6 days to go

It is 6 days until our 50th Anniversary!

Yesterday we heard from Mark Holmes, the son of the founder, and his fond memories of visiting the original site with his father. In today’s look back, we asked Mark Usher, Managing director from 1995 to 2004 share with us his memories and thoughts.

My links with Auto Windscreens go back to 1973 when the company traded from Brampton Buildings in the centre of Chesterfield as ‘Auto Windscreens and Car Valeting’. Brian Holmes ran the windscreen side and his sister, June, the valeting. In the 70's almost all cars had toughened windscreens unless you were lucky enough to own a more prestigious car.

Windscreens for the UK motor industry were made by Triplex (now Pilkington) and in the early 70's ‘foreign’ cars were a rare sight, with the likes of BMW, Citroen, Saab and VW having a small presence.

The direct supply of replacement automotive glass was restricted to companies who had a long association with Triplex, my old company was lucky enough to be one of them.

Triplex advert

1970's advert for Triplex windows

One of Auto Windscreens’ trade customers was Gordon Lamb which was a Saab dealer and Triplex was the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the windscreens. Lambs would only accept OEM glass, so Brian used to drive down to Birmingham every two weeks and collect a selection from my company; at this stage Brian had started to import laminated windscreens from a Swedish manufacturer called Sietex.

Brian was a very dynamic, entrepreneurial businessman and opened branches across Derbyshire, Yorkshire and the North and was very frustrated by what he saw as a closed shop of supply. By now the company had moved to Storforth Lane.

I'll never forget him ringing me at home one Saturday in the late 70's and being someone who never minced his words he told me in great confidence: "If the ******** won't supply me, I'll make my own!"

The whole project was shrouded in mystery, but sure enough, with sheer determination windscreens were made on site within a few years. Brian's expansion continued with branches opening on a near nationwide basis and in the meantime my company and Auto Windscreens became founder members of National Windscreens.

By the spring of 1988 Brian had, with the help of a great team of colleagues, achieved his dream and he sold Auto Windscreens to Heywood Williams PLC. In December of that year, I also sold my company to Heywood Williams, adding another 10 branches to the Auto Windscreens network.

I remember Auto Windscreens celebrating its 25th anniversary during my time as Managing Director and find it hard to believe that another 25 years have passed, and how complex windscreens have become.

May I add my congratulations to James and his team for reaching this historic milestone and I look forward to following the next stage of Auto Windscreens’ success.