As one of the world’s leading supplier of quality parts and accessories suitable for Land Rover vehicles celebrates its 60th birthday, we look back on six eventful decades.
Every day, thousands of Land Rover owners around the world fit Bearmach accessories and parts to their vehicles, confident in the knowledge that they are using a trusted brand whose name is synonymous with quality. But few know the interesting history behind the company, which this year celebrates 60 years as the leader in its field.
The Bearmach story actually begins over 60 years ago, in the streets of the Turkish capital, Istanbul, during the post-war years. Here, in the noisy and bustling bazaars, 16-year-old Karabet Torosyan started out in the automotive industry by selling contact points and condensers. It quickly grew into a successful family business, which he named Motomach. He opened prestigious showrooms in Taksim Square, from where he sold Massey Ferguson tractors and spare parts, as well as importing R&M (RHP) bearings.
In 1956, Karabet Torosyan moved first to Germany, from where he travelled to Latin America and the Middle East, assessing business opportunities. “My father identified a demand for parts for British-made vehicles, including Bedford, Hillman, Rootes and Land Rover,” recalls his son, John Torosyan, who was a young boy when his father opened Bearmach’s first premises in the UK on the 24th April 1958.
The name Bearmach came from two of the biggest products they sold: bearings and machinery. Nice and simple – just like the new company’s ethos, which was quality and value. And it was on those pillars of commercial wisdom that they built their reputation in a fast-growing business.
The company started with offices in Holborn, London, with a warehouse about two miles away. Two years later they moved offices to 78 Buckingham Gate, directly above the offices rented by Conservative MP Ted Heath, who ten years later would become Prime Minister. Heath’s boss at that time was PM Harold Macmillan, who three years earlier had told the nation that they had never had it so good. As the rising politician watched the hive of export activity conducted from the Bearmach premises, Heath must have agreed that Britain was booming.
By 1962, the company had grown and moved to bigger premises at Southpark Road, Wimbledon – a large, two-storey building with 3,000 square feet of floor space for offices, warehouse and packing departments. For four years, Bearmach had been supplying mainly bearings and electrical parts suitable for Hillman cars, Bedford trucks and Land Rover vehicles.
As their customer base grew, it was clear that there was a huge global demand for spares for these hard-working vehicles. By 1966, when the company was forced to move to even bigger premises – a 7,000 square feet warehouse at 66 London Road, Tooting – Bearmach was concentrating solely on parts suitable for Land Rover vehicles -now dubbed the best 4x4 by far. By now, the staff had grown to five.
Bearmach’s product development at this time featured huge industry design innovations in brake discs and hoses, suspension, steering, axles and specialist items:
- Drilled/slotted/ventilated for better dust heat & water dissipation
- Carbon/Kevlar for greater disc life & less brake noise all with anti-squeal pads
- Stainless steel braided hoses - ultimate protection for the rubber hoses
- Polyurethane mountings and bushes - for greater durability
- Parabolic springs for a smoother ride & better axle articulation
- Heavy duty springs - to increase height (up to 40mm) or load carrying
- Twin shock absorber mountings front & rear to take gas or oil shocks
- Air suspension aids spring for greater load carrying or leveling
- Greaseable ball joints for longer life
- Heavy-duty track rod tubes - can be straightened after impact and eliminates the use of a steering damper
- Adjustable differential ball joint for rear axle, simply turn the screw to compensate for the wear
Examples of specialist items purchased by UK and other armed forces
- Galvanised chassis suitable for Series & Defender vehicles
- Roof racks
- Defender ambulance front protection bars
- Heavy duty springs
- Heavy duty radiators and silicone hoses
In 1971, Bearmach strengthened its European sales by supplying a major supplier in Switzerland and in 1972, exports to Africa also began. That same year, John Torosyan left school and joined the family firm full-time. Until now, Bearmach had concentrated solely on exports, so John was given the task of creating a home market. “My first British customers were Brownchurch and Aylmer Motors in Highgate,” he reminisced.
“It was clear that the business was expanding very fast and that we had already outgrown the new warehouse with nine staff. So, in 1974, we took the decision to move to Cardiff to be closer to The Rover Company, and took a lease for five years on a 21,000 square feet unit at Trecenydd Industrial Estate in Caerphilly. Exports to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe were in full swing and soon we took on more staff. We now had a team of 13.”
“Having set up the UK market, I travelled extensively from 1975, adding Iran, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to our overseas markets. In 1977 we purchased our first computer.
“We now had 18 staff and again were fast running out of space, so in 1979 we purchased our 66,000 square feet Maindy Road premises, occupying 40,000 square feet initially and letting the lower levels to the Trojan Engineering company, which we later bought. In 1981, we shut down the manufacturing operation. However, we made good use of the space to develop a full range of accessories.”
At that time, Land Rover was part of the troubled and cash-strapped British Leyland empire and scarcely had the resources to build its two models – the Series III and the Range Rover (which had been launched in 1970) – and certainly couldn’t develop its own range of accessories. Bearmach was eager to fill this vacuum and soon the BM range of accessories were flying off the shelves.
That same year, Bearmach grabbed the attention of the motoring world when their stand at the Automechanika show in Frankfurt, Germany, featured a very special Land Rover, equipped with a stunning array of exclusive BM accessories.
John recalls: “The vehicle was an 88-inch fastback soft top with a full rollover bar, 2.25 turbocharged petrol engine, vacuum-operated overdrive, rear spare wheel carrier, integrated winch and bumper, with integrated spot lights, removable lamp guards and uprated suspension. No such Land Rover had existed until that show in 1981. It was so technically advanced that the Land Rover’s own engineers became extremely nervous.”
“By 1986 the US market had also been established and for the next three or four years, we shipped a container of accessories to America every two months.”
“Bearmach became the market leader in accessories suitable for Land Rover vehicles. Our accessory catalogues were –and still are – the most comprehensive, offering personalisation to all owners of Land Rover cars. All our efforts in developing the accessories range were now bearing fruit. But again, we were running out of space and, as a temporary measure, we had to put shipping containers in the car park to cope with the expansion.”
“The business grew rapidly in all divisions with all sectors performing well, plus added business from Ministry of Defence, this again put undue stress on space. Despite the Maindy Road building being 66,000 square feet, it was on several levels with poor access and the full area could not be utilised. It was therefore decided to move again in 2002 to premises in Bedwas.”
In 2005, Bearmach was named Welsh Exporter of the Year in the Business Awards for Wales and in 2007 was acquired by Grove Industries, who have continued the Torosyan family’s search for growth. That same year, Bearmach launched the HawkEye diagnostics tool, which won rave reviews by bringing state-of-the-art modern engine diagnostics to the masses.
In 2008, with space yet again at a premium, additional premises were purchased: an extra 45,000 square feet, close to the existing premises in Bedwas, Caerphilly. The intervening years have also seen big changes in the way the world did business – which the company demonstrated in 2016 by opening the Bearmach China office.
Last year, Bearmach’s new rebranded website – www.bearmach.com – went live and the HawkEye Total diagnostics tool was launched. Bearmach now has over 150 members of staff.
Bearmach’s Sales and Marketing Director, Stuart Truckel, says: “Bearmach is constantly improving and developing components that are more durable. We care about the customer and the products they are buying from us. We have introduced a three-year warranty on Bearmach branded parts to support this.”
- Large choice of OEM, own- branded, replacement parts;
- Large stock of Series II and SIII parts;
- Large choice of accessories and heavy-duty parts that improve on the original material and/or design;
- 3-year warranty offering on Bearmach branded parts;
- Excellent export customer base;
- Large pool of technical and experienced staff;
- Over 15,000 lines available for immediate dispatch;
- 60 years of specialised service, exporting to over 160 countries;
- In-house quality control & inspection IS0 9001:2015 standard and M.O.D.
Stuart adds: “Over many years and throughout the numerous changes of ownership that Land Rover has endured – the Rover company, British Leyland, British Aerospace, BMW, Ford and Tata – Bearmach has steadfastly kept Land Rovers running around the world. Supplying competitively-priced parts ensures cost-effective repairs, prolonging your Land Rover’s life by many years. The introduction of a three-year warranty on our own-branded parts, gives our customers the extra confidence and peace of mind when purchasing Bearmach.”
Our highly experienced technical team dedicate themselves to innovation and new product design and are responsible for introducing many highly successful new products to market, making us one of the world-leading suppliers we are today.
The highlights of Bearmach’s first 60 years of design and innovation dedicated to Land Rover includes:
1957 - First to offer a true alternative for Land Rover parts
1958 - First to offer a choice of replacement parts
1975 - First to offer a true range of accessories
1978 - First to offer special heavy-duty parts
1979 - First Bearmach manufacturing unit established
1981 - First Bearmach retail outlet established
1987 - First Bearmach overseas subsidiary established
1997 - European distribution hub established
2002 – More overseas subsidiaries established
2003 – Becomes largest independent exporter of parts suitable for Land Rover vehicles 2004 – Awarded first MoD contract
2005 – Awarded Welsh Exporter of the Year
2005 – Opened first mail order shop
2007 - Bearmach acquired by Grove Industries
2008 - Additional premises purchased, with an extra 45,000 sq ft, close to the existing premises in Bedwas, Caerphilly
2017 - New rebranded website goes live. HawkEye Total launched. Three-year warranty offered on Bearmach branded parts. Bearmach franchises opened in Korea and Lebanon
2018 – Bearmach’s 60th birthday celebrations
It has been an eventful 60 years, but you can be assured that the next 60 will be even more exciting!