Wallis & Son 80 Years History

The History of Wallis & Son Ltd told by Elliot Wallis Nigel Wallis 1937 -2017 80 Years in the making

Wallis and Son will be celebrating 80 years in the motor business this year, but their illustrious history goes back quite a bit further than that and spans more than the motor car trade. Indeed, the beginning of the Wallis family’s interest in motoring can be traced back more than 100 years, with Cambridge brothers Horace and Percy Wallis and their interest in cycles and monoplanes.This may have been seen at the time as a failure on the part of the Wallis brothers, but 70 years later it was proved that their venture would, indeed, have been a success. Wing Commander Ken Walis, son of Horace, built a copy of his father’s and uncle’s plane using photographs to gauge the build and measurements. In 1980, he proved that the Walboro would indeed fly. Percy and Horace Wallis might not have lived to fly their dream plane, but they could rest in the knowledge that their time and efforts had not been wasted.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis did much in his life to ensure that the Wallis family connection with motors – including flying machines – would continue well into the twentieth century. Ken was an outstanding pilot with an equally impressive past military career, which included flying Wellington bombers in the RAF. He set up Wallis Autogyros Ltd with his cousin Geoffrey (son of Percy Wallis) and became a leading advocate of the autogyro, which had been popularised in the 1969 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Ken Wallis piloted the gyrocopter for all the film’s action scenes, which necessitated more than 80 flights in order to capture the required footage.Wallis and Son was started back in 1937 by my Grandfather, Geoffrey Valentine Wallis and his Dad, my Great Grandad, Percy Valentine Wallis. They started selling cars and bikes in and around the Cambridge area and opened a garage called Cresswello in the 1930‘s. They soon moved on to open other garages and businesses in Cambridge and Newmarket. We had many dealerships over the years including Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Lancia, Rover and Land Rover to name a few. In the 1970’s my Dad, Nigel Wallis joined the business after my Grandparents lost their other son, Robert.

Nigel Wallis was training to do Law in Reading and was told by Geoffrey Wallis that he was now needed to run the business after the loss of Robert and had to come back to Cambridge to run the Newmarket dealership after a period of running our large Cambridge site at Chesterton Road. Nigel Wallis ran the Newmarket Rover dealership on his own from the age of 24 until he was 30, when we moved to the current site in 1984. This move was at a point when Geoffrey Wallis was looking to retire and take up his hobbies of flying and sailing. He left Nigel to run the business in Barton. They therefore decided to build a purpose built site here for the dealership to grow.The current site we are in was built in 1984 by Nigel and Geoffrey and is still the same building and design as it was then. It has grown a great deal over the past 30 years. I joined Dad in 1999 after a period at University doing a marketing and business degree at Oxford Brookes and 18 months with the Marshall Motor Group. Since joining, we have now grown in to what you see today. We have a sales department for prestige cars as we have done since 1984 when we left the manufactures and started selling BMW and Mercedes in Cambridge. This remains but we have many more brands and cars as well as a service department which caters for the local cars in the village all the way to our customers who have some of the top brands.

We also now have a vehicle hire department from vans and cars to Bentleys, Astons and Prestige 4x4s, like Land Rovers, not forgetting our wedding cars company Cambridge Wedding cars. We also have the petrol station and shop that’s been with us since 1998 when my mum Richelle Wallis joined the company to run our unique shop specialising in American stock.

Today we are still a true family business with my wife Hannah Wallis undertaking all of our HR and HSE. Wallis and Son is now run by the fourth generation and we have plans to carry on for many more years with my daughter Jessica Wallis already showing interest in cars at the age of 5.