The corner of Mair and Doveton streets, outside the Civic Hall, is now a small landscaped garden with public seating and a few trees but it was once and for a long time, of all things, a very successful car dealership. Garry Harrowfield and his then business partner Don Toulmin - Gardon Motors - were the last lessees of a council-owned garage and car sales yard which stood next to the hall until the late 1970s. It's hard to visualise now, but the building was pushed up hard alongside the hall, with a diagonal access across the front for vehicles to enter and purchase petrol, a common design for service stations at the time. It wasn't a grand place, Garry Harrowfield says, but he and Mr Toulmin were soon making a good business of the Renault and Peugeot franchise based there. Now retired, Garry Harrowfield says the partnership was born out of a love of rally driving, something Mr Harrowfield was rather keen on, becoming the Victorian Rally Champion driver in 1974. "Don had a servo up in Macarthur Street, opposite the cemetery, where that station still is," he says. "He was a mate of mine. We used to drink a bit of beer together; he used to build the rally engines for my cars. One day he said to me, 'I'm sick to death of this place. I believe Renault-Peugeot dealer wants out. Why don't you chuck your job in with insurance, and I'll get out of the service station; we'll team up and take on the franchise?' So that's basically what we did." The pair opened their dealership on September 1, 1974. While they knew their lease at the Mair Street building was short-term - Ballarat Council was keen to demolish it - they renovated and set about restoring the sales of the French marques, which had dropped off over time. The building had at one time been a service station as well as a car sales yard, but it had seen better days. "It was a very small, old sort of place," Mr Harrowfield recalls. "It had a two-car showroom and an office block which was more suitable for selling petrol than selling cars. We modified the showroom enough to give me an office, and Don was like a duck to water downstairs in the service department. We made it work there for about four years before we moved to Howitt Street." There was something of history of car sales on the site, which was part of council's market reserve. The pair took on a dealership which wasn't selling as many cars as it once had. In his first twelve months, Garry Harrowfield sold 127 new cars, which was, he says, a 1000 per cent increase on previous years. The original dealership on the corner, he says, was very strong. "That corner was always known as Wendt's Corner, Vic Wendt was the original bloke who had the dealership. When we cleaned that place out, moving from there to our new premises in Howitt Street in October '78, up in the attic we found spare parts for Jaguar, Studebaker, Humber, maybe even Chrysler. So he did all kinds of motor vehicles, and maybe somebody before him, I don't know. I can't never follow that one down." He says they sublet from Wendt at $300 a week, not knowing Vic was paying just $200 to council. The dealership was also lucky in selling the new Peugeot 504 V6 which had just been released, and which Mr Harrowfield felt was one of the best models the company released. "They were a good looking car, and they were right to the fore (innovatively) with the McPherson strut front end, independent rear end four wheel disc brakes..." He says while it may seem strange today, at the time French and European cars like Renault, Simca, Citroen and Peugeot were regarded as innovative in the market, and sold well in Ballarat. Some of their reputation was built on the toughness they showed in the Redex and Repco reliability trials of the era. A Peugeot 203 had won two of the first three trials in the 1950s. When the event was run in 1979, Garry Harrowfield and Bob Watson entered a Peugeot 504 diesel and finished 11th. Council had allowed the dealership to extend its lease on the site until 1978, while the new site was built on Howitt Street, which in that time was very much vacant blocks with horses agisted on them, Mr Harrowfield says. "It was too small; it was alright if you were selling 10 cars a year out of there, but 200 a year was impossible," he says. Troons built the new Gardon Motors dealership for the pair, and council demolished the building, the last business lease on the block. It had outlived the Beaurepaire tyre dealership on the Mair and Armstrong street corner by four years. Gradually the business expanded. "We bought the block on the west side, which we needed for used cars, Mr Harrowfield says. "And then sometime in the late '90s, we bought the block on the east side. And that's where we built that blue box for Peugeot." After 15 years working together, Don Toulmin and Garry Harrowfield ended their partnership amicably in 1989, and Mr Harrowfield bought his mate's share of the property and business, which he ran until it closed. He reels off a list of cars he sold: Jaguar, Peugeot, Land Rover, Range Rover, Rover, Daihatsu, Volvo, Saab, Renault and Subaru. What was the make which gave Garry and Don the most pleasure? "Well the one that gave us the most money and was Subaru, so that was a lot of pleasure. They're a remarkable vehicle. We did very well with Jaguar for a long time, but I guess Peugeot was the only one we had from day one to the last day." Now Mr Harrowfield has a couple of vintage Porsches in the garage, but his first loves were an MGA and an MGB. "Then in 1968 I went halves in a brand new Alfa GTV, 50-50 share with the old man We put in $2500 each. Mum and Dad drove it to Queensland twice a year. I joined the Light Car Club, and it progressed from motor cars to autocross to rallies. And I was hooked."