The completion of another high rise development in the city centre marks the end of a historical Coventry institution. The new residential blocks are built on the site of the former Elliott’s Car Accessories site.
In a tribute to the history of the site, and the family that owned it since 1908, the new development has been named Elliott’s Yard. Even though the business closed in August 2018 it remains a Coventry institution and the original family business that spawned it can lay claim to being the first place that sold petrol in the city.
The business had been an ever present in the life of most Coventrians, the car accessories firm helping Midland motorists modify their vehicles for more than 60 years.
Joe Elliott transformed a family garage business from the 1960s onwards, after spotting a gap in the market which proved very lucrative. Small and affordable cars like the Mini, Ford Anglia and Triumph Herald were starting to be mass produced but sometimes they lacked even the most basic creature comforts.
Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph in 2018 and reflecting on the rise of Elliott’s under his leadership, Joe said, “I was lucky. I left school in 1958, went into Elliott’s, which at that time was a petrol station and a small shop selling bicycles and motorcycles – the main dealer for Royal Enfield.
“In 1960 the Mini, Triumph Herald and Ford Anglia had come out. The Mini was an economical car owned by families and young people. But they came out with nothing on. A Mini hadn’t even got proper door handles and mirrors. The seats were like concrete and the steering wheel was like a lorry’s.”
Joe spotted a gap in the market. “In 1960-61 I could see this coming. I could see there was an opening. I went to London to motor shows for the main accessories and I managed to get the dealerships for Coventry. We had every product in stock for people who wanted to do up their Mini, Herald or Anglia.
“We sold steering wheels, more comfortable seats, exhausts and more besides. Everything you could think of came into play.”
Joe added: “Elliotts was in a good place, we had plenty of parking. The shop was always crammed full. People used to call it an Aladdin’s cave. We told people through the Coventry Telegraph and Citizen and used to advertise heavily and people came to us in their tens of thousands.
“People used to say, if you can’t get it at Elliott’s you can’t get it anywhere. That was the secret of Elliott’s. We built up a massive stock base through the years and based our business on fairness and price.”
Joe sold the business to Oscott’s in 2003 and after that it had a succession of owners, with many of them going to the wall. Joe was asked to return on a consultancy basis by the landowner in 2015, and was happy to oblige.
Ultimately he felt the reason for Elliott’s demise was the changing nature of the automotive world. Modern cars come fully equipped, with little or no need to accessorise.
“Cars have got everything these days,” he said. “The industry is on its last legs and the right thing is happening. It has been a lot of fun along the way; I have loved every minute of it. Am I sad it is coming to an end? No. A car accessories shop is no longer the flavour of the retail world. It needed to happen. I enjoyed my time back there, I have given it a good shot. It was going okay but it is definitely on the wane and really the time came for the owner to look at doing something else.”
Among the highlights of his time at Elliott’s, Joe says he is particularly proud of the company’s association with Coventry City FC, which saw Elliott’s become shirt sponsors for a time and Joe ultimately become the club’s chairman.
The new development comprise two residential blocks, one of 16 storeys and one of five, at the junction of London Road and Gulson Road.
The development dominates and overlooks the city’s Grade 1 listed Whitefriars Monastery. The Coventry Society, Historic England and the Conservation Officer all objected to the development.
In one of the worse decisions made by the City’s Planning Committee, this sacrilege was justified on the basis that the benefit to the city of 167 units of “city living” outweighed the damage to the city’s heritage.