RACING appears to be in the genes for the men in the Brand family, who have all achieved success in their chosen sport.
Another constant going through the generations is the family business of W H Brand Ltd at Whaplode Drove, where four generations have made a living.
It all began with William Horace Brand, who came to the village as an orphan after his parents died of TB in the early years of the 20th century. In 1925 William began selling petrol and repairing cycles and motorcycles – cars were only for the very wealthy then – just 400 or 500 yards from the site of the existing garage. William worked out of a little shed and the fuel was sold in two gallon cans until he was able to install a proper pump three or four years later.
William’s son, Fred, says he was 11 in 1936 when his father bought the three-acre site where the business is located now, which is when the business started repairing as well as dealing in cars. When Fred left school at 14 the war years meant there was little trade going on so it wasn’t until 1947, the same year he married Alfreda, that he went to work for the family business repairing cars and commercial vehicles.
However, Fred recalls the workshop was full of tyres and cycles and, because he didn’t have the money to build a new one, he came up with his own method of raising funds.
Fred went out and bought a brand new Speedway bike and leathers and proceeded to win races and earn money – about £35 a night. The highlight of his career was qualifying for the world final in 1954, finishing seventh on seven points. By 1956 he had the funds to build the garage and his father saw the W H Brand sign go over the door, but was sadly killed in a motoring accident soon afterwards.
Martyn, born in 1950, grew up around the garage and joined it as a mechanic after school. His chosen sport was Superstox racing, and he won the world championship in 1987 and the following year did even better, winning the English, British, European and World titles.
Martyn married Eileen in 1970 and their son Adam (40) is in the business in sales, although he too started off as a mechanic. Adam also went in for Superstox, and the highlight of his career was coming second in the 1992 British finals and second in the 1996 European finals.
It’s probably too soon to tell if another generation has inherited the racing genes, but Adam’s sister Sarah has produced two great grandchildren for Fred and Alfreda and W H Brand sponsors the football kit for the Crowland team, where Callum plays.
The company, a Chevrolet main dealer, invited around 80 customers and friends to join staff in a party recently to celebrate 100 years of the car manufacturer as well as 86 years of W H Brand. It was also a time to reflect on the company’s history.
“The business has gone from repairing cycles and motorcycles and selling petrol, and then when dad started it moved into selling and repairing cars and commercial vehicles and now we are a Chevrolet main dealer,” said Martyn, who has added an extension to the garage his father built.
“I think the racing side helped with the business because you learn a lot about the technical side when you are working on and developing the car. It was the same with dad’s Speedway because that went hand in hand with the motorcycle repairs.”
Fred, who lives over the road, added: “The business gives me a lot of pleasure. I am thrilled to bits with it and that’s why I walk over here every day. It’s special because so many of the family worked here.”
Alfreda agrees, adding: “When I say it’s a family firm it’s not just the three generations but all the staff.
“It’s like one big family.”