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Passenger Vehicle Disposals & Fleet Car Sales, A45

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Astons Garages
Hinckley
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1 of 1  Sun 24th Aug 2014 3:16pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2013  Total posts:82

This is the story of Henry Bowen's dealing empire through his two companies, Passenger Vehicle Disposals Ltd and Fleet Cars (Sales) Ltd. It has been suggested that FCS was named to confuse the market with Frank Cowley Salford, it may have been but was in fact formed to trade in the sale of motor cars destined for wimped. Henry Bowen worked for Frank Cowley for a number of years, he left in 1953 on less than amicable terms. Between 1953 and 1955 he started a business in Dorchester trading in with the used buses with the father of the owner of Bobs Café at Dunchurch. For a short while in 1955 he was in partnership with Harry Aston at Marton and they formed a company PVD (Marton). Their ideas were miles apart if you look at the history of the two companies. Harry Aston liked the unusual non-standard vehicles of the era and Henry bought standard highly saleable vehicles in volume, particularly Bristol-built vehicles with Gardner engines. They split up amicably and Henry went on to form FCS and PVD. Astons and PVD continued to trade with each other, Astons doing service work for PVD and purchasing a number of vehicles. Henry Bowen and Harry Aston also socialised together at the Dun Cow in Dunchurch and the Dilke Arms at Ryton, Coventry, as did other members of the Aston family. Lavish parties were held at Wolston Grange by Henry Bowen and Harry Aston at Willoughby House - many people remember the bonfire parties at Willoughby House where a coach would form the framework of the bonfire. Passenger Vehicle Disposals initially operated from Wolston Grange from 1955 and Fleet Car Sales from 1958. At some point the London Road site in Dunchurch, Warwickshire, was bought. Both companies bought and sold, hired and scrapped passenger vehicles from all corners of Britain. The reason for their existence was to fill a need for mainly contractors' buses to carry their workers to projects all over the country. The number of vehicles was quite amazing during the period of operation, the known vehicles so far is around 1700. Fleet Car (Sales) Ltd was originally formed to buy and sell used cars for Wimpey, hence the reason Frank Keen was a Director. Frank Keen was Transport Director of Wimpey living in Iver, Buckinghamshire, also a personal friend and business acquaintance of Henry Bowen and Harry Aston. PVD also operated a spares business for commercial vehicles, as well as converting buses whose bodies who were past their sell by date into builders wagons to carry ladders and scaffolding. It is not known how many such vehicles were built. FCS and PVD were not alone in this area. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s Britain enjoyed a progressive surge to rebuild pre-war and war damaged areas, embrace new technologies, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, gas and electric power station, new roads and bypasses for bottle-necked towns suffering from the inexorable rise of car ownership. This was the era of travel, the M1 motorway, things were on the move. Britain was a force to be reckoned with, even Harold Wilson got in on the act coining the phrase "the white heat of technology".   All this progressiveness led to many large Government contracts being awarded by the powers that be and built up the fortunes of many national contractors such as McAlpines, Wimpey, Costains etc. as well as many smaller companies whose businesses grew overnight and needed transport for their army of workers, mostly of a temporary nature, months, sometimes years. Enter PVD and FCS ready and willing to supply a continual source of buses and coaches deemed surplus or "time expired" by major bus operators, here was a golden opportunity to make money. Many vehicles went to Colbro who PVD had a special relationship with, and Norths for the engines to be recycled and ending up powering junks in Hong Kong, the chassis and bodies usually scrapped. Both companies had a huge number of customers who carried on operating the vehicles they bought from PVD and FCS. These can be found in the vehicle lists. One company who bought more than most were Lloyds of Nuneaton. Another company within the set up was Passenger Vehicle Disposals (Exports) Ltd which was formed for the export of diesel engines to Chinese islands, which eventually ended up in mainland China. This company had George Corson, the owner of Colbro, as a Director and Frank Keen. George Corson also had a rifle business converting Lee Enfields to shooting rifles. Things continued apace until late 1962, when the "storm-clouds" began to gather. Maidstone & District, a leading supplier, repossessed a batch of vehicles, presumably due to lack of funds. Matters came to a head, the bank were less than co-operative. It is also known that Henry, like many businessmen of this era, had avoided paying tax for a while and had a large outstanding tax bill, hence was not a Director of any of the companies. Henry Bowen decamped and his family held a "fire-sale" of the remainder of the business. Frank Cowley, a larger Manchester dealer, took over the remains, presumably with great glee as he and Henry had parted company in 1953 in a less than amicable manner when Henry left Frank Cowley where he was a Director. Unfortunately FCS and PVD had run their course. It is recorded that Henry handed the business to his sons in law but in fact it was to his stepsons, Anthony and Frank. It should not be underestimated the turnover of vehicles by these two companies and the significance of their trading to the transport industry in this era. The 1950’s and early 1960’s were a different era where bribes were a common business practice. One bus company director is known to have suddenly acquired a yacht. Unrecorded cash sales were common, Bob Aston remembers a loaded revolver in Henry’s Rolls Royce, he also remembers playing with a Luger at Marton when with John Aston, which neither realised was loaded and it suddenly went off, fortunately no one was injured. Frank Cowley Ltd operated from Dunchurch from November 1962 until 1970, Frank Cowley died in August 1966 but his widow carried on the firm. In 1971/2 the business relocated to Heywood Station, Manchester and Dunchurch no longer had resident buses and coaches ready and able to go anywhere at the drop of a contract.   Henry Bowen joined Milburn Motors on 24th December 1962 as Sales Manager, he was appointed by A. Norris a Director of the company. This appointment was short lived and Henry moved to Transport (Passenger Equipments) Ltd. Henry Bowen joined up with William Charnock at Transport Passenger Equipment Ltd (TPE) of Macclesfield, Cheshire on 28th March 1963, carrying on the tradition of "buy / sell / hire / break" although nothing like the heady days of the late 1950s, By 1964 Henry had left TPE and there appears to have been a fallout with W. Charnock. TPE ceased their activities in 1982. Henry Bowen died in 1964. Does anyone remember the company? Henry was in business with the father of the owner of Bob's Café in 1955 - who was he? They had a coach business together.
David Aston Historian of Astons Garages and Light Cars Coventry

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