One of the most talked about companies on the Mercedes-Benz restoration scene is Hemmels, the Cardiff-based firm with a reputation for producing stunning SL classics, specifically the W113 Pagoda.
Benz Insider was granted exclusive access to a behind-the-scenes look at the operation with Iain Wood, Commercial Director.
From the outside, Hemmels looks like a real dealership with a showroom featuring two W113 SL 280 Pagodas and a W198 SL300 Roadster. “These are client vehicles.” says Wood. “We’re hoping to build up a selection we can offer, however we’re just keeping up with demand at the moment.”
The windows in the showroom treat clients to a glimpse of the workshop where the magic happens. Step into the workshop and you’re struck by its huge size and the cleanliness—it is pristine. Pull your eyes away from the various classic cars being restored and you’ll see walls adorned with huge photos of classics, imposing ‘Hemmels’ branding and the motto ‘Pride in Perfection’. It’s clear that they didn’t just tidy-up for my benefit. The décor in the workshop reveals an obvious company effort to living and breathing their motto.
“We’re striving to be the best in the world. That means a commitment to excellence in every aspect of the business, especially the craft areas.” says Wood.
Hemmels rebuilds cars according to its ‘Neugeboren Process’ a methodology developed by co-founder Joseph Sullivan which calls for cars to be taken back to their bare-metal beginnings and ‘reborn’, according the company’s marketing hype.
Evidence of full rebuilds is on display with Pagoda shells on lifts while refinished car parts gleam on bar-coded shelving. There’s a spray-booth and body finishing area, plus an engine bay. The finished engines look new—I’m actually afraid to touch anything in case I leave a fingerprint.
Still gazing at the eye candy, Wood interrupts the rapture with the news that there are two other work areas to be toured—this place is big! We stride across the lot to a dedicated body shop where panel beaters are working on shells of W113s, SL190s.
The final building is “The Vault” where rare cars such as a 300 SE with hydraulic suspension, a prototype California W113 and a 280SE that’s barely seen the road are waiting to be restored. (No photos allowed, sadly.) The rest of the building has more bar-coded parts shelving and offices. Though lacking the branding and finish of the other buildings, it too is perfectly organized.
“We’ve just signed the lease for this building and it’ll be up and running by November. But it looks like we need to expand our operations again.”
I ask if the business pressure to meet demand is causing quality concerns or the temptation to take shortcuts. An emphatic “No” is the immediate response.
“We’re managing the waiting period to commence new commissions. Clients know when we’ll start and finish their car. The Neugeboren Process takes a precise amount of days and the same team works on a car from start to finish.” says Wood “Our goal is to acquire more skilled craftspeople, immerse them in the Neugeboren Process and be in a position to expand operations with the same ‘Pride in Perfection’ we strive for today.”
Best in the world? As I exit the workshop I look back to see an employee wiping our dusty footprints off the floor.