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  • Geoff Colwill

Colwills Garage - A Little History

Having just opened our 2nd garage in Bude, it seems like a good time (for those who are interested) to tell you how Colwills Garage came about. . . .

Growing up with my two brothers on our parents dairy farm in Hartland, I had plenty of opportunity for tinkering with engines. It became apparent from a young age that I had a bit of a flare for mending things, and as a result, I enjoyed much of my childhood helping my dad keep the farm machinery going.

At 14, I was given a broken motorbike (a Suzuki TS185ER), it didn’t take long for me to get the engine up running, and be riding it around the farm. By the age of 15, I’d built a go-cart from an old Fiat 126. These early projects were where my passion for engines, and my obsession with mending them started. From then on, it was all I wanted to do.

While studying at Budehaven School, I did work experience at Blights Motors in Bideford , a Vauxhall dealership at the time; and when I left Budehaven , Blights were kind enough to take me on as an apprentice. I spent the next year studying four days a week at collage and one day a week working alongside the mechanics.

After my first year, Blights offered me full time employment. Wishing to continue studying, I switched to four days a week working and one day a week at collage. To this day, I believe that this gave me the valuable experience that studying alone could not provide, just as studying gave me the theory and know how that working alone could not fulfil. Now an employer myself, I am a strong supporter of motoring apprenticeships and have my own apprentices.

At 19, I was approached by my local Hartland garage, Huggins, to work for them. Keen to experience a wider range of vehicle makes and models that working for a Vaxhaull dealership couldn’t give me, I moved to Huggins while continuing to study at Camborne Collage.

After a five year apprenticeship , I graduated from Camborne Collage having passed every motor mechanics qualification they had to offer, as well as business and finance exams. I was also honoured to be awarded the ‘Student of the Year’ award for the entire auto-motive department.

During my final year at collage, the opportunity arose to purchase Huggins Garage. Encouraged and supported by my parents, I took over Huggins Garage on the 8th January 1998. Still living at home on the farm allowed me to pour every waking hour into the business, and we soon outgrew our little site in the centre of Hartland village.

In 2006 I was granted planning permission for a new purpose built premises on the outskirts of Hartland, and in 2007 I opened my first Colwills Garage. Thanks to the continued support of our customers, this is the garage that many of you know today. Nearly 20 years since taking on Huggins, my mum still works for me, I employ eight vehicle technicians and we are still steadily growing.

Having moved to Bude around the same time as opening Colwills Garage, it seemed logical that if and when I were to expend further, it should be to Bude.

The opportunity arose in 2014 to take on and run D&C Engineering on Kings Hill Ind. Est. Although this was not a garage, Gareth and his father Dave, had always played a part in mending vehicles, whether it be skimming cylinder heads, making new parts, or doing custom repairs. Without a precision engineers in the area, us and other garages would have to search further afield for such services, this would make simple repairs much more expensive, resulting in local people having to pay a premium for relatively simple repairs. After much consideration, we officially took on D&C Engineering on the 1st September 2014, and Bude still has a precision metal engineers.

In early 2015, Kate and I were given the opportunity by Kate’s father, John Greenaway, to build another purpose built workshop on his site in Stratton, Bude. We’re very pleased to say that our 2nd garage, Colwills Garage Bude opened its doors yesterday, on the 1st of July, 2016.

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