YOU AND YOURS

There’s a puff of smoke as the 964 backs out of the garage. No prob­lem, prob­a­bly just oil seep­ing past the valve guides. The puff be­comes a cloud, a big cloud, and then there it is – a pool of black oil on the garage floor. Now THIS is a prob­lem.

911 Porsche World - - This Month - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy: Richard Holdsworth

David Wif­fen and his 964 Cabri­o­let

Porsche own­ers can be roughly di­vided into two cat­e­gories – those that have ad­mired the car for a long time, prob­a­bly even a life-time, but the owner’s man­ual is as far as they get into what lies be­neath the bon­net. And there are those who are “hands on” and know what makes their pride and joy tick and know only too well that the tell-tale signs could mean cash, lots of it, and a long time off the road into the bar­gain.

David Wif­fen doesn’t quite fall into the first cat­e­gory. He is not a to­tal new­comer when it comes to me­chan­ics; he was Sprint Man­ager for the lo­cal Porsche club and was a par­tic­i­pant him­self for a num­ber of years and, more sig­nif­i­cant than that, he was project man­ager in charge of, amongst other things, gas tur­bine en­gines be­fore his re­tire­ment in Au­gust, 2006. That was for Hal­libur­ton, the giant oil con­glom­er­ate, and the work took him all over the world – USA, Europe, Rus­sia. But I am sure he doesn’t mind me say­ing that his 964 vies for his af­fec­tion with many other in­ter­ests – jazz mu­sic, paint­ing, sculpt­ing, ski­ing, and in one of his last posts for Hal­libur­ton he lived just a five-minute walk from the world-fa­mous opera house, La Scala, in Mi­lan, and grand opera is some­thing else the 964 has to com­pete with.

Maybe all these other in­ter­ests had a bear­ing on how the Porsche came into his life. He was in the mar­ket for a car from the Porsche sta­ble and at the 2003 Porsche Club of Great Bri­tain an­nual event held at More­ton-in-marsh, the op­por­tu­nity arose. Among the myr­iad of eye-catch­ing cars, a 1993 wide­body Cabri­o­let 964 caught David’s eye but it also at­tracted the at­ten­tion of sev­eral other buy­ers, two most es­pe­cially. As David puts it, “an at­trac­tive younger cou­ple who ap­peared to be al­most over the line in com­plet­ing the trans­ac­tion”, whereas David felt he was at the wrong end of the queue. “They had the at­ten­tion of the owner that after­noon at Corn­bury House and there seemed lit­tle hope for me.”

How­ever, David was bright enough to get the owner’s con­tact de­tails and on the of­fchance gave him a call a few weeks later. “Sold the car then I pre­sume?” he en­quired some­what spec­u­la­tively. No, the car was still avail­able, and while the owner did not come forth with a ges­ture which sug­gested “make me an of­fer”, it did set in train sev­eral weeks of care­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions all cen­tred around ex­pert in­spec­tion and opin­ion.

David was work­ing as en­gi­neer­ing man­ager for KBR, a sub­sidiary of the Hal­libur­ton group in the year the Porsche came into his life and he soon found him­self posted to Mi­lan, an­other coun­try and an­other cul­ture but David has a golden rule, “learn some of the lo­cal lan­guage, re­spect and en­joy the cul­ture (not hard to do in a city as fine as Mi­lan) and try to get a base close to good restau­rants, good mu­sic (es­pe­cially jazz clubs) and the­atres…”

But with an Aus­tralian wife and know­ing Ade­laide as he did, there was al­ways the hankering to move to Joan’s home town and re­tire­ment af­ter 28 years in the pres­sure­ful oil in­dus­try brought the op­por­tu­nity to bring those plans to fruition with the 964 an in­te­gral part of those plans. “I was told the car was pretty rare, just one of a cou­ple of dozen built in right-hand drive form, and I wasn’t go­ing to leave it be­hind.” David brought in the ex­perts, An­glo Pa­cific, and they saw no prob­lem in in­clud­ing the Porsche in the mam­moth move across the world. David and Joan watched as all their

be­long­ings – and the 964 – were con­sumed within a giant con­tainer, the door slammed shut to be opened three months later at their new house 12,000 miles away in South Aus­tralia.

“Pro­fes­sional and com­pe­tent and also not ex­pen­sive” is how the car­ri­ers were summed up. “The car was a bit dusty and with a flat bat­tery af­ter be­ing on the high seas for so long, but a set of jump leads and a friendly fork lift driver and the 964 came to life at the first turn of the key.”

The Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties were equally com­pli­ant; a de­tailed in­spec­tion of the car by the au­thor­i­ties and a small State tax paid on a sec­ond-hand car im­por­ta­tion, but again that was small beer thus mak­ing the whole op­er­a­tion more than ac­cept­able. And here was David’s beloved open top 964 sit­ting in the Aus­tralian sun on the drive of their new home. Couldn’t be bet­ter!

From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, Ade­laide is a de­light­ful city, smaller than both Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, but from my find­ings that’s no down­side – al­though there was no Porsche Club of South Aus­tralia in my days, the SA Sport­ing Car Club was thriv­ing and with the new race track at Mal­lala com­ing on tap to com­ple­ment Collingrove Hill Climb, me and my 356A Speed­ster lived life to the full. And so it was with David, his wife and the 964; he joined both clubs, be­came Sprint Man­ager for the Porsche Club, and was soon fully in­volved. The Club fills the cal­en­dar with com­pe­ti­tions, hill­climbs, track events, ral­lies and sprints and also en­joys a so­cial scene – David and Joan were at home!

And on the Mal­lala ex-air­field track just north of Ade­laide, David was able to call upon the full “hands on” experiences he had en­joyed at Brands Hatch and Good­wood, cour­tesy of Porsche GB.

And when not on the track, David found an out­let for his love of mod­ern jazz with an in­vi­ta­tion from a lo­cal ra­dio pro­gramme man­ager at 5MBS – a spe­cial­ist mu­sic sta­tion in South Aus­tralia – to host a weekly pro­gramme that now has 45,000 devo­tees. This all be­ing helped by, as David puts it, “spark­ing up the pro­gramme to in­volve the lis­tener…” And al­though un-seen, David knows full well they are out there when the ra­dio sta­tion gets calls such as, “who was the third sax player on that last track,’ or, ‘I recog­nise that drum­mer’s style…”

It was the next morn­ing af­ter one of David’s pro­grammes that he was brought down to earth with a bump when he saw that puff of smoke from the 964 and the tell­tale pool of oil. “I was stopped in my tracks. It is an owner’s worst night­mare.”

Not that stum­bling across such a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous prob­lem is the end of the world for a Porsche owner “Down Un­der” – Ade­laide has an enor­mous fol­low­ing for the Stuttgart cars and apart from the friends in the South Aus­tralian Porsche Club there is also a huge back-up from Porsche deal­ers and spe­cial­ist cen­tres that can un­der­take ev­ery­thing and any­thing that the Porsche owner throws at them (I might add that this is a far cry from when I owned my 356A Speed­ster back in the 1960s, when I be­lieve I was just one of 50 Porsche own­ers in the whole of Aus­tralia).

The mid­night black cabri­o­let, “turbo lookalike”, is a rare beast and David’s im­me­di­ate thought was to get the car put right and his first step was to pick up the

He was brought down to earth with a bump, a puff of smoke and tell­tale pool of oil

phone and ask for Mark Poole at RSR Sports Cars. The car had been ser­viced at RSR and it was nat­u­ral to turn to the team that David knew was ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing sup­port for Porsche own­ers – from those who take their car for a Sun­day after­noon spin right up to full race prepa­ra­tion. Mark Poole, him­self, has been be­hind the wheel of a race car in many cat­e­gories both in Aus­tralia and the UK and David had full con­fi­dence in a team which in­cluded a renowned Porsche engine spe­cial­ist by the name of David Meaker.

I am lis­ten­ing to the tale of the 964 and the puff of smoke in the lounge of the beau­ti­ful home in Ade­laide and be­ing plied with cof­fees by Joan and I am ea­ger to hear what hap­pened next. “RSR are busy peo­ple but not so busy as to find time to sit me down and go through what they pro­posed to do, step-by-step, what might be es­sen­tial work, what would be ad­vi­sory and what was purely op­tional to make the engine – and the rest of the car – as close to new as pos­si­ble.”

David takes a deep breath. “These were anx­ious times and more so, of course, that noth­ing could be de­cided un­til the engine was taken out of the car, stripped down and a plan of action ex­plained. That was the worst part – like wait­ing for the doc­tor’s prog­no­sis!”

I know the feel­ing; some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pened to my Speed­ster af­ter a good few thou­sand miles on the clock, some long dis­tance run­ning in the su­per-hot cli­mate of Out­back Aus­tralia, and some of it at full bore on Mal­lala cir­cuit or Collingrove Hill­climb. Like David, I was not the first owner of my Porsche. David’s 964 was 10 years old with some 45,000 miles on the clock, my Speed­ster just one year when I took it off the dealer’s fore­court and with 50,000 miles be­hind it when I suf­fered my engine prob­lem, an omi­nous knock in the engine depart­ment. In both cases – what had gone be­fore? And what was the “doc­tor” go­ing to say?

Reg­u­lar lis­ten­ers to David Wif­fen’s weekly ra­dio pro­gramme might have de­tected a lit­tle of his laid-back style miss­ing and his wife cer­tainly ob­served the paint brushes stayed where they were – never mind the cur­rent sculp­ture he was work­ing on. That took sec­ond place too while Mark Poole and his team at RSR went to work. And David waited.

But, just like my Speed­ster 50 years be­fore, the tale has a happy end­ing. The 964 is back in David’s hands, af­ter a full re­build, and pro­vides sub­lime mo­tor­ing, whether get­ting him to the “day job” dis­cussing the next ra­dio pro­gramme with his pro­ducer or on a re­laxed trail through the Ade­laide Hills or the beau­ti­ful Barossa Val­ley with Joan at his side.

David Wif­fen is a per­fec­tion­ist; he would not have held down the tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing job in the oil in­dus­try for half a life­time nor cre­ated such mas­ter­pieces on can­vas nor sculp­tures if he wasn’t, never mind hold­ing a slice of the Ade­laide lis­ten­ing pub­lic in rap­tures each week. And when it comes to get­ting his beloved Porsche 964 back to a state of perfection, he showed that same re­solve. PW

The 964 is back in David’s hands af­ter a full re­build

David Wif­fen and his 964 wide­bod­ied Cabrio. As a res­i­dent of Ade­laide, there’s never any ques­tion of hav­ing to wait for de­cent weather be­fore get­ting the hood down

Above mid­dle: David with sculp­ture and art works. He also pre­sents a mod­ern jazz show on a lo­cal spe­cial­ist mu­sic ra­dio sta­tion. A mul­ti­fac­eted and mul­ti­tal­ented chap

David has en­tered into lo­cal Porsche life whole-heart­edly. He is the Sprint Man­ager for the lo­cal Porsche Club and as such com­petes him­self on track against the clock

HIS­TORY

The 964 model 911 ar­rived in 1989 and was the first ma­jor 911 evo­lu­tion since its launch in 1963. Al­though the ba­sic bodyshell was largely the same as the out­go­ing 3.2 Car­rera, new front and rear aprons, plus side skirts, made for a much smoother and mod­ern look. The engine grew to 3.6-litres and 250bhp and with it came the in­tro­duc­tion of 4wheel drive, while the tor­sion bar sus­pen­sion was re­placed with Macpher­son struts. And David’s car is a rare beast in­deed. Just 702 ‘Turbo look’ 964s were made.

Lo­cal spe­cial­ist, RSR Sportscars, car­ried out the engine re­build on David’s 964. A big job and not for the faint hearted or, in­deed, faint of wal­let!

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