Charleston car dealership comes to royal family’s aid

James and Pippa Middleton, siblings of Kate Middleton, Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, are two of eight bicyclists on Land Rover’s Race Across America team. The group began experiencing vehicle troubles in Grafton and employees of Smith Company Motor Cars of Charleston were dispatched to assist.

A Charleston car dealership got an unexpected service call on the morning of June 20.

The clients? Extended members of the British royal family.

Roger Carte, general manager of fixed operations at Smith Company Motor Cars on Corridor G near Charleston, got the call from Jaguar Land Rover’s North America headquarters last week that a Land Rover LR4 following a company-sponsored charity bike ride across America was having issues in Grafton.

The team of eight bicyclists included James and Pippa Middleton, siblings of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.The Race Across America is an annual transcontinental bicycle race from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., that raises money for the Michael Matthews Foundation, which helps provide education for children worldwide.Carte said the corporate office asked for a laundry list of things for the team in Grafton. He and his associates quickly went into action, rounding up what they needed and even pitching in some of their personal belongings to make sure the Race Across America would continue without a hitch.

“They wanted a new LR4 with a bike rack, and a there was a chance we could fix the vehicle they were in so they wanted a technician,” Carte said.

The group also needed a bike rack, so one of the associates in Charleston went home and got his personal bike rack out of his garage so that the Race Across America could continue without delay.

Daniel Harrison, 20, had just started working for the Charleston car dealership as a technician about a month ago. Unbeknownst to him or Carte, he was going on a service call that would take him all the way to Maryland, where he would meet Pippa and James.

“I found out about halfway through the trip that I’d be dealing with the royal family,” Harrison said. “It kind of was a shock to me. I expected it to be someone not well known.”

The group had moved on from Grafton, so Harrison had to drive another two hours to Hancock, Md., to meet up with the racers. There, he exchanged the group’s Land Rover with the new one he had driven from Charleston. While he was there, he talked to Pippa and James for about 15 minutes, though he says he didn’t know who James was at the time.

“She was very nice,” Harrison said. “I would have never expected it. If I hadn’t known she wasn’t from the royal family, I wouldn’t have known it. She was very down to Earth.”

The two royals and support staff thanked Harrison and he headed back to the Mountain State. He arrived back in Charleston around 10:30 p.m., 14 hours after he had started his shift.

Jed Smith, owner of Smith Company Motor Cars, said the response was a team effort, citing that two employees gave personal equipment from their own homes so the racers could keep going. The dealership received praise from corporate executives for its quick response to the situation.

But he said any one of their customers would get the same treatment.

“Quite frankly whether it’s the royal family of the (United Kingdom) or a client traveling through our area, they’re all royal and we try to treat every client as if they’re royalty,” Smith said.

Smith and Carte jokingly said they are pushing for Harrison to be knighted for coming to the Middletons’ rescue.

“We did rescue a damsel in distress,” Carte said. “I think that qualifies.”

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or Follow him at

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