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A long Story of Rover repair in Tucson ...

It would have been in the late 1950s when imported British cars began to gain real popularity in the States. Previously they'd been curiosities mostly imported used by returning military personnel. MG, Triumph, and Austin-Healey sports cars were popular and each sold well in the US ... keep in mind that "well" was perhaps several thousand each year. BMC, formed largely to save auto-makers in England who were unable to otherwise survive in the post-war economy, realized the value of the American market, and began to build a network of dealerships here. Hmmm. With factory support, parts, and service we bought more of these gems. Between BMC and Volkswagen we began to have limited faith in the viability of owning a "foreign car," unheard of before the war. One such dealer was Tucson's Precision Motors on Speedway. Many, if not most BMC dealers also offered the increasingly popular Jaguar XKE, the new world-beating sports car, a few Jag sedans, and the Land Rover. It wouldn't be until Leyland took over Jaguar, however, and pushed real hard, that Jaguar sedans began to gain acceptance in the States. Land Rover was an accident: it was the product of the Rover car company's owners putting some of their car parts together to make a replacement for their corroded old US Army surplus Jeep they used to bounce around the countryside on weekends. Owing to a few odd tax laws in Great Britain in the late 1940s, and the fact that the UK still had remote colonies all over the world who could benefit a great deal from having versatile little aluminum trucks come available, the Rover company was saved a second time and, this time, became success story. We saw Rovers on TV of course, and had the Willys Jeepster and Overland, but little else to even began to compare. The Scout, Bronco, and Blazer came much later. The original Jeep was dead. Precision handled Land Rovers in the 1960's. In 1966 Fiat imported a car, large for them, small for us, but not teeny. It was perhaps the first small sedan in the US which was a satisfactory substitute for the huge iron cars we drove then (ok, we still drive extra-large, but now they’re called “trucks”). Anyhow, Toyota, and obscure Japanese company copied the Fiat in size, style, and right down to the US sales strategy: convince BMC dealers to handle other “foreign” cars as a sideline to British stuff. The 1967 Corona took off in a big way. Soon Precision Motors was Jack Rowe’s Precision Toyota, still on Speedway, and the skilled mechanics left, and were fixing old MGs at likes of Foreign Sports Cars a bit further east on Speedway, near Jarick’s Furniture, just west of Alvernon. It wasn’t a few years before most all the little foreign car shops became Toyota and Datsun specialists. Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, and even Rover followed suit with small sedans for Americans for the late ‘60's and 1970's, but never caught up. They cost too much and there were too few mechanics. I took my training in ‘74 to ‘76, and in 1976 Rover decided they had been beat-up by USDOT being protectionist toward Jeep: they could sell all the Land Rovers they could make to the world without the US, so why bother with all their rules, they surmised. I now knew an orphan brand inside and out. So Did my early partner, Pat Teske. His older brother, Tom Cuevas, had actually been the influence who had gotten us interested in the Land Rover, through his own long passion for the trucks. The brothers later formed Rovers West, a Land Rover mail order parts and support house in Tucson. Similarly, Atlantic British and British Pacific had sprung up during the late 1970's to profit by filling the void created by the sudden loss of the Rover Dealer network. Tucson’s Rovers West closed in the mid 1990's, but the latter survive. By 1987 Rover felt their Range Rover, a nearly ten year old product, was ripe for the US market: but they had no dealer network left. They’d starved all the old dealers out. Sales and support were few and far between. I’d become the kernel for a garage for ‘imports’: we’d accepted by then that these machines were not so 'foreign' as we’d believed. By my advice we called it “British Car Service.” I designed the logos - still in use over there - the shop was my passion. The bulk of our work was Jaguar folk, unhappy with the dealer (World of Wheels on 22nd St) British and Italian sports cars, and we’d not seen a Range Rover yet. Our crew grew, standards dropped, infighting increased, so in 1990 I left, sad. 15 years in that one, and now we compete with them. Falconworks on Palo Verde Road became my new workshop, a home for both new Range Rovers, and the Jaguars and the many small sports cars (Healey to Alfa Romeo to Sunbeam) mostly from England which I knew and loved so well to care for. In 1993 Rover had a brilliant marketing realization: we in the US had no clue what a Range Rover was, but well knew Land Rovers as the world-beating trucks from the TV. The trade name was revitalized and 1994 saw the Land Rover Discovery and, surprise?, US sales took off. Ten years later Rover still had no dealer any closer than 150 miles from Tucson, and we had our work cut out. We recently have a local dealer called Royal (of Buick and KIA fame) but we don’t have any old timers working there: just kids. Market evolves through the 1990's. Two weeks at Rover School and turning enough profit for carpeted lobby, fancy public bathrooms, loaner cars, coffee, car washes. Who’s fooling who? I recall having service on my VW from Pima Volkswagen, a huge dealership on Grant Road, back in perhaps 1973. “Service pickup” was a bleak window poking through a long blue concrete wall, outside, half way to the shop. "Dealership" no longer means parts and service support from the factory, the Agency, as it was then. Glitz for the customer easily veils cheap product. Skilled experienced technicians with ethics do not participate: we are at the modern independent dealership alternatives - specialist garages. Falconworks Land Rover and British is proud to be one of very few in Tucson.
... Cheers, Alan

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