Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

End of a motoring era

80-year-old Neville Arnott reminisces about his family car dealership which opened in Benalla in 1921.

LIBBY PRICE July 17, 2014 8:00am

80-year-old Neville Arnott reminisces about the family car business after the Arnott Motors sign is removed

One of the most familiar signs around town, that of Arnott Motors on the corner of Bridge and Carrier Sts, has disappeared with the removal of the car dealership logo last week to make way for new signage after the business was sold last year.

It’s the last chapter in the family business which started in 1921 when Herbert Arnott secured the Ford franchise and opened Arnott’s Garage.

His grandson, 80-year-old Neville Arnott, is proud to have been one of the last multi-generational car dealerships in regional Victoria.

‘‘My grandfather started the business and is credited with having driven the first motor car into Benalla. He sold Bean cars and Indian motorcycles,’’ Mr Arnott said.

‘‘Then in 1926 one day Grandfather said he was going down to Melbourne to sign up with this new mob starting up in Australia ... General Motors.

‘‘We sold Chevrolets in those days, then after the second World War they started making Holdens.’’

Mr Arnott began working in the family business in 1950 at the end of Year 11 at Benalla High School.

Mr Arnott said his father, Bert Arnott, asked him, ‘‘When does school break up?’’

Mr Arnott said he told his father, ‘‘This Friday,’’ and his dad’s reply was, ‘‘Good, start work at the garage on Monday.’’

‘‘I bumped into one of my old headmasters at Rotary a while ago and he said he had noticed one of my old reports said I was destined for a university career,’’ Mr Arnott said.

‘‘But in those days you never had a say in what you did. I’d always thought I would start work at Arnotts Motors.’’

The toughest time for the business was the flood in 1993.

‘‘All the business areas were under water ... all machinery and everything was ruined.

‘‘I contacted the insurance company that we’d been with since 1935 and told them they owed me 93 grand and they were reluctant to pay. It went on month after month.

‘‘I’d heard the new boss of the company was going to be at the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce dinner so I rang the insurance company to say I would be into the Box Hill office to pick up the cheque and said, ‘I thought I would just let you know your boss will be at the dinner tonight and if I don’t have my cheque I will punch him in the nose!’

‘‘I got my cheque and in front of everybody gave special thanks for the company’s help in times of trouble with the flood,’’ Mr Arnott said.

The business has been sold to Wangaratta Motor Group which sells numerous makes of cars and will relocating elsewhere in Benalla.

So what was Mr Arnott’s last sale?

‘‘... to my wife. A Holden Cruze. She loves it because it’s just the right size for her.

‘‘We don’t drive to Melbourne any more now we’re both 80 years of age.

‘‘When she did, she was always the first away at the traffic lights in her turbo-charged 1.4litre. Then she didn’t have to worry about people on the left or right if she was in front of them all.’’

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