Smiths Motor Group is a family-owned and run car dealership group based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire with dealerships both in Peterborough and Ilkeston, Derbyshire. We currently represent the Dacia, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault and Vauxhall brands offering new and used vehicles for sale, servicing and mechanical repairs, genuine manufacturer parts as well as an insurance-approved accident repair centre. The company is still owned and run by the original family and continues to serve the people of Peterborough, Ilkeston and the surrounding areas.
Frank Smith was born in Peterborough in May 1915. As a young man he worked on a market stall at the Peterborough Market before moving on to work at Peterborough Town Hall.
The Smiths Motor Group story starts over 80 years ago when Frank formed F.P. Smith Holdings Ltd. in March 1940. However, his business plans were put on hold by the second world war. After serving in the British Army (rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel), Frank returned to Peterborough and worked in the accounts department at Peterborough Town Hall.
Shortly after the war Frank began driving wedding cars and taxis in this spare time to help a member of his family and it was during this time that he developed his love of cars.
It wasn’t until 1951 with the investment in, and subsequent purchase of, Lambert Motors on Eastfield Road in Peterborough that Frank's journey into the world of car sales and maintenance truly began. At this time Lambert Motors was a Rover/Land Rover dealership and offered new and used cars for sale, carried out servicing as well as selling petrol.
In 1969 Lambert Motors was appointed a Vauxhall dealership for Peterborough before becoming soley a Bedford commercial vehicles dealership in 1973. Lambert Motors remained part of the Smiths Motor Group until the mid-1970s when it was purchased using a compulsory purchase order by Peterborough City Council in order to construct a new road.
In 1957 Frank invested in Dysons Garage located on Newark Avenue in Peterborough. Dyson's held the Austin, Jaguar and Vauxhall franchises at this time selling new and used cars along with offering servicing and, as with Lamberts, there was also a fuel filling station on site. The name Dysons went out of use in 1963 when the site simply become known as Newark Avenue Garage.The Newark Avenue Garage was also the location of Smiths Motor Group's head office until it moved into offices above the Nissan dealership on Bretton Way, Peterborough in 2005.
The purchase of Dyson's Garage began the relationship between Smiths and Vauxhall which continues to this day with the Vauxhall Approved Service Centre in Peterborough and Vauxhall dealership in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. The Vauxhall dealership stayed on Newark Avenue until 1969 when it moved to the Lambert Motors site on New Road.
In the years following 1969 the Newark Avenue Garage continued to sell new Austins and Jaguars and by 1972 even more British Leyland Motor Corporation brands were being sold from this site with the addition of Wolseley and MG.
In 1973 Smiths further strengthened its association with General Motors by adding an Opel franchise at the Newark Avenue Garage to compliment the Vauxhall dealerships it already operated in Peterborough and Derbyshire. Smiths continued to represent the Opel brand in Peterborough until General Motors removed the brand from the UK market in 1988.
With the move of the Opel dealership to the Lincoln Road Self Service Station in 1975 another new and long lasting partnership started in Newark Avenue. Smiths opened a Renault dealership on this site along with Millfield Road and the group has become synonymous with the brand in Peterborough with Smiths still holding the Renault franchise, now on Bretton Way.
When the Millfield dealership became the sole location for Renault in 1978 Newark Avenue became home to Smiths Motor Group's used cars up until 1995 when the the Hyundai dealership was opened here. This was Smiths Hyundai's home for 20 years until the Newark Avenue site was sold in 2005.
Throughout the 1960s Frank continued to expand his business into the East Midlands. This started with the purchases of the Mercury Garage on station road in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in August 1962 followed by Belle Vue Garage in Barwell, Leicestershire and Brandon's Garage in Langley Mill, Derbyshire.
While both Belle Vue and Brandon's Garages were primarily petrol filling stations, the Mercury Garage was a main Vauxhall dealership - the second Vauxhall dealership in the Smiths Motor Group - cementing Smiths relationship with the Vauxhall brand which continues to this day.
With a move away from small local fuel filling stations towards larger sites both Belle Vue and Brandon's were closed and Smiths Motor Group began to focus on car sales and servicing.
The Mercury Garage was renamed as Smiths of Ilkeston in 1977 and our Vauxhall dealership still stands on more or less the same location as it did in the 1960s after being fully rebuilt from the ground up after a devastating fire in the 1990s.
In 1968 Frank wrote a little piece of Peterborough history with the opening of the Lincoln Road Self Service Station. For the first time in Peterborough, drivers were able to fill their own cars with petrol rather than waiting for a petrol pump attendant to do it for them. This not only saved time but also reduced costs allowing lower petrol prices to be offered to customers.
While Frank had grown a successful business by 1970, and Smiths Motor Group was becoming well know in the Peterborough area, none of the individual garges bore his name. That all changed in April 1970 with the opening of the Smiths Used Car Centre and large petrol station at 169-177 Lincoln Road, Peterborough. Today this site is the home of HSS Hire Centre and Fast Signs.
In January 1972 Lincoln Road became the home of Smiths Vauxhall in Peterborough when the franchise was moved from Lambert Motors. In March 1973 Smiths Motor Group became the sole authorised supplier of new Vauxhall vehicles in Peterborough with the closure of the Murkett Brother's Vauxhall dealership. This site remained the home of Smiths Vauxhall until 1975 when it moved to brand new premises built on Bretton Way, Peterborough.
With Vauxhall's move to its new home in Bretton a space was left behind on Lincoln road, and that space was filled by Renault. In fact, up until 1978 Smiths operated two Renault dealerships in Peterborough both on Lincoln Road and at Smiths Renault's original home at Newark Avenue Garage.
Following in Vauxhall's footsteps, in 1978 Renault also relocated from the Lincoln Road site to a brand new, purposed built showroom on Bretton Way, next to the Vauxhall dealership constructed there three years earlier.
At this point both this site and the Newark Avenue Garage returned to being the home of used cars for Smiths Motor Group, offering one of the widest selections of used cars available in the Peterborough area, fulfilling this role for a further 8 years.
However, this wasn't the end of the story as in January 1986 Smiths opened a dedicated Bedford Commercial Vehicle centre here, cementing the Group's position as one of the biggest suppliers of Bedford Vehicles in the United Kingdom.
The Lincoln Road site was finally closed and sold in 1990 after being part of Smiths Motor Group for 20 years. The Bedford Commercial Vehicle operation returning to the Vauxhall dealership on Bretton Way before the brand was phased out by General Motors in 1991 when all commercial vehicles sold in the UK became badged as Vauxhalls.
In 1967 Peterborough was designated a 'New Town', part of the third wave of such designations, designed to accommodate the overspill of people from an ever-expanding London. With this growth Frank saw an opportunity, more people would need more cars and these people would be living in three new townships to be built around the city. With plans for over 5,000 new homes, Bretton was the largest of these new townships and this is where Frank chose to buy land and build his new dealerships. Some saw this move as a risk, moving to what would then be the outskirts of the city away from central locations traditionally favoured by car dealerships, would the customers follow? But follow they did, and more than 40 years later our Bretton Way site remains the heart of Smiths Motor Group.
Smiths Vauxhall, opening in 1975, was the first Smiths dealership to open on the Bretton Way site. The large modern site was state-of-the-art for the 1970s offering a large showroom, spacious workshop areas and ample customer parking, the new site allowed Smiths to offer even better levels of customer service than had previously been possible.
A large, modern fuel filling station was constructed on the site at the same time to serve the ever-increasing population of Bretton. This petrol station was demolished in the mid-1990s to make way for increased customer parking to cope with an ever-growing customer base. One of the pumps from this station can still be found in the small brick building in the car park.
By the turn of the millennium Smiths Motor Group's sales relationship with Vauxhall in Peterborough was drawing to a close, and in 2003, almost 50 years after Lambert Motors sold its first Vauxhall under Frank Smith's owernship, Smiths Vauxhall's sales department in Peterborough closed for the final time. This wasnt the end of the story for Smiths Vauxhall in Peterborough however, as the Bretton Way site continues to be a Vauxhall approved aftersales centre offering servicing and warranty repairs along with genuine Vauxhall parts.
Expansion of the Bretton Way site started only a few years later with Smith's Renault dealerships moving from their homes on Millfield Road and Newark Avenue to sit alongside the by now well-established Vauxhall dealership in November 1978.
As with the Vauxhall dealership before it, the new Renault dealership on Bretton Way offered a much more modern experience for customers than was previously offered.
The Smiths Accident Repair Centre was also constructed at this time allowing Smiths to offer customers a one-stop-shop for everything motor related with new and used car sales, servicing, mechanical repair, parts sales and now bodywork repair available all under one roof.
With increasing numbers of Renault vehicles being sold and serviced the initial showroom building became too small and in 1997 an extension was added more than doubling the size of both the Renault new car showroom and workshop as well as adding a dedicated Renault used car centre with space to display 70 used cars.
In the years since Smiths Renault has grown to be one of the most successful Renault dealerships in the country, winning numberous awards for both performance and exceptional customer satisfaction levels.
With the closure of the Vauxhall sales centre in Peterborough it was time for Smiths Motor Group to find a new partner. That new partner was Nissan with the franchise moving to the site in June 2003. After extensive redevelopment of the old Vauxhall site, including demolition of part of the original building, the stunning new Nissan showroom and workshops opened in 2004.
In 2005 the Smiths Motor Group head office moved from it's previous location next-door to the Newark Avenue Garage into purpose-built offices above the Nissan showroom with the Bretton Way site becoming the Group's registered offices at the same time.
Always looking to be at the forefront of automotive retail, Smiths Motor Group was one of the first wave of Nissan dealerships appointed to sell the all-electric Nissan LEAF when the car launched in the UK in 2010. Smiths Nissan is also home to one of the first rapid electric vehicle charging points in Peterborough - Smiths Motor Group's home in Peterborough is now home to 5 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points.
With a showroom redevelopment completed in 2019 the Nissan showroom maintains its position as the flagship dealership of the Group.
The most recent chapter in the Smiths Motor Group story began in January 2013 when, after a break of 8 years, Hyundai returned to the Group, replacing Cooks Hyundai. Initially operating out of temporary accommodation located on the the Renault used car forecourt, Hyundai can now be found in a state-of-the-art, 9-car showroom (the most energy efficient in the Group) which opened in July 2013. Smiths Hyundai goes from strength to strength with an increasing number of staff to cope with the growing number of Hyundai customers.