Kenhire Ltd - Ashford, Kent | The Mobile Car Repair Service Ashford, Kent

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Company History


Kenhire has been offering quality vehicle rental in Kent for over 60 years


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.  


1949 - Mobile Car Repair Service 1950 - D R Kennedy 1952 - Hire Fleet


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.


1955 - Kennedy's Garage 1955 - Kennedy's Garage 1955 - Kennedy's Garage & Hire Fleet


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.


1957 - Hillman Minx 'Gay Look' - first hire car with radio 1959 - First Triumph Herald sold 1963 - Kennedy's Garage


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.


1963 - Service Bay 1963 - Service Bay 1964 - Paint Shop


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.


1964 - Workshop 1966 - Kennedy's Garage Forecourt 1967 - Showroom


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.


1964 - Kennedy's Workforce 1967 - Aerial View of Kennedy's Garage 1968 - Stores


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.


1967 - Mercedes Dealership 1968 - Bodyshop 1969 - Extension


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.


1970 - Kennedy's Forecourt in the Winter 1970 - Kennedy's Land Rover Breakdown


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.


1972 - Building Kenhire's Premises on Henwood 1972 - Building Kenhire's Offices  1973 - Aerial View of Kenhire's Premises


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.


1973 - Bedford Dormobile Motor Caravan 1974 - Bedford CF Minibus 1975 - Vauxhall Transcontinental Hire Car  1976 - Bedford CF Dropside Truck 1977 - Bedford HA Van 1977 - Bedford CF Luton Van


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.


1976 - Bedford TK 4ton Lorry 1979 - Kenhire Reception & Hire Cars 1979 Kenhire Reception & Hire Vans


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.


1979 - Ford Transit Luton Van 1980 Ford A Series Box Van 1987 - Ford Cargo Tipper & Ford Transit Van


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.


1987 - Ford Transit Luton Van & Vauxhall Astramax 1987 - Kenhire Rear Yard 1987 - Kenhire Rear Yard 1988 - Commercial Vehicle Fleet 1989 - Ford Transit Crewcab Dropside 1989 - Ford P100 Pickup


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.


1992 - LDV Convoy Hi Loader Van 1992 - Workshop Extension 1992 - Paul Kennedy & Workshop Extension


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.


2002 - Contract Hire Ford Tourneo with Graphics 2004 - Kenhire Staff in Iveco Cargo Dropside 2004 - Main Workshop


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.

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.


2007 - TXII Taxi in Workshop 2007 - Kenhire Paint Spray Booth 2007 - Kenhire Staff


Today, these 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, you can rely on Kenhire to provide a friendly, efficient and totally professional service at extremely competitive prices.


Contact Kenhire free on 0808 180 1080

If you have any old photos of Kennedy's Garage or Kenhire, please call us as we would love to see them.