Jonny Hart at Classic Retrofit picked up a pre-Varioram Porsche 993 Carrera 2 Tiptronic Coupe through some trade friends last August. I’ve often thought about using a 993 as a daily driver and I know many of you actually have. it’s been fun to see what Jonny has made of the 993, and how much he has used it when there is also a nicely restored 911 SC, an electric 914 and an electric works van in the fleet.
“Work on the 993 has included an overdue service, a front end strip and rebuild and of course we’re using the 993 as a development vehicle and test mule for our next-generation Porsche electric air conditioning systems,” he says.
“As this car was never fitted with air conditioning, we’ve fitted our full system including our upgraded alternator. This is a harder installation on a Tiptronic as it has an additional transmission oil cooler up front so a second condenser is not possible. Instead, we’re trialling a new-tech version of our single condenser setup.
“Made by a Dutch company, the new condenser is 50% more efficient than the original 964/993 condenser, which is a big improvement. While we have been using twin condenser systems which give massive headroom over the original, a 50% improvement on the original part is more than enough for most users, especially when combined with our new CCU, which is also in testing in our 993.
Jonny says that recent road trips to Retromobile in Paris and visits to several UK consultancy clients have shown that, some 30 years after its introduction, the 993 remains a highly capable and comfortable daily driver. While the Tiptronic is relaxing most of the time, the car can still get a shift on when needed. I might need to borrow this one of the days.
The DriveNation Instagram feed recently ran an enjoyable bit about the revival of Lotus Engineering, saying “Once clients came from around the world for that Lotus magic but, in recent years, the department dwindled down to almost nothing.”
A couple of days later, I swapped some emails with Lotus Engineering’s new Commercial Director, Dan Burge. It was an unconnected fluke: I was chasing a Honda CR-V for sale that turned out to be owned by Dan’s parents. Formerly of Prodrive and Williams Advanced Engineering, Dan has been criss-crossing the world since joining Lotus last month. Our brief encounter inspired some research on the story of Lotus Engineering.
Lotus Engineering Limited
Anyone with an interest in cars knows something of Lotus. Founded as a sports car manufacturer in the late 1940s, its early cars were built in a pub car park, but they were still beautiful. One of my first jobs when I immigrated to London was working with Rover dealer, Peter Walker. Peter raced some famous Lotus 15s and seeing how they were revered in his household was an education in what Lotus means to the English.
Until the Elise was revealed, the motor trade regarded Lotus road cars as per the acronym: Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious. The parent company’s history has also been pretty up and down. Founded by Colin Chapman and Colin Dare in 1952, Lotus started as Lotus Engineering. Team Lotus was formed in 1954 and raced in Formula 1 from 1958 to 1994. Lotus Cars was split off from its engineering parent in 1959.
Lotus Engineering Ltd was incorporated in 1980. Companies House shows three current officers: company secretary, Dr James Bradley, was appointed in April 2018, while directors Daniel Donghui Lui and Feng Qingfeng (CFO and CTO of Geely Auto Group) were appointed in September 2017. Corporate filing history for the business goes back to the mid 1980s and tells an interesting story, if you like looking at figures.
Embodying a British zeitgeist from the 1950s through the 1970s, by 1980 Group Lotus was struggling. Recession hit the company hard and annual production sank below 400 cars. However, Chapman had amassed vast brand value as an engineer and in 1982, Toyota engaged Lotus to help develop its chassis technology. In return, Lotus got Toyota components for the new Excel.
DeLorean and the death of Chapman
Things were looking up for Lotus when Chapman died suddenly in December 1982. A deal to develop the DeLorean’s chassis unravelled into chaos (along with DeLorean) soon after and the British tax authorities ring-fenced £84 million of Lotus assets: a sum of money it claimed had gone missing from government subsidies paid to DeLorean.
Mike Lawrence’s warts-and-all Chapman biography puts the total at more like £10 million, but does not gloss over the alleged deception: something Chapman supposedly could have got ten years in prison for had he not passed away. Adrian Newey’s autobiography mentions 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti’s belief that Chapman faked his own death on the basis of the scandal, but that’s a whole other story.
Back to Lotus Engineering Limited. The media release for the reborn consultancy mentions the Corvette ZR-1 LT5 (1990) and Aston Martin DB7 as part of the brand’s heritage (1994), but Companies House shows that Lotus Engineering Limited submitted accounts as a dormant company from at least 1984 to the end of 1997, until it once again began trading.
Lotus Engineering and the General Motors umbrella
Lotus was owned by General Motors from 1986 to 1993, making the Corvette link obvious. Aston was part of Ford from 1988 to 2007, so helping to repackage the Jaguar XJS as the DB7 was a little more complicated.
The MR2 (1984) exploited an existing connection between the two firms, which continued through the use of Toyota engines in the Lotus Elise (1996). Other well known projects by Lotus Engineering projects included the updated Isuzu Piazza (1987), which came as part of GM’s tie up with Isuzu that had started in 1971.
The aforementioned Volvo 480 (1985) was a low-key Lotus Engineering project that did not come from under the GM umbrella. I worked in a few Volvo dealerships at the end of the 1980s and remember the typical client as neither youthful nor sporty. The 480 Coupe with “handling by Lotus” and an uninspiring 1.7-litre Renault engine tuned by Porsche was an attempt to inject some new blood into the showrooms, but I remember only older ladies with big fluffy dogs driving 480s from new. The model was axed in 1997 and is a rare sight on UK roads nowadays.
Lotus, Bugatti and Proton
Romano Artioli bought Lotus in 1993 and ran it alongside ownership of Bugatti until his bankruptcy in 1996 (the Lotus Elise was named after his granddaughter). In 1996, Artiolo sold Lotus to Proton Cars of Malaysia to help pay off some debt.
Proton started filing accounts for Lotus Engineering Limited in 1998: the first accounts in more than a decade. 1997-98 showed profits of £1.3 million on turnover of £6.1 million, with £1.4 million on £7.2 million turnover the following year and £947,000 on £9.1 million the year after that.
In 2001, eight directors resigned and the company reported a profit of £2.7 million on turnover of £14.8 million. Profit went to £2.5 million and then £4.2 million on turnover of £21.6 million (01-02) and £24.6 million (02-03) respectively. Zero to £25 million turnover for an engineering consultancy in six years of accounts is quite interesting.
After that, things began to tail off. The following year, Lotus Engineering Ltd paid a dividend of £13 million, declaring profits of £358,000 on a turnover of just £1 million. Income from asset investments brought in £2.9 million in 2004/5, but actual turnover fell to £183,000. Income dwindled further through 2005 and subsequent years show the company as a non-trading subsidiary of Lotus Cars Limited.
Dany Bahar arrives
The controversial Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar, is listed as a director between November 2009 and June 2012. After he goes, the 2012-2013 accounts state that the company is regarded as a going concern. A payment of £4.1 million owed by Lotus Cars appears on the balance sheet, underwritten by Proton’s parent. These accounts are repeated annually until 2017, when the company once again changes hands.
China’s Geely Group acquired its majority stake in Proton in 2017 and things start developing. The accounts now show Geely as underwriting the £4.1 million and new articles of association regarding conflicts of interest are filed. Accounts submitting covering the period to the end of December 2018 show that the company remains dormant, but the hiring cycles through 2019 suggest that fresh accounts are imminent.
Lotus Engineering: the origin story
Origin stories are perhaps the most powerful tools in marketing. Shaping an origin story capable of triggering the right audience is a surefire route to powerful associations in the minds of buyers. Those instant clicks create strong brand allegiances that do not require substantial marketing investment. Less of the hard sell saves time and money.
There are more big advantages to running an engineering and design consultancy as a side arm of a somewhat anonymous parent. UK buyers would definitely not take to a Geely Elise: Lotus is the trigger in that proposal.
While Lotus has confirmed its future as a purely electric sports and hypercar manufacturer (such as the remarkable Evija seen here), the relaunch of its engineering subsidiary, whether to cross-kudos other Geely products – a Volvo roadster for example – or a more workaday executive with handling by Lotus, will keep the engineering side ticking over until the globetrotting commercial people get a foothold.
Lotus Cars: UK and China
Although many future Lotus cars will be manufactured in China, there are obvious marketing upsides to maintaining the engineering base at Hethel, as well as a new office near me in Warwick. There will also be financial upsides to the continued presence in the UK: Government subsidies for electric car development, for example. Alongside chassis tuning of future collaborations, we may well see Lotus-branded drivetrains in sporty derivatives from less evocative mass manufacturers. Lotus has powertrain history, with GM’s Corvette and EcoTec engines.
However the story unfolds, the continued presence of a Lotus subsidiary at the cutting edge of automotive engineering is essential to the brand’s future. Maintaining the brand’s connections to the iconic image of Chapman standing in the pits is a hardwired connection to the hearts and minds of British car buyers and what sells well to the UK cognoscenti is usually a success elsewhere.
The comment below from one forum post on the subject of Chapman’s legacy demonstrates just how deep the British love of Lotus runs: something that has not faded since his death almost forty years ago.
Chapman’s early business life is similar to Bernie Ecclestone’s, selling cars in post WW2 Warren street and the rather sharp ethics seem to have the same air about them. I believe myself that his early passing was simply the result of not sleeping for the best part of thirty years and using pills to stay awake: the body can only take so much. Nevertheless, I find Chapman the most fascinating individual in motor racing, and that is saying something in a sport that has attracted some pretty outlandish people over the decades.
Given the emotional attachment of British enthusiasts to the entire Lotus myth, the revival of the engineering brand that underpins the entire origin story of Lotus Cars under the umbrella of an automotive group that is currently winning all the sports has a strong chance of engagement. While the true Chapman story may fall some way short of the legend, his maverick appeal endures.
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Here’s a video showing a quick flick through the redesigned Apple CarPlay launched as part of iOS 13, running on a Kenwood DMX7017DABS installed to replace the factory navigation in the (dreaded) grey Honda CR-V.
After fitting several double-DIN Alpine sat-nav units to my former Subaru Legacy and Outback daily drivers and the Porsche Cayenne S I ran for five years, I switched to Kenwood a couple of years ago, as it was the only manufacturer offering DAB radio with CarPlay. I liked the real-time traffic updates on Google maps and the routes always seemed better than the pricey double-DIN nav I paid a small fortune for.
To avoid expensive data bills, I had started switching in a Garmin widescreen satnav for longer drives, but that then gave me three devices on the dashboard. Switching to iPhone only for navigation was a relief, and, given the temptation to use the phone while driving, it was a double relief to be able to put the iPhone away in the glovebox and control most of what I needed from the head unit.
CarPlay Gen 1 still had some issues: the main one being it was not very pretty and the app integration was clunky. The update that came with the release of iOS 13 last month has given CarPlay a substantial boost via a much-improved UI and better app integration. Adding Siri control to third party apps is a welcome addition.
The Kenwood DMX7017DABS is a couple of years old now but the tech spec is still very useful and the latest iteration of CarPlay makes it a nice upgrade to the older double-DIN PCM units found in Porsche Boxster, 996, Gen 1 997 and all older Cayennes.
Although the DMX 7017 can also run Android Auto, I’ve not tried that as yet. I do have a backup Samsung Galaxy, but my main phone is a much-loved iPhone 8 Plus and that works a treat on this. I’ve just ordered a new Kenwood DMX8019DABS to check out a supposedly slightly better display and wireless CarPlay: I will share another video when that is installed.
Kenwood DMX7017DABS specification includes:
7-inch VGA monitor with LED backlight – 800 v 480 1152000 pixels
4 x 50w (max) nominal 4 x 22w
3 RCA preouts all 4V
Volume offset control
Subwoofer crossover control
Variable colour button illumination
Remote control and steering wheel control compatible
Customisable splash screens and backgrounds
Bluetooth Built In (stream BT)
USB 2.0 high speed connection – 1.5A quick charge
DAB+ tuner built in
Display viewing angle adjust
High def Audio playback
Dashcam and reversing camera link
DSP – 13-band EQ – DTA built in
High resolution VGA display
FLAC files playable
Dual Zone control
CarPlay and Android Auto compatible
The latest CarPlay iteration has lifted the DMX7017DABS from a good upgrade for double-DIN factory head units into a very good upgrade. The unit has a good internal spec and the new CarPlay homescreen layout makes a smart addition to any dashboard. The apps briefly shared in this video include Overcast, Spotify, Waze and Google Maps and I also include some Siri voice command tests.
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I spotted this cheap Porsche Boxster with LPG conversion (LPG: liquid petroleum gas) on one of my regular valuation trawls through the classifieds last night. Even if you take the conversion off and run it on petrol, it’s still a Boxster for less than £2,500. This made it worth a little look.
First registered on April 26, 1999, this 986 Porsche Boxster 2.5 manual was supplied in Arctic Silver with Boxster Red leather trim. The combination is quite common on 986 Boxsters: Arctic Silver was available on all model years, while the Boxster Red option was a popular choice with the Silver. It has covered 144k miles and allegedly comes with a lot of history.
Online MOT history for T747 LYB shows that the mileage in 2005 was a mere 51,280 miles. In the twelve months that followed, that total leapt to 70,449 miles overall. It did another 9k in 2006, then 10k more in 2007. Here the MOT bills started getting expensive, with worn brakes, suspension, headlamp issues and emission flags amongst other bits. Pretty normal for the model and mileage.
The annual mileage then drops: presumably due to a change of keeper after that pricey MOT. 1k, 1k, 6k, 4k a year and more flags for brake pipes and brake force, until it crosses 100k miles at the July 2012 MOT. Then the mileage picks up again: 2014-’15 shows 9k, 2015-’16 is 12k, 2016-’17 7k and from then to now is circa 10k in total, taking it to a current mileage of 144,000.
Boxster friends report an average of 26-27 mpg (imperial gallon) for a 2.5-litre 986 Boxster and my local Shell station charges £1.35 a litre for V-Power. At that price, 10k miles in a 26mpg Boxster works out to £2,357. 144,000 miles like this works out to just under £34,000. £34,000 pounds spent on fuel with 66% of that price being tax: that is £22,440 fuel tax in this example! Ridiculous.
What’s the point of converting a car to LPG?
LPG is most commonly used in the UK to cut fuel costs and to create fewer emissions, thus reducing one’s carbon footprint. I have run an LPG-powered car for these reasons ever since switching from diesel in 2007 and would not run anything else day-to-day, so it is always interesting to see what cars other people choose to fit LPG systems to.
A Porsche Boxster is not the most obvious choice for an LPG conversion, but I have seen many converted to gas. As a long-distance solo commuter, it makes sense. The cars are fun to drive, but Porsche’s 2.5-litre flat-six engine is not the cheapest to run, even when it doesn’t let go. LPG as duty paid road fuel can be half the cost of petrol in the UK, meaning that your fuel costs are effectively halved overnight. All good so far.
LPG burns with less of a bang so you lose a bit in MPG, but the difference in performance is barely noticeable. The only real downside of an LPG conversion is having to fit a second fuel tank, and a heavy one at that. LPG tanks are several times heavier than petrol tanks due to crash regulations. If you have a spare wheel well for a toroidal tank to drop into, it’s not so bad space-wise, but the weight would be noticed on a Boxster. The tank weight’s not that obvious on my 4×4 daily drivers.
A typical installation on a car like the Boxster would involve tank and filler, supply pipes, evaporator and injectors. The ECU piggybacks onto the car’s ECU and no changes are required there. Cost would be something like £1000-£1200, so you have to earn that back through fuel cost savings before the real fuel savings kick in.
LPG fuel savings calculated
My previous daily driver Cayenne S V8 cost £1300 to convert and went from 17mpg average on petrol to 15mpg on LPG. My current daily driver – a 2006 Honda CR-V – cost £800 to convert and went from 26mpg on petrol to 24mpg on gas. Fuel costs for both come down from V-Power at circa £1.34 a litre to LPG at 68p a litre. While the mpg fell by about 8%, the fuel cost dropped almost 50%.
Benchmarking fuel costs per 1000 miles, the CR-V costs £235 to do this on petrol and £128 on LPG. So every 1000 miles saves me £107. The £800 conversion cost divided by £107 saved per 1000 miles is 7.47, so I earned my conversion cost back after 7470 miles (about 6 months or so) and am now into savings. I ran my Cayenne on LPG for almost 50k miles: that works out to saving approximately £6500 in fuel (i.e. over £4k in fuel tax) at current prices when the cost of the conversion is taken off. Plus I got to drive a petrol V8 with lower emissions for 50k miles.
This Boxster is already converted and has reaped similar fuel savings benefits: a substantial sum of money if it was converted early in life. As with any Boxster, high or low mileage, this car would need careful checking before a purchase, but the main thing to check would be the engine and gearbox. LPG does not lubricate and cool valve seats, so the fuel can cause valve seat recession if the head material is not hard enough. My LPG man flagged this as an issue on Porsche, so the gas should have been run with a valve saver lubricant to compensate. If this has not been done, or the owners were lazy about keeping it topped up, it will be uneconomical to repair.
Porsche Boxster buying notes
Now more than twenty years old, the fuss-free styling of the first Porsche Boxsters have made them true modern classics. Collector preference is always for low mileage and the lowest mile non-S in the UK is a 2001 2.7 car in Guards Red with a mere 22k miles for just under £9k from a dealer in Scotland. Perhaps a little rich given what else is available at the same price point, but you don’t have to spend nine grand to find a nice example. The effortless chic of a simple early Boxster can be bought for less than £5k.
All low-priced Boxsters come with a job list and it is often more cost effective to buy an expensive car in good order than a cheap car needing tidying. The bodywork on this one looks a little patchy and the leather is tired with a hole in the driver’s seat bolster, but it has the hardtop and is MOT’d until June 2019. It would probably break for spares fairly easy if it fails its MOT big time. An asking price of less than £2500 is certainly interesting to those of who like cheap Porsche projects.
Apologies for the lack of blog content in recent weeks: it’s been a busy summer of projects that I am not allowed to talk about! Alongside those activities, I’ve been busy with many other interesting things. One side that has taken a step up of late is car finding and marketing: helping people to refine their car collections.
I have just collected this Porsche Panamera V6 PDK for sale on behalf of a good friend. You may know someone who is in the market, so get in touch if you would like to come and see it. The asking price is £22,995, which is well below similar cars for sale.
2010 Porsche Panamera V6 PDK for sale
Owned by a good friend who is currently travelling the world, this 2010 Porsche Panamera V6 PDK is in very good order throughout. Finished in Carbon Grey Pearl and trimmed in full black leather, it has a great options package which cost over £7,600 when new, including:
Steering Wheel Heating (with heated front seats) £178
Wheel Centres with Coloured Crest £107
Universal Audio Interface £75
This beautiful car also benefits from full colour Porsche sat nav with the additional colour display in the speedo cluster, usual high-spec communications management, Bose hifi and so much more giving the car a truly luxurious specification. As the photos show, this car is in very nice condition with only minor marks on the bodywork, appropriate to the age, mileage and build quality.
With 300 bhp on tap from the 3605cc V6 engine, it is a wonderful car to go anywhere in and cossets the occupants like few other machines. The 4wd system makes it perfect for year-round use. I am told that it easily achieves over 30 mpg on average and costs £315 per year to tax. All good news for the lucky next owner.
Porsche Panamera Service History
Supplied by OPC Colchester and first registered on October 31st, 2010, the Panamera has covered just 46,800 miles from new and has a full Porsche service history from its supplying dealer up to 39,000 miles, with a recent service by independent specialists, Tuthill Porsche in Banbury at 46,000 miles on July 26th. The book is stamped as follows:
22/10/2010 – OPC Colchester – 19718 miles
21/10/2013 – OPC Colchester – 24504 miles
18/08/2014 – OPC Colchester – 29379 miles
07/08/2015 – OPC Colchester – 36315 miles
07/09/2016 – OPC Colchester – 38989 miles
26/07/2016 – Tuthill Porsche – 46188 miles
The MOT has over ten months remaining and is valid until August 29, 2019. The last test had advisories on both rear tyres wearing close to the limits, so we have allowed for this in the price, which is less than a third of the original cost new and cheaper than other cars for sale at the minute, some of which have much higher mileage. It is priced right for a quick sale as part of an overall reduction in cars owned by the household, so they are not looking for offers or part exchanges at this time.
Price and Payment/Collection
The car is located just outside Banbury and is available for inspection on weekday mornings, Monday to Friday, and all day at weekends. I am happy to work with independent inspectors if you wish to have it inspected. Payment will be by bank transfer to the owner.
Our nearest train station is Banbury and nearest airport is Birmingham, which has direct trains every hour to us. Feel free to fly in and drive home – the car is absolutely ready to go anywhere.
I recently had to move my 1983 Porsche 944 project from long term and slightly forgotten storage in a lock-up garage to a friend’s barn where some of my other cars are kept. The garage rent payments had increased to the point where they were being noticed rather than just drifting out of my account every month, so it was time for a change.
My Porsche projects have been right on the back burner for several years since I got back into old BMW motorcycles, but I haven’t lost any appetite for the three classic Porsches that remain as part of my fleet. The 924 Turbo is having a fuel system refresh with a new filter and pump arrangement to get around the issue of the in-tank pump and hopefully that will be off to storage somewhere else soon, leaving me with some garage space. Now the 944 is back on my radar after spending a day dragging it about and stripping some aluminium arms off a rear beam which is supposed to be heading its way, it is lined up to be next in the garage.
Porsche 944 Project: Rust Update
Moving the car was a good excuse to stop off at the Racing Restorations workshop and take a closer look at the only real rust on the car: small patches at the rear of both sills and a sizeable hole in the battery tray. I had a go at the sills with a hammer and chisel and – as I always suspected – they are really not bad: nothing like the shocking rust one sees on later 944s that have been used every year since manufacture. This 86k-mile example car has been in storage for over twenty years so I am not too surprised that the shell is in good condition.
The battery tray damage is rather more substantial than the rust on the sills, but my colleague assures me that repairing it properly will take less time than should be needed to pull the fusebox and loom out of the way. I’m taking that as a challenge. Having broken several 924s and 944s for spares and spent a lot of time lying in the driver’s footwell of my LHD Porsche 924 Turbo sorting out the wiring loom, getting all that copper out of this car won’t be that difficult: there’ll be a lot more room to work in once the brown dashboard has been removed.
This weekend was the first time I had driven some of my other cars for a while, including the lovely old 1993 Mercedes 500 SL in Malachite Green, my Daytona Violet E36 M3 saloon and my old Landcruiser 80-series. Still love those, too. Why would anyone buy a new car when old ones are so much cooler?
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