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Fred Warr – Britain’s Mr Harley-Davidson – dies

Fred Warr, who with his father did more than anyone else to bring Harley-Davidson into Britain, has died aged 93. He had been suffering from motor neurone disease and passed away peacefully at home.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Warr family to Harley in this country – it was the company’s only UK dealer from the early 1950s to the early ‘70s. Warr’s Harley-Davidson, now occupying two sites in London, has been the classic tale of a family dynasty. It remains Harley’s oldest dealer in Europe and the business (though not as an official dealer) will celebrate its centenary in 2024.

It was in 1924 that Fred’s father Captain Frederick James Warr was demobbed from the British Army. He opened a cycle shop in King’s Road, adding Triumph motorcycles the same year, and then Harleys, having already had experience of the American V-twins on the Western Front during World War One.

The business expanded through the 1920s and ‘30s, run by Frederick and his wife Margaret, until 1939, when the ex-Captain closed it for the duration and again volunteered for military duty, rising to the rank of Major. After the war, his son Fred joined the family business, having used a Harley WLA side-valve as his wartime transport. Warr’s bought up many war surplus Harleys, selling them to private customers.

By 1957 young Fred was heading up the business, and after visiting Milwaukee was appointed as H-D’s first official dealer in Europe. He was key to the success of the business, an active rider who attended countless rallies all over the country, winning the National Rally in 1974 and even getting Harleys on film, acting as a riding double for Marianne Faithfull in the movie Girl on a Motorcycle.

Warr’s stuck with Harley through good times and bad, weathering the AMF era and benefitting from the marque’s revival in the 1980s and ‘90s, while Fred’s eldest son John Warr joined the business in 1981, expanding its racing programme and opening a new dealership in Mottingham SE9 in 2002. The business which Frederick Warr started and Fred Warr developed is still thriving today.

BMF Chair, Jim Freeman commented: ‘ Fred Warr was a titan in the success of HD in the UK, I remember that when I lived in West Norwood, Fred could often be seen riding a Harley from the Warr home to the King’s Road. Truly a man who lived and breathed HD, even when commuting.’


Written by Peter Henshaw

All images courtesy of Warr’s Harley Davidson