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