Man who borrowed £100 to launch a Portsmouth institution

Douglas Sharp senior (left) with a Vauxhall employee and Wingham-body Vauxhall 20HP outside his premises at 126 High Stree, Old Portsmouth c1935.
Douglas Sharp senior (left) with a Vauxhall employee and Wingham-body Vauxhall 20HP outside his premises at 126 High Stree, Old Portsmouth c1935.
Sir Francis Chichester on Gipsy Moth IV.

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Today we celebrate two 90th birthdays, both forever linked with one of the most famous firms ever established in Portsmouth.

It was in 1924 that Douglas Sharp, a man who had no great affinity with the motor car, borrowed £100 from his uncle, rented a garage and bought some tools and a car. And so was born United Services Garages.

REMEMBER WHEN REP: CO''CAPTION: Douglas Sharp sells Peter Sellers the white Cresta on the forecourt at United Service Garages, Hilsea, in the 1950s. Sellers's Sunbeam Talbot in which he had arrived is in the background

REMEMBER WHEN REP: CO''CAPTION: Douglas Sharp sells Peter Sellers the white Cresta on the forecourt at United Service Garages, Hilsea, in the 1950s. Sellers's Sunbeam Talbot in which he had arrived is in the background

The first car he sold was a Vauxhall 14, for £195. The cheapest on the market at the time was a Ford 8 for between £100 and £110.

After the Second World War and fresh out of the Royal Marines, Mr Sharp was joined by his son, 22-year-old Douglas Jnr who helped his father rebuild the business. Its buildings had been destroyed in the blitz.

Douglas Jnr, who lives at Hayling Island, went on to run the business until his retirement 25 years ago.

Now 90, he hosted the annual reunion of USG employees at the Robin Hood pub, Rowlands Castle, last Sunday – an event attended by about 30 people.

As ever, the star of the show was Douglas’s 1925 Vauxhall Wensum Tourer.