His­tory of PTS

Paint to Sam­ple has be­come the generic term for a phe­nom­e­non which is far from new. To­tal 911 delves into the his­tory and ori­gins of PTS…

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It’s a pop­u­lar op­tion now, but what are the ori­gins be­hind Porsche’s Paint To Sam­ple pro­ce­dure?

When Bjørn Steinar Kirkholt be­gan his search for a 993 C4S in 2012, the ob­jec­tive was pretty clear. “I didn’t just want an­other black or sil­ver ex­am­ple. I wanted a colour you do not see ev­ery day,” he says, as we stand and ad­mire the rich shine of the paint­work adorn­ing his 993. That search, as it hap­pens, took a whole year, even­tu­ally lead­ing to a whis­per that a car was soon to be avail­able which hadn’t yet reached the mar­ket. The car in ques­tion was cer­tainly not an­other sil­ver or black ex­am­ple, its hue more com­monly at­trib­uted to the slen­der hips of the 964 gen­er­a­tion be­fore it. “When this one came up, I did not hes­i­tate. It never came out in the mar­ket – I got a tip and bought it be­fore it was ad­ver­tised,” Bjørn re­calls proudly as he starts the engine of his gor­geous Mar­itime blue 993 C4S. A Mar­itime blue 993 C4S, I hear you ask? It can only be the work of Porsche’s sto­ried Paint To Sam­ple pro­gramme.

The ex­pres­sion sounds rather or­di­nary, like the an­nounce­ment of some com­mod­ity such as ‘food to go’ or a rou­tine call to ac­tion: ‘bills to pay’. But, in fact, it is all about hav­ing a paint job on your car that is dif­fer­ent from the norm. Ah, you say, wasn’t that kind of cus­tomi­sa­tion al­ways pos­si­ble? Yes it was, but in re­cent years, recog­nis­ing the po­ten­tial prof­its here, cer­tain pre­mium man­u­fac­tur­ers have qui­etly in­cluded this op­tion in their man­u­fac­ture pro­gramme. Chief ex­po­nents in Europe are BMW, Daim­ler Benz, Audi, Fer­rari and, of course, Porsche. In­deed, hav­ing a Paint To Sam­ple colour has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant strand of new Porsche own­er­ship, es­pe­cially when to­day’s happy pro­pri­etors can now broad­cast their good taste on so­cial me­dia, a route not pos­si­ble un­til a few years ago. And how­ever taste­ful or oth­er­wise the hue, for the man­u­fac­tur­ers all public­ity is good public­ity. With even the more straight­for­ward shades charged over €6,000 on the price of a new 911, Porsche is of course very happy to oblige.

In the early years, ex­tras for your Porsche were lim­ited to tun­ing kits; it was only when Zuf­fen­hausen launched the 911 Turbo in 1974 that it dis­cov­ered a lu­cra­tive af­ter­mar­ket in cus­tomi­sa­tion for Turbo cus­tomers who were of­ten rich, rather than sim­ply af­flu­ent enough to af­ford a Porsche. The Son­der­wun­sch depart­ment was set up in 1978 to ex­ploit this seam and pro­duced per­haps the most fa­mous cus­tom 911, Man­sour Oj­jeh’s road-go­ing 935, which in­ci­den­tally was fin­ished in a unique ‘Bril­liant red.’ Even in 1984, type ap­proval reg­u­la­tions were

al­ready clos­ing in on this sort of ca­per and when he took de­liv­ery, Oj­jeh could not drive the 935 legally in Ger­many. Son­der­wun­sch later mor­phed into ‘Porsche Ex­clu­sive’ as body­work cus­tomi­sa­tion and the prac­ti­cal­ity of short pro­duc­tion runs di­min­ished, fi­nally dis­ap­pear­ing al­to­gether when Porsche reequipped Zuf­fen­hausen for 986 and 996 builds in the mid-1990s. To hone ac­ces­sory mar­ket­ing, ex­tras were grouped un­der a new la­bel: Porsche Te­quip­ment. This was a range of fac­tory-fit items such as sports ex­hausts or post-build dealer-in­stalled ac­ces­sories such as bike racks, while the Ex­clu­sive Depart­ment han­dled what was es­sen­tially be­spoke cabin work.

Colour op­tions on Porsche have been around since the 356. The first 911 in 1964 had seven stan­dard colours with four op­tional; by 1969 there were nine stan­dard shades and 21 ‘spe­cial or­der’ pos­si­bil­i­ties. By the time of the 996 Porsche listed four stan­dard colours – yel­low, red, black and white – and seven op­tions, all metal­lic, in­clud­ing the 996’s most com­mon colour, Arc­tic sil­ver. Sig­nif­i­cantly, th­ese op­tions cost $805, whereas, of­fered here for the first time, colours to sam­ple were priced at an im­pres­sive $4,230, with a rider that de­liv­ery could be an ad­di­tional three to six months.

Per­son­alised cus­tomer choice had qui­etly ar­rived, but po­ten­tial tak­ers would need to be both pa­tient and per­sis­tent. It was as if the com­pany was re­luc­tantly ac­knowl­edg­ing this de­mand, but not go­ing out of its way to make ac­cess easy. By the time

the 997 was launched, and in con­trast to a decade ear­lier, Porsche was in poor fi­nan­cial health. This was re­flected in the stan­dard 911 pal­ette, which fea­tured no less than 24 colours. Now there were no op­tional colours, sim­ply a slightly cryp­tic ref­er­ence to non­metal­lic Paint To Sam­ple un­der code 98 and metal­lic un­der code 99.

The role of colour in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion has grown since be­spoke coach­work be­came im­pos­si­ble and is a lot more sig­nif­i­cant since the in­ter­net. Porsche is not alone among pre­mium car mak­ers in con­struct­ing its Car Con­fig­u­ra­tor to en­able buy­ers to spec­ify ex­actly what they de­sire. The in­tro­duc­tion of the

991 co­in­cided with the open­ing of Porsche’s sta­teof-the-art paint­ing fa­cil­ity at Zuf­fen­hausen, and it was no co­in­ci­dence that the colour pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able for the 991 were far wider than any pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. Over a dozen Paint To Sam­ple colours were pre-ap­proved for im­me­di­ate or­der, and al­though many of th­ese sounded a lit­tle tame – var­i­ous greys and Arc­tic sil­ver – there were also more ad­ven­tur­ous shades, no­tably Pas­tel or­ange, Mex­ico blue and RS green.

A sec­ond group com­prised of colours de­scribed as al­ready un­der­go­ing fea­si­bil­ity study. Among th­ese were Sepia brown and Ipanema blue metal­lic, strik­ing throw­backs to 911s of the 1970s and 1980s. Other old favourites – Guards red and Speed yel­low – would also be sub­ject to fea­si­bil­ity checks, as was a long list of more con­tem­po­rary shades. Not all would ma­te­ri­alise: there are sev­eral rea­sons why a man­u­fac­turer may not ap­prove a cus­tomer’s cho­sen paint shade from the out­set. One can be le­gal – a num­ber of Porsche fans en­quired about Gulf blue or Gulf or­ange – and there may be a ques­tion of ‘own­er­ship’, rather in the way Peu­geot laid claim to 900 model num­ber­ing in the 1960s.

An­other rea­son – and the most com­mon cause of re­jec­tion – is that de­spite the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of mod­ern paint ap­pli­ca­tion, ex­po­sure to sun­light and the en­vi­ron­ment causes some shades to change.

All paint fin­ishes fade even­tu­ally, but pre­mium man­u­fac­tur­ers do not want to have clients who have paid five-fig­ure sums for a colour knock­ing on the door two years later com­plain­ing their ex­pen­sive paint has faded.

For th­ese rea­sons, the fea­si­bil­ity study looks not just at the avail­abil­ity of the re­quired pig­ment, but its sta­bil­ity. How ex­ten­sive th­ese stud­ies need to be will ul­ti­mately be re­flected in the price charged to the cus­tomer, and in­deed how long he or she will have to wait for de­liv­ery. An­other fac­tor for would-be

‘unique’ colour clients is whether their choice will prove dif­fi­cult to sell the car on, though un­less the colour scheme is ex­traor­di­nar­ily out­landish th­ese cars usu­ally prove far more ac­cept­able than some of the cus­tomi­sa­tions that used to dis­fig­ure 911s 30 years ago.

There is also an el­e­ment of teas­ing in the mar­ket­ing of Paint To Sam­ple. To­wards the end of 997 pro­duc­tion Porsche pro­duced a very lim­ited num­ber of Speed­sters: th­ese were avail­able in Car­rara white or what was de­scribed as a ‘unique’ blue. Later that Speed­ster blue would be­come a Paint To Sam­ple pos­si­bil­ity for the 911. This is a re­cur­ring theme; high­pro­file 911 re­leases like the GT3 RS or the GT2 RS were launched with their own ex­cep­tional colours, but th­ese soon be­came avail­able as PTS op­tions, as was the Ir­ish green of the mil­lionth 911 in 2017.

It may be an ever-more pop­u­lar choice for cus­tomers to­day, but Porsche’s Paint To Sam­ple pro­gramme is as his­tor­i­cal as it is mag­i­cal, of­fer­ing cus­tomers an op­por­tu­nity to en­sure their car is truly unique. This might well be the rea­son Bjørn says his own re­search on the pro­duc­tion num­bers of MY1997 993 4Ss in Mar­itime blue has gath­ered lit­tle in the way of facts. “I’d like to know how many oth­ers are out there,” he says, but we think he’ll be hard pressed to find any. That’s the beauty of Paint To Sam­ple: it gives you your spe­cial Porsche in a lim­ited pro­duc­tion of one.

Above Mar­itime blue graced the curves of many a 964, but is a rare sight to be­hold on a 993

left Slate grey has al­ways been a pop­u­lar PTS choice, while above left, Sport Clas­sic grey is now only avail­able as a PTS colour

RIGHT Porsche’s own Mil­lionth 911 was fin­ished in Paint To Sam­ple Ir­ish green, orig­i­nally a clas­sic 911 hue

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