Q Branch for Cars
It’s about service. And for Tim Earnshaw, founder of Windrush car storage, that means the very best
Article by Andrew Steel, Photography by Andy Barnham
How exactly do you sell a business if it is shrouded in secrecy? An intriguing conundrum to mull over, emblematically of course; few would consider it an obviously fruitful proposition to drape their service in shadows. But for Tim Earnshaw, founder of car storage company Windrush, it is a tangible issue, namely as the location of his two facilities are embargoed from public knowledge. One does not simply reveal the site of operations, or even officially possess foreknowledge; clients are only initiated into this Q Branch-esque experience when they arrive to turn over the keys.
To summarise Windrush – its name culled from the river that snakes through the Cotswolds and past Earnshaw’s childhood home – as simply a storage space is to short-change the dedication and effort poured into the facility. Manned by a core crew of specialists, the company goes above and beyond in their efforts, initiating vehicles with a 12-step induction process aimed at providing what could be affectionately described as the world’s most exclusive valet service. Its owner, a half-decade veteran with the Ferrari Formula One team, strives exclusively for the best; on a guided tour of its London site, Riddle can only applaud his commitment to pedigree.
“We do have to pinch ourselves on a daily basis,” he laughs when asked what it’s like to preside over and work in what he refers to as “the most expensive sweet shop on the planet”. “In a way, we’re like the Batcave,” he adds, motioning around the closed-off quarters where Windrush can store some 200 vehicles. “It’s all cool and futuristic – but we’re never going to have any signage exclaiming loudly that we’re here.”
The majority of Windrush’s clients are what Tim depicts as “time-poor and high net worth.” Indeed, give or take the odd exception, almost every vehicle under their care in the capital is what petrolheads would refer to as a supercar, with a double-handful bordering on hypercar territory. Throw in a number of ultra-rare vintage models, some of which are the only remaining example within British territories, and you get the idea of what kind of customer base the company caters to on a daily basis.
“It’s a lot of money that we are entrusted with by our clients, so we need to provide a service worthy of that cost,” he notes, before expanding. “We’re effectively babysitters, in a sense, for these cars, whether that be in currency or emotional value.” Though unable to give specifics for legal reasons, the group currently store an MG – of an anonymous make, of course – that sits at a fraction of the cost of some of Windrush’s higher-priced vehicles; Tim points to it as an example that Windrush’s service is not exclusive to those in high finance.
“They do drive a hard bargain!” he laughs when discussing costs. “But we always aim to bring an individualised touch.” He elaborates on such practices, talking of what he calls the “personal handover”. “Whilst we kind of have this airlocked zone, a sanctuary in a sense, we don’t want this business to become a vending machine, a detached process. When a car is picked up, we’ll always try shake the client’s hand and have a walk around the facility. It’s not always possible, but we aim to make it a transparent approach.”
That commitment to service goes beyond curating a friendly greeting in the garage – Tim and Windrush take each vehicle aside upon acquisition into the set-up with a condition appraisal, the aforementioned 12-step process, which includes a full deep-clean, the increase of tyre pressure and the siphoning of excess fluids and rust. As servicing goes, it doesn’t get much more thorough than this.
“We do a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree assessment, written and photographed, inside and out, every time we either receive a vehicle or we perform a handover with the client,” Tim outlines. “Yes, to some extent, it is to cover ourselves, but the meticulousness of it is because, ultimately, we have some cars that don’t leave the facility for five years, and in one case, a decade. We’re not going to remember what condition they were in when they arrived – so the appraisal will allow us to show the client all the minute details on how their car was running when they checked it in last.”
Having gone from strength to strength in the near decade-and-a-half since its beginnings, Tim sees a bright future illuminated on the road ahead for the company – and he draws the source of its success all the way back to lessons he learned at the genesis of his career. “Formula One taught me a lot of things about life. But in the end, the most vital lesson I took away from my time with Ferrari was about service. You get what you pay for in this business, and that’s something Windrush very much tries to live by. Yes, you can find another storage facility for less than us elsewhere – but you’re not going to get the same dedication to service that you would from us for that price. For me, that’s the ultimate clincher.”