With around 35 employees, CPR Classic proves to be the largest specialist catering to the restoration of vintage Porsches in the United States. Based on this enticing premise, a visit to the fabled Californian company by Classic Porsche seemed a natural –
Classic Porsche visits California Porsche Restoration for a touch of CPR
“YET AGAIN, MORE CUSTOMERS CAME TO CPR CLASSIC…”
Arriving at 501 Industrial Way in the scenic city of Fallbrook, the visitor will be greeted by a friendly staff and a couple of dozen Porsches, predominantly pre-1990 models, all for sale. Welcome to CPR Classicʼs showroom! Although the building leaves most guests in awe, it represents only a tip of the iceberg… Walk a quarter of a mile and you will reach the restoration facility, home to another 70 classic Porsches.
Some are in a thousand pieces, others almost ready to deliver to their customers – and the remaining projects are somewhere in between. Overall, the car sales and restoration divisions account for 45,000 square-feet, an impressive area for such a specialised company.
What a journey this has been for CPR Classic – thatʼs short for California Porsche Restoration Classic – since it opened in 1977! That year, Brian Doherty and his brothers launched an independent Porsche service centre in Manhattan Beach, near Los Angeles. Neither 356s or 911s interested restorers during the 1970s, hence the daily chores revolved around regular repairs and maintenance.
As the business continued to grow, the brothers found themselves in a workshop that was ready to burst at the seams. Renting a larger facility in the coastal city remained an expensive option, hence the decision to relocate further south in the early 1990s, closer to San Diego, in Fallbrook.
Yet again, more customers came to CPR Classic, leading to another move just a few miles away in an industrial complex in 2007. Guess what… Space, or lack thereof, was once again an issue, leading to the purchase of the adjoining buildings!
As a result, the companyʼs current layout might strike European visitors as surprising, since activities are spread in multiple commercial shops rather than a single large structure as you might expect. This arrangement created by necessity turned out to serve CPR Classic well, as each unit within the several buildings concentrates on specific tasks. Dismantling, collision repair, body restoration, preparation, undercoating, paint, plating, gearbox refurbishing and more – this place has it all.
As you might expect, employees use a variety of traditional tools, such as English wheels, plus spot welders as seen at the Porsche factory. One of the buildings houses a couple of units solely dedicated to putting the final touches on 356s and 911s. They sit far from the area that generates
the most dust and sand.
Another shop handles the enginesʼ assembly, from bone stock to hot-rodded, as exemplified by the trick 2123cc Polopolus flat-four we discovered during our visit. This amazing powerplant engineered by Dean Polopolus several years ago mixes a selection of 911 components and motivates a bunch of 356s today. Behind the clean workbenches, the back of the unit welcomes several shelves packed with flat-four and -six engines, ready to be rebuilt, or used as ʻdonorsʼ.
As a side note and as mentioned earlier, Brian Doherty was instrumental in starting CPR Classic. His love for Porsches stems from a stay in Germany, being stationed in Europe after he got out of the Vietnam war. He then did his apprenticeship at the Porsche factory, leading to a position as field service representative in the United States. He retired from the business a few years ago, while his daughter and son have taken over the operation.
Andrea joined the team in 2007 and purchased the company two years later – she now oversees over 30 employees. Dylan Doherty has worked full time at CPR Classic since 2010, though he has great memories of scraping paint off cars after school as a young teenager. He remained involved with the firm all through his high school and college years, eventually becoming sales manager.
Whilst Andrea runs the busy shop area, Dylanʼs time is
“BRIAN WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN STARTING CPR…”
dedicated to the separate aforementioned division of the company that specialises in the sales of vehicles. This dealership, located in a separate brick building, opened four years ago and includes the showroom, as well as offices and another assembly room, reserved specially for a few of the nicest project cars.
In the showroom, 911s represent the bulk of the offerings, though you might notice some 356s here and there, plus a small number of vintage Mercedes. (CPR Classic has been involved with the sales of the brand for several years, working in partnership with a specialist based in Arizona.) Dylan mentioned to us that the firm has recently sold a handful of desirable models, too, such as a 550 Spyder and two 906s. A few years ago, CPR Classic still worked on a pretty much equal number of 356s and pre-1974 911s. However, the latter now represent about 70 per cent of the ongoing restorations, which reflects todayʼs sky-high value of these models. We also noticed several 912s and 914/6s on site, as the Dohertys will accept such projects; however, they still remain somewhat unusual, being less collectible.
The company has become well known for its high-quality back-to-stock restorations, using factory parts when possible.
“911S REPRESENT THE BULK OF THE OFFERINGS…”
If not, the team will select the best replacements available. But what about outlaw Porsches? Recognising that the market is changing and that customers will happily spend big on hot-rods, CPR Classic has chosen to explore this market, though they veer away from slant nose conversions, 930 Turbo lookalikes and even aftermarket carbon-fibre goodies – the crew simply prefers using quality German Porsche parts. We saw the result of their rationale in the shape of an allsteel 1972 911S/T recreation, equipped with a 3.2-litre shortstroke MFI engine, 917-style brakes and Elephant Racing suspension components.
Through great business decisions and pure Porsche drive, the Doherty family has brought the company to the next level, resulting in a most impressive facility. When Brian and his brothers opened their first small shop in 1977, they probably did not expect seeing around 100 old Porsches being pampered by a crew of 35 at CPR Classic, a little over four decades later! CP
“PREFERS TO USE QUALITY GERMAN PARTS…”
Above: Row upon row of classic Porsches await their turn. Whether for sale or for restoration, there’s always around 100 cars on site!
Below left: Steve Culver (Director of Operations & Special Projects) stands next to a 1972 911S/T recreation with all steel body, 3.2 MFI engine and 917-style brakes
Below right: Sales manager Dylan Doherty races these 914/6s in vintage racing
Above: California Porsche Restoration has around 35 people on its payroll! At the centre of the group photo is Andrea Doherty, owner of the company and daughter of its founder, Brian
Below left: Freshly painted bodyshells ready for fitting up – as you can see, CPR is a pretty busy operation, with no shortage of work!
Below right: There’s a dedicated 356 assembly room, which is always busy
Impressive is the only way to describe the sight that greets you as you enter CPR Classic’s showroom in Fallbrook, to the south of Los Angeles. There’s something to satisfy every taste
Clockwise from top left: Extensive restoration project in the form of a 1959 356A coupé; a 1962 356A Roadster in for the full works; this is the room set aside for 911 rebuilds; 1958 coupé on the rotisserie
Left: Engine assembly room; Desean Kopunic (right) is working on a four-cylinder 2123cc Polopolus motor