Inside the Batcave: City A.M. tours London’s secret supercar bunker
They call it the bat cave, and it’s the most exclusive car park in Britain.
Inside a secret west London underground bunker there are rows of Aston Martins, Ferraris and Rolls Royces hibernating under blue blankets while their millionaire owners are away.
It is easy to see the appeal of the high security vault: safe from the attention of thieves, tourists and – in one or two cases – wives, London’s wealthy petrol heads can hide their prized toys in here without worry.
The luxury goods are kept in a dehumidified, climate-controlled environment with daily pampering from a team of ‘car butlers’ who also offer chaperoning and chauffeuring as part of their service.
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“We’re professional babysitters” says Tim Earnshaw, founder and boss of Windrush, the company behind the business.
So tight is the security that even Earnshaw gets the entry code to the high tech keypad by the car park entrance wrong on first attempt: “I put in last week’s code” he laughs.
When we do get through the gate, the near-200 spaces are almost full; a sign of Earnshaw’s success in bringing the brand to London after running a similar venture in The Cotswolds where he first started by offering to store cars on his farm 15 years ago.
Hedge fund managers, senior lawyers and even several FTSE bosses are among the corporate clients who park their Porsches or Maseratis here at a cost of £500 a month, often to pick up on a Friday afternoon before driving to their country house.
One London property developer even keeps several luxury cars parked here which come above ground when clients want a ride to a house that is on sale.
“City customers always have targets, whether it’s floating a company or opening new branches. They want nice cars as a symbol of the fruits of their labour for when they hit those targets.”
With the typical car in this room costing £200,000, most of these fruits certainly do not come cheap. Yet considering the price tags involved, what is perhaps most surprising about the Windrush business is its lack of flashiness.
“We don’t tend to look after those who cruise around Central London,” says Earnshaw, in a subtle indication that the underground lair is for car enthusiasts, rather than the ostentatious drivers who have made headlines in recent years for racing gold-tinted sportscars down the King’s Road.
“We have £25,000 classic Fords sitting next to £500,000 Aston Martins. You leave your wealth at the bank account,” he insists.
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A former logistics manager at Ferrari’s F1 team, Earnshaw is himself a car-obsessive who seems keen to keep business the way it currently is: “We haven’t sold out to investors or opened up in the Middle East…we are not a cash cow, we are car guys.”
One undeniable explanation is the demand for safety amid the rise in burglaries. East London post codes in particular have seen some of the highest levels of car theft in the country. When I put it to Earnshaw that the firm must have benefitted from the rise in crime, he pauses and smiles uncomfortably: “Well, yes”.
He then retracts: “We’re not benefitting from the rise in crime, but our clients are acutely aware that the crime levels are increasing.”
With safety such a priority, it is no surprise the team are so insistent on keeping the identity of the location secret. Yet the growth of Windrush is as much about providing privacy and convenience as it is about safety.
Ahead of moving towards London’s financial centre, Earnshaw can at the very least say that he is used to dealing with clients from the Square Mile.
“We get people in the City that have driven to go do a big business deal, signed it and then had too many bottles to celebrate.”
He smiles: “Then they call on us to pick up the car.”