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Bristol Street Motors Celebrates A Century-Long Journey Supporting Motorists

Bristol Street Motors Celebrates A Century-Long Journey Supporting Motorists

The iconic motor retail brand, Bristol Street Motors, celebrated 100 years since it revved into existence in Birmingham with a commemorative event attended by John Meddings, a 100-year-old former colleague; Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands; Aston Villa former captain Dennis Mortimer; and classic Ford enthusiasts.

The company’s journey began over a century ago, when Bristol Street Motors opened a single motor Ford dealership in the heart of Birmingham. Bristol Street Motors was officially incorporated on 18th March 1924. Today, Bristol Street Motors Birmingham Ford still stands, now part of one of the UK’s largest motor retailer groups, Vertu Motors plc. There are more than 100 Bristol Street Motors dealerships across England, with 189 dealerships in total nationwide across the wider Vertu Motors group.

This week, the original dealership, situated on Bristol Street in Birmingham, underwent a transformation into a mini museum showcasing the brand's rich heritage. The exhibition featured archive photographs of the dealership and notable events, including the Birmingham Superprix where the dealership served as the pitlane in the 1980s, as well as a collection of newspaper articles, advertisements, posters, and marketing memorabilia from the last 100 years, including 1930s Waddingtons playing cards and a keyring from the 1970s. These artefacts were meticulously curated alongside a display of classic Ford vehicles, plus a 1920s Vauxhall Cadet, which featured in the brand’s most recent TV ad that was filmed at the nearby Black Country Living Museum.

In the process of researching for the archive exhibition, Bristol Street Motors unearthed a trove of historical treasures not seen for decades as the brand expanded. These discoveries included the marketing materials from a brief period during which the Birmingham location also operated as a tractor dealership, as well as sponsorship in the ‘90s within the British Touring Car Championship, and of an Olympian in 1980 to compete in Moscow, in addition to supporting the revered 1981 Football League championship-winning team captain of Aston Villa, Dennis Mortimer. The local legend expressed his delight at being contacted to attend the event, even bringing along his replica European Cup for guests to enjoy.

Robert Forrester, Chief Executive of Bristol Street Motors, reflects on the brand’s legacy: “Over the last 100 years, Bristol Street Motors has been a name synonymous with the best of the motor industry, and when we started the Vertu Motors group nearly 18 years ago, Bristol Street Motors was our first acquisition. As a Midlands lad, I was over the moon to take on such an iconic brand.

“We have grown the business to become a key player within the industry; with more than 100 Bristol Street Motors dealerships across England, the name has become one of the most recognisable motor retailers in the country.

“While preparing for these celebrations, we have uncovered documents, photos and memorabilia linking us with names like Noddy Holder, Ken Dodd, and Aston Villa legend Dennis Mortimer. We’ve also found various advertising campaigns and newspaper articles that are hugely interesting, and show that our approach to being a positive force in the local community has remained consistent.

“Who knows what the motor industry will look like in another 100 years, but we feel the Bristol Street Motors brand has such longevity, that perhaps it will still be supporting drivers in another 100 years. Though a lot has changed since 1924, including the technology we use and the vehicles we sell which have evolved considerably, our core principles remain the same; provide excellent customer service and brilliant deals, and you’ll always be on to a winner.”

Robert Forrester, Chief Executive of Bristol Street Motors and Dennis Mortimer

Robert Forrester, Chief Executive of Bristol Street Motors and Dennis Mortimer

Andy Street, The Mayor of West Midlands, said: “It’s been brilliant to be here and celebrate one hundred years of Bristol Street Motors, a Birmingham brand that has gone national. People in this region are so proud of their heritage, and what we have given this country. This is another Made in Birmingham success story.

“All the memorabilia tells us that this brand has been a part of history throughout the last century. I actually learned to drive in a car supplied by Bristol Street Motors Birmingham Ford!

“Three things really stood out to me in the exhibition: The 1959 launch of the Ford Anglia at Birmingham Ford – look at the affluence that was clearly in the picture. The Villa sponsorship in the 1980s, and seeing how connected Villa was with the brand and this area of the city. And the third thing of course, is Birmingham Ford’s role in the Superprix and how the pitlane was here. They just tell the story that Bristol Street Motors is a big part of Birmingham history.”

Ian Harrison, John Meddings, Andy Street and Beth Aynsley

Ian Harrison, John Meddings, Andy Street and Beth Aynsley

Ian Harrison, Operations Director for the Ford Division at Bristol Street Motors, said: “Ford and Bristol Street Motors are synonymous with one another. Ford has been an incredible partner; we sell every model of car and van. The brands have been intrinsically linked for over a century now - from celebrating the Model T into the future with all-electric vehicles. We’re delighted to continue representing Ford, a fantastic partner of Bristol Street Motors.”

John Meddings, the 100 year-old former Bristol Street Motors colleague, who returned to the dealership to join the celebrations, said: “It has changed so much in the 35 years since I retired from Bristol Street Motors. My mind boggles how much it has changed.

“I started in the 1970s and worked there for many years, moving around different departments. I was a Depot Controller in the end. It was a great place to work and a lot of fun. I’m very pleased to have been invited down and share my one hundredth year with Bristol Street Motors. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!”

Ex-Aston Villa Captain, Dennis Mortimer, said: “We’d just come off the League Trophy win and one of the things the Club granted us was a car. I had the Ford XR3i and that’s how I became connected to Bristol Street Motors. The brand was already a great supporter of Aston Villa, with many advertisements around Villa Park.

“After the XR3i, I kept coming back for more cars from Bristol Street Motors. I was always looked after, and I’m very happy to be back and celebrating with the team here.”

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