We pay a visit to Heritage Parts Centre.
You’ve decided which car you want to buy, but what about all the spares and consumables you’re going to need? Drawing on thirty-five years of hard-earned experience, Heritage Parts Centre is a leading light in the supply of components for classic Porsche and Volkswagen vehicles…
Apassion for Porsche and Volkswagen meets supermarket convenience at Heritage Parts Centre. Spread over 40,000ft2 of warehouse space, the Shoreham-by-sea parts supplier stocks components for historic models ranging from the 356 to the 997-generation 911. Supported by a team eighty-five strong, Managing Director, Barney Dines, is proud to be leading a business selling five-thousand Porsche-specific products.
Moreover, he’s dedicated to finding and developing even more. It’s a statement of intent.
The enthusiast-led firm celebrates its thirty-fifth anniversary in 2021, but has only been on the Porsche scene since 2016. “Porsche is a natural progression from our Volkswagen roots,” Barney reasons. “The two manufacturers share a high number of OEM suppliers, reflected in the cross-brand aftermarket. Through our Volkswagen oriented business, we already know many of the key players, including Bosch, Meyle and
Dansk, which is why we were able to build on those relationships and establish our Porsche range very quickly.” Mirroring the evolution of the company, it’s not uncommon to hear owners of air-cooled Porsches talk about motoring history in charge of old Volkswagens, stories ensuring Heritage Parts Centre had a ready market for its multi-marque specialism — today, five years after the company launched its first retail items for the classic 911, Porsche parts account for one in every ten of Heritage Parts Centre’s sales.
This isn’t the first time the firm has gone in a new direction. After starting out as a Volkswagen Type 2 van restorer, company co-founder, David Ward, took feedback from wealthy buyers and started selling Karmann Ghia coupés in 1984. The spare parts business — initially named Karmann Classics — began in 1986, catering for just the Ghia until an expansion into Beetle Karmann Cabriolet components beckoned. Beetle saloons and T3 vans followed. The water-cooled first and second-generation Golf joined the range in 2007,
leading to Heritage Parts Centre covering Volkswagens as recent as the Mk4 Golf in the present.
Make no mistake, Barney and his team want to become market leaders in the supply of Porsche components. To this end, their offering has already expanded dramatically since 2016. Indeed, after an initial focus on air-cooled 911s, the company’s portfolio of products rapidly grew to cover Boxsters, Caymans and other water-cooled models, including those from the Stuttgart brand’s transaxle family of cars.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
At the opposite end of the Porsche product spectrum, the Heritage Parts Centre warehouse started to stock items for every generation of 356. The company’s catalogue continues to develop, not least thanks to the customer-focused work of Chris Thwaites. A marque specialist with a seven-year history in Porsche sales, he joined Heritage Parts Centre as Porsche Business Development Manager in 2019. “I love asking people which parts they are unable to source and which existing components they think need to be improved,” he says. “After all, those of us working at Heritage Parts Centre know what it means to spend money on a cherished car and, importantly, we want to make sure we’re offering the right parts at the right prices.”
As a direct result of customer feedback and demand, Heritage Parts Centre now stocks a 930-derived tie rod upgrade kit suitable for early 911s, as well as a sunroof delete panel for all air-cooled 911s. “Customers requested both parts on several occasions. We listened to what they wanted,” Chris confirms. As far as the sunroof delete is concerned, with no suitable solution available elsewhere, Heritage Parts Centre designs and fabricates the entire roof section in-house. In fact, it’s the first dedicated Porsche product the company has developed. It won’t be the last. “There isn’t a single person working here who doesn’t have a passion for
at least one Porsche or Volkswagen model,” Barney grins. “Chris is a former Porsche sales manager who understands the slightest variations between different models, and Julian Carter, a member of our Porsche product team, knows how to read air-cooled engine and chassis numbers perfectly. Expertise matters to us.” Several staff also drive a Porsche of their own: Community and Public Relations Manager, Andy Gregory, owns a subtly modified 944, the company’s Head of Digital, Rob Tickner, owns a 986-generation Boxster and Barney adores his 997 Carrera. They use their personal experiences to find solutions to issues Porsche owners don’t even know they have. For example, Chris has recently been thinking about the sticky and frustrating feel of the climate control buttons fitted to 987 Boxsters/caymans and 997-generation 911s. “The rubberised surfaces degrade with age,” he explains. “Previously, the only solution to the problem was to replace the entire panel. Despite there being no obvious demand, we introduced a pack of replacement buttons. It has become one of our best sellers!” A range of twenty-nine different Porsche engine servicing kits is proving equally successful. Designed for the home mechanic and professional technician alike, these bundles come in an easy grab bag and combine everything you need to service whatever boxer you may be maintaining.
SECOND TO NONE
Component quality is another ongoing concern, with Heritage Parts Centre striving for parts as good (or better) as Porsche originals. “Everything we add to our range is of the highest quality,” says Chris.
“If a component doesn’t work properly, we’ll look for a new supplier.” Currently, he’s investigating a source for the manufacturing of historic Porsche taillights, catering for owners of the 356, 924, 944 and 968. “I’ll be analysing sample materials before deciding whether we should run with each supplier,” he stresses, acknowledging the high standard Porsche owners expect of the parts they fit to their cars.
The team is always happy to chat Porsches and Volkswagens, whether it’s across the Heritage Parts
IN TOTAL, HERITAGE PARTS CENTRE OFFERS MORE THAN 25,000 ITEMS BETWEEN ITS VW AND PORSCHE RANGES
Centre social media channels or at the company’s regular Heretics car meets.
“Getting to know customers is my favourite part of the job,” Chris muses. “People can see exactly what we’re about when they attend one of our shows.” The monthly event welcomes a capacity crowd of two-hundred cars to company headquarters for a night of music, food and socialising. An ever-growing Porsche contingent does its best to muscle the numbers, though like so many other aspects of life, the pandemic pressed pause on the events calendar, something Chris and the team are keen to resume as soon as lockdown restrictions lift.
In the meantime, enthusiasts can hop online and explore the product and social news published on the ever-developing Heritage Parts Centre website, which puts technical details and ease of use above all else, ensuring customers can find exactly what they need when they need it. “We’re in the process of carefully measuring the dimensions of each component, publishing our findings and detailing exactly which models each part should fit,” says Barney. “It’s our mission to share all the expertise we possibly can.”
Additionally, every item is monitored with live stock counter updating whenever parts are scanned in or out of the warehouse, taking the guesswork out of item availability.“Our Porsche offering might be relatively new, but everything we do is built on decades of experience working in the field of Volkswagen parts supply,” Barney continues. “The breadth of our range and the sheer scale of our parts availability set us apart from competitors, while our ability to design and produce parts inhouse gives us a hugely valuable tool to expand our Porsche catalogue in the coming years.” In total, Heritage Parts Centre offers more than 25,000 items between its core Volkswagen and Porsche ranges and dispatches more than a thousand packages every single day. “People don’t realise how big this operation is until they visit our busy warehouse,” Chris laughs.
A SECONDARY DISTRIBUTION CENTRE IN BREMEN, GERMANY, MAKES INTERNATIONAL DELIVERIES EVEN EASIER
SPEAK MY LANGUAGE
Orders arrive from suppliers all over the world, while the company offers diverse communications options to match — its online store can display text in English, German, Italian or Spanish, with prices calculated in Pounds Sterling, Australian Dollars, US Dollars or Euros.
Customers looking for the personal touch can chat with Heritage Parts Centre in a wide variety of languages, thanks to team members fluent in Spanish, Polish and Serbian, while remote team members in France, Germany, Indonesia and the United States look after their local markets. The global approach pays dividends, as proved by Barney’s team processing orders from 127 different countries in 2020.
A secondary distribution centre in Bremen, Germany, makes international deliveries even easier. Established in response to recently introduced post-brexit trade tariffs, the European facility ensures Heritage Parts Centre can continue to dispatch packages across the continent quickly and, crucially, at the advertised price. The physical presence in Volkswagen and Porsche’s home market also improves relationships with several suppliers, not least Volkswagen Classic Parts — Heritage Parts Centre serves as the official UK supplier for the 60,000-product Classic Parts range, having been selected for the role back in 2011.
Three and a half decades have passed since Karmann Classics opened its doors. Pleasingly, Heritage Parts Centre is busier than ever. Porsche and Volkswagen feature equally in the company’s future, but don’t think further expansion will come at the expense of the friendly, people-first approach the West Sussex brand has become known for. “Of course, we’re a far bigger business than we were, but family culture still matters to us,” says Barney. “The social connections we make with the Porsche and Volkswagen enthusiast communities are everything. Ultimately. we’re enthusiasts working for enthusiasts, just like we always have been.”