WHILE the rest of the country queued for the last drops of petrol, one North-East man was rubbing his hands with glee.

Gary Bowden has just set up one of the North-East's few businesses converting cars from petrol to liquid petroleum gas (LPG) - a fuel that costs half the price of unleaded petrol - proving that in business, timing is everything.

Costing about £1,300 to convert an average family saloon, LPG has yet to sweep the nation, but with 700 garages serving it nation-wide, Gary predicts a revolution in motoring just around the corner.

Speaking at GBS Dual Fuel Conversions in Station Road, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, Gary said: "Once a car has been converted to LPG the savings made will soon recoup the initial cost of the work.

"A litre of LPG costs around 39p, compared with 80-odd for a litre of unleaded, so the savings are obvious.

"With last week's fiasco over fuel, I think people will be delighted to see there is a genuine alternative. Apparently, there will be 1,300 LPG garages in the UK by 2002."

The Government says it will subsidise up to 60 per cent of the conversion cost if the car is under a year old or has done fewer than 25,000 miles.

Gary added: "The other day I drove my converted car past a huge queue of cars at the petrol station and filled the tank up for £13. I don't think I was very popular."