A 30-plus car collection built up by a Cambridgeshire garage proprietor Empson’s Garage over more than half a century – is to be sold at auction next month due to retirement and the business closing after 99 years. Many will be offered without reserve.

Empson’s Garage was opened in Elsworth, South Cambridgeshire in 1919 by Bill Empson, grandfather of present owner Bob. Since then it has become something of a local institution, serving not only as the local garage but also for many years as the village shop. Back in 1919 cars were still very new and generally owned only by wealthy individuals, and the village garage’s main business would have been the repair of bicycles and agricultural equipment. In time, though, cars became more popular and in the 1930s

Empson’s became a franchised dealer for the rapidly-expanding Rootes Group, adding further marques as the group expanded. They remained Rootes dealers until the Chrysler takeover in 1967, and as well as cars, serviced and repaired Commer lorries for local firms. Bob has especialy fond memories of the unique Commer TS3 two-stroke diesel engine.

Customers at Empson’s in the immediate post-war era included the Rev. W. Awdry, author of the original Thomas the Tank Engine Books. Awdry was vicar of Elsworth and Knapford from 1946 to 1953 and wrote the first seven of his 26 books while based there.
Bob Empson did his apprenticeship with Ford and joined the family business in 1964. Three years the garage became an official Ford retail dealer, selling new and used Fords, but still carried out the usual local garage functions including running a local taxi service and supplying and delivering paraffin for heating.

Unsurprisingly, the cars being sold are mainly of Rootes and Ford manufacture. The list includes two Sunbeam Talbot 90s – one of which was owned by Bob’s grandad from one year old – a Sunbeam Alpine, three Mk3 Cortinas, a Mk2 and Mk4 Cortina, Ford Capri, Triumph Dolomite 1500, A40 Farina and Morris Minor pickup.

Condition ranges from very good to restoration project, though all have been in dry storage for some years at least and will therefore need some light recommissioning at the very least. Some of the cars will have reserves others will be offered without so the highest bid on the day buys, and some items of memorabilia are also being offered. Bob is retaining five Fords to take with him into retirement.

Anglia Car Auctions at King’s Lynn have been given the job of selling the “Empson Collection” which will be offered as part of their first classic car sale of 2018 on Saturday January 27.