PRO­TECT­ING THE PAST

Not far from Porsche’s home in Zuf­fen­hausen, the car­maker’s Clas­sic depart­ment re­stores and main­tains its most trea­sured historic mod­els

Car (South Africa) - - PAST - BY: Wil­helm Lut­je­harms Wil­helm­l_­car­mag PHO­TOS: Charles Rus­sell and Porsche

TREA­SURE troves are of­ten found in the un­like­li­est lo­ca­tions. This one is in a rel­a­tively small, non-de­script triple-storey build­ing sited in a quiet area out­side Zuf­fen­hausen, Ger­many. Step in­side, though and it’s a cave of Porsche-shaped jew­els. On the ground floor is parked a trio of rare RS mod­els – a 964 Car­rera RS, 993 Car­rera RS and 996 GT3 RS – all be­long­ing to a sin­gle owner. Over in the cor­ner is a 356 Speed­ster body, stripped to bare metal, and up­stairs houses three 959s and a Car­rera GT su­per­car.

Most of the old cars that visit Porsche Clas­sic, says Uwe Makrutzki, man­ager of restora­tions, re­ceive a full restora­tion and are big projects. How­ever, these old 911s and 356s are not par­tic­u­larly com­plex ve­hi­cles and there are many ex­pert re­stor­ers who do an ex­cel­lent job. What re­ally re­quires Porsche Clas­sic’s ex­per­tise are the likes of the Car­rera GT and those 959s, all spe­cial­ist cars re­quir­ing the kind of knowl­edge only this depart­ment pos­sesses.

In some cases, these cars are al­ready in what ap­pears top con­di­tion but that alone isn’t good enough for their own­ers. They want them to­tally re­newed, which en­tails re­fur­bish­ing the ex­ist­ing parts to an as-new state and re­turn­ing the car to show­room con­di­tion. This would, for ex­am­ple, in­clude clean­ing and pol­ish­ing faded car­bon-fi­bre and, while re­new­ing per­ish­ables, try­ing their best to clean a part rather than re­place it. Cus­tomers of­ten want the car to be as good as new, even if it is 15, 20 or 40 years old.

Fo­cus­ing on its older cars is not some­thing new to Porsche, ei­ther, ex­plains Uwe, who has been with the com­pany for the past 37 years: “In the early 1980s, there was al­ready a fac­tory depart­ment (Werk 1) that fo­cused on clients’ 356s. Al­though this depart­ment was not of­fi­cial, it grew and de­vel­oped over the years.” To­day, re­named Porsche Clas­sic and very much of­fi­cial, it em­ploys 80 staff mem­bers. 01 A 356 un­der­go­ing an ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion. 02 In the fore­ground a flat-four en­gine is be­ing at­tended to along­side a Car­rera GT'S V10. 03 Hound­stooth-pat­terned ma­te­rial in the up­hol­stery room. 04 A well-used oil con­tainer. op­po­site In­stalling a 930 Turbo flat-six.

Cus­tomers want their cars to be good as new, even if they’re 15, 20 or 40 years old

Fol­low­ing Uwe down to the base­ment, there are more than 20 Porsches parked next to each other, in­clud­ing four more 959s. It is a sight to be­hold.

“In some cases, there is a wait­ing pe­riod of more than a year, as we don’t want to rush any work we do. It needs to be done 100% cor­rectly. A rea­son this makes the depart­ment unique is that a cou­ple of tech­ni­cians who worked on the 959 pro­duc­tion line are now with us and help to main­tain these cars.”

Alexan­der Fabig, di­rec­tor of cus­tomers, fur­ther ex­plains the core of the business: “Our spareparts sup­ply chain and tech­ni­cal ser­vices are the two cor­ner­stones of our business. Porsche Clas­sic takes over re­spon­si­bil­ity for these cars from the fac­tory once they have been out of pro­duc­tion for 10 years or more. We then need to ar­range con­tracts with the orig­i­nal sup­pli­ers to en­sure parts re­main avail­able for these cars.

“Our fo­cus at this fa­cil­ity is on about 10 to 15 restora­tions a year, main­tain­ing 959s and at­tend­ing to our mu­seum cars if they need any ma­jor work. In to­tal, roughly 100 cars pass through the work­shop a year,” says Alexan­der.

At times, Porsche will also buy equip­ment from orig­i­nal sup­pli­ers to make sure it can re­man­u­fac­ture the orig­i­nal part. It helps that the val­ues of clas­sic Porsches have in­creased so dra- 01 A clas­sic 911 be­ing cath­ode dipped to pre­vent rust. 02 A tech­ni­cian at­tends to a 959. 03 A stripped 911 with its sup­port struc­tures in place. 04 The base­ment is filled with cars await­ing their turn. 05 Pain­stak­ingly de­tailed panel work. 06 A tech­ni­cian checks a se­lec­tion of trans­mis­sion and dif­fer­en­tial parts.

mat­i­cally in the past decade and it’s al­lowed Porsche to in­vest in the Clas­sic divi­sion as cus­tomers make sure they prop­erly main­tain what are be­com­ing ex­tremely valu­able as­sets. As a re­sult, the com­pany cur­rently has 52 000 parts on its books, adding 300 new ones each year. New clas­sic parts are also tested on real vin­tage cars. Porsche Clas­sic owns around 30 ve­hi­cles used for this test­ing; this in­cludes, for ex­am­ple, brak­ing on de­clines and wet sur­faces.

One of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing your car un­dergo a full restora­tion at Porsche Clas­sic is the (pricey) op­tion of sub­ject­ing it to cath­ode dip­ping in baths at the fac­tory’s mod­ern pro­duc­tion line. This anti-cor­ro­sion ser­vice process is of­ten con­ducted dur­ing qui­eter hours, as the pro­duc­tion of cur­rent cars takes pri­or­ity.

“About 80% of cus­tomers who send their cars to Porsche Clas­sic for a quote ac­cept the job,” says Uwe. “The av­er­age quote for a full restora­tion is be­tween R3,9 and R4,7 mil­lion. But re­mem­ber that such a job can take more than 2 000 hours of labour.”

This is a spe­cial fa­cil­ity to wan­der through. Apart from the work be­ing done and the knowl­edge shared, it’s im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing to wit­ness these clas­sic cars be­ing metic­u­lously main­tained or, as is of­ten the case, be­ing brought back to life.

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