The story of Guy Salmon and his car dealerships, plus the story of the Guy Salmon Mini GT

Born in 1913, Guy Salmon rose to become one of the UK’s leading car dealerships with dealers all over the country.

He borrowed £20 (now worth about £1000, allowing for inflation) from his mum to open his first dealership in 1934, on Brighton Road, Surbiton.

He drove a fire engine during WW2 and post-war he opened his first official Guy Salmon dealership in Thames Ditton in 1946. The site had made gun turrets for Bomber Command, although Salmon, aided by his brother Micky, sold Rolls-Royces and Bentleys from the site.

Described as a real gentleman and as a ‘larger than life’ character with a flamboyant and amazing dress sense all the more laudable given that mid-forties Britain was a time of austerity and dark-coloured clothing. When Salmon turned up in his gaily coloured clothes it must have caused a stir.

Even his daily driver was loud and proud as it was a white Bentley with bright red side stripes and a black leather interior with red piping.

He had several sayings but one of his best was: “You can borrow money; you can buy in brains, but you make your own luck.”

His area of west Surrey was full of notable car dealers like John Cooper Garages in Kingston-on-Thames and Roy Salvadori’s Garage in Tolworth with Lotus specialists Bell & Colvill in West Molesey.

Jaguar dealer Pages of Epsom was acquired in 1956 and by the time the company was sold to the Sytner Group in 1998, there were seventeen Jaguar Land Rover dealers including the 17,000 sq/ft ‘Global Statement Site’ next to the M3 motorway in Sunbury-on-Thames.

There were also plenty of celebrity customers who bought their cars from Guy Salmon including Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard and John Lodge and Justin Hayward out of the Moody Blues with Guy Salmon branches in swish parts of London such as Marble Arch and Sloane Square.

Salmon’s garages always had a policy of giving a full refund if the customer wasn’t happy (as long as the car wasn’t damaged). He didn’t want a fuss but did want a happy customer.

He was also known for always making a big song and dance about new car launches for the brands he represented. For example, he hired a Jaguar fighter plane for a new Jaguar launch and had it parked on the forecourt at Surbiton. Then another time saw the marching band of the Life Guards ‘perform’ at another one of his launch parties.

Guy’s son Richard joined his father’s company and was put in charge of the rental division. This part of the group famously hired high-end cars like Ferraris, Porsches, Bentleys and even Rolls-Royces.

Salmon also believed in utilising his workshops by producing a few special edition ‘Guy Salmon’ models. These included the XJ-S Guy Salmon Jubilee Edition with 350 of them sold.

In 1971 there was also a Guy Salmon Mini GT, which was based on a Mini Clubman. Salmon had noticed that there wasn’t an MG-badged version of the Mini, so he set about having his Thames Ditton coachworks come up with one. The car featured an MG grille and other accoutrements. Even though the company advertised it extensively, there were no takers and it remained a one-off.

Guy Salmon died in 2004, aged 91.