SPE­CIAL­IST: NORTH DEVON PORSCHE

If of­fi­cial Porsche Cen­tres aren’t your thing and you even find some of the larger in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ists a lit­tle im­per­sonal, per­haps sir’s Porsche would care for some old school at­ten­tion from Martin Reed of North Devon Porsche

911 Porsche World - - Contents - Words & Photography: Jeremy Laird

Old school Porsche ser­vice

In this age of plug-in di­ag­nos­tics, pre-baked de­ci­sion trees, re­mote-guided fault find­ing and elec­tronic ev­ery­thing, the value of hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, me­chan­i­cal nous, a no-non­sense ap­proach and per­haps a deft hand with a plasma torch are all too easy to over­look. But it’s also very easy to ap­pre­ci­ate what’s gone miss­ing of late when you visit Martin Reed of North Devon Porsche. Martin’s out of the old school and it’s all for the bet­ter.

Based in Cla­davin, near Barn­sta­ple in Devon, we dropped by Martin’s work­shop for a quick oil change and check over of one of 911&PW’S new­est ar­rivals, a 3.2-litre 986 Boxster. It’s a very early car in the modern water-cooled Porsche id­iom, but thor­oughly ar­riv­iste by Martin’s sto­ried stan­dards. Not that he has any prob­lem ac­com­mo­dat­ing moderns. Martin has all the dreaded di­ag­nos­tic kit, in­clud­ing Porsche’s PST2 (which was the sys­tem used when the 986 Boxster was on sale) and the later PIWIS sys­tem.

So, plug­ging in and in­ves­ti­gat­ing a slightly lumpy idle via the di­ag­nos­tics was no prob­lem. Martin will sniff ramp an­gles and plot graphs with the best of them. The likely solution, how­ever, is surely il­lus­tra­tive of the value of ex­pe­ri­ence. Pull the elec­tronic throt­tle body and give it a clean.

No new parts re­quired, just a lit­tle of Martin’s time. Or yours, if you’d pre­fer. Martin will ex­plain how to do it and send you home to get at it DIY, if you pre­fer.

In­deed, ev­ery day is a school day in the com­pany of an ex­pe­ri­enced me­chanic like Martin. His back­ground in the busi­ness is in­trigu­ing stuff. Orig­i­nally trained as a Royal Navy en­gi­neer, by the 1980s he was com­mit­ted to cars. “In the very dim and dis­tant, the mid ’80s” he ex­plains, “I was at the Porsche main agent in Ex­eter, Parks as it was then. It was an un­usual place with the show­room down­stairs and the work­shop up­stairs.”

A com­bi­na­tion of not en­joy­ing the com­mute to Ex­eter and an in­creas­ing num­ber of re­quests to do cus­tomer cars on the side, how­ever, saw Martin in­de­pen­dently set up shop shortly there­after and he’s been at it ever since. Ini­tially, the fo­cus wasn’t pri­mar­ily Porsche. “Back then, there weren’t any­where near the numbers. So while I did work on Porsches from the be­gin­ning, it wasn’t ex­clu­sive by any means. I was also a re­tained fire­man at the time, too. A handy lit­tle filler!”

In the early 1990s, it was build­ing his­toric rally cars and com­pet­ing as a nav­i­ga­tor that got most of Martin’s at­ten­tion. Among oth­ers, he built rally-spec fin­tail Mercs. “The same cars the bad­dies drove in Thun­der­ball. Ac­tu­ally an ex­cel­lent car. I did a few of them and then a Mercedes 230SL Pagoda. That was heav­ier than the big sa­loon, never really liked it even if it was a good car for its day. It’s a pre-1965 car, re­mem­ber.”

How­ever, in terms of ral­ly­ing, it was an Ital­ian that really turned Martin’s head. “The best car I built, my favourite of the rally cars, was the Alfa, a 105 Gi­u­lia coupe. It had the same floor­plan and run­ning gear as the Spi­der, but in a beau­ti­ful lit­tle two door coupe. They were light years ahead of their

“” I did work on Porsches from the be­gin­ning but it wasn’t ex­clu­sive

time, too. It came out in ’64 with a gor­geous lit­tle 1600 all-al­loy twin cam en­gine, fivespeed al­loy gear­box with Porsche syn­chro­mesh in it, as it hap­pens, and disc brakes all round. All in the mid ’60s. In­cred­i­ble. It weighed far less than a tonne, made about 130hp. Very quick. It al­ways made top 10 finishes if it didn’t break.”

Ral­ly­ing all got a bit se­ri­ous in the late ’90s, mean­while the num­ber of Porsches in need of main­te­nance was on the up and up and Martin fo­cused more on work­shop and restora­tion ser­vices of Porsche road cars.

Chatting to Martin as he has a good sniff around the Boxster is like min­ing a rich seam of hard-won ex­pe­ri­ence. “Nice dry rear seal,” says Martin, “there isn’t even a mist­ing of wet­ness,” he says. But why do they leak so of­ten? “Ah, fun­da­men­tally the prob­lem is that the main bear­ings and crank are not in a sin­gle unit with the block. There’s a great big square hous­ing car­ry­ing the main bear­ings and the crank and that’s then fit­ted in­side this shell, which in turn has the bar­rels in it. Really, it’s ab­so­lutely crazy. Firstly, you’re los­ing a lot of struc­tural strength. Also, given pro­duc­tion tol­er­ances, hav­ing the rear main seal in a dif­fer­ent body as the crank you can get slight mis­align­ments and flex. So some en­gines never leak, oth­ers you can put in seal af­ter seal and, bug­ger me, it’s leak­ing again in a few weeks.”

Some handy advice on ex­haust bolts and how to re­move the re­tain­ing nuts for the un­der­body cladding with­out snap­ping the studs af­fixed to the bot­tom of the floor­plan, not to men­tion whip­ping off a pair of rat­tling heat shields and the be­queath­ing of a clean bill of health for the Boxster – “It’s in good or­der” – and we’re done. But as

“” Some en­gines never leak, oth­ers you can put in seal af­ter seal

com­fort­able and con­ver­sant as Martin is with a modernist Boxster, it’s really the air­cooled stuff that he en­joys the most. That’s partly be­cause Martin thinks long term and re­alises how the in­creas­ing com­plex­ity of later mod­els threat­ens to make them im­pos­si­ble to main­tain in the very long run. With modern Porsches full of cus­tom ECUS dot­ted about the car and heav­ily in­te­grated with one an­other, of­ten mak­ing it dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble to sim­ply leave parts of the sys­tem out, the long term fu­ture looks un­cer­tain at best. “Elec­tron­ics will be the end of them,” Martin says.

Thus, his main on­go­ing project as we visit is a full restora­tion of a 3.0 Car­rera, the en­gine of which is sit­ting bolt­ing to a stand. Although the Car­rera 3.0 is a rel­a­tive sleeper to­day, Martin re­mem­bers them be­ing quite the thing back in the day. “For a long time Car­rera 3.0s were very de­sir­able,” Martin reck­ons, “it’s got a really nice, cammy en­gine. They were ac­tu­ally bet­ter than the car that re­placed it. Yes, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of its suc­ces­sor, the SC, made sim­i­lar power, but it was also quite a bit heav­ier. They were trim­ming them for hair­dressers by then!” We also dis­cuss an­other for­merly hid­den gem, the 2.7 Car­rera and how Porsche’s fin­ish­ing and rust proof­ing went tan­gi­bly down­hill with the 3.2 Car­rera se­ries.

Cur­rently, air-cooled restora­tions like that Car­rera 3.0 are the core of his ac­tiv­i­ties, but Martin will turn his hand to al­most any­thing. Over­all, it’s not hard to warm to how Martin goes about things. He’s the kind of old school en­gi­neer that in­stantly gives you con­fi­dence in both his abil­ity to look af­ter your car and that he has your in­ter­est at heart. Th­ese days, even in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ists can tend to be large, rel­a­tively im­per­sonal and a lit­tle numbers driven. There are so many Porsches out there to­day, so many cus­tomers and a lot of money to be made ser­vic­ing them. As soon as you be­gin to scale that kind of busi­ness up, some­thing is in­evitably, un­avoid­ably lost. A visit to Martin Reed quickly re­minds you of what, ex­actly, goes miss­ing. His op­er­a­tion is a lit­tle smaller and more tra­di­tional and many in­clud­ing this au­thor will think that’s all for the good. PW

By his own ad­mis­sion, air-cooled is more Martin Reed’s thing. 930 Turbo en­gine (far left) looks par­tic­u­larly pur­pose­ful sit­ting on en­gine stand

Right: 901 gear­box re­build un­der­way. Far right: Car­rera 3.0 en­gine is from on­go­ing project

Left: Old school 924/944 schemat­ics add a tech­ni­cal air to the work­shop. Martin Reed at­tends to the vi­tal flu­ids

911SC is an­other on­go­ing work­shop restora­tion, along­side Martin’s own Car­rera 3.0

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