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Maidstone Exhaust Centre looks back on 50 years

An exhaust centre is celebrating 50 years of business.

During that time, the Maidstone Exhaust Centre in Bower Lane, Maidstone, has essentially had just four bosses, but it is soon to get its fifth.

Present owner Razz Tutt with his son Craig
Present owner Razz Tutt with his son Craig

The business was founded on April 6, 1974, by Roy Carey.

It was not an auspicious start; on the first day, there was just one customer, wanting a new exhaust on his Morris Minor 1000.

The first week’s takings amounted to just £25.

However, business began to grow and Mr Carey took on more staff. One was Brian Metson, employed initially just as a Saturday fitter.

He soon became full-time and then in 1976 became a partner in the business with Mr Carey, taking full control when Mr Carey retired in 1987.

Roy Carey at the Maidstone Exhaust Centre in May 1974
Roy Carey at the Maidstone Exhaust Centre in May 1974

The firm is currently owned by Ian Tutt, universally known as Razz.

He joined the company as a fitter in 1988 and was promoted to manager in 1993 and then partner, finally taking over from Mr Metson in 2009.

Now Mr Tutt is also looking to hang up his overalls and will be passing on the spanner to his son Craig.

Craig Tutt said: “I started here straight from school, and I’m 39 now!

“I’ve been looking back over the centre’s history for the anniversary and found some interesting facts.

An advert for the Maidstone Exhaust Centre from April 1983
An advert for the Maidstone Exhaust Centre from April 1983

“At one time, the centre had five dedicated exhaust fitters and five pits that were almost in constant use every day [today there are two].

“Our record saw 109 exhausts fitted one Saturday - an unbelievable number, with cars waiting on the road to be seen.

“The fastest exhaust fitting ever was 12 seconds on a Hillman Imp which had previously been disassembled, so the nuts came off easily, but we also did Mk1 Fiesta in 22 seconds, and, while it may not sound as impressive, a classic-shaped VW Beetle full exhaust fitted in 16 minutes by Brian Metson and Steve Allitt.

“In those days, we used to purchase MK3 Cortina systems in batches of 100 and often sold them all within two weeks, as they were such a popular family car.

“I was given an old paper from April 1983, with one of our adverts - with prices starting at £23 for a Datsun 100a rising to £47 for a Vauxhall Cavalier. They’re a little bit more than that now.

We’ve had some great people work with us over the years

“It used to be just a bolt and a couple of brackets, but today, fitting exhausts has become a lot more difficult and time-consuming.

“We probably do around 100 exhausts a week now.

“But we also offer a bespoke service. So if you have a 30-year-old vehicle and can no longer get the parts, we can actually make the exhaust here in the shop.

“We’ve had some great people work with us over the years: Mick Turner, Mike Green, Wesley Steel, Liam Barton, Dave Carter, Alan Staples, Andy Stern and Stewart Butler to name a few.

“We remain friends with many of them today.”

The Maidstone Exhaust Centre's "artistic" fence
The Maidstone Exhaust Centre's "artistic" fence

The business is unique in the area in that it deals only in exhausts, though to be fair, the Tutts do also own Bower Lane Tyres next door, which is run as a separate business.

The Maidstone Exhaust Centre is easily distinguished by its boundary fence - made out of old exhaust systems.

The fence first appeared in 1976 and was not initially popular with Maidstone council planners.

They first ordered it be taken down, but relented after the fence gained the support of lecturers at the Maidstone College of Art who praised its artistic merits.

A fence made out of exhaust systems is still there, although Mr Tutt confessed: “It has been rebuilt several times as, despite copious amounts of red paint, Mother Nature inevitably takes its toll.

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