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Bell's Garage.

Interesting odds and ends can still turn up at car boot sales, as forum member Richard Hughes demonstrates by finding the following three photographs in September, 2013. Quite where they came from isn't known, nor why they were taken in the first place. When found they were still in their original frames, so perhaps they hung in the home of Frank Barber, whose car hire business the signs advertise in the first photograph.
Large lettering promotes "Frank Barber & Son Ltd - Car Hire", while below it and the "BP SERVICE" sign, the establishment's name - Bell's Garage (Kensington) Ltd, is visible. An illuminated exterior sign for the business can also be made out some way away, close to the parked Mini (it's rear end perched on a jack) and a Mk2 Jaguar. A large black wooden door, in the open position and close to both cars, points to the main workshop being located there. The photo would appear to be at least partially staged, as suspiciously tidy displays for BP and Castrol oil products stand neatly next to the wall, as does a Redex dispenser and a petrol pump used to dispense Aladdin "Pink Paraffin".
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Outside the garage and car hire business

Where is this garage?

The garage name handily confirms the general location (Kensington), but not the exact address. Searching around online didn't bring up much useful information, it was only when I dug out a copy of the 1965 RAC Handbook that the address for Bell's Garage was revealed - 4 Pennant Mews, Marloes Road, Kensington W8, London. Dashing over to Streetview confirms the location, and also reveals that much of Pennant Mews has changed since these shots were taken, presumably in the early 1970s. The full horror of the building that replaces the garage can be seen in all its "glory"...

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Gone are many of the buildings visible on the righthand side in the photo, including those previously home to Barber's car hire firm and the garage, to be replaced by what is one of the most ghastly-looking buildings (a hospital) I've ever clapped eyes on. At least the buildings to the left remain, although as the following photos will reveal, they've changed quite substantially but are at least still recognisable.

BP petrol pumps.

Visible in the first photograph is a paraffin dispensing pump. The second of Richard's images shows this corner more clearly, revealing three BP petrol pumps, each set to dispense its own spirit. On the left is BP "Super Plus", good old five-star 101 octane fuel, that so many 1970s cars were designed to run on. Alongside that is BP "Super" (99 octane) and BP "Regular". How times change - BP Super retailed for 35p per gallon, while Super Plus cost a penny more.
Opening hours were Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm (with an hour off for lunch). Saturday's times aren't clear, while anyone hoping to top up their fuel tank on Sunday, or on a Bank Holiday, were out of luck. Who the couple are isn't recorded, but chances are they are the Barbers and quite possibly these photos hung in their home at one time.
BP petrol pumps

Rover P5B Coupe outside Pennant Mews.

The last in this trio of 1970s photographs has the lady stood alongside a gleaming Rover P5B Coupe (complete with optional front seat headrests). The location remains the same, although now the row of premises opposite the garage are in shot. Frank Barber was evidently a man of property, as well as a businessman, and I did find a reference to a gent of this name being a property developer in the area during the 70s. This row of properties exists to this day, and features in the Streetview above, although the frontages that face onto the cobbled street have been re-modelled.
I wonder if Rover P5B Coupe, registration YMP 369H, survives also? Astonishingly, it appears so. A check online confirms that it was first registered in November 1969, and is currently taxed. The colour is recorded as red, but strangely the engine capacity is down as 2500cc, and the fuel type is given as "Heavy Oil". So, good news that the car survives, although instead of burbling around with a 3.5 litre V8 soundtrack, the chatter of a diesel engine (maybe ex-Ford Transit van) instead accompanies its progress. It'd be interesting to add in a photo here of the car as it is now, if anyone has one?
Rover P5B Coupe YMP 369H
Thanks once again to RH who lent me these photographs to scan and put on the site.
Return to Page 18 in the photographic archive, or visit the main index here.
Rover enthusiasts might like to note that a number of photographs featuring the earlier P5 Coupe, fitted with a straight six rather than V8 engine, may be found here.

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