The below information was gathered from former employees of Bennett’s Motor Works Limited, which was taken over by Frank G Gates PLC in 1964 and traded as Gates of Letchworth. Jack Titmus – Sales Representative 1945/1970, Harold W Anderson – Sales Representative 1947/1984, David Crooks- Motor Vehicle Technician 1967/1979.
Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have a particular 1915 Model T Ford in our possession. The vehicle, registration mark RI 3733, started life by being shipped over from America in crates and assembled at Trafford Park where Ford had an assembly plant.
From there it was sold to an Irish businessman who drove the car for the next four years before trading it in. The vehicle then found it's way back to Britain in 1919 and was acquired by Bennett's Motor Works Limited and registered in the UK.
The Model T was then sold to two sisters who lived in nearby Bassingbourn village, Cambridgeshire and maintained by Bennett's Motor Works Limited, a local Ford Main Dealer. The two sisters in question were of substantial means and they employed a chauffeur, making regular trips to Cambridge and Royston. They were not happy with the comfort of the vehicle so they had some extras fitted to the vehicle which included shock absorbers, electric front headlights (which could only be used when the vehicle reached 20mph), and a speedometer. The car was used regularly until the outbreak of World War II.
During the war, there was a scarcity of petrol and the ladies also contributed to the war effort and so the Model T was put on blocks in their garage until the war ended in 1945. Unfortunately, as the car had not been used, certain components became rusty having not been immersed in oil. Replacement parts were in short supply however, a second hand axle was obtained, albeit one that was from a slightly later year. Sometime after the war, the sisters decided to upgrade the vehicle to a Ford V8 Pilot and so the Model T was taken in part exchange by Bennetts Motor Works who decided to retain the car as a collectors item.
In 1964, Bennetts Motor Works Limited was sold to Frank G.Gates Ltd - at that time, based in Woodford, Essex - with the Model T as part of the assets. The vehicle was driven and looked after by a Sales Executive, Jack Titmus who incidentally, also taught a selected number of his colleagues how to drive it, including Motor Vehicle Technician, David Crooks. David, having obtained a vast amount of knowledge, maintained the car until 1979 when he left Gates to start his own business.
The Model T then spent a number of years in Gates showrooms as part of a collection of classic vehicles. At the end of 1995, Frank G. Gates PLC went back into 100% private Gates family ownership and in 1996, some family members demerged from Frank G.Gates Ltd. At this time, many of the classic vehicles were sold however, the Model T was one of the vehicles retained by Mr Bryan R Gates and eventually loaned to a local museum.
In November 2006, Frank G.Gates Ltd re-purchased the car with David Crooks, once again carrying out the necessary restoration and maintenance work. Between December 2006 and July 2007, the car was mechanically restored to it's overall original condition.
What with David’s enthusiasm for classic cars in general, and this specific Model T Ford in particular, it was in January 2014 that he finally convinced the Directors of Frank G Gates Ltd. to let him take over its ownership. As with other vehicles owned by David, this car is in frequently in demand and often featured in both Film and Television. During 2020, the Centennial Year for Frank G Gates Limited, this Model T Ford, together with other classic vehicles will be found displayed in our various showrooms where there may well be photo opportunities for our visitors.