A Brief History of the Company


Blackwell Motors was born in 1923 when two enterprising Christchurch men, Walter Blackwell, a car salesman, and Gordon Fairweather, a marine engineer, set up a garage on the corner of Durham and Kilmore Streets.  As well as providing for the everyday needs of motorists they acquired the Christchurch Buick agency.



With the business thriving the business picks up the Christchurch dealership for Chevrolet cars.



During the depression the company sold other products to help make ends meet, including radios and even rifles.
By the end of the 1930’s business was booming with the company selling 524 cars in 1938.


Walter Blackwell retires and is replaced as head of the company by Gordon Fairweather.  
Mr Fairweather introduced a number of important innovations, including a staff superannuation scheme (1948), incentive bonus scheme (1955), and an employee shareholding scheme (1962).


Blackwells acquires the prized Holden franchise.


Blackwells continue to grow, with sales in the late 1960’s approaching 1000 cars per annum.


In 1971 Blackwells open a new head office and dealership premises on the corner of Manchester Street and Salisbury Street.
Sales peak in 1972, just before the oil crisis, with 1034 new and 2225 second hand cars sold through no less than nine Blackwell motors branches, including six in Christchurch.  This year Blackwells is also granted the Bedford light commercial vehicle franchise.
A drop in sales due to the oil crisis and resulting recession throughout the seventies lead to operations being concentrated at the central Christchurch dealership.


Blackwells is purchased by the Marsh Family of Dunedin (Cooke Howlison Ltd).  Blackwells subsequently purchase the other GM dealership in Christchurch, operated by Farmers Co-op Motor Company, becoming one of the largest independent motor companies in New Zealand.


The central city dealership moves from its Manchester Street site (which becomes the National Library Service Building), to its current location on the corner of Cashel and Madras Streets


Extensive remodelling takes place, with open air display areas for new and used cars, a new showroom, a parts centre and service operation.


A separate showroom and workshop is built to accommodate Suzuki sales and service.


The Suzuki showroom is extensively remodelled to cater for Blackwells new BMW franchise.


Blackwells BMW franchise gives way to Mazda as this showroom/workshop complex is converted to a dedicated Mazda dealership, which Blackwells still operate from the site today.


Blackwells Commercial operations take over the workshop facilities and associated staff of Christchurch Transport, dramatically increasing the business volume of the Commercial arm.


Blackwells open the South Islands largest dedicated commercial sales and service centre at Sockburn, Christchurch. The centre, on the busy Waterloo Road, Racecourse Road Corner offers expanded facilities including truck sales and workshops, paint and panel workshops and dedicated parts department.


Blackwells re-positions Sockburn as second vehicle dealership with New and Used Cars and
 Light Commercial sales available from both Sockburn and City dealerships.
Construction begins on larger showroom/workshop facilities for Canterbury Mazda, further along Cashel Street on the site formerly occupied by Blackwells Used Cars, who temporarily relocate to Blackwells new car location.


New Showroom for Canterbury Mazda opens. Previous Canterbury Mazda premises is demolished and work commences to expand Blackwells forecourt and Used Car facilities.
Stage II of Blackwells Cashel Street Development is completed with new forecourt extension sealed to allow full range display of new and used vehicles.


Blackwells begin Stage III Cashel Street Development by relocating the main Parts operation to the Sockburn facility and opening a dedicated HSV showroom in Cashel Street.


On February 22, Christchurch is struck by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake causing extensive damage to the city and shutting down the Central Business District. Fortunately, Blackwells and Mazda staff suffer no serious casualties but the Cashel Street facility, situated opposite the collapsed CTV building is evacuated and closed while the Central City is cordoned.

Blackwells and Mazda relocate all central city operations to the Sockburn facility where modifications are made to the site to accommodate the extra operations. Both companies continue to trade successfully throughout the duration of the emergency.


Blackwells Cashel/Madras Street premises are demolished after earthquake damage. The company continues to trade successfully from the Sockburn "Super Site" while plans are being developed for the re-build of central city premises.

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