In the early 1960s Weir Lodge Garage was built in Bridge Road Chertsey not far from the bridge in Chertsey. It was a privately owned company and the original directors were Colin Benson, Managing Director, John T Boileau, Chairman, Hugh Ruding-Bryan, Sales Director, James Conceprio, Service Director and Patrick Hovenden, Director. The building was very modern in its day, being mainly glass.
Weir Lodge were agents for Ford, Austin, MG, Wolseley (British Leyland) and Volkswagen. Sales were enhanced by a thriving Export Department that specialised in supplying tax-free cars to HM Forces. Fleet Sales particularly of Fords kept the Service Department busy throughout the year.
Towards the end of the 1960s the sales of Volkswagens grew steadily. Not only was the sale of the Beetle increasing but also the VW Motor Caravan conversions were becoming popular. Weir Lodge supplied the Westfalia, Devon, Danbury and the more local Holdsworth conversions. Weir Lodge was only an agent for Volkswagen and all vehicles and spare parts had to be ordered through their Volkswagen distributor, located at Hove on the Sussex coast.
The end of the 1960s saw a change to Volkswagen franchising with the abolishment of the agent and distributor system and a move towards one-make dealerships. The Directors spotted an opportunity here and started to look round for alternative premises. The search ended with the premises of the old Walton-On-Thames Motor Company at Walton Bridge and a 21-year lease was obtained in 1969 on the understanding that the local bus (Bedford Duple coach) service would be retained for six months. Robert Kendall relocated to Walton to manage the bus service and oversee the building alterations which took a while, and Walton Lodge Garage (WLG) opened for business in 1970 as a Volkswagen/Audi dealership.
Weir Lodge continued trading in Chertsey until about 1973 when all resources were then transferred to Walton. Philip Hudson, Financial Director, arrived to control the purse strings and helped make WLG a success.
By this time Hugh Ruding-Bryan had taken over as Managing Director of WLG. His innovative ideas brought so much publicity, some of his open days brought literally thousands of both customers and visitors including actors and famous pop stars to the premises local Police were hired to help with the traffic and parking. The Christmas showroom displays were out of this world in fact that was the title of one of them, which had a flying saucer arriving at the Pearly Gates! This one won first prize from the local chamber of commerce. Some other displays were more controversial, but they all brought much needed publicity.
Due to a fantastic management team and staff, Walton Lodge became one of the most successful dealerships in the country and after winning several competitions went on to win the coveted Dealer of the Year Award€¯, the best dealer in the country out of over 350 dealerships!
In 1979 after only 10 years at Walton Bridge the premises were getting too small and another garage in Terrace Road Walton was taken over. It was named Wheelbase and the car preparation side of WLG was transferred together with the Autorent Department, with some 75 vehicles on rental. Wheelbase also became a Volkswagen Light Commercial Dealership.
After another 10 years the Wheelbase premises were sold, and the Directors were unable to extend their lease of the premises at Walton Lodge and it therefore closed its doors for the last time in September 1990.
Subsequently, Hugh Ruding-Bryan and a few key members of staff re-opened Wheelbase as a Volkswagen Specialist Garage at Queens Road, Hersham. It continued to supply new and second-hand Volkswagens and of course possessed all the specialised repair equipment in its workshops.
A management buy-out occurred a few years later and Wheelbase has continued to thrive, it is now one of the best-known Volkswagen Specialists in Surrey, providing the very highest levels of technical expertise and customer satisfaction.