Dealing the Hendon Way
After spending 40 years selling exotic road and racing cars, HWM boss Anthony Posner remains as enthusiastic about the business as ever
Words: Richard Heseltine. Photography: Charlie Hopkinson
Tt was, to borrow an American colloquialism, a no-brainer. Given the choice of retailing Renaults under the yoke of la Régie, or turning his hand to shifting vowel-laden exotica, Anthony Posner didn't need much persuasion. Or any. That was over 30-years ago and he's never had much cause to rue the decision, as Hendon Way Motors continues to flourish under his stewardship. "I'm a hard-bitten enthusiast," he laughs. "When you've been around this long I suppose time has a habit of compressing, and I probably should have packed this in a long time ago, but I enjoy it so much." You don't doubt it.
"My father Jack founded the company in 1952," he recalls. "He was heavily involved in the film industry, mostly on the production side, and had a small collection of cars that were hired out for use in movies. There were some pretty interesting machines including, I seem to remember, a Stutz along with other Americana. However, by the early '50s there wasn't so much interest and he sold the cars and started up Hendon Way Motors as a Renault agent. We've been a family business ever since."
Anthony's participation in the firm was preordained: "I got involved straight from school. That would be about 1965-66. I wasn't particularly interested in new mainstream cars and pushed us more in the direction of dealing in Porsches, Ferraris, Morgans and Lotuses. We ended our relationship with Renault in the early '70s. It had this 'big is beautiful' mentality and wanted huge workshops for no other reason than they would appear big: Renault was very dictatorial that way. It got to the stage that I dreaded going into work on a Monday morning. I felt like I was working for the French government. It wouldn't allow us to give discounts, so we introduced interest-free credit instead, which caused a stir. It was unheard of back then; the city editor of The Evening Standard was fascinated and did a big story on us. But aside from taking on Middlebridge [the disastrous late '80s Reliant Scimitar GTE rebirth] for less than a year, we have retained our independence ever since — which is how I like it."
Anyone who has ever visited HWM's premises opposite the Hendon Way tube station, or pressed their nose against the glassy frontage, lusting over the contents therein, will be familiar with the showroom. Based in the same location from the outset, expect bigger changes out back. "We have plans for further development," says an enthusiastic Posner. "We now own around a third of an acre of land behind the showroom which we're planning on utilising at some point in the near future, possibly with an underground display area and maybe a museum for our own collection. Over the years, we've amassed a small selection of cars including a few Ferraris — a [multiple concours and rally class—winning] 275GTB/4 and a Daytona, Porsches 911RS and RSR, a '37 Bentley 414 pillarless coupé by Gurney-Nutting which we've had for 32 years, and so on."
The name has found some resonance trackside, too. "We've been involved in motorsport in one way or another since the '70s when we first sponsored Chevrolet Camaros in saloon car racing. In the late 1980s we found real success with Robbie Stirling in the Pirelli Maranello Ferrari Challenge — we won the series three times over with a 308. We later sponsored him in British F3000. Robbie was a very good driver; very fast, and I was pleased to see him go on to bigger things. Since the early '90s, we've concentrated on historic meetings with Cobras and Ferraris. I particularly enjoy driving the 275 on the Tour Auto. Last time I ran the event with my daughter and she got a real taste for it."
So despite 40 years in the business, overfamiliarity with the good stuff has yet to blunt his passion. "These days we have about 60 cars in stock at any one point — several Ferraris, Porsches and other supercars, with about six or seven classics such as E-types or ACs, too. At the moment we have the ex-Mike Sparken [Michael Poberejsky] Ferrari 750 Monza in the showroom and recently had Mk1, 2 and 3 Cobras [plus the ex-John Woolfe 427 record breaker] in at the same time. We only stock cars with good backgrounds that are head and shoulders above the norm. It's for this reason that we issue warranties of up to two years. And we don't just deal with Londoners. We recently sold a Ferrari to Greece, another to Cyprus and so on. We've found that people are prepared to travel for quality. What really gives me a sense of satisfaction is in dealing with second-generation Hendon Way Motors customers: the sons and daughters of people I sold cars to in the '70s."