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Ideal Garage

Ideal Garage

Ideal Garage 1950

The Ideal Garage was situated on the A33, just to the south of its junction with Winchester Road. It is now the base for Claas Agricultural Machinery.

The garage opened before the last war and during the war, the workshop was used as a grain store for the Ministry of Agriculture. It re-opened after the war and the showroom on the front was built, primarily to display David Brown tractors for whom the garage had an agency.

Caroline Symes tells me that for many years, the business was run by her Grandfather Stan Gray on behalf of Will Short. In his spare time he was an enthusiastic racing driver specialising in hill climbs, travelling all over Europe pursuing his dream. Caroline’s Grandmother, Marjorie Gray, ran a transport cafe adjoining the garage. Their daughter Viv used to help out and act as a pump attendant. One day a nice young man called Hugh Symes started an apprenticeship; the rest is history.

Peter and Wendy Mullins came to work at Ideal Garage for Will Short in August 1963, Pete as workshop manager and Wendy to run the transport café as an independent business.

Ideal Garage 1950's

The site was owned by Shell and in 1965 when Will Short decided to terminate the lease with Shell the whole site and bungalows were offered to Pete and Wendy who took over the lease and at a later date purchased the freehold.

The café was run by Wendy for a number of years with the help of local staff and later leased to Frankie Foot. Frankie ran a very successful business; both Wendy and Frankie bought fresh meat and bacon from the then excellent Micheldever butcher Iddiols and Collins.

Ideal Garage 1950's

When trading patterns changed with the arrival of the motorway, the café closed and the space was converted into a larger forecourt shop, store and office. The shop became well known by passing trade for selling wonderful cakes, sandwiches and biscuits all supplied and made in Micheldever by Ruth and Maurelle d’Agostino.

The workshop was run by Pete, and staff offered a 24hr breakdown service for the A.A and R.A.C. and were on police rota for motorway breakdowns and accident recovery. It also offered repair facilities for all makes of vehicles. The workshop was extended to add a new M.O.T. bay which was built by our good local builder Steve Hunt.

They also offered Self Drive Hire Vans, Cars and Minibuses. From approx 1965 to 1975 Pete and Wendy stored up to 150 new cars for Will Short and Evans Halshaw, carrying out some of their P.D.I. work until this was done at the factories and cars were delivered to showrooms ready to move.

Pete and Wendy sold the site to Southern Harvesters and Claas in 1996 when they retired.

Both Pete and Wendy consider they were lucky to have worked in such a lovely area and greatly appreciated the custom and support from residents of Micheldever and surrounding villages.

I had a measure of sympathy for the last proprietor, Mike Butters, because the petrol that he retailed was very much more expensive than in urban filling stations. He clearly had to buy his petrol from the oil companies and I understand that he was paying roughly the same price wholesale as urban garages were retailing. I am sure that many people in the Parish purchased petrol out of loyalty but it is such a price sensitive commodity that small local filling stations cannot compete.

After he closed the filling station he kept the business going for a while, not only carrying out vehicle repairs, but also dealing in second hand cars or acquiring new vehicles for customers. I understand from Parishioners that he had a very good reputation for selling quality cars. Regrettably, despite his best efforts, the business closed down.

A few years ago the offices and showroom were utilised in a film and made out to look as though they were a French garage. Whilst the appropriate signs were both painted on and affixed to the side of the premises, one wonders how approaching cars could have been filmed approaching on the right hand side of the road.

For the last few years the property has been used by Claas a very large German company, whose principal activity is the sale and servicing of their eponymous tractors. Claas is one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery in the world and is the market leader in harvesting equipment. In the United States they are even bigger than John Deere.

In 2011 the old premises were demolished and new premises built covering roughly the same area as the old workshops but much more efficient as an operating base, both in their layout and use of space, coupled with being constructed in accordance with the latest requirements for heat and energy saving.

With the demolition of the property formerly occupied by the Ideal Garage, another part of the history of Micheldever is disappearing.

Mike Radford

Thanks to Mike Radford, Pete and Wendy Mullins and Caroline Symes for the information provided.

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