THEUSUAL SUSPECTS WISH YOUWERE HERE?
911&PWWRITERS It’s a small world, says Chris Horton, ruminating on shared automotive and aeronautical interests, and a chance meeting with a fellow 911&Pwcontributor in the wilds of north Wales. Plus: never mind Big Brother; who will be recording your Por
Life often seems to be full of the most intriguing co-incidences, especially when you add classic cars to the equation. Those of you who are also Porsche Club GB members might recall that from early 2014 to around the middle of 2017 I did some work on that organisation’s monthly magazine, Porsche Post.
One of my most enjoyable assignments during that period was visiting John Arnold in Staffordshire, to hear the remarkable story of how he had repatriated his late uncle’s 1962-model, right-handdrive 356B from the wilds of rural Oregon, in the far north-western corner of the United States, and was then in the early stages of restoring it. (Said uncle was none other than Arthur Sheffield, one of the founding members of Porsche Club GB.) During our conversation, we discovered – via Concorde jet engines, and then the Rover Company-built APUS, or Auxiliary Power Units, fitted to Vulcan bombers – a shared interest in early Rover 2000s. And, thanks to yet another co-incidence, that each of us owns one such car, with an ‘Xc’-suffix registration number, that once belonged to our respective late fathers – John’s dad, Edward (Ted), having been a Rover employee at Solihull from 1958 to 1983.
My car, GXC 186C, bought brand-new by my parents in 1965, has been off the road for the greater part of its now 53-year life, but having been stored under cover – in at least three different places – it is in surprisingly good structural condition. It was, in theory, going to be made fully sound again by a welder friend of mine here in Oxfordshire, but around 18 months ago it appeared that he was about to lose his workshop, and so the project ground to a halt. I mentioned my predicament to John one day, and to cut a longish story short a few weeks later he very kindly drove down and towed my car back to the safe haven of his own extensive workshop – and where it now stands right next to AXC 179B. (They probably had quite a lot to talk about…)
The plan, since AXC unsurprisingly has much the same (relatively minor) rust issues as GXC, is to have both vehicles welded more or less simultaneously, by the same welder and fabricator. Who, by a further coincidence, is on the same rural site near Kenilworth in Warwickshire, barely a dozen miles from Solihull, where the cars were built, as independent Porsche specialist and dismantler Paul Woollard. And which site, before I had even heard of Paul, I had on several occasions visited through my part-time job delivering farm supplies on a lorry. Honestly, I’m not making this up.
Anyway, the point of all this is partly to record for posterity my huge indebtedness and gratitude to John Arnold for his continuing support, but also to serve as an introduction to the accompanying images – showing the front and back of a postcard sent from Baden-baden (in what was then West Germany) by Arthur Sheffield to John in May 1963. John showed me the card the last time I went up to see him, and generously granted my request to borrow it to share with a wider audience. That means you!
Whether Arthur was there on Porsche Club business or in connection with his job is unclear (it could also have been to take his 356 back to Zuffenhausen for its first service), but either way he seems to have been remarkably close to what you might call the ‘inner circle’, including Huschke von Hanstein and Edgar Barth – and perhaps even Ferry Porsche himself. And it is by any standard a fascinating glimpse back into a more genteel and civilised world that has gone for ever. Read the text – which I trust will have been reproduced large enough – and I think you will see what I mean.
Talking of coincidences, by the way, how about this? Last New Year’s Eve, Mrs Horton and I did a spur-of-the-moment, 400-mile daytrip to north Wales, for a ride on the famous narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway. Choosing a carriage at random for the return journey from Porthmadog up to Blaenau Ffestiniog, I was busily wiping the near-biblical rain off my camera with a sodden handkerchief when I heard a familiar voice say, ‘It’s Mr Horton, isn’t it!’ And there stood none other than Paul Davies, 911 Carrera 3.2 owner of this parish, and a contributor to 911 & Porsche World since I first used some of his work way back in the early 2000s – and whom I hadn’t seen for perhaps three years. He and Mrs Davies and some friends were, perhaps more sensibly, making a weekend of it, and staying in a nearby hotel. It is, indeed, a small world!