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

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & pho­tos: Kieron Fen­nelly

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

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