As Cornwall’s longest establish car dealership, here at PC Tonkin & Son we are proud of our 106 year history which has spanned four generations of the Tonkin family. Let us tell you more…..
Like any business, ours started from humble beginnings back in 1912. In the early years of the business, Preston Tonkin (26 in 1912) worked from his home at Wesley Terrace in Bugle. His business started repairing motor cycles and bicycles. At the same time, he also worked within the local clay industry.
As his reputation grew, Preston moved to work from premises at Roche Road and also began selling motor cycles, becoming an agent for manufacturers including Enfield, B.S.A. and Sunbeam. In 1924 he acquired the Austin franchise, the beginning of a business relationship with the marquee that would last for almost half a century.
By the late 1920’s, a new primary school had been built in Bugle, with the old school being bought as new premises for the business. The old school was converted in to a garage and became the start of the expansive site from which the business operates today.
During the Second World War (1938-1945) Austin cut their retail production of vehicles to concentrate on building vehicles for the forces. Through this time the business continued trading, selling fuel and repairing vehicles. After the war, new vehicles were built, but only to a limited production as industry got back to its feet.
In 1944 Hugh, Preston’s son, finished school and began full-time work in the business. He went on to manage the business from the late 1960’s and worked in the business for his whole working life.
With the war and limited car production now in the past, this period saw the return of normal business. The 1950’s saw the business build on its growing reputation for outstanding customer service with many returning customers.
1959 saw an iconic vehicle launch with the introduction of the Mini which heralded the age of front-wheel drive cars in the BMC range. PC Tonkin sold a range of other memorable vehicles during this period including the Messerschmitt K200, a ‘microcar’ produced by the German aircraft manufacturer when they were not allowed to build planes after the war.
In the late 1960’s the business modernised its premises, with a purpose built showroom and facilities. The business has always been committed to ensuring its facilities are kept up-to-date, something that has at times been a challenge when adding to a building. To this day the top end of the car showroom still contains walls from the old primary school building.
The business welcomed Jeremy, the 3rd generation of the family, into the business in 1972. Starting out as both a mechanic and as a salesman, Jeremy built strong relationships with his customers and went on to become a very successful salesman and eventually dealer principle of the business as he continues to be today.
The 1970’s began with a historic change in the business. In 1973, as part of their rationalisation, British Leyland (Austin, MG, Wolsley etc.) terminated their retail dealer franchise with PC Tonkin & Son, ending a partnership of almost 50 years.During the notice period of termination, the business agreed a deal to become main Citroen dealers in the area. With 100 cars sold in the first year, the dye was cast for a very bright and secure future.
In the late 1970’s land was purchased to vastly increase the business’ premises. The disused railway line and bridge were taken down allowing for the land to be developed. This created room for a sizable car forecourt on which the business could display a far greater number of vehicles for sale.
In the late 1980’s the business constructed an onsite Bodyshop to handle both internal and customer vehicle repairs. This open up new business avenues for PC Tonkin & Son, whilst also allowing used stock vehicles to be prepared to a better standard faster.
In 1993 the business diversified in to Breakdown & Recovery, a move that would become key in the business’ future. PC Tonkin & Son became agents for National Breakdown (Green Flag). Over the coming years the business secured contracts with all of the major breakdown clubs including the AA, RAC and the Police.
1999 saw further expansion of Breakdown & Recovery with the acquisition of a site in Summercourt. This not only gave the business a larger breakdown territory but also increased the number of clubs it worked for.
In 2000 the business stopped selling fuel to the public, using fuel only to supply the businesses needs. A further extension at the end of the showroom also took place to allow for even more vehicle display space.
The accelerating growth of the breakdown recovery operation led to the business being incorporated into two separate companies in 2007 – PC Tonkin & Son Ltd and Tonkin Recovery Ltd. Led by Jeremy and his eldest son Simon, Tonkin Recovery has continued its expansion in recent years, covering from Land’s End up to Barnstaple in Devon.
In 2007 Nigel, Jeremy’s youngest son and the 4th generation of the family moved back to Cornwall to join the family business in car sales. Over the subsequent 10 years the business continued to grow, particularly in the sale of pre-registered and used vehicles.
In 2018 PC Tonkin & Son decided to place focus on the highly successful used vehicle side of the business, expanding its levels of stock and growing in to the sale of other makes and models in addition to Citroen. As well as continuing to stock a large range of Citroen cars and vans, the business now stocks a wide array of vehicles including Ford, BMW, VW, Peugeot, Mini, Hyundai, Kia and more. With this expansion, PC Tonkin & Son now has the right car for more people than ever before.