IN­SIDE PORSCHE CLAS­SIC

Is Porsche Clas­sic a mar­ket­ing ploy, or is there real ben­e­fit to own­ers of older cars? To­tal 911 heads to a cer­ti­fied Clas­sic cen­tre to find out

Total 911 - - T911 Investigates: Porsche Classic - Writ­ten by Chris Ran­dall Pho­tog­ra­phy by louis Ruff

What do you re­ally know about Porsche’s Clas­sic scheme? We’ll ad­mit we only had a rea­son­able han­dle on what it of­fered, from at­trac­tively pack­aged oils to “ac­cess to more than 50,000 orig­i­nal parts”, as Porsche’s mar­ket­ing teams have been at pains to point out. We’ve also seen the usual main­te­nance and restora­tion ser­vices, not to men­tion the Porsche Clas­sic Reg­is­ter, of­fer­ing own­ers some tempt­ing perks.

We’d nev­er­the­less just dis­missed it all as mere mar­ket­ing ad­junct to the nor­mal OPC ac­tiv­ity, and wanted to dis­cover whether it re­ally was lit­tle more than PR smoke and mir­rors or of real ben­e­fit to those that cher­ish their clas­sic Ne­unelfers. There’s been a mixed re­ac­tion to the scheme among the wider Porsche spe­cial­ist in­dus­try too: one spe­cial­ist we spoke to ques­tioned the at­ten­tion to de­tail when it came to pre­par­ing cars to orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tion, although it’s rea­son­able to view Porsche Clas­sic as an at­tempt to counter such crit­i­cisms. That said, an­other spe­cial­ist took a more pos­i­tive view, see­ing it as re­in­forc­ing the ap­peal of clas­sic mod­els and Porsche’s sup­port of them, although they felt that it may take a lit­tle time for staff to gain the sort of ex­pe­ri­ence that spe­cial­ists have built up over years of deal­ing with clas­sics. Ei­ther way, more in­ves­ti­ga­tion is needed, which brings us to Porsche Clas­sic Cen­tre Swin­don, run by the Dick Lovett group, where Clas­sic man­ager Stephen Brown is await­ing us.

Some back­ground first: it was back in Novem­ber 2015 when the first Porsche Clas­sic Cen­tre opened, lo­cated at Porsche Cen­tre Gelder­land in The Nether­lands. It was the first time the usual sales and ser­vice of­fer­ings had been aimed ex­clu­sively at clas­sic mod­els which, given our spe­cific in­ter­est here, en­com­passed 911s up to and in­clud­ing the 996. Promis­ing spe­cially trained staff and a sep­a­rate area within an OPC, the scheme would be rolled out world­wide with cho­sen deal­er­ships cer­ti­fied as ‘Porsche Clas­sic Part­ners’. In the UK the first two opened in Leeds and Hat­field in 2015, fol­lowed by Glas­gow and Swin­don a year later. As with all of the sites their ap­pli­ca­tions re­quired ap­proval from both Porsche GB and Porsche AG, while de­tailed train­ing of sales staff and tech­ni­cians was a pr­ereq­ui­site of their join­ing the pro­gramme, fol­lowed by rig­or­ous au­dit­ing to en­sure stan­dards re­mained high.

Porsche wouldn’t be drawn on the ex­act cri­te­ria used to de­ter­mine ap­proval, although it did say that the mar­ket po­ten­tial in any given area is one con­sid­er­a­tion, as is the cap­i­tal in­vest­ment re­quired by the deal­er­ship and the scope to ac­com­mo­date

a clas­sic-spe­cific area. That may be why, in the UK at least, the four cen­tres cho­sen seem to cover the north, east and west of Eng­land, plus one in Scot­land. Per­haps in time we can there­fore ex­pect a Clas­sic cen­tre to open up on the South Coast. Again, Porsche wouldn’t com­ment on this, but did add that any fu­ture ex­pan­sion would take into ac­count the size of the clas­sic mar­ket in a re­gion and how pos­i­tive an im­pact an ad­di­tional Part­ner would have on the Porsche Clas­sic busi­ness. The ex­ist­ing skillset of staff is also taken into ac­count, and any po­ten­tial Clas­sic Part­ner would need to com­mit in­vest­ment in rais­ing those skills fur­ther. It’s cer­tainly not just a case of smart new sig­nage ap­pear­ing on the wall. Only time will tell, but we have dis­cov­ered that Porsche is in­vest­ing plenty of re­sources, in­clud­ing the re-in­tro­duc­tion of around 300 pre­vi­ously un­ob­tain­able parts per year – some of which utilise 3D metal-print­ing tech­nol­ogy.

It sounds im­pres­sive so far, but back in Swin­don Stephen shows us to the Cen­tre’s ‘Clas­sic Cor­ner’ and, while it is mod­est in the phys­i­cal sense, it clearly in­di­cates to cus­tomers there is some­thing dif­fer­ent about this par­tic­u­lar show­room. That a stun­ning 356 is po­si­tioned nearby on the day we visit re­in­forces the im­pres­sion, but we also can’t fail to miss the beau­ti­fully pre­pared 993 C4 Coupe sit­ting amidst the dis­play boards show­ing Porsche his­tory through the years. Although tech­ni­cally for sale, it is ac­tu­ally a demon­stra­tion car that prospec­tive own­ers can try to see if a clas­sic 911 is re­ally for them. An ini­tia­tive unique to Swin­don, it’s a clear demon­stra­tion of the flex­i­bil­ity af­forded to Clas­sic Part­ners, and one Stephen is rightly proud of. We think it’s a great idea.

As we talk fur­ther we dis­cover he’s an SC owner him­self (his fa­ther drives a 993) and the ob­vi­ous en­thu­si­asm for the older cars is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent. In fact, it’s that ‘emo­tional’ side of things that he feels is at the heart of the Clas­sic Part­ner pro­gramme. While you’ll not be sur­prised to learn that those work­ing in sales and ser­vice at an OPC love their Porsche, what dif­fer­en­ti­ates those work­ing at some­where like Swin­don – and in­deed the other Clas­sic Part­ners in the UK – is a real pas­sion for the older cars. “With a chair­man [Peter Lovett] that has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of clas­sic Porsche, that pas­sion fil­ters down to the whole team,” says Stephen, whose en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious, some­thing that cus­tomers would quickly pick up on. He ex­plains: “Be­com­ing Clas­sic man­ager means I’m im­mersed in a world I know and love out­side of work.” Are we con­vinced?

Well, surely the work­shop will just be the usual area filled with mod­ern 911s, Boxsters and SUVS in for ser­vic­ing with lit­tle ev­i­dence of a pas­sion for clas­sics, won’t it? That’s our next stop, and as we en­ter the ul­tr­a­clean and qui­etly in­dus­tri­ous space our eyes im­me­di­ately fall on the 964 Turbo wear­ing

Mid­dle Eastern num­ber plates. Oh yes, and the su­perbly re­stored SC and, whis­per it within these pages, there’s a 968 in the same colour that looks boxfresh. This lat­ter car isn’t ex­actly To­tal 911 fare, but it’s sit­ting in the ded­i­cated bay re­quired as part of Clas­sic Part­ner cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and it looks stun­ning close up. Be­ing pre­pared for a clas­sic mo­tor show, where it will join other older mod­els pre­pared by Clas­sic Part­ners, the tech­ni­cian work­ing on the car proudly shows us the work he’s done, and his en­thu­si­asm is clear. “I love en­gi­neer­ing, and work­ing on cars has been a pas­sion from an early age,” says Kevin Allen, “but now, as Clas­sic lead tech­ni­cian I’ll never work for an­other mar­que.”

“I can ask Porsche for a batch of 2.7 RS rear quar­ter pan­els, which is a pretty amaz­ing ser­vice to have”

The 930 LE we’re shown that had just re­ceived a de­tailed and lengthy en­gine re­build is rather tasty, too. It seems that any given week could see up to half of the cars in the work­shop be­ing clas­sics, and it’s worth not­ing that tech­ni­cians need to vol­un­teer for the ex­ten­sive train­ing that brings clas­sic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, so those that do are clearly ex­cited by the prospect of spend­ing more time on older mod­els. There’s also greater flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to the cost of work as op­posed to the lim­i­ta­tions of menupric­ing for mod­ern Porsche – an­other ex­am­ple of how a Clas­sic Part­ner can do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently.

Of course, there are other as­pects to the busi­ness be­sides main­te­nance and restora­tion, the parts de­part­ment well-versed in sup­ply­ing clas­sic parts to both own­ers and in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ists. Stephen ex­plains: “Like all of the af­ter­sales team they re­ceive spe­cial train­ing, and ac­cess to Porsche ‘Spe­cial Pro­cure­ment’ is es­pe­cially ex­cit­ing as it means we can re­quest the re­man­u­fac­ture of rare parts. For ex­am­ple, I can ask Porsche for a batch of 2.7 RS rear quar­ter pan­els, which is a pretty amaz­ing ser­vice to have.” Surely any Porsche Cen­tre would be able to re­quest this ser­vice if a 2.7 RS cus­tomer wanted a restora­tion, though?

Sales will al­ways be at the core of any OPC’S work, and you can be sure they too will have re­ceived ex­ten­sive lev­els of ad­di­tional, clas­sic-re­lated train­ing, should you choose to visit your near­est Clas­sic cen­tre. Sales does present a few chal­lenges, ad­mits Stephen, mostly around guid­ing cus­tomers dur­ing a clas­sic 911 pur­chase and manag­ing ex­pec­ta­tions. As he ex­plains: “They could well be new to an older car, so it’s im­por­tant to en­sure they ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ent driv­ing and own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence so they go away happy.” It’s easy to see how that 993 demon­stra­tion car is a use­ful tool.

And with a ded­i­cated buyer and fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers for the clas­sic side of the busi­ness, it’s be­com­ing ob­vi­ous that it’s no mere lip ser­vice be­ing paid to the older cars.

And, hav­ing men­tioned the greater flex­i­bil­ity that a Clas­sic Part­ner en­joys, we’re also im­pressed to learn of ‘Porsche Clas­sic Life’ at the Bices­ter Her­itage site in Ox­ford­shire. Run by the team at

Dick Lovett, it’s the only stand­alone of­fi­cial Clas­sic Cen­tre in the UK and is housed in one of the site’s orig­i­nal WWII fire sta­tions. Po­ten­tial own­ers can take ad­van­tage of ac­ces­sories on sale, as well as an in­spec­tion ramp, while the pri­vate test track can be a great in­tro­duc­tion to the joys of an older 911. Charm­ingly quirky, this cer­tainly doesn’t feel like the usual iron-fisted con­trol that Porsche ex­hibits when it comes to its premises. And given the gen­eral en­thu­si­asm around Bices­ter Her­itage at the mo­ment it demon­strates a flex­i­bil­ity to re­act to the de­mands of the clas­sic car mar­ket­place.

Our meet­ing with Steven over, we pre­pare to head off, but not with­out tak­ing a mo­ment to re­flect on what we’ve seen. Be­fore ar­riv­ing in Swin­don we cer­tainly felt we needed to be fully con­vinced that Porsche Clas­sic is a wor­thy ad­di­tion to the brand that of­fers real value to cus­tomers; that it re­ally did add to the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence in a mean­ing­ful way. We’re fairly cer­tain now that it does add some value, though ques­tions re­main as to the real dif­fer­ence in ser­vice be­tween a Clas­sic cen­tre and a nor­mal OPC: for ex­am­ple, if the owner of a clas­sic 911 wanted his or her car to be re­stored at a main dealer, is us­ing a Clas­sic cen­tre a ne­ces­sity when tech­ni­cians at a ‘nor­mal’ OPC of­ten have years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with clas­sic cars any­way?

This scheme is still a rel­a­tively new ad­di­tion to the OPC net­work but, hav­ing seen the pas­sion for clas­sics that ex­ists here, it cer­tainly presents an­other tempt­ing op­tion for those with an older 911 – and choice will al­ways be good for the cus­tomer.

Thanks

Thanks to Si­mon Lise­more, cen­tre prin­ci­pal at Porsche Cen­tre Swin­don, and Stephen Brown for their time and help with this fea­ture

Below left A cer­ti­fied Clas­sic Cen­tre won’t just have 992s and Ap­proved Used 991s in the show­room

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