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Cris Huergas and the R Gruppe Book

Cris Huergas and the R Gruppe Book

The cool thing would perhaps be to quote Groucho Marx (“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”) but, when the late Cris Huergas sent me an email in 2007 to ask if I wanted to join the R Gruppe, it caught my attention.

Founding R Gruppe member, Gib Bosworth, owned several air-cooled 911s including a very original Carrera 3.0 (super rare in America as never sold new there) and found my 1976 Carrera 3.0 through He liked the community spirit I was building on the impact bumpers forum, with a focus on driving the cars, learning more about them and doing one’s own maintenance.

Gib’s view of what worked carried weight, and impactbumpers presented by Gib resonated with Cris. The fact that I was writing for pretty much all of the British Porsche magazines at the time didn’t hurt my case either, as Cris was into his car magazines. He overlooked the minor technicality that, although I did own a ’71 project bought from the Gruppe’s ‘Dutch chapter’, my ’76 was not a longhood – a membership must at the time. In any case, I got the email, paid my dues and was member number 466.

I remained with the Gruppe for more than ten years and spent lots of time with Cris on our California visits. He was a working guy who’d been through a few ups and downs, so 911 ownership was behind him by the time we hooked up but, as the Gruppemeister he always had shotgun, and many friends would happily lend him cars on events.

Cris Huergas (right) by Frank Kayser

He also loved to come out on shoots: the energy around these things was ridiculously infectious and Cris loved being in the thick of it. He usually knew much of the story behind the cars we were shooting, so period voice recordings invariably feature a high-pitched Huergas prompting the owner on something they forgot.

Our first meeting was at the Fogcatcher Inn on the Pacific Coast Highway in Cambria, California in 2008. Jamie (James Lipman) and I made our first trip from the UK to CA to see what went on at an R Gruppe Treffen and I decided we should shoot Bob Tilton and Chris Nielsen’s SWB 911s.

It is difficult to explain to recent arrivals to air-cooled Porsches just how unloved short-wheelbase cars were at the time. Super cheap and often scrapped, here were two guys who had invested heavily in two SWB 911s, spending well over market value to realise their individual visions in very different, but equally convincing ways.

Tilton and Nielsen were more than just 911 guys; they were tastemakers. Tilt was fastidious about every tiny detail and Nielsen matched his microscopic focus to the miligram. What I found within each of them was that they looked back for inspiration, but were not driven to mimic. They interpreted their influences rather than imitating them. This is what made their cars special and the two we had to shoot on that first trip to America.

In the years that followed, 911 prices took off into the stratosphere and R Gruppe became quite the sensation. Cris loved grass roots enthusiasts and would make an effort to talk to new faces. Someone with a cool 911 who came to a few meets and showed they were not a complete pain in the arse was generally given a number, but Cris would also occasionally slip numbers to people who maybe didn’t have the grass roots background, but turned up in a serious car. Maybe they didn’t build it, but they had a vision of quality that worked for him, and they had a clue about cars. Cris also brought in the occasional trophy member – which was not a bad thing.

Huergas was a serious petrolhead and, while he liked old 911s with patchwork-quilt provenance, he also knew a proper car. He and his brothers were all into cars, and the crew around Cris was similarly knowledgeable. It’s no accident that Cris started R Gruppe (so called in a play on words around “Our Group” and the underdog history of the 911R) with Freeman Thomas, one of the most respected car designers of the 20th century. Cris could hold his own in that sort of company and his inner circle were serious geeks when it came to details on more than just Porsches.

Still, it was always the garagistes that did it for me: home builders who had a vision and didn’t really care whether it fitted what has since become a fairly prescriptive early 911 recipe book. My favourite Cris quote is “everything you do is right” – meaning that, if you liked it, then who cared what anyone else thought?

Whether it was Bob Aines’ orange E that was driven from Texas to California every Treffen, Rolly Resos’ famous red and white car, Harvey Weidman’s Martini 911 or Gib’s beautiful Tour de France recreation, the early R Gruppe cars were incredibly elegant. The cars were my air-cooled royalty and their drivers were true elder statesmen, in every sense of the word. We never wrote features on any of the cars I mention above and I do not regret that: a magazine splash would have spoiled their allure. Better to shun such vulgarity.

That’s not to say that the Gruppe 911s we did shoot were anything less than superb. With so many great cars to choose from, and only four weeks a year to gather the material, we shot what we could get to and saved a few others for later. Not all of our cars came through the R Gruppe, but it was the main portal for some wonderful times and I remember them fondly. In the centre was Cris: always on the hunt for 911 fans to add to the cocktail shaker he called R Gruppe membership.

In the same way that Tilton and Nielsen expressed their 911 visions as a unified blend of countless influences, Huergas delivered his vision of the car park dinner party everyone wanted to be at in the shape of the R Gruppe. Now that Cris has left us, things are likely to change.

It is fortunate, therefore, that German photographer, Frank Kayser, captured the last months of R Gruppe under Huergas for The R Book. A look through some of Frank’s photos shows many familiar faces, all of whom were devoted to Cris for bringing them into the fold.

“I had complete creative freedom for this book,” says Frank, “so I got to document the things that inspire me: beautiful landscapes, cool dudes and loads of awesome cars. The old air-cooled Porsche is the connecting link of it all. The book is not just another coffee table book about cars, but my statement for analogue values such as freedom, friendship and the fun of experiencing the real world together.”

The R Book website describes this as a “10 x 13” coffee-table book of 580 pages that’s filled with 840 brilliant images of awesome cars, candid visits of member’s private garages, and beautiful Californian landscapes. Well written essays about the history and the attitude towards life of America‘s cult Porsche car club”, but to those who experienced the Gruppe under Cris, it will be more than that.

One of my favourite books bought this year is “The World’s Fastest Place”, by another German photographer, Alexandra Lier. Alexandra’s work (above) is exceptional, but I can only imagine how much more meaningful the book must be if you are part of the Bonneville Speed Week community, around whom this book is based.

Beautifully presented, the R Gruppe book is not cheap at €180, and it’s no substitute for being part of Huergas’ R Gruppe before the world went crazy for air-cooled but, for 911 fans looking for something to evoke memories of good times with friends and old Porsches, it is worth a look.

I leave the last word to my R Gruppe compadre, Guenter Kehr, who I climbed many Alpine passes with on the epic Twinspark Racing 2010 Bergmeister Tour: “More a piece of art than just a book, but great stuff for any Porsche guy and a great memory to the late Cris Huergas.”


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

RIP Hans Mezger

RIP Hans Mezger

Revered Porsche designer, Hans Mezger, has passed away at the age of 90. His career was spent exclusively at Porsche, where he oversaw many iconic developments, including the flat-six engine, the development of turbocharging, the 917’s flat-12 engine and the development of the successful 1.5-litre Formula 1 engine.

Born in 1929 in Ludwigsburg, just outside Stuttgart, Hans Mezger was the youngest of five children. The son of innkeeper parents, young Hans was captivated by aero engineering and motorsport.

His first experience of racing came in 1946, when he photographed Hans Stuck in a race for pre-war cars at Hockenheim. Continued fascination with racing led to studies in mechanical engineering at the Stuttgart Technical Colege (now the University of Stuttgart). Delayed entry to the course by a large influx of de-mobbed soldiers, he took a gap year to apprentice in the various arts of fabrication, exploring casting, machining and model making.

College transport was an NSU Lambretta, which was used right through the early years of his employment with Porsche in 1956, when the NSU was replaced by “an old and quite worn-out 356”.

Mezger said that he had twenty-eight job offers at the end of his college course, but Porsche was not in the pile. Keen to work in racing, he applied to the sports car manufacturer and got an interview. This was successful and he was initially directed towards the diesel engine programme. He made no secret of his desire to go racing and was moved to the engine calculations department.

Porsche looks back at Mezger’s career

The Porsche release on the death of Hans Mezger shares his career history:

Hans Mezger gained his first experience with the four-camshaft engine Type 547, developed a formula for calculating cam profiles and became part of Porsche’s first Formula 1 project in 1960. He was involved in the development of the 1.5-litre eight-cylinder Type 753 as well as the corresponding chassis of the 804.

His career included designing the world-famous “Mezger engine” for the 901 and 911 in the early 1960s. In 1965, Mezger was promoted to head of the department for race car design initiated by Ferdinand Piëch. The department was the key to a new quality and dynamism in motorsport for Porsche. It was an exciting, fascinating time in the mid-1960s. “Sometimes we also worked around the clock,” said Hans, “like in 1965 when we created the Ollon-Villars Bergspyder in just 24 days and shortly thereafter the 910.” With its construction of a tubular frame, fibreglass body and design for new Formula 1 tyre technology, it became the blueprint for all the race cars that were built in the years to follow.

Porsche also relied on this design principle for the development of the 917 in 1968. With the 917, the first overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans was now finally possible, and once again Ferdinand Piëch relied on the skilfulness of Hans Mezger, who was responsible for the overall construction of the vehicle and its 12-cylinder engine. The 917 dominated at Le Mans and in the World Sportscar Championship in 1970 and 1971.

In 1972 and 1973, and right from the start, the 917/10 and 917/30 showed good responsiveness even on the curvy stretches of the CanAm series, thanks to a novel exhaust turbocharging technology developed by Porsche itself. For the first time, turbocharging was successfully given a responsiveness that allowed racing cars and production vehicles to be used on all race tracks and public roads. A technology that makes Porsche a pioneer in this field and Mezger and his team brought to series production in 1974 in the form of the 911 Turbo. Many other victorious developments followed: for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Sportscar Championship and the US Indy series.

Perhaps the most outstanding project took off in 1981, when Ron Dennis and his McLaren racing team set out in search of a powerful turbo engine for Formula 1. In the end, Porsche was chosen and the decision was made to design and build a completely new engine, as well as to provide on-site support during the races. Again, Hans Mezger was the creative mastermind behind the 1.5-litre, V6 engine with an 80-degree bank angle, which would later produce more than 1000 PS. In 1984, Niki Lauda became world champion with it, and again in 1985, followed in 1986 by Alain Prost. The TAG Turbo won a total of 25 races, plus the two Constructors’ World Championships in 1984 and 1985. “This was a resounding success and also the most significant development contract for Porsche from an external company.

Mezger’s commitment to Porsche made him reject all offers from other manufacturers throughout his career and he still owned his 911 Carrera 3.0 in Grand Prix white – a coveted Porsche classic which has “his” engine. His loyalty and connection to Porsche was unbroken. He was available to journalists, technicians and interested fans as a discussion partner. The Porsche Museum hosted a celebration for his 90th birthday with family, friends and former companions. He accompanied Porsche at events, trade fairs and festivities until the very end.

A low profile in history

Mezger’s career is at the very heart of Porschelore. The engineer had a hand in pretty much everything until his retirement in 1993, but what is unusual is that his name has become widely known. Though Porsche has enjoyed the input of many great creative minds through its history, the company is not known for spotlighting individuals and allowing their names to be known in the way that Mezger’s became.

A look through the indices of serious Porsche literature shows scant mention of Mezger. “Excellence was Expected” mentions his name only twice across 1,500 pages: once in a photo caption and once in relation to cooling on Formula 1 engines. Paul Frère’s “Porsche 911 Story” again mentions Mezger only twice, both times in his capacity as head of engineering teams, rather than as a designer. Note that these books were written with substantial Porsche involvement.

Chris Harvey’s excellent “Porsche 911 in all its forms” has no mention of Mezger, nor does Ferry’s autobiography. So how do we read his importance?

While there is no doubt that Mezger’s enhanced profile is well-deserved, it is relatively recent and perhaps due in some part to the use of the Mezger name as a differentiator on 996 and 997 engines. The more reliable and higher power engines of the GT3 and Turbo models are now esteemed as Mezgers (by this logic, standard 996s and 997s must be non-Mezgers, but we’ll leave that stone unturned for now).

The long-running Porsche-Piëch feud and Stuttgart’s revisionist tendencies towards underplaying the role of Ferdinand Piëch in its history is another little throttle-push in favour of names such as Mezger, but no mention of Mezger in the story of Porsche would be complete without Piëch.

Hans Mezger and Ferdinand Piëch

Frère covers 911 engine development in detail, sharing how the programme started in the late 1950s under then Technical Director, Klaus von Rücker. Following the first unsuccessful engagement with Formula 1, Rücker left Porsche for BMW in 1962 and Hans Tomala was put in charge of everything to do with engineering on the 901 project.

An alumnus of Porsche’s tractor development team, Tomala was also responsible for engineering the 904. Harvey notes that Tomala’s first big decision for the 901/911 programme was to use the eight-cylinder F1 engine architecture as a basis for 901 engine development, rather than basing the six on Fuhrmann’s complex four-cylinder, which was being used in the 904. The second big decision was to use chain-driven cams.

While Harvey and Frère both note that Ferdinand Piëch was the engineer in charge of 911 engine development under Tomala from 1963, Porsche’s press release at the time of Piech’s death described his role as “an employee in the engine department”. Piëch apparently remained in this position until 1966, when Tomala was forced out over the handling of the SWB cars. Rather than introducing bodyshell changes that would allow production line workers to set the front strut angles, Tomala designed 11-kilo lumps of cast iron to be fixed to the 901’s front bumpers. While there is obviously much more to this story, Piëch replaced Tomala as development chief in 1966.

Once Piëch had control, the 911’s golden era – and the golden era of Porsche in racing – could begin. The 911 got a longer wheelbase, bigger engines with magnesium crankcases, lighter bodyshells and more. Simultaneous to 911 deveopment, Piëch developed the 908 and the 917. While there is little mention of Mezger in most of the history books, it should be clear that one man leant on the other and their partnership (along with the rest of their teams), became the stuff of legend.

Give thanks for Hans Mezger

However one views the story of Porsche, the role of Piëch and the countless unnamed engineers who contributed to the success of the sports car from Stuttgart, one cannot understate the importance of Mezger in the history of air-cooled Porsches, and it is right that his name is revered. As we live through the closing stages of the internal combustion era and prepare for a new automotive world, Mezger leaves an exceptional legacy in the story of great engine developments.

Before turning the key, all those who sit with a Mezger engine behind them should offer quiet thanks for what they are about to receive. You own a small part of a special history that will not be forgotten.

All credit to Hans – RIP.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

How to sell your Porsche privately

How to sell your Porsche privately

I had a pre-sale Porsche valuation request from Lauren last week on her 2008 Porsche 997 Carrera 4 Cabriolet with just over 50k miles. Having just claimed the car back from a dealer who had failed to sell it for more than three months, she was about to sell it privately. Where should it be listed and for what price?

Sell your Porsche step 1: be a motivated seller

Lauren had been ready to sell this car for four months, so she was now super motivated and a quick private sale was her top priority. Following a bit of research and with no male bias about asking for help (men rarely ask for help, which causes many other issues), she came to me. Nothing reinforces the internal message ‘I am motivated to do X’ more than consulting a professional for input.

Having secured many quick and enjoyable sales over thirty years in the motor trade, there are several components which are essential to getting this done. The first step is to be motivated. If you’re going to tell potential buyers “if I don’t get the price I want then I will just keep it”, then step away from the keyboard. You are not motivated, the ad will frustrate serious buyers and advertising your car for sale now could hurt later sales attempts.

Be a motivated seller and ensure that your ad expresses this loud and clear. Get the car cleaned, take some great photos (i.e. not in your driveway unless the house is fantastic) and write a good ad. If you can’t write a good ad, invest a bit of money with someone like me and I’ll write it for you.

Presenting the car properly shows buyers that you are motivated. The text must reinforce that motivation. Efficient text with no errors, typos, or fluff assures buyers that time spent building a deal with you is unlikely to be wasted. Astute buyers react favourably to assertiveness and mirroring behaviour identifies a seller’s readiness as a call to action. While being friendly and personable is an important component of all sales, you must ensure that your response to all contacts is primarily clear and concise.

A prime example of how not to deliver clear and concise contacts is using your landline phone number in the ad (something that anyone could answer) or replying to an enquiry with “I will check later and email you back”. Always reply with the information, not a holding email. Always thank people for the enquiry and add any questions you might have in response. The number one thing to ask back is a version of “where are you in terms of readiness to buy?”

The three parts of a Porsche buying journey

Remember ACD: the three parts of the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration, and decision. Studies show that, by the time a buyer looks at sales, they are as much as 90% of the way through their buying journey. The buyer you want is through stage one, most of stage two and approaching stage three: the point of decision. You want that buyer to contact you. If your ad is not getting this reaction, then assume something somewhere is wrong. If you have done your homework, motivated buyers should be reading your ad and getting in touch.

A note on ‘timewasters’

Once the ad goes live, private sellers need to watch carefully, as it is easy to invest time into answering enquiries from people who are not at the end of stage two. Knowledgeable private sellers educating buyers so they can go off and buy another car costs time and attention that should be spent on better leads. This ‘educational time’ is what drives many people to burn out on sales and say something like “so many timewasters and tyre kickers on eBay” or whatever.

Most of these people are not timewasters – they are just not far enough along in the buying process for your purposes. Dealer margins account for some of the time these people occupy, but private sales have no such luxury. So be mindful of qualifying your buyer contacts – not all leads are the same. Educate people when they have invested some effort and come to see the car. Add any obvious missing info to your sales text. Remember: “where are you in terms of readiness to buy?”

Back to consumer psychology

The psychology is clear: buyers who have completed stages one and two now either change their requirements and go back to stage one or they move to decision. Assuming they have stayed with stage three and are now looking through your ad, your ad must move them deep into that final stage. If you can get them most of the way through, you may well sell your car without a viewing.

If the right buyer is given the right information and the right opportunity at the right time, they do not need to touch the product. It makes no odds that this is a £30k car: if a buyer is happy buying a toaster online, then they will happily buy a car online, assuming it’s presented properly.

This absolutely works. I have sold many cars and motorbikes to people who sent the money before collecting their purchase. So the first important step is to show you are motivated, by presenting your item well and with plenty of detail in the ad text. We will explore the text in a bit.

Step 2: compare the market

To be successful, sellers must make themselves aware of what else is out there and what is selling or not. If you are selling your car, you must take an unbiased look at the landscape through the eyes of a buyer. Asking for price guidance on a forum full of biased owners is not the best way to do this. Get into the classifieds and see what else is around. Be aware that pricing off one source of reference or previous asking prices is insufficient research.

UK used Porsche stock varies greatly: some Porsches are verging on oversupply, but many classic 911s have been in low supply for a while. I took a look at Porsche 997s on Pistonheads classifieds and found 220 cars for sale: 54 of which were Cabriolets. 18 of those were classed as automatic and just six of those were priced up to £30k (a guideline price for Gen 1 997s at this sort of mileage).

Running the same search on Autotrader’s slightly different search methodology showed 17 Gen 1 997s cars (Coupes and Cabs) but only three cars were Gen 1 Cabs and one of those was sold. It was repeated on Pistonheads. Combining Autotrader and Pistonheads classifieds gives a fair indication of national stock, so this was a pretty rare car, at a time of year when Cabriolets were in demand and with lockdown driving good levels of market activity.

Step 3: build your information including options and history

I looked at the car on the old dealer ads and (unsurprisingly) found that the sales description was badly put together. Research revealed that the dealer had reduced the price by £2,000 over the three months it was listed, so the dealer didn’t seem to have done any homework on Porsche 911 specifications, market trends and and what made this car stand out against other market offerings.

Looking at the photos showed several sought-after options that were not mentioned in the description. The car was finished in black, with black leather and a black hood – all good for wide market appeal and avoiding depreciation. Condition looked excellent in the photos. It was the sort of car I would buy if I was in the market.

One potential downside was the Tiptronic transmission. My philosophy of Tiptronic marketing is to actively market against manual buyers. Put Tiptronic in the title and perhaps (briefly) state the benefits of Tiptronic against manual transmissions. As I have said many times, Tiptronic is not the kiss of death. I like the automatic on later cars: it is perfectly acceptable for normal use and many buyers seek it out. The ability to flick gears up and down using controls on the steering wheel is essential, however.

A look at the MOT history showed nothing of concern and the ad mentioned good service history. Having owned the car for over two years, lifestyle changes (dogs and a new SUV) meant Lauren was keen to sell. She had bought the car from a specialist who I knew routinely borescoped all cars before offering them for sale. All of this had to go in the ad.

Step 4: create your minimalist masterpiece

Your ad is a tool to do a job. The job is to bring in the right buyer and take them as far as possible from the end of stage two (consideration) to as far through stage three (decision). The ad is not there to give a Porsche history lesson, open the door to student buyers, reminisce on your many road trips or to share how your partner loves the car and wishes you were keeping it. If what you are writing is not focused on the job, delete it. Create a minimalist masterpiece.

Split the ad into sections. I typically work along the lines of:

  • Introduction to the car including why you are selling
  • Details of the car, clearly expressed
  • Link the text and photos so no loose ends
  • Put the asking price in context (demonstrate buyer empathy)
  • Detail any inspection, payment or collection conditions

I had done my research on Lauren’s car and had a good idea of where to pitch it. She had already put it online with an asking price a little lower than I went on to suggest. As she was happy to accept that price, we tweaked it slightly (always take £50 off any even thousands) and clearly stated that no offers would be considered. Here is the text I suggested:

First registered in April 2008, this C4S Cabriolet with 5-speed Tiptronic transmission is in very good original condition, as my detailed photos show. The car has been a delight to own over the last two years: a lifestyle change means it is now available to a good home. Finished in the desirable colour of Basalt Black Metallic, the car has an excellent service history and a great factory specification, including:

  • PSM – Porsche Stability Management
  • PASM – Porsche Active Suspension Management
  • PSE – Porsche Sports Exhaust
  • PCM 2 with Bose upgrade, Bluetooth and colour navigation
  • Heated seats (so important on a Cabriolet)
  • White dials and extended leather (dash and console etc)
  • Multifunction Steering Wheel
  • Cruise Control
  • Litronic lighting
  • 19” wheels
  • Both original keys
  • Depreciation-proof Basalt Black paint with black leather trim & black hood (triple black)

The car benefits from full service history, with five stamps in the service book. It has excellent Pirelli P-Zero tyres all around. Recent maintenance includes:

  • Borescope at 44,350 miles with no issues recorded
  • Service May 2020: New battery, new bonnet release, replaced sump plug & washer, pollen filter, oil filter, engine flush
  • Service April 2018: full inspection, A/C service, brake fluid change, spark plug change, replaced rear brake discs and pads, replaced all six coil packs
  • Additional work April 2018: replaced wiper blades, supplied towing eye, supplied tyre foam, replaced front lower bib spoiler, replace front air deflectors, replaced both air condensers

As lady owner who loves cars and treats them with respect, I have maintained this one correctly and put considerable effort into preparing this car for its next owner. Serious buyers will note that it is the cheapest low mileage 2008 S-body 997 Cabriolet on sale in the UK. Finished in the desirable ‘triple black’ combination of colour, trim and hood, it comes with excellent history and a full range of highly desirable options. For the right buyer, this car will be a keeper. Drives perfectly and first to see will undoubtedly buy. No offers and definitely no time wasters.

The results: a sale within 24 hours

Lauren edited her ad based on my suggestions. The next morning, I checked out her ad to get a feel for the changes and was surprised to see the car listed as sold. I sent her an email to get more details.

“The first person who saw the car basically handed me £500 deposit and begged to buy it from me, zero haggling,” said Lauren. “He said he’d been looking for one for a couple of years now and this was the best by far and cheapest he’d seen. He was amazed by the condition: he only found one scuff on a wheel that needed fixing but said he’d happily pay himself for that. He also said I was was way too trusting and made me take the £500 to secure it. Not sure if I mentioned, but I got home from the dealership and the front window seemed to have slipped its runner. Didn’t bother him at all, he said it happened to him with a new car before and was easy to fix.

“This experience was so refreshing from most of the timewasters I’ve been dealing with previously trying to convince me how much I needed to knock off the price. It helps when buyers know their stuff, and also most people I am sure have been dealerships trying to buy a bargain to repackage and sell for more! Thanks for your help – it made a huge difference.”

Now, you could look at this story and decide it was pure luck – right time, right buyer, right ad – but there is little luck involved in consistently repeating this success (James Clear has written beautifully the concept of absolute vs relative luck). When we optimise all of the factors within our control, the results are inevitably going to be better than leaving certain items unresolved: especially things that are important to buyers.

This system of marketing directly to buyers who have already completed stage one and are most of the way through stage two works well. It brings in buyers who have done their homework and are absolutely ready to send money – even if only to scratch the itch and stop spending hours poring over the internet. If you’re interested in playing around with it, practice it on smaller items and hone your skills and technique before trying it out on a car for sale. Let me know how you get on!


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Inspection

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Inspection

My work on court and legal valuations for classic cars and motorcycles has been busy all through the UK coronavirus lockdown and I’ve added more miles to the Honda Civic Tourer. Now that conditions have eased a bit, it’s easier to get out and about for private clients. I did my first private job of the month last weekend: an inspection on a 1988 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera for sale.

The car was for sale down near Reading. Under the care of the present owner for almost ten years and showing pretty high mileage for one of these cars, the ad was not the most flattering I have seen. I was expecting a cheap car run on a budget and a fairly quick inspection fail.

I met the prospective buyer on site and things began to warm up as we entered the property. The location was a dream when buying privately: an immaculate house in an affluent area and unlikely that this car had been run on a budget. The seller was friendly and amenable and let us get on with it.

Classic Car Market and Coronavirus

There is a much chatter right now about about how the market is depressed and prices are about to crash. This does not tally with my view of things in recent weeks. Most people who have money tied up in cars are old enough to realise that all crises create opportunities. If a close brush with coronavirus means a shift in life goals and long-term plans for a classic Porsche owner and results in a car being offered to market, this increases opportunities to buy, but that potential effect has not yet kicked in. For now, impact bumper cars remain in short supply with no shortage of buyers.

The notion of a slow market has a knock-on effect for those wishing to upgrade. The seller of this 3.2 had his eye on a 996 GT3, as that is closer in character to the cars in his regular touring group. Lockdown meant that he had more time to throw at the search, but wanted to be sure of a sale on the 3.2 before starting looking in earnest.

This created opportunities on both sides: seller already checked out of the 3.2 and mindful of the opportunity that cash in his wallet would create for his next purchase and a buyer who had been to see several 3.2s but missed them by hours as the busy market around these cars outpaced him. If my inspection went well, we were in very good shape for a deal.

How to inspect an Impact-Bumper Porsche 911

I only carry out inspections on Impact Bumper 911s. I know these cars very well and enough of them change hands in the UK to keep me as busy as I want to be. There is a very simple procedure to follow to get a good idea of condition pretty quickly. Make a list of any areas to follow up as you go along, so you don’t forget later.

While the mechanical side of any purchase is important, and of course we want to check that the car is not two cars welded together, rust is the main concern, so that is what to focus on looking for. I always bring a small magnet along to help me with this job, as magnets do not stick to body filler.

Looking for rust

Starting with a quick walk around the car, check for obvious rust in the front wings, scuttle panel and windscreen corners. Doors do not usually rust on later impact-bumper 911s, but check them for signs of paint or repairs. If the doors are open, check the latch panels with your eyes and your magnet. Note the smell when you open the doors (see below).

This is a critical area on these cars: the intersection of the latch panel by lower rear corner of the door and the rear quarter panel. All impact bumper 911s rust here and it is unusual to find no repairs in the kidney bowl/sill area at this stage of a car’s life. Any rust here – however small – can signify a sizeable incoming repair bill.

Moving on from the kidney bowls, check the rear wings under the windows, looking for filler here in front of the rear wheel, look around the rear lights as this is often filled on a very rusty car. Check the tail is secure and check the rear panels for any damage. Check for corroded bumper ends as the aluminium bumpers need special treatment and new paint to correct this.

With the car open, pull the bonnet and prop the front lid open if the bonnet struts don’t work – does the owner have a pole under the front for this purpose? Check the chassis number against the log book – it should of course be unmessed with.

Set a rug or blanket on the ground and pull everything out: carpets, tools and spare wheel. Check for rust slowly and carefully. Fuel tanks rust along the seams, inner wings rust along the tops by the front wing mounting bolts, bumper mounts rust in the front lower corners, battery trays can show some signs of rust, front pans/tank supports rust also. Also be mindful of crash repairs.

Check the wiring here – pull the fusebox cover and check for any new fuses. Note what circuit/s they are on, as you will tie this back into service history later. Finish up front and move to the cabin.

Interior checks

Open the door and immediately notice the smell – is it damp? Musty? Or does it smell like an old Porsche? If you don’t know what an old Porsche smells like, put your head in the door pockets and breathe in. They do not tend to get damp, so keep the right smell for years.

What you are looking for is the tell-tale smell of a car that has lived outdoors or been used in all weathers and been damp for a while as a result. Window seals shrink and allow water in over time and this finds its way into the thick carpet underfelts, causing all sorts of issue with trim. A car that has been damp inside for years needs extra attention. This car was fresh inside so we could get on with it.

Next, fold down the rear seat backs. This usually shows the original colour of the carpets (how faded are they? Will you change them?) and also points at how the car has been used. You can also see whether the car has three-point rear belts (desirable and only on later 3.2s). Check the condition here – again look for damp and mould. Check the heated rear screen elements are not damaged. Check the rear parcel shelf is not warped due to damp. Check rear speaker cones are not falling apart due to damp.

You are not looking for speaker condition here: you are looking for signs of water and damp that has been sitting on the rear parcel shelf and possibly causing rust in the firewall. This is particularly important on SCs and earlier.

Finish in the back and move to the front of the cabin. Check the seats – seat cushion splits are common on impact-bumper cars as the material dries out. Some materials are no longer available. Bolster repairs to cloth, vinyl and leather seats are expensive and particularly so on high mileage cars with body-colour piping like this 3.2, which had quite a bit of wear to the linen leather on the driver’s seat.

On electric seats, check the buttons are all there and that the motors all work. Check heated seats work. Sit into the car, check a leather dash for any damage (expensive to fix), note if it is a plastic dash. Check the wheel for splits, current or impending, or any loose stitching. Check condition of the gear lever – is it original? Note the radio – is it old/new? Does it have an aux input? Will you keep it or sell it? Add it to notes on potential spend.

Kneel by the driver’s seat and look up under the dash: how tidy is the wiring? Anything jammed in and secured with lots of tape? Check the pedals: any side-to-side play? Does the carpet show signs of the throttle pedal regularly being pushed hard into it? You are checking several things here – potential for wear in throttle bushes and swivels (common on SC and earlier), saggy carpets hampering performance and of course a driver who likes to drive a car hard.

Swap sides and check the glovebox. Pull out any CDs and note what is left. Check for fuses – any new ones here same as new ones in the fusebox? Is there a spare DME relay for 3.2s? Any notes for breakdown companies or bits of paper for European recovery? You would be amazed at the things I have found in gloveboxes over the years that have later saved thousands of pounds in negotiations.

There is normally no need to check floors on later IBs but do check early cars. The floor carpets should lift out easily. If they are glued down, then ring some big warning bells in your head and stop there. You need to look at this car a lot closer and preferably on a ramp.

Engine checks

Assuming we are still good, pull the engine cover release and move to the rear. Lift any rear wiper off the glass (rear wiper is desirable in UK) and lift the engine cover. Look for rust around the edges and underside. Look for damage to the rear panel. Look for damage to the rear reflector.

Now the engine. First job is to check that the engine number matches the paperwork and that it has not been tampered with. Now look for evidence of rodents – droppings, bits of paper being dragged into the bay, damage to the engine bay sound pad etc. Rodents love to hibernate under engine shrounds of 911s that have slept in garages from October to March and their nests can block cylinder fins. It can be a serious issue, not just in the UK.

Using a torch, look all over the top of the engine for damage, fluid leaks, obvious signs of recent wiping. Is it hot or cold? Has the owner started it before you arrived? This car was warm but not hot. The engine bay was in good condition as the car had a top end rebuild within the last 5k miles. Although the engine had been out, the sound pad had not been replaced while space allowed and the bay had not seemingly been steam cleaned – that was a bit disappointing.

Check for damage to the chassis rails in the engine bay. What oil filter is used? The red Porsche filter is OK, but the Knecht OC54 filter is perhaps the best one and a specialist mechanic would know this.

Checking underneath

Now we have been through what can easily be seen, it is time to check underneath. Ideally you will jack the car up and support it on stands, but an owner may not permit it. Call this another flag but be mindful of how you would feel if it was your car. Either way, it is an idea to have some bits of wood that the car can be driven up on to allow you to slide underneath.

There is a lot to look at under a 911, but some important areas to check include front pan, leading edges of floors, jacking points (3.2), rear anti-roll bar mounts (most cars) and floors around jacking point (all cars). Put your hands into the rear arches and check the fronts of the kidney bowls, full door latch panel, rear of carbon canister (3.2), underside of window edges and all along the rear seam to engine bay. Dig into any waxoyl to try to find flaky bits. Put your hands into the front arches and check for rust along the top seam to front wings (all cars).

When you are done with the rust check, check the oil system. Any kinks in oil lines? Are the lines secure front to rear? Has the thermostat been messed with? Is it secure? Now leaks – check for leaks or suspiciously clean sections of oil lines. Look for rust in the lines and connectors.

Now the engine underside. Here we check for black spots on heat exchangers and exhaust joins denoting leaks. Check around the base of cylinders for oil leaks. Check rocker covers for leaks: early mag covers can warp. Check the heater flapper boxes fully open and close – these love to rust and are a pig to change. Check condition of all hoses. Really just be slow and methodical and check everything you can see. Rusty tinware is a big deal – these parts are also pricey.

If you can jack it up and get the wheels off the ground, chock the car and release the handbrake. Spin each wheel to see if the calipers stick. Note the condition of the tyres and their dates, note the condition of the wheels – Fuchs should retain their original anodising. Repairing damaged wheels is very expensive. Good tyres are a must. Check for lips on brake disc edges. Check driveshaft gaiters and other rubber parts front and rear.

Engine start

Now we’re getting to engine start time. Sit in driver’s seat, push the clutch down and hold it (is the pedal stiff or heavy?). Turn the key to the ignition position – any noises? All lights on? Engage the starter and listen for noises – the engine should fire first turn. Note any immobiliser procedures here. You may want to delete the immobiliser after you buy a car.

After the engine fires up, slowly release the clutch. Some drivetrain noise is normal – especially on early cars – but it should not be very loud. Look at the oil pressure gauge – what does it read and is it steady? Allow the warmup to continue and step out of the car and look and listen in the engine bay.

Here we are looking for leaks, smoke, smelling for burning and listening for unhappy mechanical noises. Work the throttle a little – does it rev quickly and settle back down to the same happy idle? Or is it a bit lumpy? Slow to settle? On an SC or earlier, what do the throttle swivel bushes feel like? Sign of good maintenance by someone who knows air-cooled 911s. Not all service history is the same.

We’re getting close to test drive time, but there are still a few more things we can check. Work the clutch a little more and select the gears one by one. They should all be found fairly easily. Check the gauges are moving – we’re ignoring the oil level gauge for the minute. Turn the sidelights on – they should all work including the numberplate lights. Check the indicators all work. Check the mirrors adjust. Check the sunroof works. Check the windows work. Check the wipers and washers (including the rear wiper if fitted).

Turn the heater fan on to max, set the levers to demist and check there is heat coming to the front windscreen at a reasonable rate. 911s have a lousy air blower, but you should still feel the heat here. Now turn the heat off and the air should quickly cool down and be no warmer than ambient. We want to check the heater boxes are coming on and off. Anything other than heat/no heat in the right places needs checking out as this system is pricey to repair if blowers or heat boxes are an issue. Check the A/C if fitted.

On the test drive

Now we drive. Check the seat belts for no fraying and an easy action to the inertia reel. Set your mirrors to suit. Engage first gear and pull off. Once you’re out on the road, you’re checking steering feel and listening for any noises/clunks from suspension. Ask a chatty seller to stop talking while you concentrate. Gears should all work well – go up and down through 1-2-3. Synchros are important to check on 915 cars.

We may have already checked brakes not binding but what do they feel like on the move? There should be good braking from cold. The front should pull up in a straight line, no pulling one way or another. The car should roll to a halt – not a sudden sticky ‘jerk’ at the end to denote a seized caliper. The tyres may be flat spotted if the car has sat in storage for a while – factor that into your post-purchase budget.

The drive can all be in the lower three gears; one does not need to drive far or fast. Try engaging fourth and fith just to check them. On returning back to base, leave the engine running and check the oil. Remove the oil filler cap and the revs should fall a bit. Take the dipstick out and give it a wipe. Put it back in, remove it and read the back – the marks are clearly shown. 2/3rds is the ideal level for a 911 and the oil should be clean. An oil change will take at least 11 litres on a 3.2 and the oil alone will cost £100 if bought from a specialist.

Again check for smoke, leaks, put your hand on the centre of each wheel and feel if one is warmer than others (brake issues). Have a look around the car again before switching off the engine. Assuming things are still all good, it is now time to check the paperwork and look back at your notes before considering an offer and starting negotiations.

After the drive and doing a deal

This car checked out very well. It had an excellent service history with two very good specialists, plenty of bills from recommended parts sources such as Type 911 and the relative positions of buyer and seller were very encouraging. I found a few spots of corrosion and several other minor issues which I advised the buyer on resolving but the car was a solid example overall. The main thing was the car was honest, from an apparently good home with excellent history and with nothing untoward for the year and mileage.

I was happy to help a little with negotiation before leaving the final settlement to both parties. The net result was a deal done on the day, car paid for and driven home by a delighted new owner. That is definitely how to do it at the minute – low supply of honest RHD examples with proper history mean that buyers should not hang around when a nice car presents itself.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Free Porsche Museum entry and virtual tours on Instagram

Free Porsche Museum entry and virtual tours on Instagram

To celebrate the 43rd International Museum Day on May 17, Porsche has announced free entry to the Porsche Museum and virtual tours of the wonderful facility on the Instagram channel.

“Digital diversity is more important than ever at this time, where travel is a greater challenge than ever before”, says Achim Stejskal, Head of Heritage and Porsche Museum. “We have consistently driven forward the expansion of digital offerings, not just since the corona crisis, but for years. We are committed to the ‘Mission Future Heritage’ and like to use modern channels to demonstrate the heritage and future of the brand: not just at our site in Zuffenhausen, but also beyond the museum.”

How to access the Porsche Museum Tour on Instagram

On International Museum Day, two guides will lead virtual visitors through the Porsche Museum’s exhibition, which currently includes over eighty cars in 5,600 square metres of exhibition space. Offering tours in both German and English, the guides will look at special exhibits and offer an insight into the company history.

The digital live tours include prototypes, small exhibits, racing cars and series production cars. Tour timings are set at Central European Summer time, which is one hour ahead of the UK, six hours ahead of the US east coast and nine hours ahead of the west coast. Visitors can watch the first tour in German on Instagram which starts in German at 18:30 hrs CEST, or the second one which starts in English at 00:00 hrs CEST (11pm UK, 6pm NY, 3pm LA).

Porsche says that the times (which seem a little bit random at first glance) have purposefully been set outside the regular opening times – true to the motto: “The museum for everyone” (everyone who does not go to bed at 10pm). More likely they are set to work with the furthest-flown countries where a high percentage of residents have not been to Stuttgart, which is entirely sensible.

I’ve done the museum a couple of times: once as a factory guest, guided by the chief archivist, Dieter Landenberger, and once as just a quick pit stop on the way back from a visit to Alois Ruf with Jonny Hart. Scooting around the museum unaccompanied is not as interesting. The guided tour brings much more information and context to the visit, so it is a no-brainer to set an alarm for 11pm on Sunday night.

The tours will also be recorded and be available on Porsche News TV from Sunday in Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Croatian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish. “There is a native speaker for each of these languages in the Porsche Museum. We would like to use the videos that have live character to thank our fans around the world and to bring a bit of the Porsche Museum into their homes,” explains Achim.

If you have dreamed of visiting the museum but not made it yet, or if you have already been there but not been back for a few years, the tours will be of interest. I realise the obvious question is “will these be available to view after the live tours” and the answer is I don’t know. Live events are commonly available to watch in the channel’s Instagram story for 24 hours but we will see.

The special promotional day is organised annually by the International Council of Museums ICOM to draw attention to the wide range of work museums do and to the thematic diversity of museums around the world. Museums throughout Germany will provide special initiatives, exhibits or a glimpse behind the scenes this Sunday. Dr Dietmar Woidke, President of the German Bundesrat, is the patron of Museum Day.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

More Porsche cars added to rescheduled Techno Classica Auction

More Porsche cars added to rescheduled Techno Classica Auction

RM Sotheby’s has added more Porsche content to its rescheduled 2020 Essen Techno Classica auction on June 24-27. The catalogue now totals 215 lots, including twenty-nine Porsche cars: nine 356s, one 914, two 912s, seventeen 911s and a 904. There is also a Spider replica with 1600cc Beetle running gear.

The 911s include seven impact bumper models, dating from a 1974 2.7-litre Coupe to a 1988 911 Turbo. All merit closer inspection.

Finished in Light Yellow with red leather trim, chassis number 9114102746 is a 1974 911 Coupe said to be in largely original condition throughout. Described by the auctioneers as ‘immaculate’, it has had a repaint in its original colour, and is accompanied for sale by a toolkit, space-saver spare wheel, owner’s manuals, and correct period radio.

The newest G-model 911 in the current catalogue is chassis number WP0ZZZ93ZJS000080: a 1988 911 Turbo. Showing just under 117k kilometres, the late four-speed LHD 930 is finished in Marine Blue with special order light grey trim. The driver’s seat is heated and this car also has a sunroof.

This 930 is offered without reserve, as is the other Porsche 930 listed. Chassis number WP0ZZZ93ZFS000649 is a black/black ’85 model showing 89k kilometres. Also listed without reserve is a 1976 Porsche 911 Targa finished in Gulf Blue (above) – Gulf Blue being rare on a Targa of the era. The car lived in Italy from 2004 until it was exported to France in 2014.

Two 3-litre 911s are offered: a 1977 Carrera 3.0 Coupe previously shared on Ferdinand and a 1981 Porsche 911 SC Targa. Finished in Platinum Beige Metallic over Black Pascha trim and riding on 15″ Fuchs, the SC Targa showing 120k kms is said to be unrestored and will lay down an interesting marker. The photos show several points to a trained eye but the car is handsome nonetheless.

Finally for the impact-bumper cars, a 1984 3.2 Coupe in Grand Prix White with Burgundy trim The seats are showing the usual seam splits and the original wheel is missing, which sort of makes me wonder what else is up with it. All air-cooled 911s including early 3.2s like to wear valve guides and piston rings, so it would be good to see a mention of a previous top end rebuild to the engine.

There are ten more 911s entered in the sale. A total of eight 911s are up without reserve and I look forward to seeing their final prices. June will come up quickly after lockdown and it will be interesting to see whether any pent-up demand has accrued for cars of this era, or whether people will wait to see how the second half of the year shakes out economically.

Despite the doom and gloom one reads in the news, there is a quite bit of business going on behind the scenes during lockdown. I wouldn’t be too hasty to pronounce things dead as yet.

Photos courtesy and ©Dirk de Jager/Diana Varga/RM Sotheby’s


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can: