Obituary: Jack Tordoff, businessman

If Jack Crossley Tordoff’s name was not instantly familiar to the last two generations of the motoring public, his initials certainly were.
Jack TordoffJack Tordoff
Jack Tordoff

If Jack Crossley Tordoff’s name was not instantly familiar to the last two generations of the motoring public, his initials certainly were.

Mr Tordoff, who has died at 86, was chairman of the JCT600 chain of car dealerships and garages, having built up the business from a single workshop and filling station on Bradford’s Sticker Lane.

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Today it is one of the largest privately-owned chains in the country, with 54 branches, representing 25 car makers and employing some 2,300 people across Yorkshire, the North East and East Midlands.

It was Jack’s father, Edward, who started the business in the years immediately after the Second World War. He named it Tordoff Motors – although he ran it with two other partners – but he died in 1950, when Jack was 14.

As a result, his son left school within a year and began work as an apprentice motor mechanic with the firm.

At 21, he completed his National Service as a Corporal in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. It was a turning point for him and the business.

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Borrowing £1,000 from his mother to buy out the remaining two original partners, he began selling cars. He renamed the company after the number plate of his beloved Mercedes 600 and also shaped its values on the same lines, as a marque that would command respect, admiration and ambition.

But selling cars was only half the story, and during the 1960s and 1970s Jack competed as a rally driver, with considerable success in the UK and Europe. In 1973 he won the International Circuit of Ireland Rally in a Porsche 2.7RS – the first time the vehicle had achieved such a feat.

In later years, his grandson, Sam, continued the family racing tradition, with wins in a number of disciplines, including the Porsche Carrera Cup and the British Touring Car Championship.

It was, however, not the only sport with which the Tordoff family was synonymous. In 1983, Jack took Bradford City Football Club out of administration and served as its chairman for four years, helping to rebuild the stadium after the tragic and disastrous fire in the middle of that decade. JCT600 has been City’s main sponsor for the last 10 years – an investment that typified Jack’s pride in his home city.

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“I am Bradford born and bred and have never lost sight of my roots or how important it is for successful companies to give back to their local communities,” he said. “I remain a proud Yorkshireman, and never more so than today.”

He was later made an honorary life president of the club, an accolade to add to the MBE he received in 2007 and his OBE a decade later.

Meanwhile, he remained active in business well into his 80s. His firm now turns over more than £1.3bn and celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. It is still based in Bradford, with a headquarters at Apperley Bridge, and with Jack’s youngest son, John, as chief executive, and seven of his grandchildren employed within a business. In 2016 it was named amongst the UK’s best 100 companies to work for.

Married to Jean for 66 years, Mr Tordoff had three children, one of whom, Lesley, predeceased him. His survivors also include 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

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