PORSCHE CLASSIC LIFE
One of the best known names in the UKʼS Porsche industry, Dick Lovettʼs Swindon-based Porsche Centre has recently opened a dedicated Porsche Classic operation at the historic Bicester Heritage site
Kieron Fennelly takes a look at a new Porsche facility at Bicester Heritage
Visitors to this summer ʼs Luftgekühlt show will no doubt have noticed that a Porsche Classic outlet appeared to have established itself in the former RAF siteʼs fire station. This is an initiative by Porsche Centre Swindon and might seem a surprising move on the part of a Porsche Centre – after all, isnʼt their raison d’être new cars?
Anyone who knows Porsche Centre Swindon, though, is probably aware that long before Zuffenhausen started promoting Porsche Classic, the West Country dealership – its sites extend to Cardiff, Gloucester and Bristol – has always opened its arms to the air-cooled cars. Indeed there are very few Porsches Centres which can trace their links back to preimpact bumper days. One that can is Porsche Centre Swindon, still known unofficially by its old name of Dick Lovett, which also has the distinction of remaining one of the rare family-owned PCS.
Founder Dick Lovett branched into specialist cars in 1966, eventually acquiring franchises for Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche, all exotic and rare makes at the time. Today its two major concessions are Porsche and BMW, though it still retails Ferraris and Maseratis.
The companyʼs history with Porsche goes back to 1970 when it took on Ferrari: Porsche importer AFN realised it was missing a trick here and approached the Swindon dealer, and the upshot is that in 2021 Lovetts will celebrate 50 years as as Porsche distributor. Dickʼs son Peter, managing director today, was quick to press the 3.0 RS into service on the track and recalls how he took the brand new Turbo 930 from the showroom to race it without his father ʼs permission!
He would go on to race 911s successfully right through the air-cooled car ʼs competition heyday, so it is hardly surprising that Porsche Centre Swindon has always remained attached to the earlier Porsches, its enthusiasm long predating the rise of the Zuffenhausen-inspired classic movement. Such enthusiasm manifested itself not just in
continuing to sell the air-cooled cars, but in offering to service them as well, a facility unusual among Porsche Centres.
Of course, with entry-level SCS and 3.2s now selling at £40,000, the classic side has become a serious business in itself and the development of RAF Bicester as a motoring heritage centre was too good an opportunity to miss to give it a specific focal point. In late 2017 Lovettʼs arranged to lease a building which had become free just as another manufacturer, by coincidence, also from Stuttgart, was moving its collection of F1 cars to Bicester, joining the several motorsport heritage operations which are already established there.
ʻBicester is unique in the market and something the group is very proud of,ʼ says Stephen Brown, who joined the company at the beginning of 2018 to develop its reach within the classic Porsche community. A fully paid-up petrolhead who runs a 911SC and races a Caterham, Stephen Brown did a BA in journalism and advanced his knowledge about cars by working in a motorsport bodyshop, following a long stint in financial recruitment.
In what he describes as a niche job, he finds himself shuttling between Swindon and Bicester: ʻThe space here is limited but we see the site as an appointment centre at which we can perform vehicle inspections for customers as a starting point for them in terms of future works, with appointments available at the customer ʼs convenience.
ʻBicester Heritage is very accessible from all directions and itʼs a wonderful backdrop for talking classic Porsches with potential customers. In the long run, we may even look into leasing a second building here to make a workshop for classic Porsches, which will take some of the pressure off Swindon and get classic owners into the habit of coming in here.ʼ
Though it has the blessing of Porsche Classic in Zuffenhausen, the Bicester ʻClassic Lifeʼ operation is entirely a Porsche Centre Swindon initiative, run in collaboration with Porsche Cars GB: if plans to have regular weekday opening and the online parts configurator have to await 2019, Porscheʼs ʻFire Stationʼ has already seen plenty of weekend action: ʻWe invite people down here from the Porsche Cup meetings at Silverstone, and through the year we have seven major events ranging from the Luftgekühlt show to Bicester Heritageʼs Wings and Wheels gatherings. Other events include the Scrambles, Flywheel days and privately-arranged drive-outs.
ʻThe airfield site is vast and if things continue to work out, it could have a perimeter track and a hotel within five years. The whole Heritage concept is brilliant: itʼs attracting first division tenants and the key will be to continue to keep development tightly controlled. Everything so far reinforces Lovettʼs decision to set up its Porsche Classic Life here.ʼ
This is all rather good news for classic owners: although there are annual gatherings throughout the year, the prospect of a dedicated and eventually full time Porsche ʻclubhouseʼ at southern Englandʼs outstanding new heritage centre is exciting indeed. CP
Above: A former airfield fire station may seem like an unlikely venue for a new Porsche Classic business, but it’s slap bang in the centre of the amazing Bicester Heritage facility
Below left and right: The former fire station may be modest in size but it’s a welcoming place and is used to meet customers to carry out vehicle inspections ahead of possible restoration
Above right: Stephen Brown joined the Lovett team early in 2018 with the task of developing the Porsche Classic Life branch of the business. He’s a Porsche man, with his own 911SC