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AN icon of New Zealand‘s automotive business community and a man whose influence and respect transcended geographical boundaries, Sir Colin Giltrap KNZM, has died aged 84.

The founder of the Giltrap Group, Sir Colin passed peacefully at home with family this week. He had been battling ill health since suffering a fall in London last year.  

Sir Colin was described by friends and colleagues as a keen family man and businessman with an all-consuming life-long passion for cars.

He is well known for building enduring relationships, valuing people and for contributions to the automotive industry and in the world of motorsport, which is legendary.

Wellington-based automotive retailer Gazley Motor Group was one of hundreds who paid tribute to Sir Colin, writing that it was “with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to a true legend in the New Zealand automotive industry, Sir Colin Giltrap.”
“Sir Colin was more than just a successful businessman; he was a visionary, a pioneer, an inspiration and great friend to our Gazley family. 

“He held a significant stake in Gazley VW at a critical juncture in our journey – when we were assigned the VW and Škoda brands for the first time. 

“His involvement was instrumental, dedicating 24 months to oversee their seamless integration and provide invaluable guidance that set the stage for our ongoing success in representing these brands.

“Beyond his professional achievements, Sir Colin was known for his generosity, kindness, and unwavering support for the community but mostly just for being a great Kiwi. His passing leaves a large gap in our hearts and in the industry as a whole.”

Sir Colin and Lady Jennifer Giltrap

Colin Giltrap founded Hamilton luxury car dealership Monaco Motors in 1966 and expanded the business, buying Matamata Motors and luxury car distributor and retailer P Coutts and Co (later renamed Coutts Cars) in the period 1970 to 1974.

He opened a Mazda new-car franchise and added Audi, then became the Porsche distributor for New Zealand. 

His involvement with European prestige cars was then enhanced after forming European Motor Distributors Ltd in 1977 which held the distribution rights for Volkswagen and later, Audi.

In 1982-85 he bought public company Schofields of Newmarket and then transformed Coutts Cars to a standalone BMW dealership branded Coutts BMW at 150 Great North Road, with Giltrap North Shore, also hosting BMW.

Giltrap Prestige was founded to sell Audi, VW Porsche, Rolls Royce and Bentley at 101 Great North Road. It also sold GM products and later added Nissan.

He then bought a 50 per cent share in Jaguar dealership Archibald & Shorter in Greenlane, Auckland.

In 1989, he made his major move into high volume car sales with the acquisition of a Toyota franchise for Auckland City, Giltrap City Toyota at 101 Great North Road

He then became the Mercedes-Benz distributor for NZ, relinquishing the right to have both BMW dealerships at City and North Shore. 

It required the change for Coutts BMW to become Coutts Mercedes-Benz and its move to new premises in Newmarket.

An additional showroom was built at 100 Great North Road and this purpose-built prestige dealership marks the change in name of Sir Colin’s business from Giltrap Motor Group to Giltrap Prestige.

In 1993 Giltrap Prestige became the only Aston Martin dealership for New Zealand. It then acquired the distributor rights to Skoda in New Zealand.

In 2001 Giltrap Prestige outgrew the building at 150 Great North Road and created a new purpose-built building with dedicated showrooms for Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche at 100 Great North Road. This is now also the new location for European Motor Distributors.

In 2002 Giltrap Prestige expanded again to become the only Lamborghini dealership for New Zealand.

Giltrap Prestige then separated its six luxury brands, forming Independent Prestige for sales of Bentley, Lamborghini and Aston Martin at 150 Great North Road. Giltrap Prestige stayed at 100 Great North Road with Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche.

Coutts Mercedes-Benz and North Shore Mercedes-Benz were sold to the Ingham Group.

Giltrap North Shore then bought the Kia franchise and Schofields of Newmarket acquired the Nissan franchise.

In 2010 Lexus of Auckland City was split from Giltrap City Toyota and moved to its own purpose-built facility at 29 Great North Road while Independent Prestige moved to 120 Great North Road.

With Audi New Zealand expanding beyond expectations, the Giltrap Group then decided to construct a new Audi Terminal at the old Independent Prestige site at 150 Great North Road with its official opening held on July 15, 2011.

Audi then moved out of Giltrap Prestige and became a standalone dealership known as Giltrap Audi and European Motor Distributors opened a distributing centre in a purpose-built facility at the Airport Oaks.

In 2012 Sir Colin Giltrap received New Year’s Honours as he was made a Knights Companion of the Order of New Zealand of Merit for his services to motorsport and philanthropy.

At the time, he said he wasn’t sure what to make of his new title.

“I think it’s quite a good honour. I didn’t realise when I first received it in the new year quite how much it meant but I’m starting to slowly get used to it,” he said in an interview with the NZ Herald.

“I still have a little bit trepidation about it because I’m still Colin to everybody and a few of the staff don’t know whether to call me Sir Colin or Colin but, I mean, I want to get the message around that I haven’t changed: I’m just Colin, always have been and always will be.”

The Herald reported then that he was a patron of the McLaren Trust and had supported and mentored numerous young drivers, and had contributed to many sporting events and charities including the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal and the Starship Foundation.

“It might not be big donations, it might be two and a half grand here, a thousand there and that sort of thing, but we enjoy helping New Zealanders where we can,” he said.

In his automotive business, in 2013 Nissan moved out of Schofields of Newmarket and established its own showroom further down Great South Road, known as Giltrap Nissan.

McLaren Auckland opens marking a historic return to New Zealand. The dealership also marked McLaren’s 50th dealership on its 50th anniversary.

During this period, Giltrap City Toyota was sold after many years of being part of the Giltrap family.

The Giltrap Group became 100 per cent owners of Archibald & Shorter (Auckland) and Roverland (North Shore). Both dealerships retail Land Rover, Volvo and Jaguar. Roverland is renamed Archibald & Shorter North Shore.

The Giltrap Group in 2016 acquires the distributor rights to SEAT in New Zealand

In 2017 Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Bentley moved into new bespoke new $40 million premises at 119 Great North Road, along with Giltrap Group’s head office which won a national award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

In 2018 SEAT New Zealand opened its first dealership in Newmarket, SEAT Store, with further retail business openings in 2020 for the SIXT car rental and subscription service and in 2021, with the addition of Polestar and Lotus franchises under the Giltrap Group umbrella.

In the world of motor racing, Sir Colin was, for a generation, an ever present figure on the motor racing circuits of NZ and Australia. Motor racing newspaper Auto Action said Sir Colin’s support for both NZ and even Australian drivers was legendary – in particular young drivers. 

He was an early backer of Larry Perkins funding him into a team of two Commodore touring cars and got behind Perkins in an unsuccessful bid for the Holden Dealer Team when Peter Brock lost the role. (Tom Walkinshaw won the bid).

Auto Action said Sir Colin backed NZ drivers such as Scott Dixon, Shane van Gisbergen, Liam Lawson, Mitch Evans, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley and many others.

Sir Colin is survived by his wife Lady Jennifer Giltrap, sons Richard and Michael and their respective families; including grandson Marco Giltrap who races cars for Giltrap Group Motorsport.

By Neil Dowling and John Mellor

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