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6 July 2018  •  By: Perry Robb

The ‘Brigadier General’: Bluffer in Chief

In the 70’s and 80’s the ‘Brigadier General’ ran the biggest and best known used car business in and around London. He client base included MP’s, pop stars, city traders, and sometimes even normal mortals like you and me. He didn’t call around the local dealerships much himself to buy his used car stock, instead, he relied upon a group of traders as his supply source.

He had a tremendously positive attitude to everything in life. I guess in modern parlance you could say he had a ‘can do’ way about him.

The nickname came from his spell in the army where apparently, he did rise through the ranks, but no one actually knew exactly how far up the ladder he really got. Some said he did get to the rank of Brigadier General, others suggested it was that of a Sargent.

We never did find out.

However, he did play up to the part.

Tall and slim and with a ramrod straight back, he characteristically stood with his hands behind his back, his strong jaw jutting forward inviting some sort of comment. He even drove about in a gleaming Series 3 Land Rover.

When you were in his company you instantly knew he was ex-army, and instantly knew he was in charge. In any situation, he would be the leader, and he would always find a way to come out as the winner.

His son was a talented racing driver having been very successful in karts at an early age, progressing through Formula Ford and other single-seater formulas. Consequently, the bold ‘Brigadier General’ spent most of his time and money taking him around England and Europe to compete in high profile race meetings thus ensuring he had every opportunity possible to succeed and meet the right people in the process.

And succeed he did, getting himself signed up with a top team in Formula 1 in the late 1980’s, and going on to have a very successful career.

The ‘Chariots’ Porsche dealership had been going for a few years when we traded in a couple of part exchanges against a new 911 from the boss of a huge national construction company.

These two cars were typical of that industry – clapped out!

Both had had a very hard life being driven in and out of construction sites; overloaded with cement bags, tiles, bricks, rubble etc. Rarely had they been cleaned either and to cap it all both cars had recorded in excess of 90,000 miles apiece.

The construction company boss was extremely keen to buy the 911 and initially wasn’t trading anything in, but he seemed to struggle to find the money for the full deposit required to make the deal work, and this was when the two-part exchanges were introduced into the equation.

We were a bit dubious as to the real ownership of these cars, as they had only just been registered in the boss’s name. However, we received a note from the company secretary confirming all was okay and the deal was done.

The two-part exchanges were duly traded in and I, in turn, sold them both on to a Cockney trader called Rainbow Paul. Rainbow was a lively lad who was an extremely good outlet for tatty, high mileage cars.

I then saw Rainbow in one of the cars a few weeks later. He had had it completely resprayed and in fairness, it looked a different car.

Sometime after I got a call from the ‘Brigadier General’.

“Perry old boy, how are you?” started the conversation, and without waiting for my reply he then went on, ” I’ve bought a couple of part exchanges from that dodgy little blighter Rainbow Paul, which apparently he purchased from you, and as its Rainbow I thought I’d check the mileages out with you just in case I may get myself into any deep water”.

I checked that these two cars were indeed the two old bangers which we had traded in from the boss of the construction company and confirmed to the ‘Brigadier General’ that both cars had recorded in excess of 90,000 miles.

“My dear chap, but this is most unsatisfactory,” he exclaimed. “Both of these motor cars are now showing only 20,000 miles a piece on their respective speedometers! That rascal Rainbow must have ‘clocked’ them! I thought something was up because the pedal rubbers were heavily worn and the driver’s seat as well.”

“Bloody hell,” I said. “What are you going to do, get Rainbow to take the cars back?”

“Oh no young man,” he said. “I’ll just spin both speedometers up around 35,000 to 40,000 miles and then no one will ask any questions!”

In the words, roughly, of that great comedian Groucho Marx…

“To succeed in business, you have to give the customer great products, at great prices and offer fabulous customer service…

…and if you can bluff that, then you’ve got it made!”

That was the ‘Brigadier General’: The Great Bluffer in Chief.