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Lee’s 996 Carrera 4S diary: the first big spend

It’s been a busy period for my C4S as after five months of ownership, I’ve finally needed to spend out on something other than fuel for it. I’ve previously mentioned the car needed new brakes and tyres all round, and they’ve now been replenished after a trip to Porsche Centre Bournemouth. For the brakes I was happy to stick with an OEM-spec setup as in my view if those Big Reds are good enough for a 996 Turbo they’re good enough for a 996 C4S. I bought the brake discs and pads separately from Heritage Parts Centre last month, which arrived promptly and had been sitting at my house waiting for a gap in my diary to take the car to Porsche.

That day arrived in early September and I whisked the car over to OPC Bournemouth where it’d be under the stewardship of one Scott Gardner, whom you’ll recognize in the pictures as our very own ‘ask the expert’ from the front of the magazine. Scott had the discs, pads, wear sensors and anti squeal shims (I had to buy the latter separately) swapped over in three hours without a hitch – you do always assume with a 996 that there is going to be a hitch, be it something as simple as a sheared bolt or ripped thread, which can delay even the most simplest of tasks.

Heritage Parts Centre are new to the Porsche industry but I was very pleased with the quality of the brakes, which all married up absolutely fine into my calipers and onto my hubs. Again it sounds obvious but I’ve had wrong parts turn up from other suppliers in the past and this only leads to a frustrating scenario when work has to be stopped because the part doesn’t quite match up. This wasn’t the case here though, and Heritage Parts Centre come highly recommended from me. The brakes will take a bit of time to bed in but already I’m noticing much sharper response to brake pedal applications, which has already inspired me to push the car a little harder.

I also addressed the worn rear Continental tyres by replacing them with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport tyres all round. N4 rated (a higher ‘N’ rating means more recent tyre technology has been used), I was recommended them by a Michelin representative when I told him the car is used for shopping runs, plenty of fast road driving and the occasional track day. I’ve never actually ran Michelin tyres on any of my own cars before but have always enjoyed them on other 911s (Pilot Sport Cup 2s are surely the best road tyre ever to grace a 911) and am really looking forward to exploring their limits in the coming weeks. More on their performance will be found in a coming update.

It’s standard procedure for Porsche to health check your car while it’s on the ramps, so Scott and I had a good look around underneath the C4S once all the work was done. I was very happy with Scott’s exemplary comments as regards to its overall health and condition – he was shocked when he found out I’m the 11th owner – and his remarks has only further endorsed my decision to purchase this cracking 911 in the first place. Thanks to the guys at Porsche Centre Bournemouth for stellar service as always – now, I can’t wait to wrack up some miles with my new toys courtesy of Heritage Parts and Michelin!

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: OPC v independent specialists

It’s the age-old debate for Porsche owners the world over: do I take my 911 to my local Porsche Centre or an independent specialist for servicing? In years gone by Porsche Centres have seen a phenomenal customer base drop out of the network once their cars are out of warranty (which is two years, unless an optional third year is purchased as an extra at the point of sale). This clientele has willingly been picked up by a healthy array of independent businesses renowned for their Porsche specialism. However, Porsche Centres have fought back, lowering labour costs and introducing specially-appointed ‘Classic Centres’ to fashion a very competitive servicing and maintenance marketplace. This is great news for owners of non-new 911s.

So which is best? Well, the answer will often come down to personal preference – and as a newcomer to Porsche ownership, I’m excited to decide for myself. As you may recall, last month I purchased a second-generation Carrera 4 as my own ‘project 996’ from independent specialists RPM Technik, who had taken one in as part exchange and gave me a trade deal in light of the fact the car needed some attention in order to be considered ‘ready to retail’. Before collecting the 996, I was given a printout of RPM’s pre-purchase inspection, which resembles the 110-point check undertaken at an OPC (a common practise among reputable specialists).

The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.

The 996 gets a CSR lightweight flywheel before its PPI and collection.

In RPM’s report I found nothing of immediate mechanical concern, with just the following points of contention: the power steering pipe crimping is starting to split (a common problem, 996 owners), front and rear lower arm bushes are delaminating, and my A/C condensers are in need of replacement. The report showed I’d bought a good car, however the inevitable question soon surfaced at the forefront of my mind: would Porsche themselves view my 996 in the same way? I was eager to find out.

At the start of the month I visited my local OPC, Porsche Centre Bournemouth, where Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, booked my car in for a complimentary health check. I returned to the Centre just days later, dropping off my C4 and collecting a 981 Cayman loan car in return. The inevitable ‘sweetener’ before a financial hammer blow when said health check was complete, perhaps? I was fearful.

However, I need not have worried. Around four hours into temporary Cayman possession, I received a concise email from Richard containing a first-person video assessment of the 996. You can see the video for yourself here: Senior Technician, Nick Perry (who incidentally has more than 25 years of experience at Porsche Centre Bournemouth) provided a comprehensive breakdown of the car in just three minutes, picking up on the same points made in the PPI from RPM Technik. Three notes to consider from the video: I do indeed have a CSR lightweight flywheel fitted to the car, I covered 1,700 miles between the PPI and health check, which is when the tyre gash likely occurred, and Porsche Bournemouth were not aware of my 996’s PPI at the time of the health check being conducted.

Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee's ownership of the car.

Porsche Centre Bournemouth carried out a complimentary health check on the 996 one month into Lee’s ownership of the car.

After collecting my 996 from the Porsche Centre, I was happy, relieved and suitably impressed, the latter thanks to two key points of the health check. First was the video link which, though commonplace today at many manufacturer service centres, elucidates transparency. Unedited video evidence is unequivocal: I can see for myself what niggles Nick had found, giving me confidence that I’m not being fleeced. Second was Nick’s mechanical sympathy. Rather than just proffer that I replace anything remotely worn – a stigma often associated with a Porsche Centre in general – I was told, for example, that my exhaust nuts have one year left and that the lower arm bushes are perishing but useable. I appreciated that greatly.

What have I learned? For starters, RPM Technik are excellent. Their PPI was meticulous, easy to understand and, above all, accurate. My Porsche Centre experience was also exceedingly pleasant: I felt as welcome in my 996 as the rather more fortunate chap next to me collecting his 991.2 C4S, and was bouyed by the knowledge of the technicians and Senior Service Advisor, Richard Pearce, who knew his way around my 996 far better than even I did. Both businesses have therefore given me complete confidence in them caring for and maintaining my 996 going forward. Of course, the real battle will commence when parts need to be ordered – more on that soon…

Got any thoughts on the OPC vs independent specialist debate? Share your comments with us below.

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Canford Classics

How many people in the Porsche 911 world do you know with a PhD in seabed geomorphology? I’d hazard a guess that, right now, you’re struggling to conjure up even a single name.

That is unless you know Alan Drayson, founder of Canford Classics (a man who knows more about the shallow water seabed formations around the Dorset coastline than most).

“Once I finished [in higher education], I started a business in what the PhD was about,” Drayson explains. With an office and a staff of ‘sometimes ten to 12 people’, he went to work in a suit until ‘the grating lifestyle’ caught up with him.

“I’ve been working on cars since I was a kid, like kids do when you transfer from your BMX to a motorbike and a motorbike to a car,” enthuses Drayson. “I bought my first Porsche – a 912 from America – when I was 17. I had that for six months and realised there was no power, so I put a 911 engine in it at 18 years old!”

Along with classic Volkswagens (his first car was a Beetle), Drayson has always had a passion for Porsches. During his PhD studies he “probably imported between 30 and 40 911s from America. Maybe more.”

After work and on weekends, Drayson could be found in his garage working on cars until his future wife, Dominique (now sales and marketing manager at Canford) said, “Why don’t you just carry on and do this full-time?” That moment, “eight or nine years ago”, was the birth of Canford Classics.

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The Dorset countryside is home to many wondrous vistas. But, if you can pull yourself away from the outstanding natural beauty of the area, there are not many sights more visually arresting than the daily scene at Canford.

Nestled away in a quiet corner between Dorchester and Poole (near the coast that Alan studied for his PhD) the pastoral premises is a veritable cornucopia of classic 911s for, if you want your air-cooled Neunelfer returned to a factory fresh finish, there are not many better than Drayson’s team. Chasing the perfect restoration is undeniably their raison d’être.

“I just absolutely enjoy it,” Drayson beams. “I still don’t take compliments that easily though, to be honest,” he adds. He’s remarkably modest for a man of his talents.

In issue 126, we drove a 1972 2.4E fastidiously restored by Canford Classics and described it as “perfection.” However, Alan isn’t satisfied: “I still think there’s more to learn.

There are better ways and there are always different processes to try, different techniques, and we’re forever trying to investigate, down to making your own specific tools, using different paint finishes, different guns on different paints. We always want to get better.”

And, by his own admission, he does feel that they’re moving forwards. In the eight issues that have passed since that remarkable test drive, Drayson’s team have improved to the point where he admits that he is “probably doing two or three days work for free” whenever a car they restored three or four years ago returns to their rural workshop.

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“I’ll go, ‘Oh, we used the wrong bolt there’ or ‘We’ve remade that part now, I’ll go and fit it for free.’ But I probably don’t tell half our customers,” he jokes.

It’s that sort of passion for his job that puts Canford Classics a step ahead of many in the Porsche 911 restoration game. But it’s not just Alan who has such enthusiasm; the entire team have an insatiable passion for Porsches, something you can always see on their faces whenever you visit their den, deep in the Dorset countryside.

“All of them are second to none,” Drayson points out. High praise indeed. Passion can only take you so far in any business though. Thankfully, Alan and the team have the skill to back it up, something that is led by Drayson’s years of experience.

“When I started detailing suspensions, trying new processes, and posting on forums, no one else did that kind of thing,” he explains. “Now it’s a standard practice to show a photo of every single part [during a restoration].”

Much of Alan’s almost boundless knowledge of early Porsches is self-taught. Somewhere, between the PhD and the time fettling in the garage, he found the hours to search and read everything he could about classics 911s, absorbing it all.

Today, the man is a walking encyclopaedia of Zuffenhausen trivia, with all that learning – which Drayson is adamant continues to this day – passing into each restoration. Canford’s quality, as that 2.4E proved, is second to none, something Alan feels is a result of his PhD studies:

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“Every single sentence had to have a reason for being there. Otherwise my supervisor would say, “Why are you writing that?” That level of detail is what transfers into our cars.”

In order to control that quality, most of the work for any restoration is carried out in-house. Engine and gearbox work is done upstairs (a few paces away from an Aladdin’s cave of spare parts), with Canford able to do everything from cylinder head and engine case work to crankshaft polishing, while the lathe is used “to make all the little bits and bobs that you need” during any rebuild.

They’ve also just started remaking carpet in collaboration with a carefully chosen supplier, while the planning permission was recently granted to move their paint shop next to the main workshop – a move that will give Alan even greater control over auditing.

Having sprayed a few cars in his youth, he’s even going to pick up a gun and get in the booth himself, just so that he can get some experience and understand what it’s like.

For Drayson, it’s important to be on the shop floor rather than behind a desk. Identifying as a mechanic first and foremost, he is most comfortable when in overalls.

Away from the much-vaunted restorations, is there anything else Alan wants to shout about? “It’s really difficult, because we do pretty much anything and everything,” he explains.

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And, with a little bit of digging, it becomes clear that they really do, from Fuchs refurbishment and seat retrimming to simple servicing for their loyal base of enthusiastic customers.

The big thing is the new showroom, housed inside a converted mill. A simple space big enough for four cars, the building marks a new step forward for Canford.

“I’d love to afford cars like Hexagon but this business started from £1 and me,” explains Drayson, pointing out that cars featured in the showroom will be a mixture of sale-or-return stock and 911s owned by the business. Alan wants to keep it simple, providing customers with one or two options rather than “snow-blind them with 50 cars.”

Having been running for “maybe eight or nine years and only just able to develop a showroom,” he is aware that it’s taken some time for Canford to expand in this direction. But he’s sure that now is the right moment: “It’s organic growth. You get to the stage where it’s right to do and it’s necessary.”

With such a pragmatic approach to business, it’s no wonder that Canford Classics has quietly built up such a mighty reputation. With an unerring focus on knowledge and quality, their handiwork is deservedly renowned. It would be surprising if, in years to come, their retailing doesn’t come with a similar seal of approval.

Proprietor: Alan Drayson
First opened: 2007
Location: Winterborne Kingston, Dorset, UK
Rarest 911 through the workshop: The 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show car, a Porsche 930 3.3 painted in a three-stage pearlescent gold. “They only painted three cars in that colour, and that was the only 911,” explains Drayson.
Favourite Porsche 911: “Probably a 2.2S. People’s favourite cars tend to be based on experience and, in my university years, I had a Signal orange, right-hand drive, 2.2S. I just had so much fun in that thing!”

Website: www.canfordclassics.co.uk
Telephone: (+44) 01929 472221

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2015 Total 911 Awards night “a resounding success”

The inaugural Total 911 Awards took place last night at Hexagon Modern Classics in event dubbed “a resounding success” by Editor, Lee Sibley, a sentiment echoed by the 150 guests from around the international Porsche 911 industry.

“To have so many representatives from right across the international Porsche spectrum under one roof made for a very special occasion and I’m delighted for the winners of our prestigious awards, who have rightly had their year-round hard work recognised,” Sibley explained. “Already, we look forward to the 2016 Awards for what will be the night to look forward to each and every year for the Porsche industry going forward.”

At the lavish ceremony, the ten reader-shortlisted award were snaffled by eight different winners, with independent specialist, Autofarm and 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Nick Tandy the most successful, taking home two trophies apiece.

Total 911 Awards ceremony

Autofarm secured ‘Best Independent – Servicing’ and ‘Best 911 Restoration Specialist’ while Tandy triumphed in the ‘Best Motorsport Individual/Team’ and ‘Porsche Personality of the Year’ categories, capping off what has been a hugely successful year for the British Porsche ace.

The hosts, Hexagon Modern Classics were presented with the Editor’s Choice Award at the end of the evening as recognition for all their effort in making the first Total 911 Awards become a reality.

Elsewhere, Porsche Bournemouth took ‘Best OPC – Sales’, with Porsche Silverstone securing the partner award for servicing, while Paragon won ‘Best Independent Specialist – Sales’.

Total 911 Awards Nick Tandy

Nine Excellence went home with the gong for ‘Best 911 Tuner’, Adrian Flux walked away with ‘Best Porsche Insurance Specialist’ and Porscheshop (an early supporter of Nick Tandy’s racing career) secured ‘Best Aftermarket Porsche Product’.

Compered by Henry Hope-Frost, the ceremony was preceded by a Q&A session with factory Porsche driver, Tandy who revealed to the 150-strong crowd that he will, once again, be racing full-time for Weissach in 2016.

There was also an incredible display of cars for the assembled guests (some of whom had travelled from Germany and the USA to attend) including the one-of-a-kind Porsche 901 Cabriolet prototype and the latest 991 GT3 RS, the latter thanks to Porsche Cars GB.

Total 911 would once again like to thank all those who helped make the 2015 Awards a reality, from Hexagon Modern Classics, Porsche Design and Porsche Club GB to Poole Accident Repair and JZM. Also, hearty congratulations to all the award winners.

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