Many people who choose a career in the motor trade will spend their working life in it, but few will remain involved for
the length of time that Reg Patrick did. After leaving school at 15 he started work at Robert Johnson Motor Factors in Belfast on a date that will be etched in his memory, July 17, 1944. Despite strict war time measures (a ‘Certificate of Need’ had to be completed for every order) and Reg’s keenness to learn meant he was promoted to Assistant Manager in 1946.
However, Reg was tempted away from behind the parts counter by none other than Quinton Hazell. As one of only two salesmen (the other was Hazell’s brother) he wasn’t given a car, and in any case it was during the Suez crisis, so fuel was at a premium. Reg had to make do by lugging samples of heavy suspension components on and off public transport. QH himself was not a great boss and Reg would often be stuck on the road with nowhere, not even a car, to stay in – a two year experience he described as a ‘nightmare’.
Although working for QH was hardly a high point of Reg’s career, his cheerful personality meant he formed a good impression with many of the people that went on to form the modern aftermarket. Taking advice from his friend Richard Hartley, Reg had a rule when going on the road: “I always talk to the apprentice in the companies that I visited, because they’ll be running the place someday”.
Moving on, Reg spent decades in various sales roles at Harmo Industries, which was eventually acquired by Tenneco Walker in the mid-1980s. The firm was going to move, and Reg, long since married with kids, did not want to relocate. Fortunately, a chance phone call with a contact led to Reg becoming the first permanent Chief Exec. of the MFA (now the IAAF). The Association was gearing up for a fight, as Ford, through the SMMT, were effectively trying to shut the UK aftermarket down by proposing to ban pattern parts on ‘copyright’ grounds. By using charm and by being a nuisance in equal measures, Reg wrote letters and presented papers to governments, both at home and in Europe. Ultimately, the battle was victorious, and Reg was the most popular man in the aftermarket, even receiving a standing ovation when he arrived at a FIGIEFA meeting.
In more recent times, though long retired, Reg still took a keen interest in the industry. He continued his subscription to our magazine, and would occasionally fire an email to us on whatever the topic of the day was. He also took part in our 40th anniversary interview series, which I spoke to him at length on the phone. We chatted a few times after that and had arranged to meet up at this year’s CV Show. That of course never happened, and very sadly, never will.
All of us at CAT send our sincere condolences to his family and friends.