Greetham Garage closes as owner and three-time RAC Rally driver retires after 45 years
A familiar face to car owners across the district has hung up his overalls and headed into retirement after 45 years in the garage business.
Julian Cardew had to learn the finer points of mechanics and management after taking on the running of Greetham Garage with a university friend and fellow rally driver in 1976.
Julian (66), who lives in Carlby, has built up a customer base of 3,500, and is also proud to have brought through more than 30 apprentices.
"The biggest problem has been customers ringing in wanting to book their car in," he said.
"We will miss them. Some have said they've never used another garage.
"We've had so many cards and letters and personal visits to say goodbye."
He was brought up on a farm and studied horticulture at university, but a slump in the British market after joining the Common Market in 1973 forced him to look away from the land for a career.
"We thought what on earth are we going to do," Julian added.
"We got into rallying while at university so my mother found the garage at Greetham and we went and asked the owner if he was interested in selling it.
"It was a really traditional place with petrol pumps on the forecourt.
"In the early days it was mainly British cars, there weren't many others about, and a lot of welding!"
He took on sole ownership soon after and developed the business, covering the standard repairs and MoTs while specialising in classic car restoration and rally cars.
Six years ago he oversaw a move from its original Main Street home to bigger premises near the A1 between Greetham and Stretton which have been bought by a national recovery firm.
"We were independent so never tied to any manufacturers so could fix anything from a doll's pram to a high-end car," he said.
"I started off with a Mini, and my last two MoTs I did were Minis so I ended up where I started off really."
His biggest adventures came behind the wheel of a rally car and particularly three editions of the world-famous RAC Rally.
"It was a really big thing back then," he explained,
"In our first go the suspension broke. We welded it back together at one 'o' clock in the morning, but had to retire on the last day.
"In 1981 we went off the road on ice in Grizedale Forest and had to retire later in Kielder Forest, but in '83 we got it round and finished about 28th."
Retirement will allow Julian to care for his wife Sarah as she receives treatment for breast cancer which was diagnosed on the day the business was sold.
He also hopes to get back into rallying, in a support crew role, and sail his sea-going yacht while catching up on missed holidays.
"It's been sat there idle too long," he said.
"This place used up all my time - on average I've worked about 55 hours a week for 45 years."