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Classic Porsches on show at Autofarm for MR Retro Live

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Autofarm in Oxfordshire is a mecca for disciples of the air-cooled and the rear-engined. The company has been fixing and restoring Porsches since 1973, and its huge wooden barns are stuffed with classic 911s. Where better, then, to hold our second MR Retro Live event – this time catering for Porsche enthusiasts.

And so it was that, one brisk Sunday morning, a group of Porsche fans gathered at Autofarm, chatting cars and supping coffee to a flat-six soundtrack. The Motoring Research team was there, too: Peter in his 964 Carrera 4 and Andrew in a Cayman GT4 nabbed from Porsche’s press fleet. Here are some of the highlights.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

Yes, before you ask, it’s a real one. The Carrera 2.7 RS is the most iconic 911 of all, with the best examples today costing seven figures. Designed for motorsport homologation, it boasted a fuel-injected 210hp engine, stiffer suspension and bigger brakes – not forgetting that trademark ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler.

This ’73 RS belongs to one of Autofarm’s customers and was in for a service. It was restored about 10 years ago and remains in flawless original condition.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911S

Speaking of originality, Chris Knowles’ stunning 2.4 S looks exactly as it left the factory in 1972. The Signal Yellow bodywork has been resprayed by Autofarm, but the interior has never been retrimmed.

Interestingly, 1972 was the only model-year where 911s had an oil tank access flap on the side of the car. However, some owners filled it with petrol, so Porsche wisely chose to relocate it under the engine lid. 

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Ruf 964 special

Remember the Ruf CTR – star of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show? The German company has been modifying Porsches for decades, including this unique 964. Based on a 3.6 RS, it packs a twin-turbo engine from the later 993 Turbo.

Ruf also fitted its ‘electronic foot’ clutchless manual gearbox. And the eagle-eyed will spot the wide-arched Turbo bodywork has been de-seamed – just like an old Mini.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche Cayman GT4

Not a 911, but equally as cool, the Cayman GT4 is a modern Porsche destined for classic status. MR’s Andrew had this Guards Red example for the weekend and kept finding tenuous excuses to run errands in it.

With added aero, a stiffer chassis and brakes from the 911 GT3, the 385hp GT4 is a serious driving machine. It also comes with a six-speed manual gearbox – something that wasn’t available on the GT3 at the time.MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

Regular readers will recognise this car – also Guards Red – from our Retro Road Test last year. The hardcore 964 was the first 911 to wear the RS badge since the 1970s. Thankfully, Porsche did it justice, with more power, less weight and a close-ratio gearbox.

This car was recently for sale at Autofarm and has been expertly restored in-house. MD Mikey Wastie reckons it’s one of the best 964s he’s driven. We were equally effusive, saying: “It’s a car you’ll ache to spend time with, to learn its quirks and exploit its talents. The buzz of driving it stayed with us many hours after we reluctantly handed back the keys.”
MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 GTS  

Paul Woods brought along his immaculate 991 GTS, complete with appropriately speedy number plate. We love the primer-grey paint, too.

This first-generation GTS is one of the last with a naturally-aspirated engine. It also came with the Powerkit engine upgrade, sports exhaust and adjustable PASM suspension. GT3 aside, could this be peak modern 911?

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911L

How pretty is this 1968 911L? Another customer car, it was already at Autofarm for some engine work. Note the oh-so-classic Fuchs alloys, as worn by many 911s of the era – including the Carrera RS.

The 130hp 911L was the mid-point in Porsche’s late-1960s range, sitting between the 110hp 911T and 160hp 911S. It also had front disc brakes.
MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Supersport

The Supersport was essentially a Carrera 3.2 with the wider wheelarches and ‘tea tray’ spoiler from the 930 Turbo. Suspension and brakes were also sourced from the flagship car, but engine output remained a standard 234hp.

Porsche also sold the Supersport in Cabriolet and Targa body styles. Today, such cars are rare, as many were cannibalised for race-look RSR conversions. MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS replica

This one is a replica, but a fantastic car nonetheless. It started life as a 1988 Carrera 3.2, then was ‘backdated’ by Autofarm to resemble a ’73 RS.

The paintwork is ‘Aubergine’, an original Porsche colour. And the dashboard was recently backdated, too, giving an authentic look inside and out. Classic style and modern(ish) mechanicals? Yes please.

Porsche 911S

Porsche 911S: Retro Road Test

Porsche 911SFirst, the bad news. If you want a classic Porsche 911, you’ve already missed the boat. Prices soared skywards years ago. For one of the very best cars, like the 911S tested here, you can now expect to pay well into six figures.

However, let’s not be blinded by finance. Regardless of its material value, a vintage 911 is both beautiful to behold and – as we’ll discover – bewitching to drive. So whether you’re a potential 911 driver or a penniless 911 dreamer, sit back and enjoy our most exotic Retro Road Test yet.

Thanks to Porsche specialists Autofarm for supplying this 1971 Porsche 911S, which was for sale at the time of writing.

Ferrari DinoWhat are its rivals?

The 911S arrived in 1969, initially with 170hp. The same year, Ferrari launched its six-cylinder 195hp Dino 246 GT and (open-top) GTS. The delicate Dino trumps the 911 for sheer beauty, but not for value. Prices can easily top £300k today.

Other rivals included the Jaguar E-Type and BMW 3.0 CS. However, neither is a pure sports car like the Porsche.

Porsche 911SWhat engine does it use?

Autofarm describes the 180hp 2.2-litre flat six in this 911S as ‘the ultimate form of Porsche’s original 911 engine’. It was a modern unit for 1971, with mechanical fuel injection and an automatic choke.

The engine sits behind the back axle in trad-911 style and drive goes to the rear wheels via a five-speed dog-leg gearbox. For the uninitiated, first gear is across and down (where reverse would often be), while the other four ratios are arranged in a simple H-pattern.

Porsche 911SWhat’s it like to drive?

Turn the key and the air-cooled six coughs and chunters into life. Its turbine-like whirr fills my ears and vibrates my fingertips through the skinny, four-spoke wheel.

Old 911s don’t like cold starts, so I give the engine a few minutes to warm up, using the hand throttle (a small lever next to the handbrake) to keep the idle speed high. Did I mention the sickly-sweet smell of oil? A classic Porsche is a car for all the senses…

Pulling away, I’m struck by how light the steering is (most of the car’s weight is at the back) and – shortly afterwards – by how ineffective the brakes are. That’s to be expected in a car of this era, of course. But it’s worth acclimatising yourself before you reach that first roundabout…

The engine is smooth and deliciously free-revving, although it doesn’t really wake up until about 5,000rpm. From there, the noise hardens to a synapse-tingling snarl and it charges to the 7,200rpm redline with real urgency.

Grip is limited by modern-car standards and there’s no doubt the rear-engined Porsche could bite back if you overcooked a corner. But it’s refreshing to drive a car that can be enjoyed at sensible speeds. The 911S is as much fun at 30mph as a new 991 Carrera at 60mph.

Porsche 911SReliability and running costs

Porsches have a reputation for robustness and the 911S comes from an age where most things could be fixed with a socket set and a can of WD40. Even so, any car this age will need regular TLC to keep it running properly. Prepare to budget several thousand pounds for maintenance each year, as official Porsche parts won’t come cheap. Especially if they’re rare, deleted items, such as obscure pieces of trim.

On the plus side, car tax (VED) is free and a classic car insurance should keep costs down.

Porsche 911SCould I drive it every day?

Compact dimensions, light controls and excellent all-round visibility (thank those skinny roof pillars) make the 911S a surprisingly capable commuter. Yes, the dog-leg gearbox is a pain in town, but you’d get used to it. Ditto the old-car brakes.

However, it seems a shame to use a car this special for the daily grind. The lack of air-con would be a pain in summer, while salty roads would ravage the bodywork in winter. And, much as we hate to say it, a classic Porsche is an investment – so it pays to use your car sparingly and keep it in tip-top condition.

How much should I pay?

This immaculate 911S would set you back you £180,000-£200,000, although many are worth considerably less. It’s rare to find an old 911 that hasn’t been restored, so condition is more important than mileage. And service history is vital.

Classic Porsches are very colour-sensitive, with bold, bright hues commanding the highest prices. Perhaps that’s why this particular car was resprayed from its original beige to Blood Orange, the factory competition colour of the era.

Porsche 911SWhat should I look out for?

There isn’t much that Autofarm’s founder, Josh Sadler, doesn’t know about 911s. These are his five top tips for buying one:

  • Always take a qualified Porsche expert with you. They know the cars well and be able to assess all key aspects.
  • Heads for the paperwork first. Look for careful ownership, authenticity and whether it’s possible to contact previous owners. Get a certificate from Porsche to see what the original specification was. This is still key to values.
  • Rust, rust and rust. Older Porsches rust all over – even the roof. Check for poor repairs, plating and patching. Look around the windscreen pillars (especially on cars with a sunroof), plus the inner wings, bulkheads… literally everywhere. Putting it right costs a lot!
  • Look for accident damage. These were early performance cars and it wouldn’t be unusual. Autofarm started its business by selling parts from a crash-damaged 911.
  • Matching-number cars are worth more. Check the engine and body numbers match the car’s details.

Porsche 911SShould I buy one?

This, or a new 911 GT3 RS – plus a BMW M3 for your significant other? Put like that, a £200,000 911S seems expensive. But remember, while most modern cars will lose value faster than you can say ‘depreciation’, a classic 911 is an appreciating asset. Admittedly, Porsche prices can’t continue their rapid ascent indefinitely, but a rare and desirable car like this will always have value to collectors.

Anyway, we promised not to get carried-away with all that. And the 911S is so much more than a set of figures on a balance sheet. I loved every minute of driving it – climbing back into a modern car seemed desperately dull by comparison. Sadly, I’m firmly in the ‘dreamer’ category when it comes to cars of this calibre. But if my numbers came up…

Porsche 911 2.7 RSPub fact

If you think a 911S is pricey, try shopping for a Carrera 2.7 RS. Only 1,580 examples of this most desirable of 911s were made, and the best cars can top £1million. Amazingly, on my visit to Autofarm, I spotted no less than five.

The car seen here was sold by Autofarm in 2014. The company can also ‘backdate’ more recent 911s to make them look like a 2.7 RS – or another classic 911.