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An amazing anniversary road trip witnessed a golden Mazda milestone

Wapcar – Beneath the busy Bourne Road in Crayford, south-east London, is a story.  

The story goes that a young Roman girl’s coffin was discovered there in the late 1870s and, despite protests from local residents, it was not removed and remained there. To this day, its exact location remains a mystery.  

But before being covered and never seen again, the coffin, decorated with seashells, was designed by Pastor George Savage of St John’s Church.  

This is just one line in a large profile sent to me by Mazda Motors UK, as Bourne Road Garage is the second oldest dealer for the Japanese brand. Roman still aside, this site has had a colorful history over the centuries and its association with Mazda is a big chapter – 50 years to be exact – and Car Dealer wants to be there as the company and Mazda mark this special birthday. Mazda, of course, not only specializes in motors but is also famous for its cars, nowadays there are still some used cars popular in the market, like Mazda 3 for sale. 

Going to a celebration in a modern family pub on loan might seem a bit too casual for a car dealership, so Mazda Motors UK arranged for me to collect a 1973 rotary engine RX-3 their lovely petite from their historic garage in Royal Tunbridge Wells and set off on a road trip,  the final destination being the Bourne Street Garage.   

Garage along the way, I will stop at the old building of the MCL Group, which imported Mazdas decades before it was founded. Mazda Motors UK – and current Japanese car manufacturer whose headquarters are located near Dartford Crossing. 

All in one car that Bourne Road is said to have sold to curious customers half a century ago. 

Having a collection of cars you sold in the UK during the year seems like a good idea, and many car manufacturers have flirted with this odd idea and embraced it

Smart but pretty unassuming

But in this day of draconian financial departments and the need for automakers to keep an eye on the green agenda, a heritage collection is a rarity. This is not the case for Mazda. 

Over the past few years, it has steadily built some of the most exciting vehicles ever sold before dealers. 

 Its large picture windows give a glimpse of an eclectic mix of shapes covered in silky red car skins – the sleeping giants of Mazda’s past. Inside, and along the white back wall of the garage, is a row of red-clad cars – unmistakably a row of MX-5s.

Inside Mazda’s heritage garage

Another shape is that of a sports coupe, while at the back there’s a very distinct Mazda Cosmo – its dusty coating hugs the floor of the front and rear elongated. 

But right in front of the little toy store, its teal blue paint shimmering in the early morning light was a beautiful 1973 RX-3, mostly original. 

With the garage door open, I turn the key and the RX-3 comes to life and I hit the road.  

Our first stop is the former headquarters of the MCL Group and it is on the other side of town, crossing narrow streets and busy main roads as locals jostle for road space to go to work. The RX-3 is a bit stubborn – a choke kick is required – and the exhaust – the original knockout – hums, pops and reverberates through Tunbridge Wells’ high-end boutiques and iced cafes. 

The 1970s RX-3 coke bottle styling was in stark contrast to the rather harsh architecture of the 80s. In the UK until 2001 when Mazda Motors UK was founded. Mazda first arrived here in 1967 and made its official debut at the 1969 British Motor Show. 

Fearing the threat posed by new Japanese car manufacturers, the United Kingdom imposed a limit strict import quota on the sale of Japanese cars, including Mazdas. 

By 1973, Mazda’s sales were reaching 7,000 units a year, and by the time the MCL Group was in charge, Mazda had a strong foothold in the UK car market.  

Mazda’s growth in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s was mainly attributed to the MCL Group – which is 60% owned by Itochu Corporation (one of Japan’s leading sogo shosha companies) and Inchcape – and  Oakhurst House now. is the company’s confident establishment, officially opened in 1982 by  Peter Braddon, owner of Bourne Road Garage.  

Just like the employees of the company now known as  Oakhurst House gathered by the window, wondering why a man stood next to a 1970 Mazda wearing matching pants and being instructed on how to stand next to the photographer. Photographer, it’s time to go.  

The next stop on our trip is Mazda Motor UK headquarters, about 30 miles away, and I look forward to taking quieter, windier roads to get there. It was a wet day in mid-June, and the rotary engine needed some cool air to keep the fun going.  

On more open asphalt roads, it is easy to accelerate thanks to the engine.

According to Mazda Motors UK, there are currently only around seven RX-3s  registered in the UK, making it a rather rare car rather than just a rarity in Mazda’s latter category.  

This one is a bit different as it has been slightly modified by the previous owner – the stock “10A” engine has been replaced by the larger 1146cc “12A” engine from the later RX-3, and therefore benefits from a pair of large air intake trumpets.  

With 110 hp and a  rotary engine that enjoys revving, progress is remarkably fast.  

And there’s always background music accompanied by the smell of gasoline and hot plastic seats – a kind of high-pitched rumbling. It’s very addictive. 

Not only the engine but also the gearbox.  

Surprisingly, it’s five speeds, and the large gear lever fits neatly between gears, helping you keep the track spinning. 

And while the handlebars themselves are wrapped in wood-effect plastic, the handlebars are heavy and a bit imprecise.  

The only thing that really reminds you that you’re driving a 50-year-old car is cornering ability, as thin tires have less traction, promoting underperformance more than anything.  

More than once I’ve dreaded the advent of beautiful vintage metal hubcaps, expecting them to ring with each quick S-bend.  

Additionally, sharp engines and smooth transmissions are features that will be included in future RX models, making them a must-have for fans of Japanese performance cars.  

The drive to Mazda Motors UK headquarters in Dartford came to an end too quickly, and soon we would join the traffic on the motorway.  

Mazda’s headquarters sits in the shadow of the impressive Queen Elizabeth Bridge and, like Oakhurst House at the time, exudes an air of confidence. 

Parking next to an existing Mazda 3 – the closest equivalent to an RX-3 – has little in common, of course. Flashy ’70s style pots with organic, lithe bodies of 3. 

Inside the HQ is another group of historic Mazdas, reinforcing the idea that Mazda is pretty proud of its past efforts. 

There’s a very unusual RX-7 Mk2 convertible parked next to a time-warped Mk1  with less than 1000 miles on the clock. 

But what interests me most is the Porter Cab that Mazda has converted into a nice coffee truck, and with an Americano in service, it’s time we read about our next stop. ta – Bourne Street Garage

Thriving operation

Bourne Road Garage’s life in the automotive scene began when Edwin Henry Braddon, the grandfather of the current owner Peter, purchased the site on April 1, 1938. 

He soon moved the engineering works and transport business from Waterside in Crayford at Bourne Road and built a thriving building. 

In the 1960s, the company ventured into car retail and supplied the latest Ford models including the Anglia, Cortina, and the Zephyr Mk4 block. 

The real story begins in 1972 when Bourne Road Garage became an official dealer, with a showroom and spare parts department. 

After a brief affair with Datsun, Bourne Road Garage chose to franchise with Mazda and begin a relationship that would last half a century and beyond. 

It also has a franchise with the East German automaker Wartburg and operates a sister dealership – Nuxley Road Garage, Belvedere – where it sells Polski Fiats and later Subarus, Isuzus and later Daihatsu. 

Stopping outside can immediately see this is an unwanted dealer is a  corporate showroom with glass facades occupying many busy streets. The Bourne Road garage carries all of Mazda’s latest signage, but its low stature and small size give it a welcoming feel. 

There’s even a pair of listed lampposts from the local Princess Theater at the entrance,  saved by the Braddon family from tearing down when the theater was demolished in the 1960s. Bourne Road garage isn’t like it. most other dealers. 

The RX-3’s loud exhaust caused the showroom staff to move away from their desks and glance at the noisy finish. 

One of them was CEO / Company Secretary Andrew Mooresmith, who remembers the dealer who sold used RX-3s in the late 1970s. But before I can ask a few questions. , he went inside to meet the boss. 

As the MD of the manufacturer, Jeremy Thomson of Mazda is one of the most humble and charming people you’ll find, so it’s no surprise that he visited the  Bourne Road garage to introduce a smart celebratory trophy of garage. 50 years in the Mazda business. 

After the scenes were done with the team, Thomson explained to me why having dealers like Bourne Road Garage is so important to Mazda Motors UK.

“These guys are great,” he beamed. ” They offer traditional services mostly. That is, it is not always effective in the retail of modern patterns. 

Customers and employees are multigenerational and you get a real experience. 

There is something that is overlooked by people and it features a lot in terms of the after-sales service. These guys are excellent because they have a lot of history with Mazda and they have a relationship.” 

That passion but also the breadth of dealer Thomson said: “Sometimes, some of our activities are very helpful. Useful when the cars you are selling are different from regular cars. 

Get the Mazda MX-5 – this is a world where almost all affordable two-seaters are gone and it’s a tough market to enter. 

Rotary is another good example – and we’ll see the rotary again in the not-too-distant future – as it’s very Mazda-specific technology and for salespeople, it’s important to be comfortable. chat with customers about it and educate them about Technology.

Long service

Andrew Mooresmith has worked at Bourne Road Garage for 42 years. He is one of only two employees with more than 40 years of experience, and more than a third of employees have worked in the garage for more than 20 years. All in all, the staff at Bourne Road Garage have an incredible 340 years of experience between them. 

During this time, he rose through the ranks from Department Assistant to Division Manager and After Sales Manager with his current role as CEO and Company Secretary. He’s a good guy to check the company’s temperature, and I asked if, in today’s changing auto retail landscape, Bourne Road Mazda is concerned about large dealer groups. 

 You have to keep doing what you’re best at, he smiles. He adds that what they have, and what does not always enjoy are big franchises, which are inherited from the family-business culture. It is the factor mentioned above that makes a difference. From my point of view, if I go back to a store and those same faces are working there, it gives me confidence – they must be doing something right. Garage and Bourne Street have many loyal customers. 

They claimed that one of our clients recently quit driving, and she wrote a lovely letter and visited them with cookies and candy for the staff, thanking them for 30 years of service.  They get closer to the RX-3 and take a look at it, which is recently launched in the showroom for its 50th anniversary. 

Join us with sales manager Garth Vincer, who is relatively new with just 22 years at Bourne Road under his tenure, and the RX-3 takes Mooresmith back to his early years in years. 70. He said more or less that he wanted to make a car purchase and ask for help. There is some differences these days compared with that the old days when the customers are possible to say they would purchase one.

Back then, people were blown away by Mazdas because they had everything standard, which  Fords didn’t, and they looked good too.  The typical situation would be that the customer would go to a dealer [selling a traditional British brand] in the village of Bexley and then would drop by here and see this new Japanese brand to see what it was like.

If you go to a Ford showroom, there’s usually a drip pan under the car to catch the oil! We just think Mazda is a more exciting and innovative brand, and we think we’ll lay our future with them. When Vincer joined Bourne Road, the Mazda brand was in a completely different position compared to the RX-3 of the day before. 

 I remember the first car I sold – it was a 626 and you could drive that car naked and no one would recognize you. Is it a Ford? Is it a Vauxhall? 

 “We just had the Xedos 6, the Xedos 9 and the MX-6, then the styling went downhill – but I still sold about 130 in the first year.” 

For Vince, it was the 2002 Mazda 6  that set the maker on the right track — and the brand hasn’t looked back since he said. According to him, the key to 

 Bourne Road Garage’s success is simple. It’s about making the car buying experience easier. 

They don’t put much pressure on people. Instead, they just don’t have that sales philosophy and the business isn’t built on that. It is instilled from the very beginning – it has to be easy to give the customer choice and let it flow.  

When a client is in an environment where you’ve given them space, that’s great. And for salespeople, thanks to the experience they have gained, they are empowered to make their own decisions.

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