Friday 5th January 1945: the Allied Forces were victorious at the Battle of Bure, and continued to advance into France on their march towards bringing peace to Europe. On that very same day in Gloucester, Bryan Webb walked into the local Vauxhall garage and asked them for a job.
More than 72 years later Bryan is still there - working as a warranty administrator for the Baylis Group. Although his current role is very different to his early working life as an apprentice mechanic. “I remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday,” said Bryan, who celebrates his 87th birthday in November. “I was with a bunch of friends and we walked up from school to Hough & Whitmore in London Road, and asked if there were any apprenticeships going. “Amazingly, they said yes and I started there and then: no interview or anything like that. I don’t know why I chose Whitmores - to see a car at that point was unusual and I really don’t know how I got into it. The apprenticeship took four years to complete and involved attending night school as well as doing semi-skilled jobs in the workshops. At the end of my time I was classed as all-round fully skilled and could do a variety of service and repair jobs. “Conditions were very different back then - you could come in and get dirty, not so much now. We used to have a gunk bath in those days which you would wash everything in. It would get changed every couple of months - so it was beyond filthy!”
Bryan worked for Hough & Whitmore for twenty five years, before the business was acquired by Thomas Ward, eventually becoming Skipper in 1975. Bryan received a Rotary watch from Thomas Ward in 1970 in recognition of his long service, and he still wears it today. He became foreman (the equivalent of a modern workshop controller) at the relatively young age of 26, and also worked on Jaguars. But Vauxhalls were always his favourite: “The first car I saw was a DX and the body came off the chassis which they did in those days. I also remember the Vauxhall 10 and 12 which were similar models to the DX, then the 14 and the larger 25, which had the same engine as a Bedford lorry.” Bryan’s first Vauxhall was a Velox. “I bought it in 1956, but my favourite was the top-spec Vectra I owned a few years back.”
Baylis was established in 1994, when Vauxhall awarded the new business the franchise for Gloucester. Since then the business has grown steadily, and today Baylis is one of the largest motor groups in the region, with eight branches throughout the Three Counties. Bryan has worked at the current Cole Avenue site since the franchise re-located there in the 1980s. “It was originally commercial premises, then they moved the stores here and later added new showrooms and purpose-built workshops,” said Bryan. An accident repair centre was also constructed and all the facilities were fully refurbished and upgraded three years ago. Bryan has been doing his current role at Baylis for thirty years, and has even seen changes in warranty administration. “A lot of the work these days is digital, but it used to be huge sheets of paper. The information was recorded and the documents sent to Vauxhall: this is all done on computers of course these days.” “The cars themselves have changed massively with technology. In the early days you used to be able to fix any car, you have to plug in to diagnostic systems now,” he added. So what of the cars of the future? “It’s all going to be about electric cars but they need to last longer before needing to be re-charged than they currently do, said Bryan. “But they are certainly handy to run around town.... flying cars will happen at some point too!”
And when they do, the chances are Bryan will still be here at Baylis to check their warranties when they fall out of the sky!
87 year-old Bryan Webb: 72 years service to Baylis Vauxhall in Gloucester.