St Leonards Motors began life as the brainchild of father and son team Graham and Brian Wakeford. Following the completion of his engineering training in Bristol and Newbury, Berkshire, Brian joined retired banker Graham in the purchase of a small garage on The Green, St Leonards-on Sea in 1958. On 1st January 1959, St Leonards Motors opened for business for the very first time.
The fledgling enterprise expanded quickly, and in 1960 Brian and Graham were joined by John, Brian's brother, a retired pilot and aircraft engineer at Vickers Aviation. That same year the business became St Leonards Motors Ltd under the control of the Wakeford family, who still own the company today.
A reputation for excellent customer service led to more business than the modest garage on the Green could handle and in 1970 negotiations began with British Rail for the purchase of the land at West Marina. In 1972 Bo Peep Filling Station was opened and the main Fiat garage opened in 1973. At that time SLM, as they began to be known, also ran petrol stations at the original site on The Green along with others at Silverhill, Queens Road, Red Lake and Sidley in Bexhill.
In 1974 the West Marina site unveiled it's most unique and recognisable landmark, a Gloster Meteor, which was purchased from the Ministry of Defence, underlining John Wakeford's love for all things to do with aviation. He actually flew a Meteor whilst serving in the RAF.
In 1978, Ian Wakeford, son of John, joined the company straight from university.
Over the years SLM continued to expand and in 1979 the company bought Sidley Motors in London Road, Bexhill, which originally operated as a Fiat dealership until 1983 when it became a full Toyota operation. In 1986 the company, and the aircraft, relocated to it's current head office site at Churchwood Drive. At the same time it split off it's bodyshop which finally settled in Brunel Road in 1989. In 1994 the site opened a Nissan dealership alongside the Fiat site, and in 1995 opened a Vauxhall site on Sedlescombe Road North.
In 2005, having outgrown the site in Bexhill the company moved it's Toyota business into the same location as the Vauxhall site, and soon after acquired a second Toyota site in Uckfield. Recently, In 2011, we opened our first dealership in Tunbridge Wells with a full Vauxhall dealership. Over all this time the site in Bexhill remained within the family as a specialist used car site. Recognising the success of this site, the company decided to introduce a large dedicated used car site in Church Wood Drive, St Leonards, and Sussex Used Cars opened its doors for business in 2013.
In 2017, SLM Group expanded and purchased Dingles Motor Group based in East Anglia which added three Toyota dealerships, a Hyundai dealership, Attleborough Used Cars and Lexus servicing to the group. SLM Group now operates sites in East Sussex, Kent and East Anglia.