Tucked away in the hills of rural Dorset, around 45 minutes from the infamous Supercar Stomping Ground of Sandbanks is where I found myself one cold but sunny Saturday afternoon. The place? Canford Classics, a prestige classic Porsche restoration workshop.
The story of Canford Classics starts like so many others (myself included) who have been captivated by the Porsche brand, love at first sight. I vividly remember when I first fell in love with Porsche’s, as a small child and seeing a Guards Red 964 911 Turbo.
From that moment I knew what my dream car was, fast forward a few years and I was lucky enough to own one… OK, so it was a pedal car, but regardless I felt like a king cruising around the block in my 911.
Porsche is a brand that gets under your skin, as soon as you fall for one, that’s it, they’re with you forever. This is exactly what happened to Alan Drayson as a 17 year old, a ’67 Porsche 912 kept in his Mum’s garage was in dire need of a loving touch. Juggling his time between studying for A levels and working part-time at a bar he still managed to find time to restore the old Porsche to its former glory.
Two years later and all the challenging work paid off, the 912 was finished and the love affair with Porsche had taken hold, Alan continued to restore Porsches in his spare time whilst studying a PHD at university, until finally succumbing to the pull of the Porsches to restore them full time in 2007.
Alan has since grown Canford Classics into what it is today, an internationally recognised prestige Porsche restoration workshop with an attention to detail that is nigh on impossible to surpass this side of a certain Yorkshireman’s L.A. workshop.
Case in point, this engine sticker is made in house by Canford Classics. According to Alan, if you were to order a new one from Porsche, the 4’s are joined and that is not how they were when the car originally left the production line. The production of this engine sticker involved extensive research to ensure every detail is correct.
Of course, this kind of attention to detail is not possible without a highly skilled team with their own unique talents and abilities. With every aspect of the restoration process being dealt with by Canford Classics, they take care of the bodywork, interior, trim, paintwork, mechanical components and even manufacturing rare parts if they are unable to be sourced from their own in house parts store.
When a customer has finished their enquiries regarding a restoration of their classic Porsche, Canford Classics then start what they call “The Methodology”. A 7 step system that follows the vehicle throughout the restoration process until it is complete and ready to hit the roads again.
First, they start with the inspection. Alan inspects the vehicle personally, if the customer cannot get the car to them, Alan will go to the car. This first part is used to determine the overall condition of the car.
Second to this is findings & ballpark investment, a report is generated and given to the customer detailing the work required and a guide price of the final bill.
Once the go ahead has been given they move to the strip down, where the vehicle is broken down into its individual sections, Engine, Gearbox, Body & Interior. It is at this phase where it can be determined if any further work is required and which parts can be used, and which need restoring or replacing all together.
This 911 had been delivered to Canford Classics. Alan and his team had stripped it down to find what was lurking underneath.
This whole shelf unit belongs to the car you see above.
restoration is next, the vehicle’s bodywork is stripped back to a metal shell, suspension and brakes are stripped down, and the engine and gearbox are restored down to each bolt. With everything being carried out on site, CC can have one car prepped for painting and another in the booth.
Once all that is done, build is the obvious next step, 350 hours and a ridiculously OCD level attention to detail later and the car is ready for testing.
This blue 911 was awaiting its rebuild with the suspension and brakes already completed.
The team will test a vehicle until they are 100% happy with the result and then the Porsche is back to its former glory all ready for the handover.
Once the CC guys are happy, the customer is given the keys to fire up their newly restored Porsche, ready to hit the beautiful B roads that lie in the surrounding scenery. The customer can drive away with a photographic book of the restoration, knowing their slice of Stuttgart history has been meticulously looked after in every way.
If you’re of the impatient type and would rather drive away in a newly restored Porsche without having to wait 350+ hours, Canford Classics can satisfy your thirst within their very own Showroom.
With room for 5 Porsche’s, Alan can arrange this space to any specific needs of the customer. Let’s say you’re interested in a ’72 911S LHD, much like the one pictured below. Then you’ll turn up at the showroom and Alan will have 5 cars, suited to your requirements, laid out for your viewing pleasure.
This particular 911S is a 1972 LHD model, fully restored in Light Yellow. With a 2.4l engine, its original sports seats and Fuchs wheels, I think it’s a perfect car for a summer’s evening. Apparently, this car even belonged to Siggi Brunn (6th Place, Le Mans 24hrs 1986) at one point in its history.
The ’72 911S is quite a quirky Porsche, it only lasted a year in the guise you see above. One of the main reasons for this, well that’s not the fuel cap you see there, it’s the oil! This supposedly confused people in 1972 and so Porsche changed it the year after.
“You look at a car, and you’re not sure exactly what makes it a great car… All of it does” says Alan.
Parked next to the 911s was this ’75 911 Targa. With Porsche recently bringing the Targa back into the lineup, what’s not to like about this Metallic Silver 911? I mean just look at the inlays in the seats…
Unable to source the original fabric, Alan told us that they were manufactured by a company in Scotland who work closely with Canford Classics apparel line, Motoratus. In fact, these seats inspired Motoratus to produce a jacket using the same fabric.
Now, the car you see above is something quite special. What you are looking at here is about as rare as it gets, a 1968 911 T/R in a very striking orange, another Canford Classics Restoration. This car is a true piece of Porsche history, being 1 of 5 in the world. These 911’s were originally sold, in very limited numbers, to customers looking to race or rally their Porsches.
If anything gives away the racing heritage of the T/R it’s those dual pipes. Believe me, the noise that this thing gave off is absolutely deafening, and Alan is not afraid to show it off.
Apart from the 993 seen lurking in the workshop picture at the beginning of this article, this 1989 3.2 Carrera was the newest car Alan had on site. Siting in the showroom in between 2 race cars, this Slate Metallic Grey 911 looked like a perfect street machine. An aggressive stance matched with the 16x8j Fuchs repainted in Satin Black and a clean look thanks to the lack of a whale tail spoiler.
Last but by no means least, a road/race spec ’74 914-6.
Complete with a 2.4l 911 engine, this often forgotten model of Porsche has competed in many races, here and in the USA, having originally been sourced from Jacksonville, and then Oregon before making its way to the UK.
Walking across the courtyard, back into the workshop you can truly appreciate the work that is required to create the cars seen in the showroom.
With so many cars and pieces of Porsche history around it’s easy to get distracted. Alan had one of his own vehicles in the workshop, which was patiently waiting for the engine pictured below.
As mentioned, it’s easy to get distracted in the workshop with so many things trying to steal your attention. These gauges caught my eye, I wonder what stories they could tell of years gone by, bouncing off the limiter racing Jag’s or the needles fluttering up the rev range as the driver tries to impress the mini skirt wearing girls of the 70’s.
Whilst my mind drifted off, trying to picture the scenes of the 70’s, Alan suddenly remembered he’d been wanting to show us something. He bought us round to the blue 911 and lowered the ramp. Whilst doing so he had told us that during the strip down and subsequent repaint of this car, they noticed something odd under the dash trim.
Now it’s not rare for painters of the era to sign their work, it was used as a means of being held accountable if anything was wrong. However, I think the painter was having a particularly good day when he originally painted this 911, leaving 2 small stamps of a strongman indented underneath the dash.
Before leaving, we had just enough time to ask Alan about “Motoratus”, a British made clothing line that runs alongside Canford Classics. Alan tells how they were approached by 2 designers, who were interested in combining a shared love for the Porsche Brand. It’s a notable example of automotive culture bringing people together to create wonderful things.
In my mind, this is what it’s all about, this is why we do what we do, why people like Alan spend their time bringing these cars back to their former glory. It’s all done for the love of it. Alan does not come across as a guy that’s in it for the money or the fame, and he isn’t concerned with that. He does this because as a young man he was bitten by the Porsche bug, and it got under his skin, now with Canford Classics and Motoratus, he’s spreading that to others and with open arms.
Words & Pictures – James Stevens