The first automobile in T&T rolled ashore in 1900–a Locomobile Runabout, which was basically a two-seat horseless carriage powered by a small steam engine.Following closely on the exciting new technology trends of the time, there were soon many other cars on the streets when these were still toys of the wealthy, being both expensive to acquire and complex to maintain.In 1908 Henry Ford introduced his immortal Tin Lizzie, the Model T. Cheap thanks to innovative design and economised production lines, the first of these cars hit Trinidad in 1912, when a fleet was imported, by Yldefonso De Lima of jewelry-store fame, to operate as taxis. The fare from Port-of-Spain to Mt St Benedict, for instance, was $8, a substantial sum equal to the monthly wage of a labourer. JN Harriman and Co, one of the oldest emporiums in the land and owned by the Boos family, sold Model Ts for a while, but in March 1919 a young Englishman named Charles McEnearney stepped into the picture and acquired the sole dealership for the Ford brand in Trinidad.
Originally a purchasing agent sourcing coconuts for the Schweppes beverage company, Charles saw the rapid industrialisation of the island with its oil economy as an opportunity and began sales on Richmond Street in Port-of-Spain in a small way. San Fernando was the next frontier, in 1922, with a single-car showroom on Mucurapo Street in 1922; and the cocoa boomtown of Sangre Grande a year later in partnership with George De Nobriga.The Model T, in Trinidad as in the rest of the world, dominated the roads. Aside from its rugged simplicity, it was offered in numerous body-styles including pickup truck, delivery van and sporty roadster right up to the end of production in 1927, when over 15 million had been sold.In 1931 the Richmond Street headquarters was expanded but the piece de resistance came in 1936, when a grand art-deco showroom was opened on Royal Road in San Fernando. Designed by John Guppy, the impressive fa�ade incorporated a V8 logo which alternatively represented a tribute to King Edward VIII or else the mighty flathead V8 engine which made Ford a performance legend.
The years of World War II from 1939-45 were a challenge, since the Ford factories had stopped assembling cars and had turned to making war vehicles and implements. Moreover, spare parts and car tyres were restricted as imports. After the war ended, sales resumed and thrived, a new branch being opened in Scarborough, Tobago in 1950 with smaller English Fords such as the Prefect gradually replacing the American models which had hitherto been the mainstay.After Independence in 1962 a new government regimen was implemented to assemble cars locally. Charles McEnearney and Co rose to the challenge and partnered with H E Robinson and Co,(importer for Rootes and BMC cars) to establish an assembly plant in Tumpuna.Charles McEnearney and Co became part of the Alstons Group in 1968. Before its closure in the 1990s, more than 100,000 vehicles were assembled at this plant. In 1975 Conrad O'Brien was appointed managing director, having begun his career at the firm in 1948 as a salesman.A new horizon rose with the assembly of the Japanese-sourced Ford Laser, which was destined to become a successful rival to the now dominant Japanese brands in the market. A further foray into Japanese cars came with the addition of the Daihatsu marque in the 1980s.
The year 1989 saw the merger of McEnearney and H E Robinson, which brought the Honda, Mitsubishi and Land Rover brands into the fold. Faltering vehicle sales in the recession of the decade saw Conrad O'Brien negotiating with Anthony N Sabga, and McEnearney-Alstons became part of the Ansa McAl group.Logistic difficulties in the 1980s saw the Ford name vanish from the market only to make a grand resurgence in 1996 with a revitalisation of the brand that paired dynamic new cars with an aggressive marketing campaign, thus firmly re-establishing the footing of one of the oldest existing automotive icons in Trinidad, still under the aegis of the company that was one of its earliest representatives.Charles McEnearney and Co still exists as part of the Ansa Automotive Group and has extended its reach into Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, as well as being noted as the dealer for many prestigious brands of vehicles, including BMW (Oxford Motors), Land Rover and Jaguar.