The Rootes Archive Centre Trust

In 1982 the decision of nine Rootes Car Clubs to joined together to form the Association of Rootes Car Clubs (ARCC), an important decision that would protect the heritage of the Rootes marque for years to come.  Their plan was to give the Rootes Car Clubs a bigger presence in the classic car scene. In addition, given the number of common parts across the Rootes marques the idea was for clubs to co-operate on sourcing and producing common parts.

The Association has also organised some major events on behalf of all the Rootes clubs such as the Millennium Rally at Blenheim Palace and a spectacular display of Rootes competitions cars at the Silverstone Classic to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rootes Competitions department.

Membership now sits at 12 UK clubs with numerous overseas Rootes clubs linked in as well so that the majority of Rootes clubs worldwide are now involved.

In 2002 the ARCC Chairman took a call from the facilities manager at Peugeot who while clearing out the Stoke plant was faced with a warehouse full of old Rootes documents and drawings. As a car enthusiast, he had done a quick internet search on Rootes and found the Association details and made the call. That call was pivotal in saving the archives of the Rootes Group.

Once unloaded the scale and historical value of the material collected were identified and the ARCC decided it had to be saved forever. Over the next two years, the ARCC organised a preservation plan and finance to make it all happen.

In 2004 the Rootes Archive Centre Trust was created and registered with the Charity Commission in early 2005 with 5 Trustees being appointed.

All the material was transferred into the ownership of the Trust and a legal ownership agreement signed with Peugeot.

When the Trust was registered with the Charity Commission its aims were:

  • To preserve and promote the heritage of the Rootes Group and its successor companies
  • Use the information to help remanufacture parts to keep classic cars on the road
  • Use the information to help future generations keep classic cars on the road through a greater technical awareness
  • Provide and share data or information for historical research

The material saved and preserved included original materials from Rootes and Chrysler Engineering departments from 1920 – 1980:

  • 150,000 full-size original Engineering drawings
  • 150,000 drawings on microfiche
  • Extensive photographic library
  • Literature and Company documentation
  • Artefacts of the company

The first home for the Trust was at Wescott Park near Aylesbury. Sadly, when the initial 5-year lease came up for renewal in 2010 it was realised that the cost of the new lease was too high and that the trust could not afford to remain. A new home was found at Cherwell Business Park in Banbury, so the Trust moved in during 2010.

With a new home, the Trustees could return their focus to cataloguing, scanning the microfiche and developing the archive. At the same time, an experienced archivist joined the team, and this helped to ensure the material was protected and catalogued in the best way possible.

At Banbury, though the Trust was faced with a rolling 12-month lease and every time it came up for renewal the rent had increased, and these increases were becoming unsustainable.

When the Trust inherited the material it sadly came with no dowry and Peugeot having bought Talbot did not feel that the Rootes era was really part of their heritage, so the Trust has no opportunity for support from a current manufacturer like some clubs. The ARCC had generously supported the Trust over the years but could not easily continue to absorb the rent rises by increasing their contribution.

As Matt Ollman the Trust Treasurer said, “I could see the trend developing and quickly realised that without a drastic re-think the future of the Trust was in doubt”.

At the NEC Classic Car Show in November 2015 the Trust launched their building fund to raise £165,000 and long-term Trust supporter Peter James Insurance arranged for Sir Stirling Moss to be on the RACT stand to launch the campaign.

The Trust had identified a suitable site at Wroxton near Banbury where a developer was starting a build of 10 new units; interestingly it was on the same site as the new home of the Bentley Drivers Club.

By November 2017 with the support of the Rootes community the Trust had raised £105,000 and secured loans from individuals and clubs to cover the balance.

The Trust finally took possession of their new building on 27th October and the Trustees, ably assisted by a group of enthusiasts from the Rootes car clubs, moved all the archive material from the old Banbury centre into their new home over the weekend so that they could end the lease on their old building at the end of October.

The archive has become the HQ of the ARCC and many of the ARCC clubs will use it as their registered address and hold their committee meetings.

The Grand Opening of the Archive Centre was held on 22nd April 2018, with the official opening being performed by Lord Nicolas Rootes and the Rev. Bill Rootes (grandsons of the company founder, Willian Rootes), the Trust was honoured to have three generations of the Rootes family at the opening.  The event was attended by over 220 enthusiasts and a fantastic array of over 100 Rootes cars and trucks.

The Trustees, along with their volunteer archivist, will now continue with their programme of scanning drawings and cataloguing along with working with the clubs, parts manufacturers, authors and individuals to share the archive for the benefit of everyone. The trust was awarded the Transport Trust Preservationist of the year for 2017 in recognition of the work it has done.

The Trust are proud of what they have achieved and are extending an invitation to any non Rootes clubs who are looking for a Midlands base, not far from junction 11 on the M40, as a venue to hold committee meetings, or for an event, or a staging point on a rally or tour. If you are interested, then get in touch with Trustee Matt Ollman: m.ollman@rootesarchive.org.

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