Customer Service: +61 3 8470 7300
Founder: Gordon Hill
Founded: 1984
Business: Australia’s oldest and largest independent automotive aftermarket parts and accessories retailer.

Short History of Autopro

Gordon Hill has spent a lifetime in the automotive aftermarket industry, commencing with Repco in 1964 until his retirement in 2016.

During the intervening years he has represented Autopro dealers, first at a State level and later as president of the National Dealer Council. His is a lifetime of achievement, something reflected in multiple dealer awards and his entry into the Hall of Fame.

Gordon’s history with Autopro dates back to 1984, but his history in the automotive aftermarket business goes back to when he left school and went to work for Repco in Canberra. Gordon said that when he started at Repco it was compulsory to do a mechanical technical course and retail technical course, which covered three years.

“I did those courses and they were invaluable,” he said, adding that each year he passed the courses he received an extra $5 in his pay.

“One of the best experiences of being at Repco Canberra was meeting Sir Jack Brabham,” Gordon said. “Jack was the nicest guy that ever walked the Earth. A lovely man who used to speak to everybody; an absolute champion Australian, he would come in often because he was driving a Repco Brabham, with which he won the World Championship. Repco Canberra had a very large workshop and did a lot of work on the motor of that car.

“I had the pleasure of meeting him again at an Autopro convention we had in Hobart, and they even brought his car along to the convention.” 

Two years later, 1966, he transferred to Repco in Adelaide to work for Repco, and it was here that he met his future wife, Sandra.

Gordon’s stayed at Repco in SA lasted until 1972, when he went to work for Salisbury Auto Parts, and when that business was sold in 1980, Gordon took on the role of manager with Elizabeth Auto Parts.

Autopro was started in SA in 1984, out of the wreckage of British Leyland subsidiary Uniparts. That same year Gordon was elected SA president of the Autopro State Dealer Council.

In 1987, he took over as manager of DJ Auto Parts, a business he later bought and renamed Autopro Gawler.

When the National Dealer Council formed in 1995, Gordon was one of five people elected, a position he held until 2015.

There have been some difficult times for the Autopro network, none more so than in February 2008 when National Parts (a division of the ACL Group) was put into voluntary administration.

“At that time, I was State president of South Australia and Northern Territory Autopro stores. It was a dark period when the future of the stores, and individual owners, was in jeopardy.

“We were in limbo. National Parts had gone. They owned the Autopro brand, and were the major supplier to the group, and there were not a lot of other options available to us. We wondered: what’s going to happen to us now? Unless somebody picks us up we’re divided. We’re shot really.

“We were thinking where are we going to go now. They (National Parts) owned the name, they didn’t own the stores. But National Parts was our supplier and we had to access parts from elsewhere, and there wasn’t a lot of options.”

Fortunately, along came Garry Dumbrell. Garry thought that Autobarn and Autopro combination could be a good mix for both groups.

“Garry was asked to attend a specially convened Autopro National Dealer Council meeting organised by Bob Way and Grant Jarrett. He was impressed with what the group had to contribute to the industry and local communities, and decided to put in an offer for the business.”

Garry negotiated with the administrators to buy the Autopro brand name and was successful. The purchase of National Parts and the Autopro name was the catalyst for the big jump in the size of the Automotive Brands Group, which went from about 90 stores to more than 200.

Despite his success as a retailer, Gordon said what he treasures most are the friendships built up over the years. He is now in a well-earned retirement after a string of memories encompassing more than half a century of involvement in the automotive retail business, however, he and Sandra still catch up with fellow Autopro store owners who have become good friends over the years. 

Interviewed June 2017

view the full history

History of Autopro

 

1964

Starts work with Repco, Canberra.

1966

Transfers with Repco to Adelaide.

1968

Gordon and Sandra meet at Repco.

1970

Marries Sandra.

1972

Leaves Repco and joins Salisbury Auto Parts as sales rep.

1980

Salisbury Auto Parts sold and Gordon goes to work for Elizabeth Auto Parts as manager.

1984

Autopro started in South Australia.

1984

Gordon elected president SA president of Autopro State Dealer Council.

1987

Appointed manager DJ Auto Parts.

1994

First Autopro convention held at the Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.

1995

National Dealer Council formed to give the States a voice at the national level. Gordon one of five officials.

1997

Autopro had about 22 stores in SA and 200 around Australia.

1999

Gordon buys DJ Autoparts (was still Autopro) and changes it to Autopro Gawler.

2008

National Parts placed into voluntary administration.

2008

Garry Dumbrell buys Autopro name.

2009

Gordon presented with Hall of Fame award at the Auckland conference.

2016

Gordon sells Gawler Autopro store. During his 16-year tenure, he won five Master Dealer Awards from Autopro.

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