My journey (Chris Stretton) to Porsche ownership started when I was still a teenager in the 1960s. My father, Lionel Stretton, was a serious petrol-head owning many different cars and competing in VSCC events, and so it was perhaps inevitable that I would become enthused by these activities. The first time I travelled at over 100 mph remains a vivid memory: it was at the age of five, sitting beside my father in his Healey Silverstone, with the wind ripping at my hair.
Too young for the requisite four-wheel licence I was on two wheels the very day that I turned sixteen. With my test passed, I bought a 500 cc ES2 Norton from the local scrap-yard and rebuilt it from the big-end up.
Cars came and went through father’s garage, including a Riley, Alvis, Standard 8, Goggomobil, VWs, Frazer Nashes (both vintage and post-war), a Scimitar and Elans. But from 1960, he always had a Porsche in the garage, starting with a 356.
In September 1961, Lionel was one of thirty 356 owners who attended the founding meeting of the Porsche Club Great Britain at Chateau Impney, coming away with the job of designing the newly-established clubs’ logo that was proudly displayed on the front of OBM 600. The logo remains essentially the same to this day.
In 1963 Lionel drove to Stuttgart in OBM 600, visiting the factory, but sadly I was not alongside him.
Later years would see him change OBM 600 for 25 LHX, a 1600 Super, which in 1967, took him to Sicily to watch the 51st Targa Florio. Porsche dominated the event, coming first, second and third.
Then followed a string of three 911s, in fact Lionel owned a Porsche right up until he died. So, growing up, I enjoyed plenty of motorsport and hands-on fettling of cars and motorbikes, but this was to change when I headed off to university and subsequently got my first job in South Wales, which was a long drive from significant motorsport venues. Practicalities and finances precluded any exciting wheels in the garage for many years, and even the motorbike became a casualty.
But one can only suffer withdrawal symptoms for so long and, I suppose it was just a matter of time before I would own my first Porsche. The route to this achievement was, however, lengthy and convoluted. With my own family now having grown up, in 1999 I was back on two wheels, a Honda CBR600, which was a step-change from the Norton and a real blast around the island, when I went to the TT that year! In that same year my father died, but I didn’t have the space to take on any of his cars.
Nevertheless, having something interesting on four wheels nagged away at me until I moved to a house with a suitable garage, and the dream of buying a classic eventually became a reality. A visit to Paul Matty in 2008 saw me becoming the proud owner of a Series 3 Lotus Elan. It was such fun to drive, but it wasn’t a car for long-distance Continental touring!
Whilst the car never let me down, it was high maintenance so, in 2014, I sold it back to Paul with the intention of buying something more suitable for long distance touring. With my early history, it perhaps came as no surprise that this was when I decided that I just had to own a Porsche. Nervous of buying a ‘dud’, in 2015 I sought some professional advice from my cousin, Martin Stretton, the highly successful and knowledgeable historic car racing driver.
My timing was perfect as Martin’s partner had her 911 on the market. With the deal done, I collected the car and enjoyed my first ever drive in my own Porsche on the three-hour journey home. E832 LPR is a 1987 3.2 Carrera Sport Targa which has clearly been cherished throughout its lifetime, as it was in excellent original condition.
Getting to know a ‘new’ classic car can be an interesting journey especially as the 911 gives a very different driving experience from the Elan. One is conscious of the 911’s extra performance and reputation, but nothing holds the road like an Elan, so I was a little nervous as I was unsure of where to stretch its legs. I had to first get to know the car’s characteristics.
I, and a small group of friends with open-top classics, run www.roadsterscarclub.co.uk and enjoy a programme of events each year where we arrange local runs and away trips. Some of the most popular are our ‘Top Gear Roads’ routes. Being blessed with many fabulous driving roads in Wales, it is not uncommon to see some of these roads being used by TV producers when they are looking for a photogenic route to film a feature for their programmes. Two of these are local to me: the A4069 over the Black Mountains between Llangadog and Brynamman, and the A4059 between Hirwaun and the A470 at Storey Arms (type these route numbers into Youtube to get an idea of these fantastic roads).
A few sessions on these roads and the 911 was soon familiar and feeling like an old friend. A longer run beckoned. As a regular competitor in the Spa Six Hours, Martin Stretton was racing a Ford GT40 in the 2016 event and recommended that this was an excellent weekend to include on one’s ‘bucket list’. So, with our tickets booked and the 911 serviced, my friend Kevin was added to the insurance as a second driver, ready for our trip.
The quality of life in West Wales is second to none but the downside is the 330 miles it takes to get to the English Channel before starting the trip proper. The run down the motorways soon proved, however, just what a superb touring car is the 911. Miles (or kilometres) are dispatched comfortably and quickly. When we arrived at our hotel near the circuit we did a double-take as we met our twin.
After enjoying a great weekend’s racing, and having already come this far, we decided to drive on to Stuttgart as it was only about another three hours down the Autobahn. The 911 continued to delight, running down the Autobahn at its more-natural pace. In Stuttgart, we enjoyed the Porsche and Mercedes museums and factory tours before returning home. The car never missed a beat over the 2000-plus miles, and it proved a joy to drive throughout.
We had been warned to expect rain at Spa…it happens every time apparently! We were away for a total of a week and the wipers were only on for half an hour, on the journey back from the track to the hotel on the Saturday night. It was just as well really, as the 911’s door seals are not one hundred per cent effective at keeping the cabin and the elements separated!
I would love to use the car every day for the smile it puts on my face but, whilst that was what they were made for, it’s too precious for that, so the 911 makes trips out that extra bit special and always something to look forward to. In between times I enjoy having finally realised a long-standing ambition. I must now start planning next year’s trips…
Written by: Chris Stretton
Images by: Chris Stretton
Roadsters Car Club Top Gear South run 26 September 2018
From the passenger seat…
A while back I approached the hard-working Events Secretary of the Roadsters Car Club, Chris Stretton, about joining him on one of their outings. There was an ulterior motive for me asking this question, as we were expanding our website with a new section that covered stories about Porsche driver’s ownership experiences. As I already knew Chris fairly well, tagging along on one of the events wasn’t a problem.
The date for the event, the ‘Top Gear Roads – South’ run, was pushed out a couple of times but eventually we settled on 26 September. The weather around the end of September can be a bit iffy, but being the Events Secretary, Chris must have had some insider knowledge about the forthcoming weather conditions on that date as he could not have picked a more perfect day for the run. A group of just four cars met at the B4336/A485 junction at Pentop in Llanllwni at around 09h00, two MGBs, a TVR and Chris’ Porsche 911 Targa, making up the small but hardy bunch.
The route took us up through Mountain Gate and over Llanllwni Mountain, which was all covered in swift order, until we entered the forest area. Progress was brought to an abrupt halt, when a huge logging truck met us coming the other way. It was somewhat easier for the small group of roadsters to back up 100 yards than it was for the 26-wheel, 40-tonne logging truck to reverse down the hill. Mind you, getting four cars to reverse in a coordinated fashion was also not without its challenges, but being a determined lot, the manoeuvre was performed without any loss of blood or friendship. The logging truck then advanced, inching past the group of roadsters and a few minutes later, without the loss of any wing mirrors, the group sailed on led enthusiastically by the white MGB of Paul Tugwell.
A welcome cup of coffee at the West End Café in Llandovery relaxed any frayed nerves before we continued on towards a favourite section of the route, up the hill and around the hairpin on the A4069. This route is used by a number of the motor magazines for photography and video work, and that day was no exception, so it was quite busy. After a few passes by our group, and with the snaps duly completed, we reconvened in the car park at the top of the pass. Then it was down to Brynamman, over to Hirwaun and on to the Storey Arms (A470) at the Beacons Reservoir, before stopping at Tai’r Bull in Libanus for refreshments.
Then it was on towards the military range, commonly referred to as the Epynt Range, along the road from Llangammarch Wells to Llywel. The 911’s superb roadholding was reassuring as Chris sliced through the corners, and never once did the Targa feel anywhere near the edge of adhesion. The road through the military range was superb and the views breathtaking, a journey that was made all the more enjoyable by the fine weather. Following a brief stop, we continued on towards our final watering hole for lunch and refreshments at the local ‘chippy’ in Lampeter. In true Roadsters Club fashion, the 911 Targa completed its run with the top down – in this case, ‘with the top down’ meant the swift removal of the flat panel above the occupants, folding it in half and stowing it in the front luggage compartment.
Throughout the day, the 911 Targa performed effortlessly and was superbly comfortable. It is amazing how narrow the interior of the 1987 model is when compared with its more modern stablemates, or even other sports cars on the road today. The 3.2-litre engine pulls smoothly, and the familiar, and thoroughly enjoyable 911 engine sound wafts back into the cockpit under acceleration, which Chris was also keen to demonstrate (without any complaints from the passenger seat)! A superb outing is how the folk would have described the day’s run, and I look forward to another adventure in the near future.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale