Family Motor Business is Champion
For Daleman this month, I headed over to Castleton, where five generations of the Champion family have worked in the motor trade. Between them, they offered a fascinating insight into the era of motorcars in the Dale.
Derrick explained how the business was founded when his father, a mining engineer/blacksmith, moved from Rosedale to Castleton. His progression from mining engineer to motor mechanic was a natural one: when cars first arrived on the roads, spare parts could not be easily bought, so local blacksmith/mechanics made them from scratch.
Derrick recalls his father once creating a whole light assembly from copper sheet, carefully beaten out to shape. And, he says, “One of the biggest changes I’ve seen was lights. To begin with, cars had no lights at all. Then we had a Napier with carbide lights. It’s acetylene, you had to set it off. It had rubber pipes going to each light. Father was doing them one day and there was a bit of a blowback and it took off all his eyelashes.”
Derrick’s son Rick recalls another lucky escape from what could have been a nasty accident: “When a customer got one of the first tractors, they had an explosion because his brother struck a match to look in the fuel tank. Rick recalls, “He said he thought it would be OK, because it was a safety match.”
Rick says, “I used to make some parts, but not so much as Father and Grandfather, who made things from the start. Now, it’s gone completely the other way. Nowadays, it’s rare to make a part, as insurers prefer to have standard items fitted to cars.
The family has always sold, as well as mended cars – and for recreation, they’ve had horses and motorsport. Derrick says, “My great- grandfather was a horse dealer and jockey in the London area. He came up into Rosedale to build the walls.”
Derrick’s Grandfather was sent to work on a farm when he left school, but he didn’t like it, and, after loitering in the blacksmith’s shop, managed to get himself apprenticed. Rick comments, “When he was an apprentice, he had to make his own tools, then make a case to put the tools in. Than make another set to use. We still have that case of tools, it’s gorgeous.”
From a jockeying Great Grandfather, the family quickly converted to motorsport. Rick says, “My Grandfather was one the first to win a motoring event in Rosedale – the Chimney Bank climb. At that time, the road was like a farm track, just dirt. He won twice, and was given a cup to keep – we still have it.”
Then, says Rick, “Grandad did it mostly with motorcycles. Dad did a little bit with cars. I got the chance to do a little bit more, so I took that chance. Joyce was in Whitby motor club. I persuaded her to navigate for me, and that’s how we met. We did a fair few together – we did it for some years. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and made a lot of good friends.
“Then Ryan came along. He was far better at rallying than I was, so I let him go forward.” Ryan became a professional rally driver, and this has led to the family business entering the modern age with a world-wide customer base for specialist rally parts. Ryan travels the world to rally events, while Joyce and Rick now have staff to help them with local repairs and sales.
And, with help on hand, Rick now has time to follow the family’s other interest: horses. He says, “My Father has always been interested in horses, and built up a reputation for 13/2 children’s ponies. So I’m carrying on breeding them. I had the first foal this year. If we get anywhere near as successful as Dad it will be amazing – he did well at all the major shows.”
Meanwhile, Derrick, who enjoyed the country life on the moors, says, “I was brought up in a world class position and I’ve led two lives, a horsey life and a motor car life. I’ve enjoyed both, and can say I’ve been successful in both. I’ve had millionaires that have wanted to buy my ponies and couldn’t – a nice position to be in.”
Read more about the Champions in Dalesman Magazine
Visit the Champions’ website at http://www.champions-castleton.co.uk/