Surrounded by collectible cars and in a classy office with a full workshop, Graham Webb tries to keep their cars running and in most cases in tip-top condition. We pay him a visit in Cape Town.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Being part of a family that has a passionate love for, and interest in cars, Graham Webb realised that he needed a place where he can store and maintain his and his father’s cars.
Under the name of Webb & Sons, both Graham and his dad’s collections have grown over the years and it made sense to have a facility to house their cars and to also selectively look after a few clients’ classics.
“This place is mostly my office where I’m running our family business from and then secondly where we keep our cars.
“I grew up with motorbikes. But my motorbikes were always in a terrible state. The result is that I spent most of the time fixing them. I think that sort of sparked my mechanical love for things. I think as I grew up, I realised how interesting and cool cars were. And more importantly, why we have to preserve these cars, otherwise who would look after them in the future. So many cars are also leaving the country, and that really annoys me. As soon as a car is exported it won’t return.
“My first car was a 1980s Mini. I didn’t own it for very long. When you are young you are so naïve – you think everything is so cool and the car is going to work and you are going to go for a picnic in your classic car. It is really just a load of nonsense!
“I had some work done on the Mini as the doors wouldn't lock. When I received the bill for the work done, I learned a valuable lesson very quickly, that I should learn how to work on cars!”
As Graham walks me through the workshop it is clear that a lot of investment and time have already been put into this facility in a relatively short period. There is a parts cleaning area, welding equipment and a 3D printer is on the way. Lifts are used to work on cars but also to stack them on top of each other for storage.
Three staff members assist Graham and his father in the workshop, one of which is Arthur Logan, who is a master when it comes to, to name one, metal work.
“Switches on the dashboards of the old Aston Martins always break off, now I 3D print them, file and sand them and then paint them in 2K and you cannot tell the difference between the old and the new version.
“The older I get, the more I realise how South Africa’s history is a benefit to us (in an automotive expertise sense). Because we got excluded from the world for so long, we had to make a plan. When we couldn't get something or import it, well, then we just learned to make a plan. We had to, as we previously didn’t have a choice.”
I wondered how Graham approaches the potential acquisition of a car.
“Deep down in my mind I will think financially about it. You do get hot-headed when you want to buy something. I also think about the possibility of breaking even should I need to sell it. Sometimes I don’t care, in some cases you just really want something. An example was when I bought a Ducati 916. I rode it a few times, thought it was terrible and sold it after a year… but I got it out of my system.”
Picking his three favourites comes easily to him though: “My three favourite cars are the 1964 Series 1 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, the 1965 Lamborghini 350GT and a client’s immaculate 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2.”
Another Italian highlight in the collection is a rare right-hand drive, Tour de France Blue, 1968 Ferrari 365 2+2 with power steering and air-conditioning. The engine is currently in the UK where it is receiving a full rebuild. It is a car that a trader found for him after he told him that he was looking for projects and not fully restored, perfect cars.
The plan is to have this, otherwise now immaculate car, back on the road by the end of the year. The interior is completely original and the body was taken back to bare metal during the restoration.
There are a couple of Aston Martins that are in the process of being restored and even a true, lightweight British sports car in the shape of a Lotus Elan Coupé.
Then there is a Rolls-Royce Wraith from 1956. The body has been done, but the car needs to be put back together. Originally it belonged to a friend that has now sadly passed away.
“All the Aston Martins are my dad’s. The Ferrari 250 GTE is a client’s – and what a neat car this is! It will start and run perfectly from cold. It has been restored, but not overly restored and the engine is a true gem.”
Another car that stands out is a rare 1973 Jaguar XJ Coupé. The plan with this car is to send it to the UK to have it partially modernised and restored before returning it to South Africa.
The passion for cars, restoration and every element around these topics is what keep Graham and the family going. We’ll certainly be back in the near future to see how some of these projects are progressing.