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MEMORIES OF THE EARLS COURT BRANCH

I worked for Taurus between 1965 and 1967 as my first job after leaving school.

BEFORE TAURUS

Taurus took over the premises formally occupied by the A1 Garage in Childs Place, which was a cul-de-sac off the Earls Court Road.

My first recollection of the A1 Garage goes back to the 1950's. In those days the mews had not been converted into fancy mews cottages but were garages and workshops. Some were still used for their original purpose which was stabling for horses and their carriages. The A1 Garage had premises in Kynance Mews, W8. I think it had possibility been started by a Mr Bath, who I remember as an old man, sitting in his office sewing leather upholstery by hand with very swollen arthritic fingers. He gave me a car mascot of a chromed policeman, which I still have to this day! There was workshop space for 4 cars in the main section and they had other garages in the mews. They had at least 2 black Packard Limousines, with running boards and the spare tyre on the side just in front of the driver's door. A Mr Waite was one of the chauffeurs who drove the cars when they were hired out. My mother bought several cars from Mr Bath and the cars were serviced by them.

The A1 Garage in Childs Place ran all the way from one end to the other with the car showroom at the front on Earls Court Road. I have a feeling they had a Ford agency and possibly Austin.

TAURUS TIME

When I worked at Taurus it consisted of a converted double story building at the end of the road with the workshops on the right hand side in a separate building. The offices were upstairs with the reception and car showroom downstairs. Russ Perkins was in charge of car sales and running the reception and workshop. The vehicles sold were Austins, mostly Minis, 1100's and some A60's with their commercial counterparts. I do remember some other vehicles, especially a Lotus Cortina, which I had to fetch from the factory.

New cars had to be cleaned with a special solvent to remove a wax gunk which covered them. They had to undergo a pre-delivery inspection, and any accessories were then fitted and the vehicle polished ready for delivery.

The workshop on the left-hand side had a car hoist which was worked by air/hydraulic pressure with a single large piston about 2ft in diameter in the centre which enabled one to turn the whole vehicle round when it was in the air or going up. At times this was quite a hairy manoeuvre as a tall vehicle such as a panel van or the bonnet of a large car in the open position could hit the overhanging ceiling in the one section if one was not careful! To operate it there were 2 valves set into pipes one to go up and stop when the desired position had been found and one to release. One of my jobs was grease monkey on the said contraption.

There were 2 BP petrol pumps on the forecourt between the 2 large workshop doors. One was for Regular and one for Super. As these were situated at the end of a cul-de-sac there was not much passing trade. There was a large Shell petrol station a few hundred yards away on the corner of Earls Court and Cromwell Roads called Golly's Garage. (Not a very P.C. name today!). This is where the diesel breakdown lorry was filled up. Saturday morning was a busy time for petrol sales. There was a regular cliental who would come and have their cars filled up and the oil, water, tyres and battery checked, some would even have their cars washed and polished. There was no self-service then and yours truly was given the task. The tips were good!

On the right-hand side was another set of doors and it was here that the mechanical work was done. Tom was the chief mechanic and there was also Brian and one other. Servicing was carried out on a large range of vehicles from the Mini to large Yank tanks and also included luxury cars such as Aston-Martin and Rolls-Royce. There was even an electric delivery van belonging to a local bakery!

On the tuning side most of the major work and all the development and machining was carried out in the large workshop under the railway arches under Ravenscourt Park Tube station. However many Stage 1 conversions were fitted at Childs Place as well as many of the accessories from racing mirrors to oil coolers and Koni shock absorbers including the famous Taurus oil-stat

Taurus also ran a breakdown service. When I first started this was a Land-Rover breakdown truck with a crane fitted, this was shared with A1 Coachworks (the part which still remained of A1 Garage) and had their signage on the sides. At night Russ would be called out by the Police to remove vehicles involved in accidents. These were dropped of in Childs Place and taken to A1 Coachworks which was off the North End Road. Thank goodness in those days there was no resident's parking or parking meters as the crashed cars and cars for servicing would often take up the whole street. One particular night 14 cars were removed from a crash on Hammersmith flyover, chaos! Taurus eventually had its own Land-Rover emblazoned with the Taurus bull logo on the doors and bonnet and the words Taurus Coachworks. By then the work was, I think, outsourced to different panel shops.

A Mini van was used for parts collection and it was fitted with at least a stage 1 conversion and perhaps even a stage 2. It certainly went like the clappers!

One vehicle I remember being souped up was an Amphicar, (they were fitted with a Triumph Herald engine) this was taken down to the Thames at Chiswick for ''road'' testing! It became stuck in the mud and the story made the evening papers and the evening news on TV.

So as you can see there was much more to Taurus than just Tuning.

Richard Gwynne-Evans