Small, home-based shops doesn’t have to mean measly end results, and Exclusive Conversion in South Africa is a prime example.
Anton Dekker started building cars straight out of school, with his first ever build being the venerable Volkswagen Beetle. He found a floor pan in one place and a body in another, and put it all together. The car bug bit hard immediately. Although the quality and complexity of his small shop’s work have increased in leaps and bounds in the many years since the VW build, in a way he’s still kept things small and simple.
If you walked past Anton’s house you’d never know what was inside, but once the gate opens, you’re greeted by a plethora of Porsches in various states of completion. Clearly Anton’s moved on from simple Beetles to their more elite cousins.
After the first Beetle, Anton built quite a few Beach Buggys (Meyers Manx) to help pay for his studies. Then he started restoring Porsches with friends of his father. Exclusive Conversion was launched in 1998, and in the 23 years since, Anton has amassed a lot of memorabilia, smashed race car body panels, wheels and more.
Anton realised at an early stage that learning to do his own fiberglass work would save him lots of time, and he’d also be able to offer clients more customization options. He also saw a need for lightweight components and started experimenting with carbon fiber.
Many Porsche race cars in South Africa have bodywork from Anton’s shop, including some really special stuff, like an original Porsche 956 Sprint that used to reside in South Africa but now is in the United Kingdom. By only working on a small number of cars at any given time, Anton has been able to keep the quality of work top notch.
When I spotted this Ferrari nosecone mould out back, Anton told me that he’s done quite a few composite repairs on some special Ferraris including an F40, F50 and Enzo.
This Porsche build on the other hand has been an all-metal restoration with some more modern bits added into the mix.
Knowing that building cars for motorsport wasn’t a sustainable business model, Anton started looking at some alternative options. This culminated into manufacturing a multitude of hard-to-find and even impossible-to-get parts for older 911s, allowing him to capture the international market as well.
You might remember the crazy AMG-powered and full carbon-bodied Lotus, as well as the twin-turbo Porsche 912 I’ve featured previously. Both of those cars had their bodywork completed by Anton, as well as things like the custom Kevlar dashboard and seats in the Lotus.
This Lancia Beta Montecarlo replica was built entirely from referenced photos and looks stunning in person.
Anton hasn’t been able to determine if this Lancia Stratos is the real deal or not, because when it came to him it was in two pieces. His gut feeling is that it’s a replica, but the outcome is impressive nonetheless.
I’m not the biggest Mercedes-Benz fan, but this wide-body 190E that Anton built is amazing.
Finding small, super-focused workshops like Exclusive Conversion interest me for multiple reasons. Firstly, they prove that you don’t need a massive, flashy shop to put out quality work. Secondly, they show that when the passion is still there after so many years and the owner is involved in every aspect instead of just being the face of the operation, there will always be a better outcome.