Unplanned meetings founded Journeymen, a group of friends who tinker and restore cars while planning their next road trip...
The Cape Town workshop of Journeymen is the perfect meeting spot for friends who share a passion for cars. Here they gather to exchange stories, work on cars (and bikes), tinker and learn as they go along.
It all started years ago when Graham Webb bought a couple of Mini steering wheels from Harley Nash. Later, Graham needed a steering wheel boss for a Mini he was working on, so he went back. Harley was out for the day but his dad kindly offered to design this small part in great detail. One thing led to another.
Harley explains: “We ended up manufacturing several pieces for Graham’s Mini. I was surprised to find another guy of my age who appreciated the British brand. Graham was based in Green Point and I was in Mowbray, and we started helping each other out. We didn’t have a place where we could work on the cars. We would tinker with the engines in Green Point and the bodies here at my father’s engineering shop, which meant a lot of driving between the two spots.
“Following a break-in next to our shop, we discovered the unit was empty. It was up for rent but we needed to find fellow tenants. We advertised the shared space and workshop, and Sascha Rupert joined us, who has an amazing understanding of motorcycles.”
Sascha, who’s from Germany, elaborates: “I bought a dilapidated Kawasaki in the middle of the night in Belhar – a typical tourist! I advertised for a place to work on the bike. Next thing, Harley phoned to offer me this shared unit.”
“In the beginning, there were eight of us, but now only myself, Graham, Arthur [Logan] and Sascha regularly come here on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons,” Harley says. He explains why he believes it works so well: “We never had a plan for Journeymen; it happened organically. There was never anybody who said how things should or shouldn’t be done.”
Just over a year ago, the Journeymen renovated the premises and this has transformed the space. There are designated spots for specific jobs. The lift is there for any work required under the cars while they have built up their collection of tools for various metal and mechanical work. Next door is the engineering business where Harley performs detailed work.
Their annual road trip has become a Journeymen favourite over the years. It started when Harley discovered a Mini bakkie in George. Graham convinced him to hook up a trailer and collect it rather than have it delivered to Cape Town. The trip included Graham, Harley and Adam Mays – one of the first members – and there was no rush, so they stopped along the way in small towns, knocking on doors, visiting scrapyards and several garages.
“We had so much fun; we now do this every year,” Harley recalls. They document each trip and share the photos and videos on social media, including YouTube, and it makes for entertaining viewing. Cars break down, things don’t go according to plan … but a refreshing dip in a Karoo farm dam before heading to the next town makes it all worthwhile.
Harley becomes nostalgic talking about their bi-weekly get-togethers: “We all come from different backgrounds. The cars are like the sum of everything we do. Arthur will give me a life lesson and Sascha and Graham may help me with other things and, after several months, a project will be finished,” he muses. “Sometimes it is not even about the cars but about talking nonsense … and drinking tea,” adds Graham.
Arthur met them at the annual Classic Car and Bike Show at Timour Hall in Plumstead. “I followed them on Instagram. They were selling parts at the show and I spotted their banner. I attended an open day they had with an auto jumble sale and I’ve never left.” Arthur comes from a metalwork background and has played a significant role in the restorations over the years.
Their projects are all their own cars. They make it quite clear it is purely a hobby, although they have done one or two commercial projects: a restoration of a 1966 Mk1 Mini 1071 Cooper S in 2019 and the aiding in another job which included sourcing of a car followed by a restoration.
Graham and Harley have teamed up on several jobs, most notably acquiring and restoring a number of BMW 2002s. They now have more than five ventures in the pipeline (and 15 between all the Journeymen). Buying cars together makes it easier because they can negotiate better prices on parts and donor cars.
There is an odd car between the cheapies: a 1984 Ferrari 308 QV. Graham explains: “I always wanted a 308 but this purchase was never planned. I had a 612 Scaglietti at the time and, one day, a buyer walked in and bought the car. I added the balance and acquired this black 308.”
The car attracted much online attention when Graham took it along on their road trip in 2019. Roof racks were designed for the 308 to hold a jerry can and a bunch of other equipment. Even though several jokes were thrown his way for the vehicle’s somewhat eccentric appearance, it wasn’t the Ferrari that suffered breakdown problems during their trip. It was parked next to campfires and became as dusty as the 2002s and E30 3 Series on those long gravel roads.
Some enthusiasts may frown at their antics but these guys are saving cars that would otherwise be destroyed … and having fun while doing so. Isn’t that every petrolhead’s dream?