Old News Paper Article.


My father, Bill Gilbert, bought the company from Albert Wilkinson in 1955 when Mr Wilkinson decided he wanted to retire. I became a director three years later and, eventually, took over the running of the company.

I met Albert and Agnes a few times and he certainly didn't come across as illiterate (Marilyn had described how her great uncle Albert was unable to read and write but was a great entrepreneur, who recognised the future potential of the motor car at a very early stage).

I still have a copy of an entry in the minute book which shows he was certainly able to write his name clearly.

The firm was originally a partnership started more than 100 years ago as blacksmiths and wheelwrights based in Monk Street. It then moved into coachbuilding at its headquarters in Stafford Street, Derby.

It became a limited company in 1930 and early directors included Ernest Ayre, of Masons paints, Harry Sturgess of Burrows & Sturgess (soft drinks), my grandfather (farmer, dairyman and my namesake) and George Kenning (later Sir George Kenning of the car dealers).

Negotiations to buy the company's headquarters in Stafford Street in 1939 were halted by the war, during which time it was used as an ambulance depot.

After the war, the purchase was completed and my father's company moved into the existing buildings.

During my time with the firm, we gradually changed from making quality commercial bodies and modern accident repairs to working on veteran and vintage cars that were becoming more and more valuable.

As well as working on many different makes, we specialised in Rolls-Royce cars and made 31 new bodies for Derby-built Silver Ghosts the chassis of which had outlived their original coachwork.

Andrew Jones, who was apprenticed to Wilkinsons as a panel-beater, bought the company in 1996 and moved it to its present premises in the Parker Centre, where work is carried out rebuilding an extensive range of classic cars – especially Aston Martins.


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