Having spent the yesterday evening biffing around Cape Town using either tatty Toyotas via Uber or my own two legs, the Brooklands Green Metallic Bentley Azure waiting for me is a sight for sore eyes. Particularly given where it’s taking me.
Top down on a beautiful South African summer’s day, it’s a damn fine way to travel. But the cars waiting for me at the end of the short trip across town make the Azure look as exotic as a Ford Mondeo.
We’re heading to Crossley and Webb, a company which dubs itself “motoring investment specialists.” In other words, if you want a valuable car restored, serviced, stored or sold around here, they’re the ones to call. Founded in 2013 by Gareth Crossley and Bryan Webb, it’s a relatively young company, but one that’s already making waves.
The first stop is Webb and Sons. Technically a separate business to C&W run by Richard Webb - Bryan’s son - and Alex Dunford, it sits in an industrial unit you’d easily walk straight past without even knowing what’s inside. And there are some jaw-dropping machines in here.
The smell of rich-running classic petrol engines clings to the air here, providing a brief distraction from the metal littering the workshop floor. To my left, a Lotus Elan gracefully sitting on a lift. To my right is an Aston Martin DBS - the only fuel-injected example of its type, I’m told - a Lamborghini 350 GT and a Lamborghini Countach.
“No one else in South Africa does anything close to us in terms of scale,” Alex tells me, adding that “most specialise in one brand, whereas we’re quite diverse.” Diverse to a point, though - generally the team only deals with European cars. The sole non-European car here is a C3 Corvette, and that’s being worked on as a favour.
It’s the British cars that dominate though - particularly Jaguars (particularly E-Types) and Astons. “We’re the only workshop in the southern hemisphere that has five classic Aston Martins,” Alex tells me.
Upstairs is where the really intensive work takes place, including chassis straightening and full resprays, where yet more unicorns are in various states of completion. In all, Webb & Sons has 26 cars on its books for 2018, from only a handful of collectors, and that’s the way they want it to stay. “You get to understand each collector and what’s important to them,” Alex says. It’s also worth pointing out that the majority of the cars here are for Bryan Webb’s own collection, making the workshop an embodiment of his personal tastes.
Walking over the road to Crossley & Webb itself, I bump into Bryan, quickly discovering the rationale behind his choices. “For me it’s trying to find the cars I aspired to buy when I was at an impressionable age. I lived very close to Aston Martin, and I was forever going past there and seeing all these beautiful DB4s, 5s and 6s parked outside.”
Non-automotive work drew Bryan out to South Africa in the early 1980s, where he remained until retirement in 2012. He’s clearly not one to sit still, since in 2013, Crossley & Webb was born just a year later.
“If you went to buy a classic car [in South Africa in 2013], it was a case of: there’s the car for sale, you can take it to X, Y or Z to get it restored. We want to change that - we want to become a one-stop shop,” Bryan explains. Following a false start that involved buying up an existing business, the facilities you see here were set up, quickly making a compelling case to local car collectors.
Here, cars are sold, stored (a few cars have been here since opening without the owners ever taking them out), serviced and detailed. As with the cars in Webb & Sons, you can’t help but wonder how many of each example are in the country, and how the hell they got here. Surely there can’t be more than a handful of Maserati Meraks in South Africa? What about that Plymouth Roadrunner? Excuse me for a few minutes while I salivate over this Citroen DS…
But even if you’re not a super rich, multiple classic car owner, this is a place you can enjoy - it has a coffee shop that’s open to the public, letting you enjoy a cappuccino while sitting amongst millions of pounds-worth of exotic metal. If you’re ever in this part of the world, you simply have to stop by. It’s damn good coffee too…