New lease of life for Rothbury classic car enterprise

It's not often a new business dares to think about celebrating a centenary but that's what Jon Radgick, owner of the Old Motor House in Rothbury is doing

Jon Radgick
Jon Radgick

It's not often a new business dares to think about celebrating a centenary but that's what Jon Radgick, owner of the Old Motor House in Rothbury, Northumberland, is doing.

He set up the garage in September last year and is already thinking about how to celebrate 100 years.

The enterprise, specialising in classic cars, may have some way to go before reaching any milestone but the building in which it is located has a rich history going back to 1913.

It was built by entrepreneur John Lee who saw an opening for a garage catering for wealthy customers buying cars as the horseless carriage made its debut on Northumberland roads.

Radgick gave the premises a new lease of life after taking over last year and has already exceeded his business plan.

He said: “We are a garage specialising and dedicated to all kinds of classic cars.

“We took it on in September and rebranded from a general local village garage. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it has gone and I am already way ahead of my business plan.

“We gave ourselves two years to break even because we were going into a completely unknown area.

“There was a lot of capital expenditure on specialised equipment but on an operating cost level we are already better than breaking even.

“I started off with me plus one employee, then me plus two employees, and I am interviewing for a third.

“The biggest challenge is finding people with the right skills – people who can work on the cars they way mechanics used to in the past.”

He explained that modern cars require engineers to know about computer diagnosis but that’s not what he was looking for.

He said: “With classic cars you have to diagnose the fault yourself the old-fashioned way, often take things apart, fix it, and put it back together again.

“That’s a skill your average fitter does not have any more.

“We recently gave a Rolls Royce a complete respray but using the old ways.

“The classic car movement is undergoing a renaissance and I want to grow the business’ reputation.

“A lot of work at the moment has been word of mouth, friends and people I know, and I want people who have never heard of us.”

The first use of the premises in Townfoot, Rothbury, was by plumber John Lee who saw an opening to expand in a different direction and make a profit from the emergence of the car.

The garage was known as Lee’s Garage and Lee was reputed to run a steam-powered car himself.

To celebrate the centenary Radgick has commissioned a local artist to produce a work marking the history of the premises.

He is also planning a classic car touring event in the lesser-known roads of the Upper Coquet Valley.

Radgick formerly ran Rothbury Wines and had property interests in London.

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