Car tycoon

Born: November 27, 1927;

Died: April 10, 2017

SIR Arnold Clark, who has died aged 89, rose from being a motor mechanic and small Glasgow car dealer - he started with £160 savings - to head what is now Europe's largest independently-owned, family-run auto dealership. Arnold Clark Automobiles sells over a quarter of a million new or used cars a year from 200 branches around the UK, employing 10,000 people. Turnover in 2015 was £3.35 billion, with operating profits at £121.7m.

Sir Arnold himself was the UK's first billionaire car dealer - one of Scotland's richest men - and was knighted in the Queen's 2004 Honours List for services to the motor industry and for his community and charity work throughout Scotland particularly in the Glasgow area. In its report at the time, The Herald dubbed him Knight of the Road. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow in 2005 and his company has been named Automotive Management's Retailer of the Year in three of the last four years.

Such was the Arnold Clark Group's expansion and acquisitions over the years that he put many a small car dealer or even many a large company in Glasgow and beyond out of business. Often accused of seeking a monopoly, piling up stocks and undercutting smaller dealers' prices, he firmly denied such criticism.

''You don't buy popularity, you win it," he once told The Herald. "You don't put flowers in the car, you give people a little bit extra like a radio in it. I had a tendency to expand the business in terrible times [and] all the businesses I bought were from families who sold to me willingly. I have never asked anybody would they sell their business to me. I didn't screw them to the ground or people would not want to sell them to me.''

And so, despite the criticism, he remained widely liked within the motor trade, both as a businessman and a family man. Far from the stereotype of a dodgy car salesman a-la Arthur Daley (George Cole) in Minder, Sir Arnold was a church elder well-known for his charity work.

Last year, Arnold Clark became the first company to win a Cash for Kids platinum award for its donation to the charity, which helps children up to the age of 18 who are disabled, disadvantaged or suffering from abuse or neglect to realize their individual potential. Sir Arnold's involvement was most specifically in the west of Scotland. His company also sponsors the Kiltwalk, where kilties walk miles to benefit many children's charities.

John Arnold Clark was born on November 27, 1927, in a tenement in Townhead, Glasgow, leaving Dennistoun primary school aged 14 and saving his pennies with paper and milk rounds as well as selling fruit and vegetables door-to-door.

He joined the RAF at the end of the war when he was still only 17, serving as a motor fitter and motor mechanics instructor. "I was sitting there swotting up while all the boys were out drinking beer," he recalled. He rose to the rank of corporal. Using his demob money, he bought a pre-war Morris Ten Four for £70, restored it and sold it for a profit, the first of many to come.

He opened his first showroom on Park Road, Glasgow, at the age of 26 in 1954. Five years later, he won his first new car franchise from Morris Motors, then one of the world's most famous marques, selling some of the very first Minis which changed the face of both family and race driving. In later years, his subsidiary Harry Fairbairn - named after its founder who was a successful Scottish car dealer and racing cyclist - also became a major player in Scotland. Sir Arnold retained the original name in hour of Mr Fairbairn.

In his later years, one of Sir Arnold's key moves, according to fellow car dealers, was to stock new cars - of any marque - keep them and sell them soon after as "as-new second-hand", giving his customers bargains while making a comfortable profit himself.

To petrolheads, Sir Arnold was also known as a keen collector of his own classic cars, including a 1915 Ford Model T Towncar, a 1926 Citroen Cloverleaf, a 1928 Rolls Royce Park Ward Single Tourer and a 1929 Austin Heavy (not Healey) Twelve. On the road and media conscious, he always drove a car he had bought and was being sold by his business, whether it be a Ford or an Alfa Romeo. Whether he got a discount, who knows? But, knowing him, one doubts it. He might even have given his salesman a tip.

Although he went on to have a luxury home in Spain and a holiday getaway on the Isle of Arran, he settled happily in the village of Killearn, in the council district of Stirling, where he was popular with the locals and within his church and he and lady Philomena were visited every Sunday for lunch by his extended family.

His greatest non-business passion was sailing, especially from his magnificent 78-foot ocean racing yacht Drum, which he bought from the pop singer Simon le Bon. Often based at Rhu Marina near Helensburgh, Sir Arnold took it easier, sailing the Firth of Clyde and the Western Isles at a more leisurely pace. The yacht, with a 24-man crew, now hosts tourism trips and wedding receptions.

Sir Arnold is survived by his second wife Philomena, three sons from his first marriage - a fourth, Norman, died in Helensburgh at the age of 33 in 1995 - and six children from the second marriage.