Car world mourns loss of true motoring pioneer - The Leamington Observer

Car world mourns loss of true motoring pioneer

Editorial Correspondent 6th Mar, 2024 Updated: 6th Mar, 2024   0

THE CAR world has been saddened by the announcement of the death of Graham Hudson, managing director of the Ladbroke Motor Group, at the age of 87.

Graham started the business as a young 20 year-old in a barn opposite his childhood home of Tollgate House in Stockton.

It was not long before he realised this was his passion. He bought a plot of land in Ladbroke, built his own bungalow and purchased a garage at the end of the garden, opposite School Lane, to carry on his work. This was the start of Ladbroke Bodies.

Graham, with his wife Pat helping out, started to undertake car body repairs and re-sprays. With the outstanding quality of workmanship he was producing, this attracted Insurance work which in turn helped the business grow rapidly, and it was not long before yet bigger premises were required.

After a short stop gap in premises close to Coventry City’s old ground he purchased the old dairy in Quarry Street in Leamington. The Insurance work was becoming a major part of the business, so his workforce grew to cope.

The entrepreneur was always looking for other ways to grow the businesss, so in the late 60’s Graham purchased Milverton Garage, a petrol station on Rugby Road. and came up with the great idea of turning it into the first self service garage in Warwickshire. It caught the public’s attention and on opening day there was a queue as far as the eye could see along Rugby Road.

And he also turned the offices and stores into a mini shop, again something completely new.

Graham always had an ambition for car sales so then decided to open up Ladbroke Continental, a Volvo Franchise in Leamington. First in Willes Road before moving to High Street at the bottom of town.

Through the 70’s the businesses went from strength to strength and he also bought up the old Avon Bodies Cars site in Millers Road in Warwick.

It was this move, taking on the history of the Avon Motor Co, as a quality coachwork business manufacturing cars in the 20’s and 30’s, that sparked a new passion for Graham.

Alongside all his existing companies, he started Avon Coachwork – a special projects division undertaking single one off commissions from clients all around the world.

Avon Coachwork won a Gold Medal at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1980 for manufacturing the very first Jaguar Estate Car, taking an XJ6 and converting it.

Another Jaguar XJ6, the Coupe version, also got a makeover, this time it was turned into a soft top convertible. There was a special limited edition of the Talbot Lotus produced as well as a special version of the Triumph Accliam.

The imagination was really captured when Avon Coachwork produced a Volvo 760 Hurst and Stretch Limo.

In 1983 Graham purchased the old Henry Griffiths jewellery factory in Tachbrook Road. The masterplan was to have one site with everything together, Volvo sales, Volvo servicing, crash repair work and Avon Coachwork.

Graham turned Tachbrook Road into the largest most modern car repair centre in Europe.

Ladbroke Motor Group was purchased by Guardian Royal Exchange Insurance Co in 1986, and although big in their field, without the passion of Graham driving the business they soon started to struggle and closed a couple of years later.

Graham was also a a keen sportsman. From childhood he was a fast runner, competing for Warwickshire while a schoolboy at Campion School and also at the British Schools Athletics Championship in 1951.

His main sport was football, playing youth football at Stockton, he soon become renowned for his goalscoring. Nine days before his 15th birthday in 1951 he was promoted to the Stockton Men’s team, where he even played alongside his dad Ted.

He is survived by sons Ian, Neil and Nigel, daughter Penny, seven grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and a great great grandchild.

A memorial service will be held at Stockton Church on Thursday April 18 at 2pm.


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