The specialist: Jack’s Garage

| 21 Jun 2024
Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

You might expect a lifetime of working on old Volkswagens to dull your enthusiasm for Wolfsburg’s insect-like and loaf-shaped icons, but Jack’s Garage owner Joseph Salama remains a self-confessed ‘Dubhead’.

Gesturing at a sepia-tinged photo of his family sitting on the back of a ‘bay window’ Type 2 campervan, Salama recounts his early air-cooled experiences: “Dad was a surgeon in the navy, then he got a job in Tripoli.

“We emigrated there in our camper from our house in Southend – and back a couple of times.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

Volkswagen Type 2s queue up underneath the railway arches, outside Jack’s Garage in London

Since taking over his three-arch workshop 16 years ago, Salama has established himself as the go-to guy for London’s classic Volkswagen owners, and is so busy that the rumble of the Circle Line above is drowned out by the near-constant offbeat clatter of a flat-four.

There are two arches for servicing and maintenance, but the bodyshop – “always the warmest area!” – is where the full-bore restoration work takes place.

On our visit a rather sorry-looking Westfalia-converted van – or ‘Westy’, to aficionados – is in the process of having its notoriously crumbly sills replaced, its pop-top roof reversed and a new coat of paint applied.

“We’re winding down a bit for the end of the year, so we’ve only got one in,” Salama explains. “Usually there’s two.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

This classic VW Beetle is an electric vehicle – and is very quick

He’s particularly proud to show off photos of a gleaming blue example that had departed in almost showroom-fresh condition the day before, having been brought in two months earlier: “Its owner ended up rolling it into a ditch.”

You’d never know to look at it now, though: “We’d had it in for two months – cutting, welding and painting – and then found that the loom had gone.

“And if you’re going to do the loom, you might as well do it when the doors are off.”

It’s this pragmatic approach that keeps the firm in good standing with its customers – many of whom are good friends and neighbours.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

Jack’s Garage owner Joseph Salama has been a VW enthusiast since childhood

Back in the main workshop, a Mk2 Golf CL with German plates – testament to the variety of models Jack’s Garage will work on, and the wide reach of the company’s reputation – is having a much-needed tune-up along with a suspension overhaul.

Salama explains that good relationships with specialist suppliers mean that even tricky parts can be sourced and delivered in a reasonable timeframe.

The team is not afraid to tackle newer metal – if a customer regularly brings in their classic, it’ll look after their daily driver as well – and opportunities for further diversification are never far off, which explains the yellow Beetle convertible outside.

To the casual observer it’s a nicely restored example, but in place of an air-cooled engine under the rear lid you’ll find the Bosch-developed electric motor from a VW e-up! city car.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

This Westfalia Type 2 ‘bay’ camper was in for some body surgery

For some it’s sacrilege, but Salama is a convert: “The driving experience is incredibly refined – the weight distribution and handling are amazing. Plus it’s bloody fast!”

The electrified Bug is the work of German specialist eClassics, which appointed Jack’s Garage as its official UK outpost.

The partnership came as a welcome highlight in the wake of the nearby Grenfell disaster in June 2017, which threatened to close the business for good.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Jack’s Garage

VW specialist Jack’s Garage inherited its name from the workshop’s previous tenant

Repeat custom dried up, parts couldn’t be delivered and Salama’s workforce began to diminish: “Over the past few years, my complacency and comfort have been annihilated. We had 14 staff before, now we’ve got seven.”

Today, however, Jack’s Garage can look forward to a stable future.

“But if you don’t move with the times, you get left behind.”

Images: Max Edleston

The knowledge

  • Name Jack’s Garage
  • Address 20-22 Kingsdown Close, Notting Hill, London W10 6SW
  • Specialism Maintenance and restoration of air- and water-cooled classic Volkswagens
  • Staff Seven
  • Prices £124.50+VAT per hour
  • Tel 020 7243 8926
  • Web
  • Email


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