Dampier: A household name in Aliwal North

Notwithstanding difficult economic conditions, both locally and nationally, a businessman from Aliwal North is forging ahead with huge developments in this Eastern Cape town which will inject millions into the local community.


Gary Dampier owns and operates two successful vehicle franchises under the Dampier Motors banner. The two dealerships are located opposite each other in the main street, each with a Caltex forecourt as part of its facilities.

Gary is currently working on a complete rebuild of the Nissan dealership, complete with a new Caltex forecourt and amenities like a Fresh Stop convenience store, a well-known coffee franchise and other facilities. “We have kicked of with the new project that will hopefully be completed in a couple of months,” Gary tells Dealerfloor.

Gary also owns the Isuzu Dealership right opposite the Nissan showroom. “I am the Director as well as the Dealer Principal at Isuzu, while my wife, Nicky, is the Dealer Principal at the Nissan dealership. We are excited about the new development that will not only serve our Nissan clients better but will also be an alternative for locals and travellers through our town in terms of filling up, taking a break and getting something to eat and drink,” Gary says.

He says Aliwal North is a hub for several surrounding small towns like Smithfield, Rouxville, Lady Grey, Barkley East, Burgersdorp and Jamestown to mention a few. “Business is driven by a mixture of clientele from the large agriculture sector in the region, government institutions and private buyers,” says Gary.

Gary Dampier and his wife Nicky in front of the current Nissan dealership in Aliwal North.

“The Isuzu side of the business is purely bakkie-driven. On the Nissan side, this is also the case, but we also sell some passenger cars and, very important to us, Nissan’s range of SUVs. We are looking forward to the arrival of the locally build Navara range that will now include a single cab. This is a very important addition to the range, especially after Nissan announced the end of the popular NP300 workhorse. Like all dealers from different manufactures throughout the country, vehicle stock and part shortages are hampering business at this stage.”

The name Dampier is a household name in Aliwal North. The Dampier family moved from Virginia in the Free State to Aliwal North, where Gary’s father, Don, started selling used cars on consignment in 1967.

At a later stage, his father opened the Valiant and Chrysler dealership and in one month sold 22 Valiants alone. In 1972 it become Valiant and Mazda and sold up to 44 cars in some months, a feat not every dealership can boast about. Gary says a contributing factor for good monthly sales was the building of the Gariep Dam with lots of people from Europe coming to the region working on the massive dam project.

An artist’s impression of what the new Nissan dealership and forecourt will look like.

His dad later owned the BMW franchise and when he relinquished it during the early Nineties, he was one of two BMW dealership owners who ran it for the longest period in the country.

His father and brother, David, later opened a used car business, Dampier Motors, in Port Elizabeth. His brother, a fine dining chef, swopped making food for selling cars. Economic pressures in the used car market in the city compelled him to reverse the swop and although it’s still selling cars, the dealership is now also known for its excellent take-away food. David spent seven years in Australia as a career chef before opening the popular Aviemore Restaurant in Port Elizabeth.

David Dampier and the man who started everything, Don.

Gary himself bought the Delta franchise, which later become GM and now Isuzu, from his father and later he added Nissan to his portfolio in Aliwal North.

He says his father’s experience and reputation in the industry convinced him to join the motor retail business. “The success and longevity of Dampier Motors are based on three core principles – honesty, quality and service.”

On a lighter note, Gary says his father is semi-retired but still actively involved in purchases and sales. “He sits in an open corner of the showroom (much to his disgust) reading the Herald, slicing biltong and waiting for his commission – a bottle of Johnny Walker Black.”

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