BEGINNINGS – 1944 to 1960
The foundations of the Royan Group were laid when the late Bede Royan began repairing cars in Sydney’s Parramatta during World War II, after finishing his shifts at a nearby munitions factory.
The first Royans workshop was established when a customer of Bede’s who owned a wood and coal yard on Victoria Rd, Parramatta offered to rent half their shed to him so he could expand. Soon after, Bede took on his first employee, a talented panel-beater and spray-painter named Arnold May. Arnold stayed with Royans the rest of his working life.
The business grew quickly after the war and by 1948 Bede had employed another two tradesmen and his son Ron had begun work as an apprentice. A couple of years later, Bede bought the company’s first tow wagon – and 17-year old Ron was its first driver. By 1955 they had outgrown the old shed and Royans bought out the site and expanded the building as they took on more work.
In 1957, Bede’s daughter Patti (Ron’s sister) married Don Andrews. Don began helping with the business, and by 1960 he became a fulltime employee. Bede slowly cut his hours down and moved into retirement and Ron and Don took over the running of the business.
SECOND GENERATION MOVES IN – 1960s to 1980s
Truck repairs had always made up a large proportion of the business, but in the early 1970s Ron and Don made the decision to move away from cars and specialise in this area.
The team at Royans could see an opportunity for improvement in the truck repair process, and soon they were repairing trucks in a few weeks, at a time when their competitors would sometimes take six months to a year. So their reputation grew and the business flourished.
Royans began to outgrow the Victoria Rd site which had by now expanded to include a spare parts and accessories store, so Don and Ron bought a property (nicknamed the ‘igloo building’) on Parramatta Road, Granville in 1971, as well as another site across the road five years later to serve as the head administration office. This large, modern site was fitted out with the latest tools and equipment, allowing Royans to service even more customers. The team regularly faced a line of five more trucks needing to be repaired each morning.
By the early 1980s the company had expanded further and was ready to open other branches. During the 1980s, the old Victoria Road and Parramatta Rd properties were sold, with new sites in Yenora and later the current Chipping Norton site giving plenty of room for further growth.
Around this time, the third generation of the Royan and Andrews families was starting to enter the business. Ron’s son Peter began his mechanical apprenticeship in 1976, and Don’s son Gary joined the business in 1980 after finishing his accounting degree.
Royans opened their first regional branch in Wagga Wagga in 1980. After a few years, Don’s son Bill Andrews stepped in to learn the business and eventually took over management of the branch in 1990.
Bill recalls that in the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual to have eight vehicles in a day come off the old Hume Highway in need of repairs. The Wagga Wagga branch grew steadily and by 1998, Royans had purchased a new 5 acre site and completed the construction of a purpose built facility.
Royans opened a second regional branch in Dubbo in 1982. In 1983 they unveiled the Royan Group’s first custom-built premises, which was opened by then-Premier Neville Wran.
In 1984 Royans made their first interstate move, joining the Church family in Melbourne in a successful family partnership that has now lasted over thirty years.
Panel-beater Alf Church had migrated to Perth from London after the war in the mid 1940s. His son Brian made his way to Melbourne, finding work as a panel beater. He spent several decades working for one of Melbourne’s largest repairers, where he was joined by son David. David also took on a panel beating apprenticeship.
Three years later, the opportunity to form a partnership between with the Royan, Andrews and Church families came about. Together they opened a Royans branch in Melbourne in June 1984. They quickly fitted out the shell of a large former factory and had it up and running within weeks. “The trucks were rolling in just a few days later, we were still clearing the block as they came in,” recalls David Church. In 1986 Brian’s other son Darren also joined the business and started his panel beating apprenticeship.
In 2001, David took over the position of Managing Director. After a few years, the decision was made that for Royans Melbourne to remain relevant, they would have to invest in a new building and equipment. In 2009 Royans Melbourne opened its new workshop, making it the most modern commercial vehicle repair facility in the country.
In 1997, Royans opened their Brisbane branch in Wacol, the group’s second interstate site. Queensland’s huge dependence on road transport made Brisbane a logical choice to expand the growing network.
That same dedication to customers and staff that had formed the hallmark of the other Royans branches, has seen the business grow to become Queensland’s largest and best equipped truck accident repair facility.
At the turn of the last century, blacksmith and wheelwright DJ O’Neill had set up in the tiny township of Burraga, NSW where he manufactured and repaired horse-drawn vehicles. He later moved to Blayney and then to Newcastle – and by then, the work had shifted to automobiles. By 1962, his grandson Wilton O’Neill was the director of O’Neill’s Body Works Pty Ltd, which specialised in motor body building and smash repairs.
O’Neill’s moved their truck and trailer division from Mayfield to its current premises in Sandgate in 1973. In the years that followed Wilton O’Neill and his family built a reputation for quality work in their truck repair, bodybuilding and heavy towing businesses.
In 2002, following negotiations with the late Wilton O’Neill, the Royan Group purchased O’Neill’s truck repair workshop in Sandgate, Newcastle. Today the business is managed and run by some of the most experienced staff in the industry – several of whom did their apprenticeships with Wilton O’Neill and many others who have worked for the company for more than twenty years.
THE ROYAN GROUP TODAY
Now over seventy years on, the Royan Group has grown to become Australia’s largest truck and trailer accident repair specialist, with six fully equipped repair facilities located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo & Newcastle.
Through this continued growth, the Group has remained a 100% Australian owned family business. And as the fourth generation of the family starts coming up through the ranks, the company continues to be as passionate as ever about what they do.
As Ron Royan and Don Andrews are fond of saying: “We’re here for the long haul.”