Well known Fiat and Abarth specialists Middle Barton Garage, celebrated their quarter century with an open day and gathering of marque enthusiasts, friends and customers at their new base at Troy, Ardley Road, Somerton, near Bicester, Oxon, on Saturday 26th May.
MBG spent 24 years based in the nearby sleepy Oxfordshire village of Middle Barton before upping sticks to Troy in 2011. ‘Back in 1987 Geoff Divey and myself formed a partnership and started Middle Barton Garage,’ says MBG MD Tony Castle-Miller. ‘At the time Geoff was working for West London Motors in Fulham and I was working in the corporate world. We chose Middle Barton in Oxfordshire as it was the only place we could afford. Back in those days the motorway finished at Oxford and Middle Barton was very much sticksville, and the village garage premises we purchased was a rather run down affair. However, it wasn’t what you purchased, it’s what you did with it that really mattered. Geoff and myself sort of fell into petrol retailing and running the garage shop, which seemed quite a good idea for a time, that is until petrol pricing wars started!’
MBG were importing and selling replacement Fiat Abarth parts from the very start, and have been UK agents for Holtmann & Niedergerke based in Detmold, near Hannover for 25 years. ‘I was still travelling extensively all over Europe on business and was able to drop into suppliers and discovered that Holtmann & Niedergerke were a very substantial company,’ continues T-CM. ‘I already knew Toni Berni from Maleo in Italy and we got together with him and have also run the UK agency for Berni Motori for 25 years. The other agency we’ve had for almost as long is for Bielstein in Hannover who specialise in parts for Abarths. 124, 131, 037 etc, and also Fiat and Lancia.’
Nowadays MBG business centres around 45 percent replacement parts selling, and the rest workshop services. From time to time cars are also offered for sale via the website. Although based in a rural Oxfordshire location, the MBG customer base is truly international, with parts shipped all over the world, and indeed, cars from all over the world are delivered to MBG for servicing, repairs and full restoration. They specialise in most of the classic Abarth models, and Fiats in general 1955 – 1985 ranging from the Fiat 500 through to Abarth Sports prototypes, and even have the occasional foray into modernish Fiat and Alfa Romeo, but not to any great extent. Another MBG speciality is supplying competition specification Campagnolo alloy wheels (in association with Compomotive Wheels) to fit Abarths of the 1960s and 1970s in a range of different sizes that are extremely light and strong.
The Team at MBG comprises of MD Tony Castle-Miller, Parts Manager Ian Pattie, Workshop Supervisor Anton Boutier, Logistics Chris Greenhalgh (Ex-RAF Red Arrows support team) Administration Sue Castle-Miller, with a new workshop apprentice Matt Cox just started, along with book keeper Debbie Rickell.