In our Speedhunting journeys we’ve met a lot of hardcore Porsche enthusiasts, and Tim Abbot definitely falls into that category. In fact, in his home country of South Africa, he’s widely regarded as a Porsche master craftsman.
Before I take you on a tour of Tim’s Abbot Cars workshop in Gauteng, Johannesburg, we need to go right back to the start of the Abbot family’s Porsche infatuation.
This motoring tale starts around 50 years ago, when Tim’s father, John, was cutting his teeth as an accountant at Williams Hunt, one of South Africa’s oldest vehicle dealers. Long before the Porsche bug hit, John was a big fan of the MG brand, and in the 1950s he courted his soon-to-be-wife Judy in a two-seater MGA. John’s automotive tastes began to change when Tim was born and the MG was traded for a far more practical Fiat 500 Abarth.
At this point, John had left Williams Hunt and bought into a Shell garage which sold fuel and carried out vehicle servicing under the Servishell banner. The garage brought John closer to his passion for cars. He absorbed all the information he could, immersing himself in books and manuals, and acquiring as much information as he could from anyone willing to share it.
During this period the Fiat made way for an Alfa Romeo, but as time went on, John became more drawn to the Porsche brand. In the late 1970s, he bought his first – a 356 – and soon after a 911. John’s fascination and obsession with the German marque had begun.
The Shell garage kept servicing all types of cars, but John’s passion for Porsches only grew. At this time John was taking part in numerous Porsche club activities, and subsequently club members began bringing their cars to him for maintenance and repair work.New Business
During the ’80s, the workshop business continued to grow, which prompted a move to a larger Mobil location complete with showroom space. Now John could sell cars too.
While all this was happening, Tim had gone through school and then served time in the South African Defence Force. Once his military service was up, Tim joined his father at the family business and completed his mechanic apprenticeship, working under his uncle Robert. In 1987, Tim took over the role as workshop foreman.
In the following years, Tim went on to develop a well-earned reputation within the South African Porsche community for being an excellent diagnostician and engine builder. Although he didn’t own a Porsche of his own at this point, stripping down and completely rebuilding other cars – including a V6 Ford Escort van, a V8 Land Rover, a split-screen VW camper and his Baja Bug – laid the foundations for a love of restoration work. With an eye for detail and cut-no-corners mindset, John was very good at it.
During this time Johannesburg was changing with a migration of business from the CBD to northern districts of the city, and the Abbots followed suit with a move to the newly-developed Kyalami Business Park. This facility was located on Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit’s old Leeukop Bend and main straight section, which was opened up for commercial development when the track was reconfigured.
With Porsche having dominated the family business in the years leading up to the move, the focus at Kyalami was solely put on the German brand, Judy being the driving force behind the change. A push was made to have the new facility completed and launched the same weekend as the 1992 South African Grand Prix.
Kyalami Business Park grew around the family, and any thoughts that the move and Porsche focus would not pay dividends was ultimately laid to rest. John and Judy eventually sold the business, with Tim retaining part ownership and continuing to run workshop. But by 2004, he was ready to go his own way.A Place Of His Own
Tim’s exit deal from the company included ownership of the lifts, and specialist tools and equipment, allowing him to set up on his own Porsche workshop at home.
While a full range of mechanical services are offered, a large part of Tim’s business today is classic Porsche restoration work. In fact, it’s what he’s best known for now.
He’s done more 356s than he can remember and loads of 911s as well.
His no-compromise approach to restorations has earned him multiple concours d’elegance wins over the years and a loyal customer base to go with the accolades. Remember the beautiful Dutchmann Porsche 912 we featured some time ago? Tim did all the restoration work on that particular car.More To Explore
Walking around Tim’s property, I found a lot of interesting stuff to point my camera at. This BP-liveried 911R replica is very close to the real deal in terms of its appearance and performance, and is often raced at historic events. Since Tim first built the motor for this car, it’s completed a whopping 18,812km (11,689mi) – all race mileage. It’s currently in the shop for a freshen up.
There are a number of VW buses about the place, including the maroon shop van which has a bit of a surprise in the back (more to come with a separate feature). The Mk2 Ford Escort is Tim’s son Douglas’s daily driver.
Two-wheeled machines get a look in as well. Before Tim started driving he actually cut his teeth on motorcycles, racing a two-stroke Yamaha. Today, his daughter Jennifer, who is training in motor engineering, carries the torch from the seat of a TZR250.
This Synchro 4WD Kombi has been in the Abbot family since Tim was a child, and is still used as a trackside support and transport vehicle.
This Carerra 3.0 is another family-owned car, and I’m told it’s a real blast to drive. Lime green paint, tartan seats and black Fuchs wheels – what a combination!
The 914 is regarded by many as the ugly ducking of the Porsche lineage, but this particular car is something special. It’s been built up to 914-6 GT competition specification, and is raced by Tim, Douglas and Jennifer at historic and endurance meets.Mechanical Marvel
Engine and gearbox rebuilds for classic Porsches keep the Abbot Cars team very busy, but Tim still has a hand in every job that comes through the door.
There’s an ethos here of not over-restoring engines. This means that refreshed original parts are used wherever possible, as opposed to just opting for brand new parts. It’s not just for originality’s sake, but actually helps these engines retain a higher value too.
As you’d expect, Tim has amassed a lot of Porsche parts over the years, many of which are extremely rare items. Adding to this is a huge amount of memorabilia.
I can’t explain how much I love old car posters, especially race ones. Some of these would look great on my office wall…
With outlaw-style Porsche builds gaining in popularity over the years, it’s natural that Tim has undertaken a few. There were two such creations being worked on at Abbot Cars when I visited.
This immaculate 550 Spyder replica was also in the shop for some work. Looking at it up close and noting its basic suspension layout and lack of safety features, I could only imagine how scary it must be to drive at speed. As a Sunday cruiser, it would be epic though.
Apart from paint work, which Tim outsources to a trusted local business, this really is a one-stop shop. And that includes all the panel work and prep prior to painting.
Model cars are a big part of Tim’s life too, and he’s collected some truly stunning pieces over the years. I spent quite some time looking into the glass cabinets that safely house the collection.
This includes a large number of slot cars from Tim’s youth.
Things with engines aren’t Tim’s only passion; he’s also a road and track cyclist who represented South Africa in the past. Cycling has been a passion for Tim since a very young age, and he’s never grown tired of it.
To protect all those valuable cars, parts and memorabilia at the shop, Tim has his two vicious security guards. These guys almost ripped my legs off clean.
After pretty much a lifelong relationship with cars and so many years living and breathing all things Porsche, it’s great to see how passionate Tim has remained. There are no signs of him slowing down, either.
In a world where cars can be built entirely with bolt-on parts from online catalogs, it was refreshing to spend some time with someone that’s still a true mechanical petrolhead and real car builder.