Dylan Miles has just opened his new specialist classic car showroom on London Road. Here he tells SO Magazine about the fascinating history of the building, which has always had strong links to the motor trade since the early 1900s, and why he is so pleased to have been able to restore it back to its former glory…
Over the past nine months an extensive restoration programme was undertaken at the historic London Road showrooms by classic car and motorcycle specialist Dylan Miles Ltd who opened their doors for trading on January 3, 2023. The building, and the site on which it is located, has a rich and relatively unknown historical connection with the motorcar that spans well over a century and back to the dawn of motoring itself.
Directly next door at 11 London Road are now the Royal Springs Apartments, built a few years ago on the site that was originally occupied by AA Cundell, the respected Victorian carriage company who constructed lavish horse drawn carriages there in the late 1800s and provided stabling and garaging for the Royal Kentish Hotel opposite. At the turn of the century the company morphed into Cundell and Dungey Ltd and they began focusing their attention on constructing coach-built bodies for the latest mode of transport, the motorcar, becoming sole sales agents for luxury American car manufacturer Cadillac in 1905 and British-built Belsize Motors.
In 1907 the site was taken over by J.Rawsons and Sons who held the concession for Austin, Daimler, Essex and other British marques and in 1909 the showrooms at 12-16 London Road were erected directly next door at the request of Mr G.Stevenson, who was at the time a director of Rawsons. He established G.Stevenson Engineers – The Kent and Sussex Garage Ltd and offered both sales and maintenance, becoming a concession for Humber, Wolseley and many other marques of the period. The building remained occupied by Stevensons well into the 1960s who by then were a franchised dealer for Standard Triumph.
By the late 1970s the building had been taken over by Pace Petroleum, acting as a petrol station and used car sales lot and later became the home of local Suzuki dealership PK Motors who remained on the site well into the 2000s. For the past few years the building had a temporary break from the motor trade, acting as a showroom for garden furniture before being taken over by Dylan Miles in April 2022. Dylan commissioned a major restoration of the 114-year-old building, in order to return it to its former glory and pay homage to the automotive heritage of this important and historic site.
The building has to be one of the last remaining working showrooms from this bygone era that exists worldwide today and Dylan and his team have paid particular attention on retaining an ‘old world’ feel with all period furniture and accoutrements as a nod to the building’s past and in keeping with the classic and historic vehicles in which they specialise.
Wheels in motion
The launch party for the new Dylan Miles classic car showroom was held on January 20 and saw nearly 200 people in attendance. Comedian and actor Steve Coogan, a friend and client of the business, cut the ribbon to declare the showroom open. A special auction, hosted by Drew Pritchard of Salvage Hunters and William Smith of RM Sothebys, raised over £12,000 for MIND Charity and for a respected member of the classic motor trade who has recently suffered a life changing illness. Many of the lots were generously supplied by a number of local businesses including Pushkin Antiques, Paragon Porsche, Godin Sporting Cars and Eagle Racing. Guests were catered for by local Italian restaurant Lago Di Como.
For further information please see www.dylan-miles.com