The company began life in 1949 when founder Don Kennedy started 'The Mobile Car Repair Service', converting a 25cwt Austin Threeway van into a mobile workshop equipped to handle any roadside emergency.
After taking on his first employee, an apprentice at £1 5s a week, Mr Kennedy soon had to establish the company's first premises. So a World War II Nissen hut costing £8.00 was erected in a builder’s yard in Kennington in 1950.
The first hire cars - two 1936 Morris 10s costing £230 each - went on the road in the same year, followed by a 1939 Morris 8 and a 1938 Model Y Ford shortly after.
These vehicles were operated from the company's first premises, which had expanded to two Nissen huts. The hire charge was £1.15s per day, although obtaining enough rationed petrol to operate, at 2s 6d a gallon, was quite a challenge!
The first van, a 1946 Morris 8, arrived in 1954, although its use was limited due to the Carrier's licence restrictions in place at the time.
A change of name to 'Kennedy's Self Drive Hire' followed the establishment of Kennedy's Garage in 1955, and soon afterwards the new garage was opened on Faversham Road, Kennington, having cost £4000 to build.
In 1957 Kennedy's became an official Standard-Triumph dealership, but it soon became apparent that Triumphs weren’t suitable to use as hire cars, so when the first brand new cars were bought for the hire fleet they were Vauxhalls: 10 Victors purchased at £850 each.
In 1960 Kennedy's Garage became a limited company. The hire fleet now totalled 14 vehicles: 10 Victors, 2 Morris 1000s, 1 Fiat 500 and 1 Bedford CA 15cwt Van, so the firm’s 3 ton truck was swapped for some adjoining land to accommodate them and plans were put in motion to expand the garage.
Road accidents caused by the harsh winters of the early 1960’s put heavy demands on Kennedy’s body repairs, so the sprayshop and bodyshop had to be expanded, a two-lift lubrication bay was included in the development and the parts stores expanded to three times their original size.
By 1963 the mechanical shop had reached 3600 sq ft and boasted a modern tyre bay housing all the latest repair and balancing equipment and the new purpose built showroom was proving a success due to a car sales boom brought about by the relaxing of hire purchase restrictions.
As both the hire fleet and workshop became more successful, the workforce continually grew, reaching 20 in 1964.
In 1965, Kennedy’s became a Ford dealership, meaning that cars such as the Cortina, Classic and Anglia could be added to the rental fleet.
But when Ford opened a brand new garage in Ashford in 1967, Kennedy’s had to change to Mercedes and Vauxhall/Bedford agencies, the latter proving a useful source of vans for rental.
Lack of space was again becoming a problem, so in 1969 new offices, a parts showroom and a reception area were added.
In 1969, the A, B & C licences needed to drive goods vehicles were abolished, resulting in a boom in van rental; Kennedy’s Self Drive immediately added 3 Bedford 18cwt vans to the fleet.
In 1972, Don Kennedy set up Kenhire Ltd to take over the running of the rental fleet from the Kennington site and livery was added to the hire vans for the first time. With space becoming limited, half an acre of land was purchased on the Henwood Industrial Estate and construction of a purpose-built rental depot began in September 1972.
Kenhire’s new premises were completed in June 1973 and the all-British fleet of 36 vehicles including such models as the Triumph Toledo, Vauxhall Viva and Hillman Hunter, was transferred there. Minibuses and motor caravans were added to the fleet and new vans were permanently on order as Kenhire struggled to keep up with demand.
In 1974 Kennedy’s Garage was sold, meaning that Don Kennedy’s efforts could focus on Kenhire and within two years of opening the new site, the number of hire vehicles had reached 50. By 1976 Kenhire had added minibuses and motor caravans to its range, as well as the first 4 ton lorry, a Bedford KD. The car fleet of that time included models like the Vauxhall Chevette, Ford Fiesta and Ford Cortina Estate.
With the fleet size growing, major extensions were carried out in 1979, allowing the installation of an automatic car wash, opened to the public in 1980.
By March 1980, the hire fleet totalled 84 vehicles: 34 cars, 5 minibuses, 3 motor caravans and 42 vans and trucks.
Current Managing Director Paul Kennedy joined the company in 1982 and as the economy thrived, the commercial vehicle sector saw unprecedented growth. So Kenhire added more specialised vehicles to meet customers’ demand, one example being 7.5 ton tippers: the first one, a Ford Cargo 0811, was added in 1985 and within 4 years Kenhire had 13 of these vehicles available.
With lack of space becoming a pressing problem, Kenhire bought an additional third of an acre in 1986 and set about creating a secure yard for parking, which was soon in full use as the increasing range of commercial vehicles helped the total fleet size reach 100 for the first time in 1987.
Kenhire’s policy had always been to supply vehicles with a full fuel tank, but an increase in diesel vehicles meant that a diesel tank facility had to be incorporated in the new compound.
In 1990, at the age of 70 Don Kennedy retired, leaving son Paul as managing director to continue the rapid expansion of the firm.
In August 1991 Kenhire was invited to become one of the founding members of the United Rental Group – a new organisation formed to create a national network of the best local rental companies.
Kenhire’s workshop was extended further in February 1992 and the 1979 extension was converted to a specialised body repair shop and paint spraying facility allowing all damaged hire vehicles to be repaired quickly. The addition of a body jig meant even the most extreme repair could be completed in-house.
Kenhire opened a new commercial vehicle wash in 1992 which was the first lorry wash in the area open to the public. To keep it working during that year’s hosepipe ban a water recycling plant was also installed.
Throughout the 1990s the workshop and accident repair facilities continued to be developed, mainly to ensure that rental customers had the best back-up possible. However with the hire fleet becoming increasingly newer and more reliable, the workload to maintain them was reducing, so the decision was taken to once again offer garage services to the general public. Aided by the introduction of fixed price servicing, Kenhire’s workshop services quickly became very popular and soon extra mechanics and new lifts had to be installed.
In order to save costs on signwriting, in 1999 Kenhire purchased a system to produce vinyl graphics, but this soon became another service that was offered to customers, with graphic designs often being added to vehicles when they were sold or taken on long term hire.
In the early years of the new century, contract hire became a popular option for company fleets and Kenhire won a number of contracts for the supply of both new and used vehicles to a range of local organisations. The savings and service that long term hire customers enjoyed meant that in January 2008 Kenhire’s contract fleet broke the 100 vehicle mark.
Following a steady increase in the amount of accident repair work, the bodyshop was extended in 2004 to accommodate a Eurotechno Tornado spray oven, which was soon followed by a change to more eco-friendly water-based paint for all repair work.
By 2008, Kenhire’s workshops were looking after many of the town’s taxis, so LTI, the manufacturers of the London Hackney Cab, awarded us a servicing agency that allowed us to maintain and carry out warranty repairs to any London cab.
A customer’s request for help finding a solution to their overloading problems led to Kenhire becoming agents for PM Onboard’s Van Weigh payload monitoring system in 2009, and the same year saw the addition of air conditioning service equipment, allowing us to offer the repair and re-gassing of air con and climate control systems.
2012 saw the installation of a Maha MOT bay and Kenhire were awarded full MOT status for Class 4, 5 & 7 vehicles in June, appointing three MOT inspectors to handle the influx of extra work.
Our contract hire fleet had its first ever first refrigerated van added in 2013 and with pressures on parking space mounting, we managed to extend the car parking space on the Henwood site in 2014, allowing more space for both hire and workshop customers’ vehicles to be left with us.
In 2016 the hire fleet was expanded to include caged tippers and a telematics option was offered to customers for the first time, giving corporate hirers the option to track vehicles and check on driver performance. In the garage, a Hofmann four wheel alignment unit was added, meaning that we became one of the few garages in the area offering this service.
Today, our fully equipped workshops, manned by experienced staff, ensure that all our vehicles are maintained to the highest standards and give us the means to find solutions to any transport problems you may encounter.
Throughout the years, we have taken immense pride in our approach to business, so whatever kind of vehicle rental you need, or whatever help you need with your own vehices, you can rely on Kenhire to provide a friendly, efficient and totally professional service at extremely competitive prices.