Success is about looking ahead: Interview with Hemmels CEO, Derek Lawrence
July 25, 2023
From a young age, Derek Lawrence, has always recognised the aspirational potential of an immaculately designed car. In the 80s, his sights were set on youthful hot hatches. Yet as he matured and his experience in the automotive industry deepened, he discovered a different kind of glamour in the form of the early Mercedes SLs. More than a superficial fascination, Derek’s career and his love of the 280 SL Pagoda tell the same timeless tale about meeting the needs of the present while keeping a direct focus on the future.
“I came across beautiful works of art from the 50s and 60s like the 300 SL Gullwing and Roadster, the 190 SL and then the Pagoda. I was smitten from then on.”
“The SL Pagoda looked so different to its counterparts from the same era—truly ahead of its time. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it but from the interior, exterior or from any angle, it just looked breathtaking.”
Without prior experience, it wasn’t easy for young Derek to break into the automotive industry. But by showing persistence, determination and pluck (like calling an employer’s office to ask why they were still advertising for a role when he’d applied weeks before), he was able to demonstrate that he had the initiative and grit to become a fantastic salesman. Through this experience, he saw first-hand the different levels of attention and care that went into volume versus luxury car showrooms. This opened his eyes to how much more was possible in an automotive career and what was once a boyhood dream of being around beautiful cars everyday, quickly became a reality within reach.
Rather than feeling stuck in his retail role, Derek was able to achieve his goals by carefully manoeuvring every step in his career. Through his proven powers of persuasion, and a lot of hard work, he gained experience across a whole spectrum of brands and marques in varied roles. Eventually, an opportunity of a lifetime presented itself when he was asked by then close client, Richard Butterfield, to take the lead as CEO of Hemmels.
“We want to preserve iconic cars not only as museum pieces, but so that more people can experience the pure pleasure of driving them.”
Since saying yes, Derek has been pivotal to setting the strategy and vision for Hemmels, leading with a hands-on approach. During his time, Hemmels have successfully delivered the world’s first, award-winning Electric SL Pagoda while continuing to hand off stunningly-restored Mercedes classics to a number of happy new owners. Hemmels is just one of the many admirable businesses in the field who share the same passion for restoring the world’s most-loved classics. But as a business, Hemmels is driven by the desire to deliver the best of the best in terms of finish and detail, including offering customers the opportunity to create a totally unique and bespoke car down to every stitch.
For Hemmels, the future of car restoration is truly electric. Through the Electric Pagoda, Hemmels have proven that it’s possible to restore classic Mercedes to look as good as they did when they were first produced, while using reliable, certified, state-of-the-art EV technology under the hood. As the supply for mid-century ICE car parts becomes more difficult to source, Hemmels will continue to build a key strategy for strengthening the flow of skilled and knowledgeable technicians who can find innovative solutions for the problem. However in the long run, new and emerging technologies that aid environmentally-friendly motoring could be the only way forward.
“We are delighted with what we do with our ICE creations, but we also offer a fantastic alternative for now and the future.”
At the heart of it, using electric technology is all about being able to save a part of automotive history from going to waste. Classics with missing parts needn’t become obsolete. They can secure a long future on the road while using technology that makes them more sustainable to make, run and maintain. Just like the original Pagoda that was designed to stand the test of time, electric classics future-proof incredible designs for generations to come.