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From South Africa to South London

Why is a family-owned garage in Tooting called Springbok?

Springbok Garage is owned and managed by Dezi and Sharon Williams, a brother and sister team, who are carrying on a long family tradition in the motor industry. Springbok Garage has been in Tooting for over 50 years – but the Williams’ family credentials in mechanical engineering goes back to the Industrial Revolution. Sharon dug into the family archives to find out more…

Early engineers

picture1Great-grandfather Arthur James Williams 1874-1937

Our great-grandfather, Arthur Williams, was born in London in 1874. As a young man he joined the army and the Royal Engineers sent him to a remote island off the coast of South Africa to work. He married and moved to Cape Town, where he opened a garage when the motor trade was in its infancy. His youngest son Bill (our grandfather) joined him in the family business.

picture2Grandad Bill (third left) with work pals, Cape Town, circa 1950

In the early 1950s, with political uncertainty in South Africa, the Williams family decided to move back to the UK.

A move to South London

In 1955, Grandad Bill arrived back in the UK and settled in Ashvale Road, Tooting. He started working for South London Motors in Streatham, where a few years later, he was joined by two of his sons: uncle Buddy, and our father, Des.

picture3Grandad Bill and Uncle Buddy working for South London Motors in the late 1950s

In 1963 uncle Buddy started a mobile crash repairs service. He called it ‘Springbok’ to represent speed and the family’s earlier life in South Africa. Grandad and father joined him.

Word spread about the Williams’ family firm and Springbok Garage grew quickly. By 1966, Springbok had a number of garages in the Tooting and Wimbledon areas and was involved in car sales, mechanical services, bodywork repairs and fuel sales and employed 20 staff.

picture4Grandad Bill in Ashvale Road, Tooting in the Sixties

Settling in SW17

As the Sixties drew to a close it was time to consolidate and concentrate on what we did best – bodywork repairs and mechanical services. Everyone moved into our current site at 110 Totterdown Street.

picture5A move to Totterdown Street and sticking to what we do best… repairing cars

Dezi joined the business straight from school in 1983 and Sharon took over the running of the office a few years later.

picture6One of our high-profile jobs from the 1990s – the VW Beetle from the Austin Powers film

Dad handed over the reins to us when he retired. We’re proud of our family heritage and pleased to say our hard work has been acknowledged: we were awarded ‘Garage of the Year’ by the Wandsworth Guardian in 2012 and are glad that we can continue to serve the local community and keep everyone safe on the road.

picture7Award-winning team: brother and sister, Dezi and Sharon Williams