Rob Pendleton Motors
1977 Rob Pendleton Motors (RPM)
February 1977, 26 years old, and the start of a new chapter, the beginning of RPM.
Looking back it was a brave move from the security of 12 years at a Main Ford Dealership, (including a 5 year apprenticeship), but Jill was as keen as I was (if not more).
A workshop was needed, and a friend of ours was using an ideal building for body repairs called JJ Motors, but on a part-time basis. He offered to share it, just the job.
This was on the A34 Cannock Road, on the outskirts of Stafford, and just a couple of miles from home.
Jill was 5 months pregnant at the time, so it was quite an upheaval for us, she’s pictured outside the new garage premises, with our first damaged reparable works van, and our family car a MKI Escort 1300 GT. See repaired van below.
Most of the pictures enlarge with a click.
Before and after repair.
Sorry they’re in black and white, but the rebuilt van looked great with the fresh respray in dark blue.
And the new RS quarter bumpers set it off nicely.
The Cortina V6
This Cortina Estate MKII was bought as a dual purpose vehicle as funds were tight, we needed something to tow with and be usable socially.
It was a fabulous Jeff Uren Savage Cortina with 3.0 V6 engine.
We kept it for over 25 years!
Originally it had AFF 900 registration but as time went on it looked more and more out of character for it’s age.
So I re registered it with the correct year plate and was able to get non-reflective plates made.
It had 4 speed overdrive gearbox which was fun but it failed after a while and as luck would have it a friend was changing his automatic box and looking for a manual, so we did a swap, pedals and everything. It made it a great car to drive.
About the same time I fitted Bilstien gas strut inserts to the original Macpherson struts, rack and pinion steering, turreted rear shocks, rewired it to include Escort fingertip column controls and much more.
Richard Wright rebuilt the front end with new inner and outer wings etc.
It was a real wolf in sheep’s clothing and surprised many who thought it could be outrun.
The first job in.
I remember my first car in for repair, an MG Midget which needed King-Pins and bushes, a far cry from tuning RS2000s and tested my ability to work on any make or age of car.
More work than I could cope with.
It wasn’t long before the phone was ringing with future bookings, some came as a result of me not being at Lloyds main dealership any more, and old customers wanting me to carry on looking after their Rallye Sport Escorts etc.
Geoff Dickenson, auto electrician, also ex-Lloyds, had gone self employed, and it wasn’t long before I needed his expertise, and he was willing to help out with mechanical repairs as well, so if I was bogged down with work he would come in to help. Also Alan Jones, another ex-Lloyds mechanic and good friend, was on hand to help.
One or two of my customers.
Colin Clapshoe, was just one of my old customers who came to join me, he had a Mexico from Lloyds but was driving a 2 Litre Capri S now and wanted some extra lights as he was marshalling on night rallies.
He later had an RS2000 MK II from Lloyds but brought it to me for service.
By a stroke of luck I was recommended to a local business man, Ron Hudson of Children’s Books Ltd. in Stafford, who wanted to get into Rallying, and he asked me if I knew of a suitable car. Read on please.
Mike Dickens, the then Service manager at Lloyds, had bought the Lloyds RS 2000 MKII reg No. PVT 666R which I had built at Lloyds.
But he had since moved to Guernsey and took the RS with him with a view to do some rallying, but I don’t think he ever did.
So PVT 666R came to mind for Ron, and it wasn’t long before we negotiated a deal with Mike and collected it from Southampton docks for Ron.
Ron was a larger than life character, in many ways, and had a large budget to go rallying with, which helps.
This was the start of a long association with Ron, during which time he let me drive his cars on rallies and Autocrosses, and once said “as long as you drive faster than me I know there is room for me to improve”. Driving PVT 666R Ron won the British Trial And Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) Autocross Championship in 198-? We built several Escorts for Ron, to include a Works spec Rallycross GP4 Escort, 250 BHP, ZF gearbox the lot.
He even bought Russell Brook’s MK II Escort POO 504R from Ford after the RAC Rally and did Special Stage events in that also, and I had the chance to drive it a few times, fabulous car. Thanks Ron, RIP.
Below, me driving PVT as it came back from Mike Dickens, showing Ron how it goes sideways over a bridge. His cars and service van at an event, Audi Quatro outside RPM prior to the RAC Rally of Great Britain.
Below, me driving Ron Hudsons RS2000 MKII
I seemed to do a lot of finishing in 8th place.
But the best result, given the rally status, and entry list, was the Rothman’s National Rally in 1981, in POO 504R the MKII RS1800. Co-driven by Les Edwards.
It was all going so well until stage 21 Kensham, when a halfshaft broke at the stage start, loosing us about 2 minutes.
We managed to get to the end of the stage, about 3 miles, where we had the service crew who changed the shaft on a red-hot axle. Thanks lads. Best stage time was 2nd on stage 6, called Axe 1.
The picture above is at a hairpin right, I actually managed to get the pendulum swing of the car just right, to full power round the bend on opposite lock, best ever feeling.
POO 504R Ex works RS1800
POO 504R was an Ex Ford works Escort RS 1800.
Ron Hudson bought it from Ford after Russell Brooks drove it on the 1979 RAC Rally finishing in 2nd place behind Hannu Mikkola in another Escort.
But Ford had many famous names driving it, Russell Brooks, Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen, Timo Makinen, Mike Hutchinson (1982 MN Champion) who finished 10th on Circuit of Ireland in POO 504R in 1982, and others, (including me?).
It had 22 WRC Rally starts, and many more besides.
Ford may have used the same reg on other bodyshells because there are other photos of it with tarmac spec arches etc. As here.
More pictures as I find them here.
Ron and Les Edwards competed in the gruelling Lombard RAC Rally in 1980 and 1981 with the ex works Escort which started and finished from Chester.
65 stages and 1700 miles, and managed a creditable 22nd place despite a puncture and damaged brake pipe.
They were sponsored by the Post Office, Royal Mail Parcels.
We had 2 service vehicles out and all the team including Steve Wallace, Geoff Dickenson and even some of Ron’s employees.
The Rolls Royce….tow car!
Ron Hudson got even more involved in Rallying and Rallycross and it wasn’t unusual for him to do 2 events in one weekend.
In order to get 2 cars to different venues meant that Ron would often use his road car to pull a trailer, no ordinary road car though! It certainly turned heads.
A few more pictures of Ron below. Hover over for description or click for large images.
Then came something different.
Audi Quattro’s were making an impact on the scene and it became obvious that any 4 wheel drive car was going to be difficult to beat.
So we built Ron the first RHD Audi Quattro works style car in the UK.
It was a beast, and required a very different approach to driving than a rear wheel drive Escort. I never got to drive it competitively, thank goodness, and I’m not sure it was an enjoyable car to drive. Ron got on ok with it and entered the 1982 RAC with Les Edwards in it. Sadly the turbo let us down and with no spare we were out.
During all the above, our time at Cannock Road came to an end, and we tried to find new premises locally, but without luck.
In desperation we considered a move to Wales, as the Welsh were giving small grants to relocate businesses there.
At the last minute Ron came up with an idea that we could use his old Childrens Books business warehouse premises.
Sandwiched between the A34 and a service road called Greyfiars Place, just north of Stafford town centre where, there just happened to be, an old coach garage, fortunate, you bet.
The other side of town from home but closer to most of the Motor Factors and suppliers.
So we moved in.
It was ok, not posh at all, very cold in Winter and hot in Summer, but we had a workshop, and access to a washroom and loo.
Buy the garage!
Business was going well, and rather than keep looking for a new site, we decided to buy Greyfriars Place from Ron.
This went ahead ok and as a result we ended up with a sprawling property that extended from the A34 right back to Greyfriars Place.
The buildings consisted of a double shop front with workrooms, a large 3 bed flat, 2 storey out buildings, more detached workshops and open ground.
Tenants were easy to find for the various bits to help fund it all.
John Sanders, who I shared Cannock Rd with, joined me at Greyfriars and it was very useful to have a body shop at hand.
Richard Wright also moved onto the site running another body shop business. He later relocated, first to premises near Stafford Railway Station and then to much bigger works off Baswich Lane.
Jill and I now had two children, Jennifer and Elizabeth and time away at rallies was time not spent at home with the family.
Business was still very good but quality time was being eaten up with work and paperwork.
Jill worked extremely hard for the business, even collecting parts from all over the place, Birmingham, Manchester, Cheshire and one or both girls would be bundled into the van for the ride.
I once did an autocross near Manchester and had an accident which broke my wrist, the local hospital couldn’t operate on it as I’d eaten recently. Being unable to drive, Jill drove the tow-car with trailer and autocross car on it back home, with David (Ron’s helper) holding a screaming baby.
This was a crossroads with the business, to invest in better premises, employ more staff to ease the burden, or sell-up.
We had funded the whole thing ourselves, the Bank wouldn’t help in the early days and we were adamant that we wouldn’t ask them now.
Having made the decision to move on there was no looking back. In order to keep the garage running and customers happy the easiest option was to hand over completely to Geoff Dickenson. Geoff Then rented the garage premises from me and effectively owned RPM from now on. This was in 1984.
We had sold our house near Stafford and were living in the flat at RPM whilst looking for another house.
Jill’s parents had retired to Devon in 1979 and we spent many hours up and down the M5 visiting them.
It was on a return journey from Devon when we decided to look for a house closer to her parents in Devon and pulled off the M5 at Bridgewater and started looking.
Between May Bank Holiday and June 84 we had found our house, bought it and moved to Dartmoor, Devon
and left RPM to Geoff, and all the other buildings still tenanted.
We finally sold the whole lot in Stafford, as it was impossible to keep up with tenants and maintenance from over 200 miles away.
A very big thank you to all my customers, far too many to mention here, who were obviously the lifeblood of the business. To my trade suppliers locally and nationally. To my dedicated mechanics; Steve, Geoff, and Alan who put up with some less than perfect working conditions and for their support on many many rallies in some terrible weather.
Also Fred Mould and Bert who although retired helped enormously cleaning cars and fetching spares.
The biggest thank you imaginable to Jill, without her support I might not even have started RPM.