Retro rocket

Those people at Total 911 magazine know a thing or two about their readership. They recognise that there are large numbers of 996 owners who feel looked-down upon. That’s one reason why they keep generating supportive articles like this. The other reason is that anyone with the ability to interpret numbers and written English understands what superb value these cars represent.


The video talks about £15k to £20k being the price for a 996. Only a few months ago, people would have scoffed at paying this kind of money for even a low mileage, great condition car. It seems that the idea is spreading that this is a) the best looking car Porsche ever made and b) a 911.

It’s hard to know without a test drive how good the CSR refit actually is -especially since £20k is a lot of money. Aesthetically, I’m no fan of ducktails, the chequered seats are a 928 thing, as far as I’m concerned and the Fuchs wheels belong to an earlier era.

Aside from all that, it’s exciting to see that the very best of design is always worthy of being revisited and uprated. As a devotee of the narrow-body bodyshell, this looks like an awesome new product. £20k might actually represent value for money if it also buys you a secure business relationship with people who know, and love, your car.



Stuttgart status?


Porsche people have more than their fair share of competitiveness, although it takes some very different forms. Carrera isn’t just another badge, after all. It’s about life viewed as a bigger race. Some of us like to compete on track, but most wouldn’t dream of risking their ‘investment’ anywhere near the red line.

Owning something others can’t afford has an unfortunate attraction for people.

It’s certainly tough to get hold of a P-car. The tougher, the better, some would say. The vehicle becomes some kind of badge that’s supposed to say ‘I’ve made it’. When I was growing up, some neighbours got themselves a new rennwagen. The driveway presence and the pricetag weren’t enough in terms of bragging. They needed to tell everyone that they had a hand-tooled kangaroo-skin interior fitted. Even as a car-mad teenager, I thought that was a bit shallow.

Ferry’s Volk can feel like a breed apart but even within this select society there is intense competition. Nobody can accuse you of being uncommitted when you drive a car costing around £100k. By spending more, much more, you can even go for something like the 918 (which ‘everyone’ says it much better than eg the GTS). Actually, nobody I know has ever driven either of them, let alone actually exploited their performance. Such conspicuous consumption seems just ugly. Like those people who personalise their cars with insanely tasteless flared arches or silly graphics or homemade aerokits.

Outside the rarified world of the latest 911 variants, you now have Macans, Panameras, Cayennes. These sound more like mutant fruit species, rather than legitimate descendents of a racecar brand. These products seem designed more as status objects than vehicles.

Somewhere towards the very bottom of this hierarchy of desirability lies the 996. Aside from a small number of real engine reliability issues, the main reason that it used to be so looked down on by purists and pundits was its very popularity. It also looked like the (pretty, but much cheaper) Boxster. People can be so easily influenced by some know-nothing journalist using phrases like ‘hairdresser’s car’ or ‘ugly duckling’ or just ‘lemon’. I’m grateful to those relentless naysayers who talked down the prices of some 911s to the point of purchasability by mere mortals.

So I bought my car. I’m glad it stands for superlative design and not ostentation. Its interior, widely criticised for the plastic buttons, is the nicest I’ve ever sat in. I really don’t care about the bonnet release design or the lack of a glove compartment. There is no Active Management of anything. When all is said and done, this is a vehicle which I chose and which makes me happy. Once in a while, some schoolboys may turn and stare but almost no-one pays attention to my car. I enjoy the shape and the nimble dynamics, within the limits of my driving skill. I feel no need to compete with the latest or the fastest (and certainly not the most expensive).

You can sometimes spot a once-white 944 parked in Edinburgh’s swanky New Town, among the jostling RangeRovers. I love that it is still going, despite not having been near a main dealer in at least two decades. It has ratty paint, few working bulbs and an interior filled with newspapers. That used to be an immaculate victory medal, a genuine Porsche. As one of the alleged 70% of all Stuttgart carts still on the road, I think, in its own way, it’s a still a real winner.


Startled frogs


It’s time to admit something else. I really dislike the old, air-cooled Porsche designs.  Whilst the back ends are sublime, those little froggy-eyed headlamps are just so objectionable. They detract from the cars’ appearance to a huge extent. A jutting front bumper, that looks more like the bill of a crestfallen platypus, completes the inept ‘design-is-for-girls’ look.

I’m convinced that people like these vehicles for three main reasons:

  1. The performance used to be legendary.
  2. Driving a small, high speed car that straps on tightly is just a great experience, especially when it demands your attention to move quickly down the road. Looks are, however, secondary to anyone who considers himself a true, old-school purist.
  3. Many others like them, which is reflected in the price. Lots of people do whatever they are told, of course. When advertisers say, “buy this to complete your life” -off they go.

I’m always trying to think for myself. Sure, I buy what is well advertised, but I also demand to apply some aesthetic and technical judgement. Anyone who knows a damn thing about aerodynamics understands that those flat fronted lamps are a source of significant drag. They also look just like a startled frog; a victory of expediency over beauty.

Porsche clearly recognised the problem -with various flat-nose designs and then the 993 came along. Take a look at the headlamps on this aerodynamically optimised prototype whose Cd was 0.27, as compared to the contemporary value for a frog-eye of 0.40. Here, ignoring the rest of the car, is what the old 911’s nose should have looked like.

Eventually, the 996’s fried eggs achieved near perfection with Cd=0.30 (before being replaced by the ‘facelift’ version -sorry, but the later 996s have a slightly-melted, droopy-eyed look. Stallone before the cuts man stepped into the ring.


What’s in a badge?


Do you ever think about car badges? I do and I’m not sure why. Is there such a thing as a great car with a rubbish badge, or a bad car with a wonderful emblem? Some badges, in my view, seriously detract from otherwise great vehicles. Some are on cars so special that you just have to forgive them. Here are my views on some of the badges above*.

Alfa: Looks like the coat of arms of some 14th Century order of badass Knights. Pretty cool and full of history. The badge itself is always well made. Where did all those beautiful Alfas of the 50s and 60s go?

Aston Martin: Uber cool. Even when they back it with ghastly green, it still looks fresh -and fast. (It also looks great on T shirts!)

Audi: Boring. Somebody dropped the Olympic rings and one rolled away. At least it’s not offensive and I do like their general efforts to market themselves as the leading edge of Tech.

Bentley: Just a big nothing. Chubby, not classy.

BMW: Despite having been ripped off badly by BMW before, I still love this logo. It’s businesslike and has a history…who doesn’t love that their logo is a spinning propeller? DAKADAKADAKADAKA….

Bugatti: Looks like Blockbuster Video stores used to. I really dislike the recent cars and the badge looks cheap to me.

Citroen: Two boomerangs? I quite like this as a design, but most of their cars are unremarkable and I can’t forgive them for the Deux Chevaux: a car designed to compensate for the poor state of rural roads in France.

Ferrari: Nasty badge. Yellow and black and red and green with some horrible handwritten font. The car superseded the horse…so why are they celebrating that?

Fiat: Very ‘Il Duce’.

Ford: Horrible design.  Il Duce II?. These folk would sell a lot more cars if they took this guy’s signature off the front.

Honda: I quite like it. It has come to mean good things in my mind. A lump of shiny, sculpted metal and the H says who it is.

Chevrolet: Utterly bad. A golden bowtie? Cheap and nasty and design free.

Chrysler: A cat’s anus.

Hummer: Helpful of them to make the badge resemble the vehicle (minus machine guns). I’ve just noticed that the Hyundai emblem looks like someone parked a Hummer on a Honda.

Jaguar: Asymmetry really does not work. The bonnet adornment was super good though, until health-and-safety decided it was a threat to pedestrians. Have you seen the plastic cat’s head steering wheel boss?…looks like it came in a Xmas cracker. Could be worse…see Chrysler.

Jeep: Unpretentious, see Honda.

Lamborghini: I like the bull drawn dramatically in perspective. Not a big fan of all that gold though (See Porsche!)

Land Rover: It’s still 1950 for this little badge. Why the hell couldn’t somebody in Britain manage this brand to success? Directors who went to English public school to learn how to manage an empire long gone, is why. Also, where the hell is the McLaren badge? (it’s a ridiculous, inverted red Nike swoosh thing…really lets down a great car design “bares (sic) similarities to the vortices created by a McLaren’s racing cars” -Wikipedia).

Lexus: Acura after spinning on thin ice.

Lotus: Lots of heritage. Deeply nasty colour combo, though.

Mercedes: Elegant. Pity they gave Adolf Hitler a free one #badproductplacement.

Mini: Notice it’s not called BMC any more (see Land Rover). Silly little winged thing.

Mitsubishi: Is this based on a ninja throwing star? I reckon a large Zero would have been pretty cool.

Porsche: It just shrieks performance. I dislike gold, but it looks shiny and classy on my steering wheel (They once also made the best tank cupolas, but that does not appear in many coffee table books on the marque).

Rolls Royce: Nice logo, but another remnant of the Empire. The noisiest thing may well have been the clock, but they failed to hear it ticking (See Land Rover, etc, etc.). These people used to power the Spitfire, so how could they not make a world class performance car?

Rover: Ughh. Vikings. In the midlands. A car fit only for Jeremy Clarkson to drive on a factfinding visit to Ireland.

Skoda: WTF? Great cars…but what a hellish mess of a badge. Green and asymmetrical. It’s a stylised blobby archer, I think.

Toyota: Ariel view of a roundabout network on the outskirts of Osaka? You could join this up with their Lexus brand’s hairpin bend badge and have a photo-reconnaissance map for a bomb run on the factory…just joking.

Has anyone ever seen a UAZ or a Tavria? Are these even cars?


* Borrowed from


Nice shirt, great car (shame about the face)

I just thought I’d say a big  ‘Thank you‘ to everyone who has bought something from the Class Action Designs gear store. The support is much appreciated.

If you have ideas for designs or additional products, I’d love to hear about them…(as long as they don’t involve anything that looks like this, or is priced like this 😉


Not exactly male model material, I know, but this old fellow tries hard (whoever he is). Pity he hasn’t learned to use an iron (and can’t even remember to turn off his lights).

If you know anyone who would look better than this guy great in a 996-themed shirt or hoody…do please send them this  link.

We’ve even cut the prices of some selected products, (Hoodies with the ‘Porsche 911’ logo) by way of a Happy New 2016 gift.



Whoa!…how I saved another £80


My central brakelight unit has been malfunctioning, with only some of the lamps switching on during braking.

Having removed the unit, a handful of grey plastic fragments fell out.  This is a 16 year old piece of kit, located above a hot engine, so it’s not that surprising.

Eventually, I managed to work out (using a separate battery and some wires) that the bulbs are all fine, but the copper connector bars were locally disconnected from some of the bulb bodies.

A small amount of plastic strip and some glue was used to neatly repair this (although I have to admit that it was the threat of the £80 for a replacement unit that caused me to take the work on myself).

Some of these parts, when bought direct from planet Porsche, are set at crazy prices. My father who was an auto electrician, dissected many Porsche OEM systems and discovered that even back in the 70s these were just comprised of VW components rebranded and tripled in price.

That might work in Beverly Hills, for a while, but not in my neck of the woods.


When it ain’t broke…

911 family

If you glance at these three cars, they are essentially the same (barring colour)*.

I have spent some time thinking about why I like the 996 more than the other two variants. The 997 is ruled out just because of the slavish reversion to oval headlights and the platypus-flat nose section (which you can’t really see in profile).

The 991 has several problems, in my opinion. These are labeled in yellow.

A -this rear end is far too deep compared to the other two. Ok it’s probably aerodynamics but it looks too fat and adds unnecessary visual weight to the back end. This section (together with C) makes the whole rear end of the car seem as if it’s bending upwards.

B -the rear wheel bulge is too high and pushes up into the rear window too much, distorting the flow of the bodywork.

C -is it just me, or is the line of the door here sagging downwards? Why not make it straight?

D -windscreen slope is now less, leading to a lower roof height. This seems to cramp the ‘office’ and flatten the car unnecessarily. I’m not sure I would actually fit in. Also, the new sunroof opens by sliding over the back of the roof? That just can’t be good design.

E -headlamps are just too prominently convex for my taste. They looks like bulging fingernails or something.

F -front overhang is greatly reduced. This is good, but with the shorter front end, the rear now looks bloated. The car seems seriously rear end heavy.

G -silly little sharp indicator looks like it has been shoved into this already crowded area as an afterthought.

I’ve heard the current Head of Design talk about Ferdinand Porsche never changing anything just for change’s sake. He insisted always on some real improvement. The Porsche company currently believes it can’t keep selling the old thing…there must be a new one each year and it must look like ‘The New One’.  I’m having serious doubts about that mindset. My bet is that within a few years, they will be launching a much simplified, somewhat slower, more engaging, rougher, retro-911. No PASM, limited electronic modes, no iPad interface, no reactive aero, bright colours, drive-it-anywhere.

It will be costly and reasonably exclusive, representing a return to the roots, as the rest of the models go more and more electric/hybrid. This 911+ will be infinitely remanufacturable -take it back to the dealer every two years for renewal of even major components such as the engine and/or gearbox and/or interior. These parts will be new or factory refurbished. There may be a whole new longlife leasing scheme, tailored to suit an individual and including a programme of try-before-you-buy options.

Just my personal views, of course. No vehicles, or the egos of angry folk online, were harmed in the making of this post. If you are still in search of amusement in connection with this topic, I suggest watching this which talks a lot about Design DNA. How do they get that guy to speak as if his testicles are caught in a vise? Oh, right.

(*The bottom 2/3 of this image appeared on some forum and I’m not claiming copyright. Nor am I making any money from the reuse, so please don’t bother threatening legal action).


Leather blether

The leather on my driver’s seat bolster was on the way out when I bought the car. Every time I got in, I could feel the stitching on my jeans inflicting some fresh damage on the surface (which already looked like Jabba the Hutt’s middle buttock).

In the course of having it detailed once, I mentioned the possibility of a repair and the valet, of course, knew someone who knew someone… etc. I ended up visiting a guy operating a business from what looked like a private house dropped into an industrial estate from low orbit.

After much sucking of teeth, head shaking and tutting, I was informed that, whilst he could fix black seats, light brown was impossible to match. He did know someone who would know someone, etc, who would sell me a pair of seats for £3,000. I rasped my backside into the driver’s seat and left, sharpish.

There were also some patches of abrasion on the gearlever, steering wheel and door handle. Nothing major, but it was starting to attract my attention in an otherwise pristine interior. This led to what can only be considered a period of obsessive searching for YouTube how-to videos centring on leather restoration.

I reckon I’ve seen them all. The couple with the insane white interior fitted to their Jaguar…that bloke going at his Mercedes seats with a wire pad fitted loosely to his hammer drill. That woman who was staining her sofa green as a practice run before attacking a Mazda that was worth less than the cost of the dye. Whilst it was fun watching these folk do battle with amniotic fluid stains, epidermal fissures, ingrained filth and school-run debris, I knew that I’d have to get on and do the job myself.

A Scuffmaster leather paint kit in ‘Savannah’ was thus bought from .  I also splashed out on some Gliptone leather cleaner and conditioner. The Gliptone was generally raved about in all sorts of obscure online fora. Personally, I reckon it wasn’t that special. In particular the leaner was a bit mild and ineffective (at least in my inexperienced hands).  Despite being a bit of a painter, I found the leather dye took some getting used to. Its colour was not an exactly correct match for the leather in my particular car, so I ended up doing four successive experiments to blend in the colour. This required using some painter’s wipes from B&Q that did a good job of removing any paint which wasn’t working, before the next nailbiting attempt.

Eventually, I hit upon a method which worked to my satisfaction.

After cleaning the surface as hard as I dared, I made a slightly diluted sample of the paint and dabbed it on, very very sparingly, over a large area of the lower bolster. This I repeated four times, concentrating more on the damaged area each time. Finally, I was pleased with the colour match, the texture and the blending. It is not factory perfect, but the effect is about 99% correct. Hugely better than before and the leather itself is nice and flexible after two or three further applications of conditioner, rubbed in over a period of a few weeks. Please see below…






Lamps and lineage

Screenshot from 2015-12-17 19:48:30

Ok, so I’ll own up to having a Pinterest account. It’s not just for party girls or soccer moms, you know. If you can focus clearly on what kinds of images you are into, it’s a pretty cool way to follow lots of developments in any field. No need to read huge volumes of text…if you are interested, just click through to the source page.

As with any other form of social media, some aspects drive me nuts of course…I really don’t like their recommendation engine that insists I’m keen on caravans and Christmas decorations. Instead, I tend to follow people with an eye for engineering and sculpture (avoiding like the plague anyone with boards entitled ‘nail art’, ‘words of inspiration’ or even ‘yummy cake ideas’.

Anyway, the Pinteresti are always trying to find ways to make their site more engaging (so they can sell stuff, eventually). One tool they’ve introduced is the ability to search for visually similar images. I have a bit of a track record in this area, so I was keen to know how well their visual search worked.

I cropped a picture of a 996’s headlamp and it came up with a lot of lights which seem to be pretty closely related to the famous front end of the beloved 996. It’s actually pretty impressive that only headlights appeared…normally with such systems, you can expect the odd random goat or mountain scene.

My conclusion, as you’d expect, is that the 996 was years ahead of its time in design terms. Generations of modern cars seem to bear features descended from the work of Pinky Lai. Oval headlights are certainly one element symptomatic of the 911, but they just haven’t been as widely adopted as the classic Bosch fried eggs.


Merch, not Meh


I’m sorry but I can’t be silent any longer. I don’t see why a brand a great as Porsche continues to struggle along with merchandise, especially clothing, that is just second rate. I don’t mean in terms of manufactured quality, just in terms of design.

Their T shirts are a case study of uncool. There is no brand identity or theme. They look like they come from several different companies. They don’t reflect the shared values of ownership or the varied qualities of their vehicle range, historic and present. The colours are apparently random. The pricing is too high. A cycling shirt? Seriously? They bought a licence to use the Steve McQueen name and then used it for this lot. I’m not a fan of baseball caps but you have to ask, would McQueen be seen dead wearing any of this stuff?

Have you ever seen anyone wearing one of these official Driver’s Selection shirts? No other part of Porsche’s business is so poorly thought out.

Worse still, take a look at some of the competition (eg here and here).

Effortless cool, colour themed, reflecting brand values and tight, dramatic designs.

I won’t get into a discussion about Audi, BMW or Aston Martin because they aren’t even trying. How odd is that in a market sector that lives for competition and in which brands are so important to so many fanfolk? (both owners and wannabes).

This is one of my reasons for starting Class Action Designs. Porsche people surely want to wear stuff that effectively communicates “This car marque reflects who I am, what I really care about.”

My suggestion would be for Porsche to invite 20 of the World’s top designers to submit some ideas for where to go with their merchandising. In the meantime, do please consider buying something from this independent source. Next up, in 2016, is a 917 design, based on a painting of mine.