A mystery blaze has caused damage running into six figures at a well-known Huddersfield business.

Two fire crews were called out at 5am today to the Land Rover Centre at Lockwood.

They had to break through the locked steel entrance gates to get to the fire which was in a covered parking area full of classic Land Rovers next to the offices and workshop.

The structure’s fibre glass roof melted and dripped onto the valuable cars underneath, igniting them and destroying the interiors. The heat was so intense it even melted some sections of the cars’ aluminium bodywork.

Four out of five of the classic Land Rovers, dating from 1968 and 1979 were completely destroyed, along with the open shed. Each car is valued at around £20,000.

The firefighters did, however, prevent the fire spreading to the company’s main building, although it destroyed a window and the company’s internet connection.

Sales Manager Mark Griffiths, 52, received a phone call from the alarm company at 5.15am and arrived at the Bridge Street premises to discover firefighters dousing the last of the flames.

“The scene was horrendous and it was quite a shock,” he said. “Usually when we get a call from the alarm company there is a spider in one of the sensors or something similar.

Fire crews at The Land Rover Centre, Lockwood
Fire crews at The Land Rover Centre, Lockwood
 

“Each vehicle is unique. We strip them down and build from the ground up and, sadly, I think four or five of them are beyond repair.

“But in some ways we have been lucky. There was a one-vehicle gap between the parked Land Rovers and our main building which would definitely have gone up if we’d have had one there, so we’ve been very lucky from that point of view.

“A lot of us have been here a long time. We are like a family company so there is a sombre mood and a sense of shock. Luckily we are a strong business, so we will survive. It could have been worse – we will salvage what we can out of the situation.”

Mr Griffiths, who has been with the company for 24 years, added that fire investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the fire, but they had ruled out an electrical fault.

In 1980 the Land Rover Centre suffered a fire which nearly put it out of business. It was housed in an uninsured wooden shed which burned down and founder Peter Garside had to beg parts from his suppliers with a promise to pay when he could, which he did.

Today, the company is prospering, thanks to the resurgence of interest in classic Land Rovers and is regarded as the foremost supplier of restored classic Land Rovers in the country – if not the world – with regular exports to Europe and the USA.

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