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The Three Porkers

Now, how did we manage this? It wasn't by design, I can tell you; the boys started it back in 2002 when Alex changed his Alfa Romeo GTV for the Porsche 968 you see in this photo. This car is a 1992 model coupe in Guards Red. At about the time he bought this car a friend of his bought a 1995 model 968 Sport in Iris Blue Metallic; Matthew followed later in the year with his 1990 model 944S2, in Linen Metallic. Alex has since bought his pal's blue 968 (he sold the red one on E Bay). The next time the three of us can get out with a camera in decent weather we'll do another "three Porkers" picture, using Alex's current blue car.

The boys' cars were featured in a recent article in the magazine "911 and Porsche World", accompanied by a photo-shoot at Cheltenham racecourse, where the above photo was taken. Something else that I am quite envious of is that Matthew has driven his 944S2 around the Nurburgring!

The Black Panther

I had been looking to buy "an indulgence"  car for about three or four years but I couldn't really make up my mind whether I wanted an old saloon of reasonable quality - I had in mind a fifties Rover or a Riley RME of the same era - or a sports car. Although I was sorely tempted by a Riley that was for sale at the Classic Car show (NEC 2000), I finally came down in favour of a more modern sports car. I think what settled it was the thought of going back to drum brakes, dynamo electrics, cross ply tyres, grease nipples, and the thought of bimbling around getting in everybody's way.

An old Porsche makes a lot of sense. Whilst cars like MGAs (not the MGB for goodness sake) and TRs were within my budget they were essentially cars from the 1950s. They still make my mouth water (especially the TR) but I don't think I'd want to run one. The thing about Porsches is that they are very nearly bullet proof. The four cylinder models that the boys have are fantastic, and the 944S2 in particular is very underrated. I finally settled on a 911. I could not run to a 993; I avoided the 964 because of its engine complexity and service costs (and the risks associated with engine oil leaks and dual mass flywheels), so I went looking for a 3.2 Carrera.

I looked at several and finally bought this 1986 Carrera 3.2 Targa, in Black.

I bought it in 2003 and it's done about 157,000 miles, but had an engine change in 2001. As far as I can tell from its extensive history and my own examinations it's original, apart from routine refurbishments like the Targa roof. It had some minor paint blemishes, and has had the odd panel re-sprayed, but I can't find any evidence of repair. I've now set about bringing the paintwork up to the standard I want. I had the off side B post and kidney bowl replaced in 2004 (although this was not an MOT issue I wanted it done), and I have done all the respray work myself. I used to do a lot of paint spraying back in the 1970s when my dad had a garage business.

What else has been done? Oh yes, there was the leaking fuel pipe that runs from the filter to the injector rails (passing under the inlet manifold). Porsche wanted about £400 for a new pipe assembly (the hose is not sold separately) but I removed the manifold and pipe, and got a local man in Chipping Sodbury to swage on a new piece of hose - all for the princely sum of £15 and a couple of evenings' work. I also had the near side front wheel (original Fuchs alloy) refurbished because it had a nasty kerb scuff in the outer face of the rim. It had to have a fillet welded in, and the whole wheel was then spun up and polished. The local firm made a nice job of it too, even if it did cost £235.

Lastly, I guess, was the gearbox re-build that Brian Woodward carried out in 2005. This attended to the worn out synchromesh on first and third, and Brian took the opportunity to fit a new clutch at the same time. All in all it was money well spent. I've often heard people whinge that a repair cost "more than the car is worth", and that may be true (but not in the case of the Porsche). However, you have to ask yourself "do I want to carry on driving this car in this state, or am I going to sell it on and try to convince the next owner that he should spend the money?"

So now (July 2006) it's just running sweetly. It's never been off the road as such, because I don't use it on wet roads anyway. That's nothing to do with wet weather handling, just a recognition that this car is 20 years old and galvanising doesn't last forever - especially when the car does not have wheel-arch liners like a modern car. Just to prove it, there's a little bit of welding that I need to attend to.

So, what's it like to drive? Wonderful! Plenty of power, good handling, and a sound that can only come from a flat-six Porsche. It's also wonderfully involving to drive, with a surprisingly comfortable ride. It has no power steering and the brakes, although servo assisted, are not the spongy affairs fitted to modern cars. They are best described as "wooden" - you just shove the pedal, and then shove it some more to stop even quicker. The gearbox takes a bit of getting used to, too. It's not slick and fast like a modern car and, together with the rather heavy long-throw clutch, needs a bit of practice. Once accustomed to it though, it's fine.

What it does do, is put a huge smile on your face when ever you drive it. People don't seem to want a "burn up", which is a good thing in today's speed camera environment. It's also reasonable to run, cost wise. Insurance (5000 miles per year classic policy) is about £420 and the car returns an average of 24 mpg, with 28 mpg easily achievable on a run. It uses a little oil; all these Porsches puff a little smoke on start up, due to the flat six configuration, but has only used about 2 litres since its last service four thousand miles ago.

I'm also fortunate in having Brian Woodward's independent Porsche garage at Rockhampton only three miles away; servicing costs are very reasonable (annual service is about £285), and Brian will carry out any specialist work that might be needed (the welding job, for example) at much less than a main dealer would charge. For those who watch BBC Top Gear and remember the three Porsches that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond bought for the London to Brighton stunt - Richard's Porsche 924 was in fine mechanical fettle, having been worked on in Rockhampton by Brian.

Update - January 2018

To bring things up to date: I put the car on SORN at the end of 2006, intending this to be for only a year or two - but that stretched to 8 years. I got the car transported to Brian Woodward's garage in January 2015, for him to recommission it. The brake calipers had partially seized and it was not running properly on 6 cylinders ... plus it needed a service and MOT.

Brian did a superb job. He removed and cleaned the injectors, freed up the brake calipers (fitted one new caliper), did some welding on the OS sill, and serviced and MOTd the car. Since then it's done over 600 miles (as at December 2017) and is running really well. I also had some paintwork attended to by a body shop at Rangeworthy Bodyworks (rear n/s wing and quarter panel that had started to craze). I chose this route, rather than spray it myself, because of the difficulty in obtaining cellulose paint nowadays. Wayne did a fine job.

So, it's now nearly 32 years old and insurance costs have fallen. I now have a policy with Footman James that costs me £185 per year for 2000 miles. I think the cost reflects the fact that the car is no longer really sought after by the "red braces brigade" and is getting to be a bit of a rarity. You don't see many 3.2 Carreras around these days. Also, when I bought the car the coupe was the sought after model and the Targa was regarded as second-best. Now, however, the Targa makes a lot of sense as a usable classic. This car is not used for track days and is really lovely to drive with the roof panel removed - even on a cool day; the heater is superb ... no air-con though.

Back in December 2017 I had Brian Woodward give the engine a top end overhaul (new valve guides and seals, piston rings, timing chains etc.) and it's now runnig sweeter than ever. I also got an age related registration number, in place of the Northern Ireland number. This has put it back on a C-plate, which looks right. I'm then going to use the car for the forseebale future. It's now done 162,000 miles but seems fine. It's value has increased significantly so if it needs any work I'll just take it on the chin.

The boys have moved on, car-wise. Alex now runs a BMW 335i that he bought new in 2008 and Matthew has a BMW 325 touring.