GARDINER — Dan Bailey has been buying and selling cars since he was 15 years old.

His grandfather, Percy Bailey, opened an auto repair shop on Mechanic Street in 1922. Five years later, he moved into an old horse stable on Water Street and started a Chevrolet dealership.

Percy Bailey Auto Sales Inc. is still a family-owned business. Bailey’s 31-year-old son, Doug, is the fourth generation of Bailey car salesmen.

“My father, Bob, started working here when he graduated from high school in 1943,” Dan Bailey said. “Dad took over the business in 1966 and I started working here in 1970. My son started in 1998. When I’m done, he’ll keep it going. But I’m not done yet.”

Doug Bailey said he hopes his father doesn’t retire anytime soon because he enjoys working with his dad and mom, Betty, who is the dealership’s accountant.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Doug Bailey said.

Last November, the dealership moved from 127 Water St. to 39 Main Ave. The Baileys plan to hold a grand opening in the spring to celebrate the move and 85 years in business.

The anniversary highlights a storied past not just of the landmark dealership, but also of the family’s connection with classic cars.

Betty Bailey said the dealership has been a mainstay in the community and served the transportation needs of the city of Gardiner for a long time.

They sold the Water Street building to the Gardiner Savings Bank, which recently changed its name to The Bank of Maine.

Betty Bailey said her husband was a Chevrolet dealer during the heyday of competitor Ford, which out-sold Chevrolet.

Dan Bailey said Chevrolet paid the dealership $25 for every Ford they brought in and crushed.

The Baileys moved into a former bowling alley across the street from Hannaford in November.

The renovated building is 6,000 square feet. They keep about 45 used cars on the narrow lot next to the building.

Famed automobile posters from the 1940s showing off the newest models hang behind Dan Bailey’s old wooden desk. The family’s collection of memorabilia includes rusted metal Esso signs, an old Esso Etra gas dispenser with lights on either side and a restored 1945 Chevrolet pickup truck.

Betty Bailey said the ’45 truck came back to the dealership in a roundabout way. Her husband’s grandfather sold the truck in 1945 to her first cousin. During World War II, only 6,000 of the trucks were made — 3,000 for the military and 3,000 for civilian use.

“My cousin needed it for his farm,” she said. “When he died it only had 1,000 miles on it. My other grandfather who was an auctioneer sold it at a state auction and best friends of my side of the family bought it. It was their primary mode of transportation, and when it died, they left it on the stone wall behind the barn.”

In 1968, Betty Bailey said her dad needed a pickup truck, so the old one behind the barn was restored and it became their primary means of transportation.

When she and her husband started dating, he told her that he thought the truck might be one that his grandfather sold.

“So he tells the story that he married the girl to get the truck,” she said. “We had it in our cellar for 30 years, then our son took it out and restored it back to its original condition, back when it was new in 1945.”

In the old dealership building, they found an inventory that recorded the date of the truck’s sale, the selling price and the buyer.

“It was sold on July 23, 1945, for $689.56 to Frank Preble, my first cousin,” she said.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]


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