Our History | Grimmer Motors Hamilton
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Our History

Grimmer Motors has been providing reliable mechanical services to Hamilton since 1934, making it the oldest vehicle workshop in the Waikato region.

The company was established by Claude Grimmer, who in 1947 built his own workshop and service station on the current site at 998 Heaphy Terrace.

Since then, Grimmer Motors has become well known and respected in the local community as one of the most trusted businesses in Hamilton.

A Brief History of Grimmer Motors

Written by Claude Grimmer (Founder of Grimmer Motors)


“The start of Grimmer Motors reminds me in some ways of the T.V commercial (that was aired a lot a few years ago) of the fellow who says he liked the shaver so much that he bought the company.

One day in 1934 I rode an old motorbyke, with Don Forbes on the back to Claudelands and bought a gallon of petrol from the lone shell kerbside pump there. The owner of the little service station said (after some talking) Would you like to buy the business? — That of course, could have been the joke of the year.

Grimmer Motors in 1934We asked the price and he said he would take 80 pounds. Cheap though it sounded, it still was a formidable sum to us at that time. He, being keen to get out of this really run down business suggested a deposit of 20 pounds and then pay off the balance as we could. Although it seemed quite impossible at the time, the thought of it really fired our imaginations.

(I was only 16 at the time, had left secondary school after only two terms and the great depression of the late 20’s was still very real. I had had a job at a place that dealt in scrap metal, used tools and small machinery. My wages had been 10 Pound ($1) per week, but then after 3 months the business closed down. I had bought an old motorbyke, a Radco No 2. two stroke for 4 Pound that didn’t even go. Dad and I eventually got it going, and I became very interested in motorbykes. In fact I soon owned several old wrecks of bykes and Don being out of work joined me each day as we worked on them and got some of them going very well. I was able to sell a few in good running order. (This went on in one of my Dad’s car sheds.)

Well, when I excitedly told my parents about the business in Claudelands, Dad considered it well out of my reach, but to my Mother I guess I was still her fair haired blue eyed boy and she seemed to think that it might work out. My elder sister, in her early 20’s had saved up some money from her wages and offered to lend me 20 Pound at 5% interest. Dad finally said that I could try it out and might last in business until Christmas time.

So on the 1st October 1934, with no money, no business training or experience, no trade training or experience, I started up in the business of Garage and Service Station with a few tools and with my cobber Don. It was a real struggle for years – working hard and long hours for very little profit. The rent for the premises was 1 pound 2 shillings and 6 pence per week for a start, but was soon raised to 1 Pound 4 shillings.

Claude Grimmer and Don Forbes

Claude Grimmer and Don Forbes

Not only were we both very young to be in business, but we obviously looked it. I recall the first time a stranger came in and said to me “Hey. Son where’s the boss?” And of course this happened very often for a start.

After 7 years the war was on, and with it heavy petrol restrictions. All cars immediately dropped sharply in value and then came Don’s turn to be ‘called up’ in the Army.

I was married just before Don eventually had to go overseas, and so carried on running the business on my own for a while. Then my turn came and as the business had very little value it was a case of “close up shop”.

My landlord said he would keep the premises for me, for when I returned, but after I had been in camp for a few weeks he had found another tenant so I had to get leave from the army to come home to clear out the premises. After months of training in Waiouru I served in the Pacific War Zone for a time and then returned home for essential industry.

Grimmer Motors used to have Mobil, Atlaantic and BP fuel pumps.

Grimmer Motors used to have Mobil, Atlantic, and BP fuel pumps.

I was ‘manpowered’ to the truck workshops of the NZ Dairy Co in Morrinsville to service the ageing fleet of trucks. There I stayed until early 1948, when we moved back to Hamilton. I had by this time bought the corner section – Heaphy Terrace and Oxford Street and had a garage built there so in 1948 I opened up for business on the present site with Mobil and Atlantic petrol pumps and later adding BP when they came to NZ.

By this time, of course, I had long gained my ‘A’ Grade Certificate (1942) and had also done plenty of workshop experience. So this time our customers didn’t have unqualified ‘would-be’ mechanics working on their cars. Don joined up with me again and also my cousin Geoff Wilson.


So Grimmer Motors kept going until Christmas 1934 and also many more Christmases after that. In fact, I was in business for over 50 years and Don was with me for 40.

Thinking back now it was a rather cheeky thing to do – to start off the way we did but on the other hand, it is rather amazing that our ‘comebacks’ and dud jobs were so few.

I’m sure that many times the Lord gave us some very definite Guidance.”

~ Claude Grimmer

Grimmer Motors in Recent times

Grimmer Motors with fuel pumps


As independent petrol stations began to struggle in today’s fuel market, Grimmer Motors chose to remove the fuel pumps from its forecourt, using the space to focus solely on automotive servicing and repairs. This allowed the company to save money, and focus on what it does best.

Grimmer Motors with new forecourt

Since the removal of the fuel pumps, the appearance of Grimmer Motors has changed a lot. However, the staff still pride themselves on offering the same reliable services that have kept the company in business for approximately 83 years. 

Our team would like to thank our past and present customers for giving us the opportunity to provide the best possible service to you. Whether you are an old or new customer, we hope to see more of you in the future.