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The story of ‘Ferdinand’: how I started writing and what Porsche means to me
I first became aware of Porsche at seven years old. While sitting in the field outside our house, a green early 911 drove past. It had German registration plates: holidaymakers touring in Ireland. The shape and the sound of that car left an impression that has never diminished.
Later experiences included my friend’s rally-driving dad dropping him to school in a Petrol Blue 911 SC. When the Circuit of Ireland Rally came to town, I only had eyes for Henri Toivonen’s 911 SC RS. The SC stood out and driving my first one sealed the impression. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Birth of another Irish writer
I wanted to write about cars from my earliest days, but our family business was music. We had a chain of shops in Ireland and that was my destiny, until a recession in the mid-1980s closed the business. I then did three years of a mechanical apprenticeship before moving to London in 1989 to find a way to get published.
I worked my way through a series of car-related jobs and ended up running the car parks at Heathrow. Having thousands of spaces to store cars in led to buying and selling cars out of the airport. After seven years of that, I moved to retail motor trade purchasing, then on to fleet buying with Barclays. That was pretty boring so I found a job as a used bike sales manager. I eventually realised I was just no longer chasing my dream, so I stopped all that and set my mind to working in publishing.
At home in London, recovering from a bike crash, I found a job as an Editor with the UK’s largest motor trade publisher. I spent ten years there, managing valuation products that covered the full UK market and creating the original dataset for webuyanycar.com amongst lots of other stuff. I started writing press releases and they were picked up by Autocar magazine. The Managing Editor invited me to lunch and asked me to write for the magazine. The dream had been realised.
Consumer journalism and my first 911
I started writing with Autocar under a pen name and created used car content galore. When I received a payout from the aforementioned bike accident, I finally had the money to buy my first Porsche. I knew exactly what I wanted – a LHD 911 SC Cabriolet – and found the right car just north of Marseilles, France. This was before Google made it easy to detective overseas purchases, but my history meant I knew what I was doing.
I shared the story of buying my first 911 unseen from a thousand miles away on the Porsche Club forum, where it caught the eye of the editor for a new magazine called Total 911. He asked if I wanted to write a column. My first column ran in issue two and led to writing my first Porsche feature, comparing the SC with the Carrera 3.2.
At the time, SCs were shunned by the masses but to me they were simply the best. I like challenging the status quo and the piece went down well. That led to more and more features and eventually to writing for all of the independent UK Porsche titles, including Total 911, 911 & Porsche World, GT Porsche and to some of the international ones too: Speedster in France, Porsche Fahrer in Germany and Panorama in the USA.
I had joined the Porsche Club when I bought my first Porsche, but it really did not know what to do with the impact-bumper cars. Along with the short wheelbase 911s, the cars from 1974 to 1989 were cheap, old and unloved apart from by weirdos like me. I decided that if the Porsche Club didn’t want my old car around, I would do my own thing.
Gather the weirdos
A fellow weirdo (stand up, Jeremy Holmes) suggested forming an online group of maybe ten people where we could ‘Impact Bump” together. I had already started a blog of my own (John Glynn’s Classic Porsche Blog) so I liked the sound of making something unique for the weirdos. I launched the Porsche 911 forum at impactbumpers.com in February 2006 and it’s still going strong, with more than 5,000 registered members.
Eventually, Autocar, MSN Cars and the Porsche work took over my time and I went full-time freelance in May 2010. Fast forward one year to 2011, when I was invited to do some work for Ferdinand Magazine: an iPad-only magazine that was paid for by advertising. I became a contributor, which then led to problems with print magazines, who did not like the look of what Ferdinand represented. If I decided to work with the new boys, that would be the end of my working for them.
It was a simple decision. Nothing would change if I stayed where I was: every day would be just like the last. I am all about outliers and new projects, so I pressed on. After two issues of Ferdinand, the parent company hit trouble. They prepared a third edition, but the bosses had taken far more money out than was coming in. The magazine folded and I was owed thousands. The decision was then what to do: somehow go back to what I had done or stick with the weirdos? Again, it was a no-brainer.
Only two people turned up to the creditors’ meeting for the bankrupt Ferdinand owners: me and the editor for another one of their iPad magazines. I was down about five grand that I could not afford to lose and needed a plan. Porsche had also started an iPad magazine (they later closed it down) and it looked awesome: there was no way I could compete with that on style, but I could probably at least match it on content. However, my original move to Ferdinand was all about the domain name. If I was ever going to do anything about the lost work, the domain name was key to whatever came next.
The receivers put the magazine including the domain name up for sealed bids. With a background in purchasing, I had run tenders before, so I had a reasonable feel for what might win it. I put my best case forward and came home with the lot. That turned to be not very much, but I had what I wanted.
Since buying the remains of the iPad magazine, I have run Ferdinand as a blog and a hub for my other work: columns for various magazines including Motor Retail Magazine, GT Porsche and BMW Car, market watching and Porsche valuations and work as a PR and marketing consultant for several independent Porsche businesses.
Your part of the story
Now in my fifties, my interest in Porsche has never decreased. Ferry’s progression from parental understudy to a dominant force in global manufacturing and motorsport is one of the greatest stories of self-actualisation the world has ever seen and that is the core of my love for this brand. Digging into his professional transformation and trying to learn how his vision can make for a better life now will never get old.
However small your part is in the story of Porsche as an independent force – whether you are an owner, racer or just an enthusiast – the energy that even a small association with this marque can bring should not be underestimated. I have raised three kids while tapping into this energy and it can do great things for you also. All you have to do is jump in.