20 Apr Getting back to our roots: The past, present and future of the Gray & Adams Body Shop
When we think about the business we know as Gray & Adams, it could be easily forgotten that the UK market-leader in the manufacture of specialist temperature-controlled and bespoke vehicles started from humble beginnings in Fraserburgh in 1957 as ‘Gray’s Motor Body Works’. The legacy of the Body Shop remains as a vital piece of the Gray & Adams story and is still hugely important to the Gray family, as the spark which ignited the manufacturing giant we know today.
It is also proud to hold a top five position in the Aviva insurance rating system, based on customer ratings of their network of over 500 approved repairers. Customers vote on elements such as quality, timescales, and communication on a five-star rating. The Body Shop at Gray & Adams has held a top ten position in the Aviva ratings since 2019 and has been in the top five since 2020.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Peter Gray, Joint Managing Director, says, “without the Body Shop, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
“My dad (Jim Gray Snr) learned his trade as a panel beater in a garage in a little village called Strichen in Aberdeenshire. When he started Gray’s Motor Body Works on School Street in Fraserburgh, he was mainly focused on repairing accident-damaged cars. Later, when Jim Adams joined the company, they formed Gray & Adams and had no idea that it would become the business you see today. From then to now, there has always been a body shop in the business. Although the commercial manufacture of refrigerated trailers and vehicles is what we’re renowned for, but we are well renowned locally for the very good work of the body shop. The Body Shop has continued to deliver its services for customers for all that time.”
Peter left school at 16 to begin work in the Body Shop as a panel beater himself, something he’d been doing every day after school and any chance he could get. He continued,
“When I finished school each day, from the age of about 14, I’d change clothes and go down to ask the Body Shop Manager how I could help. I’d do odd jobs here and there, helping them strip down cars and it was undoubtedly where I wanted to be. I first came in as a panel beater and then went on to run the shop for several years before my dad suggested my motivation would be best applied to the body building side of the business. Now as Joint Managing Director, along with my brother James, I haven’t worked in the Body Shop for many years, but it’s still very much close to my heart.”
Averaging about 30 jobs per week, the Body Shop has a range of customers filling the workshop with everything from a Ferrari F40 or a Jensen Interceptor, to trailers and tractor units. Given the recent storms in the UK, the shop has been hugely busy with its insurance work and has over 150 live claims at present.
Current Body Shop Manager, Darren Hanton, joined Gray & Adams 14 years ago and has helped it to grow into the busy operation we see now.
“I was a (car body) painter to trade and have worked on cars since I was a kid as, like Peter, I used to work in a garage during holidays and weekends with my dad. I started as a painter here, then progressed onto Foreman, running the workshop. For the last five years, I’ve been the Body Shop Manager and we have a tight-knit team working here each day.
“We’ve worked on a lot of interesting vehicles over the years – everything from family cars to a commercial rock crusher. In terms of the range of our work, we usually have a few vintage cars, do a lot of motorhome and caravan repairs, and some agricultural commercial stuff too. We do pretty much everything and often take on repairs that others may find tricky. We do it at a good price too – we’re fairly unique in our flexible approach.
“The Aviva ratings success and top five position we’ve held in recent years is all down to the team. To have an accolade like that, purely based on customer ratings, is down to the team and to everyone playing their part. I guess it’s not just the cars that are finely tuned, it’s our teamwork too. With customer service at the core of the Gray & Adams ethos, I’m very proud of the team for their dedication to creating such a good experience for customers that we’ve stayed very near the top of the Aviva list for so long.”
Peter further describes his connection to the work of the Body Shop and talks about Gray & Adams’ investment in its future.
“I love cars and I always have! I especially love 1970’s cars – cars I had or aspired to have when I was in my teens and twenties. I still spend my spare time working on them. I must admit, I have a few these days. I’m currently building a 1979 Ford Escort RS2000 and have all the parts laid out and newly painted. It’s a lifelong passion.
“We’re proud to now be investing in a custom-built state of the art facility to give the Body Shop even more space to work with, which we hope to see fully realised this June. It will be a third bigger than the current facility and will bring together the car and commercial repairs centres into one space for the first time. With 14m jigs cemented into the floor to allow us to take the biggest trailers you can buy and repair any kind of vehicle that comes through our doors, all under one roof.
“There’s a lot of historic emotional value for us in the work that the Body Shop does, perhaps even more than monetary value. The way I see it, without the Body Shop, there would be no Gray & Adams.”