December 13 2013 Latest news:
Story by: TOM JACKSON, News & Content Editor
Thursday, September 6, 2012
FOR petrolheads the Chevrolet Camaro an icon of the American motoring scene. And it’s now available in the UK but at just one garage - on the outskirts of the Fens.
WH Brand & Son was chosen by the American manufacturer as the first dealership to sell one of its flagship models.
TOM JACKSON visited the garage to find out more.
“JUST remember that it’s left-hand drive,” Martyn Brand tells me as I hop into the driver’s seat and try out his new toy - a new £35,000 Chevrolet Camaro.
But this is no ordinary Camaro, it’s a limited edition model celebrating the iconic muscle car’s 45th anniversary.
And there are only two in the country. One is owned by Chevrolet, the other by Mr Brand’s family-run business WH Brand & Son.
A few seconds of getting myself accustomed to sitting with the wheel on the wrong side and we’re away - and moments later I’m revelling in the thrills and the comfort provided by a beast of the modern automotive world.
CHEVROLET launched the Camaro in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang in the American muscle car market.
Four generations of the Camaro were produced between 1967 and 2002 when production ended. However, the name returned for the fifth generation model in 2009 with looks that remind petrolheads of the model’s iconic heritage.
The power plant is a 6.2-litre V8 engine which produces 432bhp. From standing, it will reach 60mph in just 5.2secs.
The Camaro comes in left-hand drive only and is very wide. But for a large car its handling is superb.
Safety is not compromised, however, with an electronic stability control system which compares your steering input with the car’s actual response and, if necessary, making corrections. It also has performance brakes and a rear park assist.
A head-up display is also included, meaning you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to keep a track of your speed or engine revs.
Prices for the Camaro start at £35,000 for the coupe and £40,000 for the convertible.
The growl of the engine sends shivers down your spine and the power buries you back into the seat. And, considering the car weighs 1,770kg (that’s several hundred kilos heavier than the standard family car) the steering is very light and responsive.
But I was particularly amazed at how the car tamed the narrow and bumpy Fenland roads. For a car so heavy and wide (1.92m) the Camaro floated across the bumps as if I was driving on a motorway.
My chance to test drive the car came because WH Brand & Son is the first of four Chevrolet dealerships in the UK to offer the model, having been named the manufacturer’s number one selling dealer in 2010.
Mr Brand said: “The Camaro is an iconic American muscle car and it’s great to be appointed the first UK dealer for the model.”
What’s reason for that success? Mr Brand said: “Because we are a family business we can deliver the personal service that’s lacking in big corporate, multi-franchised businesses.
“You can come down here, look at the cars and go on a test drive with no pressure at all.”
People from across the country have descended on the sleepy village of Whaplode Drove, on the outskirts of Fenland, to do just that with the Camaro.
Seven cars have already been sold and the first one left the showroom on Wednesday, a convertible bought by a man from Huntingdon.
IN 1925 William Horace Brand started selling and repairing bicycles and motorcycles from a rented shed.
While the sign for his business was being made his wife Edith gave birth to their son Fred - and William was so delighted that he instructed the carpenter to add ‘& Son’ to the name.
In 1936 Bill bought three acres of land and a house in the village. Here he built his first garage.
After the Second World War, Fred started racing in speedway to raise money for a new garage. In 1954 rode for England in the Wembley world final.
Fred retired from racing in 1956 with sufficient funds to build a garage. However, at this time William died in a motoring accident.
Fred’s first agency was Singer. After a few years Singer was discontinued and WH Brand & Son started selling Austin Cars, which later became part of British Leyland.
The Chevrolet franchise was taken on in 2006 after the demise of MG Rover - and in 2010 WH Brand & Son became the manufacturer’s number one selling dealer.
Today Fred, his son Martyn and grandson Adam are also involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
It’s not just the Camaro which is available at WH Brand & Son. There’s something to suit everyone, from the small Spark city car and the Aveo hatchback to the Cruze saloon and the four-wheel-drive Captiva.
But because it sells the Camaro, WH Brand & Son is the only Chevrolet dealership to offer the marque’s entire range.
Mr Brand said: “We have broken the mould as far as the country garage goes - you think of the three petrol pumps beside the road standing back in its time.
“People think of us being in the sticks but we are 20 minutes from Peterborough, 15 from Spalding and about 25 from Wisbech.”
INFORMATION: To take a closer look and to test drive any of the models, visit WH Brand’s garage at Broadgate, Whaplode Drove. Alternatively, call 01406 330265 or visit www.whbrand.co.uk