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History of St Leonards Motors

The Beginnings

St Leonards Motors began life as the brainchild of father and son team Graham and Brian Wakeford. Following the completion of his engineering training in Bristol and Newbury, Berkshire, Brian joined retired banker Graham in the purchase of a small garage on The Green, St Leonards-on-Sea in 1958. On the 1st January 1959, St Leonards Motors opened for business for the very first time.

The enterprise expanded quickly, and in 1960 Brian and Graham were joined by Brian's brother John, a retired pilot and aircraft engineer at Vickers Aviation and that same year the business became St Leonards Motors Ltd.

Ian Wakeford, son of John, joined the company straight from university in 1978. The Wakeford family still own the company to this day.

Expansion to West Marina

A reputation for good customer service led to more business than the modest garage on The Green could handle and in 1970 negotiations began with British Rail to purchase the land at West Marina, previously occupied by West arina Station. In 1972 Bo Peep Filling Station was opened, closely followed by the main Fiat garage that opened a year later.

Filling Stations

During the early 70s and 80s, SLM as they became known, also ran several local petrol filling stations. These were located at their original site on The Green, Silverhill, Queens Road, Red Lake and Sidley in Bexhill.

The Meteor

In 1974 the West Marina site unveiled its most unique and recognisable landmark, a Gloster Meteor, which was purchased from the Ministry of Defence, underlining John Wakeford's love for all things to do with aviation. He actually flew a Meteor whilst serving in the RAF.

Sidley Motors Acquisition

Over the years SLM continued to expand and in 1979 the company bought Sidley Motors in London Road, Bexhill, which originally operated as a Fiat dealership until 1983 when it became a full Toyota operation.

Relocation to Churchwood Drive

In 1986 the company, and the aircraft, relocated to its current head office site at Churchwood Drive. At the same time it split off its bodyshop which finally settled in Brunel Road in 1989. In 1994 the site opened a Nissan dealership alongside the Fiat site, and in 1995 opened a Vauxhall site on Sedlescombe Road North.

In 2005, having outgrown the site in Bexhill the company moved it's Toyota business into the same location as the Vauxhall site, and soon after acquired a second Toyota site in Uckfield. Recently, in 2011, we opened our first dealership in Tunbridge Wells with a full Vauxhall dealership.

Sussex Used Cars

Over all this time, the site in Bexhill had remained within the family as a specialist used car site. Recognising the success of the used car operation, the company decided to introduce a large dedicated used car site in Church Wood Drive, St Leonards, and Sussex Used Cars opened its doors for business in 2013.

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