It all started back in the eighties when David Vooght had the opportunity to follow a lifetime ambition to run his own business. Following an engineering apprenticeship at Westland Helicopters followed by 10 years in agricultural engineering sales, David went into business with his father-in-law starting up G&M Coachwork building minibus conversions. David soon took over the business and set about expansion.
With David at the helm a bigger office and bespoke production facility was sought. A new factory got into full swing and soon minibuses were heading off all over the country.
One of GM’s earliest achievements, and a first for the industry, was a coachbuilt Ford Transit featuring the lowest floor of any coachbuilt Transit on the market. It transpired this marked the first of many firsts for GM.
GM now turned its attention to wheelchair vehicles. The first GM wheelchair access vehicle produced was based on a Fiat Fiorino, essentially a Fiat Uno van. This was followed by a conversion on a Nissan Serena.
During this period the order of the day was coachbuilt Transits, PSV minibuses and the continual development of wheelchair access vehicles. During this time GM expanded into selling used wheelchair vehicles and providing vehicle adaptations.
GM expanded into the taxi market coming up with another first but this time in the taxi market – a Fiat Scudo with a sliding seat which offered the choice of luggage or wheelchair space.
Outgrowing the existing sites GM moved to a new purpose built facility at Trusham, ten minutes outside Exeter.
Another first for the market. GM developed the first low floor Fiat Doblo with Type Approval. This year saw further expansion with a further production facility at Heathfield to build the new Fiat Doblo which was now a popular vehicle with Motability customers.
Over this period GM become firmly established as a key producer of wheelchair access vehicles becoming synonymous with high quality engineering. The range expanded and growing numbers of people chose a
Yet another first. GM designed the first low floor conversion on a VW Caravelle. This formed the foundation for a range of new drive-from-wheelchair vehicles, starting with the Colorado. This was also a landmark year as Dave’s colleague from Westland, Nigel Collins who had since been working at Airbus in Toulouse, joined GM to help run the expanding business. GM celebrated 20 years of minibus production.
Another first! GM were first to develop the Citroen Berlingo into a WAV. At the time it was the only Berlingo conversion on the market but soon the competition got wind and started copying it. But remember, you saw it here first! This was also a good year for awards. GM were awarded Motability WAV Convertor of the Year and were Commended the following year. The main production facility was further extended to meet customer demand.
Dave is appointed Chairman of WAVCA - the industry body representing all wheelchair vehicle convertors. WAVCA is active in driving legislative change from the EU for UK wheelchair vehicles and testing ensuring convertors are designing and building to the same exacting standards.
And another first from GM, the Minibus Lite was launched - a ground-breaking minibus that was the first lightweight 17 seater that could be driven on a car licence. Although now copied, it’s still the original and, we like to think, still the best.
GM also launch the Duo drive-from wheelchair vehicle at NAIDEX London. Based on the Citroen Berlingo the Duo extends GM’s drive-from wheelchair vehicle range to be the most extensive and comprehensive on the market.
GM, working with its fellow WAVCA members launched PAS 2012, A BSI standard for WAV manufacturers and retailers. David’s engineers designed “Norman” the standards WAV vehicle’s measuring device.
This year marked GM’s 25th anniversary and twenty five years on the business has grown to become firmly established as a nationwide leading vehicle convertor. While the times have changed the passion to develop and innovate new products will always be there.