City's motoring stalwart dies

John Harris and his son Richard. DC3406P23

John Harris and his son Richard. DC3406P23

First published in News by

A MAN who was at the heart of motoring in Salisbury has died at the age of 90.

John ‘Archie’ Harris was managing director of Goddards of Salisbury, a motor dealership founded by his father in 1917 at premises in Milford Street.

The business was named after the owner of the yard.

Mr Harris’ grandfather Joseph had come to the city in 1860 and was a founder of the Salisbury School of Art.

After the First World War, the company acquired the agencies for various makes of vehicle including Austin, Ford and Fordson tractors and moved to showrooms in Winchester Street.

In 1987 it moved to premises in Churchfields Road.

John Harris was born in Manor Road, Salisbury in the same room as his father. An accident at his birth left him with no sight in his right eye.

During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Signals by memorising the eye test card.

He was trained as a radio mechanic and on the afternoon of D-Day he landed on the Normandy beaches with the Canadians. Part of an anti-tank unit, he fought alongside them all the way into Germany.

He also served in Greece, in operations against communists.

When the war ended, Mr Harris returned to the family firm and by 1950 he was running the business.

In the 1960s they were one of the first to start self-drive hire.

He had been competing in motorsport events from the late 1940s in an Austin A40 Sport, an open car built by Jensen.

He entered the first post-war RAC Rally in 1951 and after a break, resumed competition with his wife Barbara when the Mini arrived.

By the 1960s, Mr Harris, who had bought the Dawson’s BMC dealership in Lymington, had expanded his collection of cars with the addition of several Austins and a Wolseley.

His favourite was a 1926 Gordon England Austin Seven, which could do about 70mph, compared with the usual 35mph.

When the Channel Tunnel opened, Mr Harris and his son Richard drove his 1923 Austin Seven through as part of a cavalcade of 100 vintage cars and in 1986 he took the Gordon England to Germany to celebrate the centenary of the motor car.

Mr Harris was widowed twice and had three sons.

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