Frederick Howard Warr (Fred) was born in Fulham, London on the 3rd of January 1929. The youngest of three children born to army Captain Frederick James and his wife Margaret. Husband and wife ran a motorcycle dealership and general vehicle repair shop on London’s Kings Road.
Fred left school aged 14. His first job was as a messenger boy in Harrod’s. In 1947 he joined the Royal Air Force. By then he was also an avid motorcyclist and had already developed what would become a lifelong passion for Harley-Davidson. His father had been an official Harley dealer since the 1920’s and Fred had clearly inherited his enthusiasm for the American built V-Twins.
By the late 1940’s Fred was working with his father at Kings Road repairing and selling ex-military WL750 Harleys which at the time were being sold off at Government auctions. Fred would buy in bulk and then ‘civilianise’ the bikes with colourful paint jobs to attract the buying public who were looking for anything other than wartime khaki. Due to post war trade restrictions new Harley-Davidsons were not available.
In 1949 Fred became a founding member of the Harley-Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain. As well as cultivating an active riding and social scene for members the club also ran many Rallies and Gymkhanas. Several overseas trips took place too and a popular excursion was to travel to the continent by air with your motorcycle from Lydd to Le Touquet on an ex-wartime transporter, roll on roll off.
By the early 1950’s Fred had decided to specialise exclusively in the Harley brand. He knew that if the family business was to flourish, he would need to be able to sell both new and used Harleys. In rationed post war Britain government restrictions meant new motorcycle imports were not allowed. Nevertheless, Fred saved the boat fare and travelled to Milwaukee USA where he met with founder’s son William H. Davidson. The relationship between manufacturer and dealer was reaffirmed and after much lobbying of HM government and the US senate Fred was finally granted a restricted import license. In 1956 the first new civilian Harley-Davidsons into the UK since before the war arrived at the Warr’s Kings Road dealership.
Fred married Margaret Ann Humphries ‘Rita’ in 1955 at the Church of our Lady, Lisson Grove, Marylebone and their first child Patricia was born in 1957.
By 1960, Fred had become the official UK Concessionaire for all things Harley-Davidson. 1960’s London was in full swing and his Harley dealership on the now fashionable Kings Road was the place to be. The American brand has always attracted a diverse clientele and any Saturday afternoon at Warr’s would often see wannabees, rockers and rock stars alike chilling and talking bikes. Film makers too, keen for some Americana in their productions, would often hire Fred to populate their latest movie with Harleys. Fred stood in for many film riding roles and in the cult classic ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ numerous riding shots showing Jagger’s then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull racing along on her Harley are actually Fred in tight white leathers and a long blonde wig!
By his mid 70’s Fred had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) but his determined attitude saw him travel to China for radical treatments which he insisted had curtailed the spread of the disease and allowed him many more years than the usual cruelly short prognosis.
Though his leathers had long been hung up he spent the latter years of his life re-kindling his earlier passion for building, restoring and supplying parts and much knowledge for vintage Harleys and their owners.
Fred is survived by daughters Patricia and Theresa and two sons John and Robert. Fred’s youngest son William was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2003.
Fred passed away peacefully at home on the 11th of August and will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony. No flowers please, instead please consider a donation to MND.
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