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Homepage. This page: Photographs featuring post-war British car garages, including the workshops and showroom.
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Aston's Garages.

David Aston has been researching the history of his family's motor businesses for quite some time. It's proven to be quite a project as not only did Aston's run coaches, they also had a number of garage/dealership/workshop businesses too. On this page various photographs of the garages and dealer showrooms will feature, located at three addresses in Coventry. My thanks to the Aston family for ok'ing their inclusion on the site.

New & used car sales at Far Gosford Street.

Late 1940s.

First of the family's photographs is of the Far Gosford Street garage in Coventry, probably in the late 1940s. At this time it was a general used car sales outlet, although the handwritten notes on the picture point to changes that were afoot. While it would become an Austin dealership, for now anything went, and a mixed bag of cars are in evidence. Parked outside for instance is a Hillman Minx, plus a car not all that common in Britain, a (RHD) Opel Olympia. This style of Hillman was produced either side of WW2, with just a few cosmetic differences. This is a late pre-war example, and its registration - which appears to be DWK 22 - points to it going on the road in 1938.
Of the cars parked inside the showroom, most straightforward to identify is Ford E93A Prefect registration GHP 890, a Coventry series first introduced in May 1947, thus confirming the post-war date of this photograph. Quite what the tourer is in the righthand showroom window I'm not sure, echoes of Healey but I don't think that's what it is. Interestingly, in the early 1950s Aston's was a franchised distributor for the Paramount Roadster and Drophead Coupe - a photograph of a Roadster outside their showroom can be seen here. Note the jazzy deco-era window designs, and the RAC Agency sign hanging outside.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Aston's Garage in the late 1940s

Development into an Austin garage.

Following the re-furbishment, and switch to becoming an official Austin car dealership, the Far Gosford Street garage looks noticeably more modern. Much of the 1930s-style window furniture has disappeared, and large signage encouraging passers-by to "BUY AUSTIN" has replaced the used car signs. A new brick structure has appeared on the roof, to the left, while a window to the right suggests that Aston's were now making use of the large space up in the roof area.
As expected, the cars on display are of Longbridge origin. There's an Austin 8 or 10 to the left (reg. HOC 169), and an A55-style panel van with a Westminster alongside it. A shiny new two-door A35, part hidden by a sign in the window ("A NEW AUSTIN FOR EASTER") is to the right. Look more closely and one or two non-Austin cars can be seen hidden behind those in the window. There's a Ford E493A Prefect behind the A95, while lurking in the shadows behind it is a split-screen Morris Minor. The front of something else can just be made out too, behind the van. Given the reference to Easter, are those tulips "planted" around the A35, and daffodils bunched together on its roof rack?
There's a clue as to the date of this photograph, thanks to the poster outside the picture house next door. A poster promoting "Don Camillo's Last Round" is displayed. The film was released in 1955.
1950s Austin garage
The building exists to this day, although you'd be hard pushed to recognise it as a former garage without prior knowledge, although the profile of the building, and the main roof with its chimneys, remains virtually un-changed.

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The Lower Ford Street garage.

Included in the Aston family's collection of photographs are some fascinating images of the Lower Ford Street business, as it evolved from being a workshop into a showroom for both cars and motorcycles.

Busy workshop in the 1940s.

The first of these is my favourite of the lot, as it shows a motley assortment of pre-war vehicles being repaired. Nearest the camera is an oddball machine, with an offset cranking handle which suggests a semi- forward control van or pickup truck, with its engine offset to the passenger side. John H has been in touch, advising that the van is a Morris:
"It is a Morris Series II 8/10cwt van of 1935-40, probably the prettiest van of the period (and that from an Austin man!). Semi-forward control, it had a 1547cc engine -- and the rear track was 4 inches wider than the front -- which must have helped with its load capacity. It was replaced by the Series Y 10 cwt van in 1940".
Thanks for the info John.
Next along is a vehicle that's had its front end panels, and engine, removed - possibly the unit that can be seen hanging from the engine hoist further down the workshop. This vehicle, EHP 182, dates to 1939, and is an example of Bedford JC or PC van. It sports a "C" (commercial user's) licence in its screen.
Next along are a couple of late-1930s Morris saloons, while further along an unidentified car is receiving the attentions of three gents. Furthest away is CBY 747, a Series 1 Morris 8.
On the raised area behind the stored vehicles are various oil cans, tyres, and random spare parts. Visible on the furthermost window upstairs, facing outwards, is a legend promoting Scott motorcycles.
Inside the workshop

Another look within the Lower Ford Street garage. (Added 29/10/13)

Added is another great shot, taken inside the garage on Lower Ford Street. Cars, motorcyles, and parts for both can be seen dotted about the area. The small tourer facing away from the camera, to the left, is a Morris 8. If the "easiclean" wheel leaning against the far door is from it, then the car is a Series 2 tourer as the Series 1 has spoked wheels. Note the split rear window set into the hood, is this how the cars were equipped originally, or has this car had its hood altered? The part-dismantled car in the foreground has caused a bit of head-scratching on the forum. The latest theory is that it's likely to be a Rover, and looking around online the 14hp (P1) Sports saloon looks like a good match to me (a period photo of just such a vehicle may be found here). If anyone recognises the other cars in view, please let me know.
Cars being worked on at Lower Ford St garage

Transformed into a showroom.

Much cleaned up, and with new flooring and re-painted walls, the interior of the building has changed a great deal, although the basic form remains the same. Motorcycles now occupy the upper mezzanine, while the area below it has been opened up and now houses an assortment of secondhand cars, with examples of pre-war Austin (FK 7813), Vauxhall (DBU 403), Ford and Standard (FA 8336) present. Glistening, displayed on a single-post car lift, is JVC 538, a circa 1950 radio-equipped Vauxhall L-Type. Note the new jazzy paint scheme applied to the lower walls, and the re-covered flooring. The steel sectional roof structure can clearly be seen, as can the wooden boards that form the inside of the roof.
Car showroom circa 1950
The next shot shows the same area, but looking from the opposite end of the building. The space is only occupied by motorcycles, and there is certainly a wide variety of makes and models in evidence. I was intrigued by the bike second along on the left, with the enclosed front wheel. "RotaryBri" on the forum has identified it as a Bond Minibyke, early models had a 98cc Villiers engine, later replaced by a 125cc JAP engine when the plans had been sold to a John Ellis, and production resumed in Leeds. A selection of mainly motorcycle-related goodies have been posed for the photograph on top of the Tecalemit car lift. A couple of Corgi bikes can be seen parked at the back.
The method of raising the bikes to go on display in the mezzanine area is revealed. A Triumph can be seen attached to a chain hoist, and is in the process of being raised or lowered.
Motorcycles on display at Aston's

Spon End, Coventry.

Aston's Repair Factory.

The following shot captures the exterior of the family's Repair Factory, at Spon End in Coventry. To the left is parked an interesting small van based on mid-1930s Standard Nine running gear. Unusually it sports the saloon's front (spoked) wheels, and much heavier pressed steel wheels at the rear. In 1931 Standard introduced both van and pickup versions of the Little Nine (followed later by a 12cwt version called the Atlas), so perhaps it is just such a vehicle?
In the window, above the parked motorcycle, is a poster promoting motorcycle road racing at Ansty Aerodrome Circuit. Flight training took place at RAF Ansty during WW2, and it seems on at least one occasion in the late 1940s, bike racing also took place there. I've found reference to a meeting held on 23rd October 1948, which may be the event that this poster relates to. Just to complicate matters, the Duple-Bedford coach just visible on the right is registered JKV 595, from a series that only came into being in June 1950, so either the poster relates to a meeting later than 1948, or else had been on display for a couple of years by the time of this photo.
Standard 9 van outside the repair shop

Inside the repair shop at Spon End. (Added 29/10/13)

Since publishing this page, a couple more fascinating photos have come to light and have been sent over by the Aston family. The first is a fantastic peek inside the Spon End facility, with a variety of once-common cars in for repair. Nearest the camera are two Standards. The car on the left is registered FNB 4, confirming that it started its motoring career in December 1938, around the streets of Manchester. Its proportions are skewed slightly in the photo I think, most likely it is a Flying 12 or 14. GDH 276, first registered in Walsall also in late 1938, looks like a Flying 8. Up on a hydraulic trolley jack, the Standard's nearside front wheel has been removed and is shown leaning against the garage wall nearby.
Cars from rivals to the Standard Motor Company are lined up neatly a little further away. From the left, they are an Austin 7 Ruby (minus bonnet) reg. HV ????, ENB 842 which is a Series 3 Morris 12/4 raised up on tall stands, and 1938 Ford 7Y 8hp registration DWK 355. Alongside the Ford is ALH 670, a 1933 (London-registered) Wolseley 8 saloon, seen here rubbing door handles with FAC 87, a Morris 8 Series E - fitted with a sizeable spotlamp ahead of its grille. Its older relation, a Morris 8, can be seen raised up on a car lift over to the right. What the other cars are I'm not sure. Another fantastic photograph of a 1940s-era garage.
Inside the car repair shop at Spon End in Coventry

Another workshop view. (Added 12/02/2014)

Next, a fine posed shot taken inside Aston's workshop, probably in the late 1940s. Three pre-war cars are in view, does anyone recognise the makes and models? Car registration CEH 860 originally hailed from the Stoke-on-Trent area, and is being readied to have its offside rear wing replaced. The car furthest away is having its paintwork attended to. Co-owner Bill Aston is stood to the right (in the tie), while Ted Aston and one of the mechanics inspects a car's road wheel.
Workshop scene, late 1940s

"Austin Corner".

Next, a fab picture of Austin Corner, also located at Spon End. As with the garage at Far Gosford Street, this too was a purely Austin establishment. A fine selection of classic Austins are in view. Peeking out of the furthermost doorway is an un-registered A40 Somerset, and A30 saloon registration OWK 768. In the nearer showroom is an A70 Hereford (NKO 922), an A90 Atlantic, and an A40 Countryman or van (both had the air vent in the roof, which is just visible in this photo). Outside are two more Austins, both A40 Devons, one registered EFR 186, the other FDW 221.
The Austin Corner garage

Other photographs.

Use of the repair facility.

This signwritten invitation encourages members of the public to use the facilities of an Aston garage (perhaps the Aston Repair Factory, shown above) to work on their own car, for no charge whatsoever. A very generous offer indeed.
An old garage sign

A streetview of an Aston showroom.

A snapshot now of crowds milling around in the street, with an Aston garage in the background. It too has a raised upper display area looking out towards the road, and an RAC agency sign hanging outside. Note the huge building in the background, and in the foreground a building bearing the name of "Procter and Skinner" above its entrance.
Crowds line the street outside

Brand new BSA Bantams.

The last of this set of images sees a line-up of new BSA Bantams on display in a raised, mezzanine, showroom. The roof structure doesn't match that of the Lower Ford Street garage, although the patterns on the wall do. An RAC sign hangs outside.
New BSA Bantam motorcycles on display
It's been a real pleasure to pore over these post-war photographs, so my thanks again to the Aston family for sending them over to share with visitors to this website.
Return to Page 18 in the photographic archive, or visit the main index here.

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