Happy retirement


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24 January 2024
John in action at the Rhino Charge event in Africa : credit: © Rhino Charge
As some of you might already know, the time has come for John Bowden to leave Gumtree 4x4 and retire

Gumtree Enterprises – as it was originally known – was born over 42 years ago when John was made redundant one month before expecting his first child, Rebecca. He started the business in the driveway of his house and some old farm buildings in Plumpton, East Sussex, doing car recovery and transport as well as buying and selling the odd Land Rover in his spare time.

Gradually the Land Rover and 4x4 side of the business took over and they built a workshop in 1986 with four employees (Nick Fraser, Martin Stapleton, Roger Kemp and Jason Woollven). Between them they created a busy and successful Land Rover business, and every Wednesday evening people came to search for secondhand parts, discuss their projects and then proceed to the Jolly Sportsman for some late cheesy chips and a beer.

The Bowden family grew (from one to four children) and so did the business, which moved to Ditchling Common Industrial Estate in 2001.

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John also became involved in a charitable organisation called Rhino Ark. With a great love for Africa and enthusiasm for driving 4x4s off road (born on his farm and cemented by the All Wheel Drive Club), he built the first ‘Rhino Charge’ Land Rover at his old workshops in Plumpton in 1997 from parts stored in the yard, and his team was the winner of the first UK Rhino Charge that year. The team shipped the Land Rover to Kenya in 2000 and it is now the veteran of more than 20 Rhino Charges. Over the years the crew has raised more than £175,000 to support the work of Rhino Ark.

The time has now come for John to leave the daily life of Gumtree 4x4 behind and hand over the reins to Chloe and Ben Hurd. John told us: “I can’t quite believe this day is here, but I must admit that I feel ready for it now. What an incredible business it has been, bringing many smiles as well as some (extra) hair loss over the years. Whilst I leave the company to others, I’ll be here to help with the bits that I love or talk about all things Land Rover and Africa – just at a slower pace and when I choose.

“Many of my valued customers and suppliers have become friends and I am still based in Plumpton. Thank you all for letting me create my own path and the part you have played in making it a wonderful one – Gumtree 4x4 would not have been the same without you!”

We wish you the very best in your next chapter, John.