The other chinless wonder lived slightly closer to home – let’s call him ‘Lord Edward Coates’.
We used his family manor for various activities over the years, ranging from customer golf days, charity events, and ride and drive activities which took place in the estate’s glorious surroundings.
In the late 80’s we also had the Volvo franchise for the St. Albans area, and indeed Volvo used this venue for some of their national events. It was a marvellous location – with a wonderful main house and fantastic grounds with a golf course. It was very accessible to all the major road links, so it was popular with customers as well.
At the time ‘the big house’ was running Volvo’s as part of their own fleet and used us for their servicing, as we were reasonably convenient. Normally we didn’t give “credit” on service accounts, but somehow ‘the big house’ had had their Volvo serviced without paying, and some 18 months later, they still hadn’t paid the bill. We had tried everything to get our money, but everyone we talked to said “it was up to his Lordship”, and of course we could never get to talk to him, and he also did not answer our letters.
This was in the late 80’s early 90’s when the economy virtually collapsed. The recession was really tough, and we along with most other businesses were having a hard time. This situation was unexpected and fell into the category of being ‘the last thing we needed’.
One day I happened to be in our local newsagents for something and was chatting to the owner “Mr. Patel”. We were comparing notes about how bad things were and he let it slip that ‘the big house’ also owed him money for their newspapers and magazines for well over a year. I couldn’t believe it – I was incensed. Here was another example of the Landed Gentry disregarding their responsibilities and abusing local businesses, somehow using their status in the community to take advantage of the rest of us. Mind you, there were whispers floating around at the time about potential financial troubles up at the house, but nothing concrete – just local gossip.
Either way, I decided enough was enough and rang ‘the big house’ asking for his Lordship, saying it was “Tom Walkinshaw calling”. Needless to say, he had no hesitation in coming to the phone to speak to such a well-known name in the world of motorsport. He was, however, less impressed when I revealed my true identity. I disregarded these protestations and spelt out yet again his outstanding bill for servicing his Volvo and suggested that he sort out “Mr Patel’s” paper bill immediately as well at the same time. I was sure that not just the local press, but also the national press would not take kindly to “his sort” taking advantage of small local businesses at this time of a deep recession.
I said I was on my way up to the house now to get the money and hung up. I then gathered together three of the biggest lads in the business and we were there in double quick time. To my surprise, guess what – he sorted both “Mr. Patel” and us with cash whilst we waited. The speed at which we had arrived there had probably shocked him, along with the three large blokes standing behind me!
No apologies, no excuses, just a smirk on his face as broad as the Irish Sea.
Sometime later, as a result of more serious misdemeanours, he would get his comeuppance and end up ‘doing time’ at Her Majesty’s convenience. These two guys are only two examples of their type that I came across during my time at Porsche, and I guess they do not reflect well-heeled land gentry in the main.
But they do reflect what I came across.