Its principal, Walter Brandish, a Coventry councillor, had grown up in the motor trade, having started as a cycle dealer on Foleshill Road in 1904.

The new showroom, managed by his elder son, Walter, was next to the firm's motor cycle premises, enabling riders the convenience of stepping next door to consider the possibility of trading up to the world of motoring in comfort. On the two floors of the showrooms a large number of light cars could be seen including Triumphs, Standards, Rileys, Austins, Singers and the Morris. Walter's younger son, a well-known stunt rider, would continue to manage the Foleshill road branch.

At the opening Councillor Brandish explained that favourable exchanges could be made to motor cyclists wishing to invest in a car. Free driving tuition would also be offered as an added incentive.

The firm became a main Vauxhall dealer in the late 30s, the business later passing into the ownership of David Brandish, grandson of the founder. In 1990 it became part of the RF Group.

QUEEN'S ROAD GARAGE

AT YOUR SERVICE: An advert for new cars and Blamire's after sales service at Queen's Road Garage

PERCY BLAMIRE'S garage and motor dealership was at the heart of the professional quarter - Queen's Road, Warwick Row and The Quadrant, and consequently many of his customers were solicitors and accountants.

Well-known for his light aircraft flying, he was a Rover dealer for 42 years. although in the early 1930s when the garage was newly-built he stocked Standard, Ford, Morris and Singer.

According to motor trader Stewart Price, who worked for him in the 1960s when luxury cars were the mainstay of business, customers poured into the showroom non-stop.

"We sold a lot of Triumph 2000s, big Fords, and of course Rovers were at premium," recalled Stewart. "Six cars on a Saturday was a fairly normal day's trading, and many of the buyers were gentlemen wearing trilby hats and string-back gloves with a brolly on the back shelf.

"One black Rover we sold to an Earlsdon gentleman, who lived with his two elderly sisters, had an automatic transmission which was entirely new to him, so Percy said, 'don't worry, I'll get my salesman to take you out'. So every Sunday for several months I was out with these old dears, lunching at Kenilworth's Queen and Castle, and taking to the lanes at a steady 30 mph. …