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Friday 17th August 2012


PH MEETS MR AUTOFARM

Autofarm co-founder Josh Sadler talks classic Porsches and about his incredible barn find 911 ST


"We can take that one," suggests Josh Sadler, owner of Autofarm. He's pointing at the '74 RS 3.0 replica tucked away in the corner behind some other classic 911s. Autofarm created it for Lord Mexborough in the 1980s, built to use as a run-around instead of putting miles on his original. (Oh to have that problem... - Ed.) Fat arched - now featuring a 3.5-litre flat-six with RS cams and 311bhp - it's very tempting indeed. But there's a Blood Orange '72 S 2.4 outside that's ready to go and Josh is a busy man.

Josh's years of driving old 911s are evident
Josh's years of driving old 911s are evident
It's Josh's own car, his daily driver, and we're hear to speak to Josh, not to drive. So he takes the right hand seat, as I clamber into the left. In his herringbone jacket, burgundy tie, blue shirt and trousers Josh doesn't subscribe to the polo shirt and jeans approach of most garages today. He's old school, though the oil under his fingernails points that he remains hands-on, even if is place in the company demands he drives a desk more often than not.

 

The man at the wheel
The drive is short, though telling, Josh's smoothness and speed behind the wheel underlining his familiarity with his car and the roads that make up his daily drive. There's some attempt at conversation, but the squeaking from the rear suspension bushes - Josh admitting they're needing some lubrication - and the sound of the 2.4-litre flat-six filling the interior makes chat problematic. His daily driver is his occasional weekend racer, too, after all.

Sadler has been at the helm since 1973
Sadler has been at the helm since 1973
Through the noise Josh's potted history of the company he's been running since 1973 is fascinating. Enthusiastic clubman racers, he and friend Steve Carr were seeking ways to start a business. Working at Glacier Bearings in Wembley, Josh and Steve were helping fund their racing by, he says, "fighting over the phone on a Thursday when Exchange and Mart came out," buying up cars and sourcing parts from scrap yards.

The eureka moment came when they stumbled across a couple of written-off 911s. A '72 S which was broken for parts and a repairable '68 car which they bought and started looking for parts. Having no luck sourcing official parts from Porsche itself in the UK Josh and Steve persuaded Jack Phillips, Glacier Bearings colleague and soon to be Autofarm technician, to bring his Cortina 1500 estate and point it in the direction of Germany.

Straight to source

Autofarm's 3.7-litre Cayman
Autofarm's 3.7-litre Cayman
A visit to Porsche specialist Tebernum just over the Dutch border in northern Germany found not only the parts they were after, but a shop owner keen to try out his basic English and the spark of a business idea. Autofarm was created in 1973, finding a niche in the market in the UK for supplying used Porsche parts to a small, but enthusiastic and demanding market.

Josh admits to "having no concept of running a business in second-hand Porsche parts," adding, "we were desperately green" but the company grew, moving around the country as ever more space was needed. Buying wrecked Porsches to help fill the hole in the market, a sizeable market for replacement parts for those rallying '73 RS cars emerged too. The 80s saw a shabby, but loved, showroom at the end of the tube line at Amersham as its basis, the mad optimism of the 90s seeing Autofarm expand massively into Hertfordshire's amusingly named Cow Roast, taking on a couple of franchised dealerships. The following recession saw Autofarm contract back to its roots and focusing entirely on Porsches.

911 S Sport 'punt' a real gem
911 S Sport 'punt' a real gem
Not a bad decision wandering around the barns looking at some of the customer cars awaiting collection. Parked in Airflow cocoons is some Porsche royalty, a 3.0 RSR, 997 GT3 RS, Autofarm's 3.7-litre engined Cayman as well as a hotchpotch of other marques including an F40 and Bentley Continental. Josh's own Mini Marcos racer, which he's raced in a couple of endurance events, laughing as he describes "a couple of old boys falling over each other during driver changes," and an old Lagonda betray Josh's interests beyond Porsches.

A barn find to die for
It's not the highly polished, hermetically sealed machines that has sees Josh really animated though. Instead, what to the untrained eye looks like nothing more than an old, in need of restoration 911 is Josh's next project. It's a car he sold in the 80s, knowing then that it was a bit special, but not having taken the time to research it properly. Curiosity got the better of Josh a few years ago and he sought out the sales document and found the seller and the car was found languishing at the bottom of the garden under a tarpaulin.

Still unsure exactly what it was, Josh "took a punt," getting it out requiring the removal of a fence. It was worth the effort. The pared back trim, the lightweight door panels, lightweight carpets and tacho that reads up to 10,000rpm, along with some further research revealed it to be a 911 S Sport, sometimes referred to as an ST.

Restoration beckons
Restoration beckons
Josh's find is a car with provenance, too, having driven in the 1971 Circuit of Ireland, it is thought to be the only ST officially brought into the country. It arrived via a Northern Irish dealer and was driven by Reggie McSpadden. Some digging found its registration to be dormant, and the car was driven over to Northern Ireland to be inspected, where it was given it original registration back. It's been stripped since and awaits restoration, though with other projects are keeping him busy enough.

A garden find 911, now nestling in a barn owned by a man who farms Porsches? You couldn't make it up. And that RSR recreation? We'll take that one next time...


Photos: Max Earey










Author: Kyle Fortune