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In Praise of Lesser Porsches
Words & Photographs: John Hunter
The quest to find the perfect lesser Porsche
has taken this Scotsman all over the place,
even to foreign lands, which is why I ended
up in Knutsford. My companion du jour
announced she was going to get her nails
done, and it would take an hour, although
quite what takes an hour when I can file
my nails in three minutes defeats me but
that’s girls for you. So with an hour to kill, I
gravitated towards the McLaren showroom.
It was a Friday afternoon, there was one
salesman on duty but tied up in conversation
with customers, so I was welcomed but left
in peace. The perfect arrangement. There
were three different MP4-12Cs in the room
plus an absolutely fascinating example
stripped to its carbon tub and engine as an

26

exhibit which I prowled round, boggle eyed,
in admiration at the stunning detail and
engineering excellence. Finally I opened the
door to one of the cars and climbed in. Wow!
It felt like Ron Dennis himself had come
round my gaff and measured me up like
a tailor and then gone back to Woking
and built the car to fit me personally. The
dimensions and ergonomics were simply
perfect; it fitted me like a Savile Row suit.
The style, layout and choice of materials also
reeked of sheer minimalist class, just as I like
it. It could have been designed by Apple or
Braun, a total contrast to the garish interior of
modern Ferraris. It is no lie that I sat in that
cockpit for fully 20 minutes, unhassled by

salesmen and just “absorbed” … it was close
to motoring nirvana. A lifelong petrolhead,
I started out with mopeds and old Minis,
and have spent ever since working my way
up the motoring tree. The given mantra
has always been “MORE” … More speed.
More power. More looks. More kit. The
McLaren perhaps represents the pinnacle
of everything I have thought I have been
looking for these last forty-odd years; the
performance car honed to utter perfection.
I stepped back out into the busy Cheshire
afternoon and thought of that old saying
…”Be careful what you wish for, it might come
true” and realised it had just happened to me.
I had finally found the car of my dreams and

TwoFour  Issue 6 • www.porsche924.co.uk

it was as pointless as a chocolate ashtray. Back
here in the real world were seething traffic,
20mph limits, speed humps and camera vans
lurking on every decent bit of road. What on
earth was the point of a perfect 200mph car?
And as I trudged off through the chi chi little
town to find the nail bar I noticed the streets
were littered with parked Mercedes, BMWs,
Ferraris, Porsches and all those ghastly blingy
SUV things. The sad truth is we have achieved
a sort of motoring perfection and the best we
can use it for is as a sort of outdoor, heavily
depreciating, male jewellery. Knutsford High
Street or the road to Damascus? Either way
it was certainly an epiphany. To tell the truth
I have for some years now had the nagging
feeling that the performance car market

TwoFour  Issue 6 • www.porsche924.co.uk

was getting totally out of kilter with what
our society allows, or even tolerates and my
visit to McLaren was really the final straw.
Six years ago I bought a Porsche Cayman,
my fifth Porsche but my first (and probably
last) new one. It is Guards Red and I ordered
it with almost no options; only cruise control
(to help keep my licence) and heated seats
(‘cos my wife likes them) and nothing else.
I was repeatedly told I was mad to buy such
a bare-spec car as I would never be able to
sell it again but as I had every intention of
keeping it forever it mattered not a jot to me.
It was (and still is) my pride and joy. I have
done over 50,000 miles in it as I bought it to
drive, not to polish but it still looks as good

as the day it was delivered. It is the fastest
and most powerful car I have ever owned
and the figures make telling reading; 245
bhp, 160 mph and 6 seconds to 60. Back
in the 70’s when I first started driving and
through all those years of devouring CAR
magazine, those figures would have qualified
you for the supercar club. And in a way
they still do, for me at least, as the roads
are busier than ever. Speed is looked upon
as some sort of social menace and I have
to watch my right foot carefully to avoid
familiarity with the local magistrates court...
And yet … my Cayman is now obliterated
by muscular hot hatches and torque-laden
turbo diesels, and is very much the baby of

27

the Porsche range. Far from being a supercar
it is firmly considered a lesser Porsche. People
sneer at my pathetic 17” wheels and ask where
the sat nav, PASM and leather seats are and
when am I going to trade it up for something
faster. But I know a secret. Less is sometimes
more and that was never more true than it is
today in the world of sports cars. A week or
so ago the Cayman was in for a service and
Porsche Centre Edinburgh kindly lent me a
new 991 Carrera 4S for 48 hours. In full attack
mode it was truly awesome, as an afternoon
of spirited solo driving proved but it was also
temptation on a stick which would have lost
me my licence in hours. In waft mode it was
delicious but ruinously thirsty and moreover
it carried a six figure price tag. I enjoyed the
experience but I felt unusually relieved to
hand it back. My Cayman may not be so
fast but at least I can deploy a few seconds

28

worth of throttle without achieving the sort
of speeds that jet fighters use for take off. In
short, I can actually enjoy “driving” it rather
than forever backing off. Less is truly more!
The problem with being a dyed-in-thewool petrolhead is that it comes with a
permanent itch to forever keep buying, selling
or swapping cars. Having decided that I am
no longer going to climb the performance
tree, where next then to satisfy the itch? I
have become aware that a lot of my mates in
the Porsche Club have been quietly buying
up and salting away nice examples of earlier
Porsches so I decided I should have a flutter
myself. Nice though an early model 911
might be, that boat sailed without me years
ago as they are all well out of the reach of
my pensioner wallet. Looking back over
all the Porsches I’ve driven (and luckily for

me that is pretty much all of them) I have
long had a soft spot for the 924 and it also
seems to be the only remaining older Porsche
which isn’t being eyed up by the speculators.
I decided I’d look for a good one before they
too were all gone. This of course is why I was
in Knutsford in the first place, on another
abortive journey to Englandshire to look at
yet another supposed paragon that turned out
to be a disappointment. I’ve lost track of how
many miles I’ve covered and how many cars I
have looked at but I do know I’ve been from
Inverness (the green one) to Rochdale (the
silver one), and to Derby (the white turbo)
and come home empty handed every time.
Indeed I was almost at the point of giving up
but was idly flicking through the Pistonheads
classifieds (yet again) when I spotted a car
that had just been advertised. It looked

TwoFour  Issue 6 • www.porsche924.co.uk

promising; a 1981 2.0 N/A in Guards Red
with an almost unbelievable 35,000 miles on
it from new. What’s more it was only half an
hour away from me and seemed curiously
under priced. Before I knew it I was on
the blower and at the chap’s house the next
morning. As soon as I saw it I realised why
the price seemed low as it was languishing
in the corner of a garage, faded and filthy
and generally looking very sad and neglected
as it hadn’t turned a wheel in two years.
Rather dejected, I was about to turn and
walk away, when almost out of politeness I
ventured into the garage, opened the door
and looked inside. Through the grime I
detected an almost unmarked interior in
vintage brown and cream Pascha, and as I
closed the door I realised that it shut with
that deeply satisfying “thunk” that you

TwoFour  Issue 6 • www.porsche924.co.uk

only get on a car that has seen little use
over the years. Hmm. Not so fast cowboy!
Although the vendor had not even bothered
to wash it, he had at least been out and bought
a new battery. We fitted it, sloshed a gallon of
petrol into it and good grief it started almost
first kick and after a bit of spluttering settled
down to a smooth idle. I started to feel my
wallet twitching. The owner said the clutch
was seized but a spot of brute force and
ignorance fixed it so we manoeuvred it out
onto the driveway for the first time in years
and I’d swear I could see the car blinking in
the sunlight. By now I was sunk. I did the deal
and we shook hands.
Within a few more days an MoT had been
sorted out, money changed hands and I
drove it home. I now owned another lesser
Porsche. Or maybe it now owned me.

Inevitably, as I inspected it and drove it
tentatively over the next few days, I compiled
a not-inconsiderable list of things that need
to be fixed, replaced, repaired, cleaned and
generally fettled. I shall keep the details of the
car’s progress for another chapter but even in
the six weeks I’ve now owned it I have ticked
off enough of the things on the list to realise
I have bought a sound and solid little car.
Flicking through the old MoTs I got with the
car tells me that over the last 15 years it has
averaged less than 500 miles per year. I think
it is suffering from lack of use as much as
anything and indeed it seems to get sweeter
and faster with every mile that I put on it, as
it slowly comes back to life. In fact over the
last three weeks I have put more miles on
the clock than the previous owner did in his
three year tenure including one particularly
memorable run.

29

I had taken the 924 to a Porsche Club meeting
in Dundee, where it was much admired and
I set off home early before it got too dark.
From the Tay Bridge to my house is about
20 miles down the A914 though rural north
Fife, a road I have been driving and enjoying,
on two wheels or four, for as long as I have
been driving. I know it like the back of my
hand. It is one of those lovely flowing A
roads, but which sadly now is all too often
blighted by tractors, speed cameras and folk
in Micras doing 46mph but not that night
... I had it all to myself. Had I been in that
borrowed Carrera 4S I could no doubt have

30

monstered it, using the prodigious amount of
power, grip and braking it has but in truth it
would have been the car doing the work not
me. To drive a car like that at sensible road
speeds you are so far within its performance
envelope that it actually requires very little
driving skill from the pilot. Worried about
your braking points or turn-in? Don’t fret.
You can be as ham-fisted as you like and the
car will absorb your mistakes and not even
flinch. Modern cars flatter you into thinking
that you are Lewis or Kimi, but you’re not.
The 924 is very different, however. Much
more “old skool”. As it has only modest

acceleration, the trick is to try to always
maintain your velocity. Gentle braking into
corners to transfer the weight onto the front
wheels, turn in, and feed the power back in
while feeling what the chassis is telling you.
No ABS. No traction control. No stability
management systems. Just your fingertips
and the seat of your pants. It brought
back skills I almost thought I’d forgotten.
Less is more. It was a very good 20 miles!
Clearly I have a way to go yet to get the car
back into top shape but I’m looking forward
to the journey. Watch this space. JH

TwoFour  Issue 6 • www.porsche924.co.uk

Inspired by John’s story?
Send your own to:
Publications@porsche924.co.uk


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