‘We had no contracts – we agreed, we did it, we prospered’

We had no contracts - we agreed, we did it, we prospered

by classic-cars |
Updated on


Whether fronting flagship showrooms or topping BTCC championship tables, Frank Sytner’s name became forever linked with Bavarian machinery. Here he looks back on his legacy


I knew I was punchy, aggressive – but I had to be, I had no choice. Everyone was either out to win or stop somebody else winning it.’ Frank Sytner is now into his 80th year and long retired from motor racing and the day-to-day running of his dealership empire, but the grit and determination that made him a touring car legend in the Eighties still shines through.

His battles with teammates Mike Smith and James Weaver in 1988 and 1989 have become legendary. He also built up a vast dealership portfolio that’s spread beyond the BMW retailers that share his name, and developed the Alpina brand in the UK.

It all began with a trip to Aintree, aged 10, with his father in 1954. ‘I got to see Stirling Moss win in a Maserati 250F,’ Frank recalls. ‘All these big, heavy, noisy things running on methanol were unbelievably exciting – I was intoxicated.’

Cars soon became everything to Frank, who soon lost interest in school; he left at 16 and joined an advertising agency, before working for a Ford dealership. His older brother Alan, who had established Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1957, found that the venue wasn’t large enough to make enough money to survive, so sold up and later set up a car-selling business in Nottingham, with Frank joining him.

‘By 1968 we had built up a good business and acquired an Alfa Romeo franchise,’ he says. ‘It was a time when ordinary people, not necessarily car enthusiasts, would be interested in buying an Alfa Romeo, Citroën or BMW.’

Frank pivoted the business to dealing with specialist and luxury cars. Within ten years Frank had gone from selling Morris Minor vans to acquiring the Dino franchise – but the passion for motor racing couldn’t be quenched.

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