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.
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
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!