Driven: Autofarm Porsche 911

If there were ever a sports car that's omnipresent it's the Porsche 911. That means there are countless to choose from, making picking the perfect one even more difficult.

Personally, I love the purity and focus of the GT3 and its RS sibling, but the compromises that come with them are rather extreme. I like negotiating speed humps without shaving the front splitter. If I'm being honest, and it'll upset a few here, the new cars are just too damned quick. Sure, they're involving, interesting and feelsome at lower speeds, but to really enjoy them you need to take liberties with your licence - or spend every weekend at a track.

So an old 911 then? Ideal, yes, but classic motoring is a pastime best undertaken when you don't really need to get anywhere. Even old German metal will break down, or not start when you want it to. Autofarm offers an interesting alternative. A 911 recreation. On paper it offers the best of both worlds, classic looks with more modern mechanicals. By more modern we're not talking 997 underpinnings, but oily bits of a more recent vintage than the early 70s looks suggest.

This black 911 recreation is just one of a number built by Autofarm. Taking a 3.2-litre Carrera as its basis, it's an intriguing blend of old looks, a rust-resistant body, four-pot brakes from a Boxster, a 964's flat-six and bodywork from a 911S. The 3.2 Carrera is the best starting point, as not only does it offer the advantage of a galvanised body, but it's also proportionally correct when fitting the period details like bumpers and lights. This example apes the classic style of a 911S, its owner eschewing the more common RS recreations for a more subtle-looking machine. It's stunning.

The finish is exemplary, too. As it should be, with each recreation essentially completely stripped and re-built as new. The process takes around a year. Autofarm admits it could be done quicker, but customers tend not to be in a rush and concentrate on getting the details perfect rather than worrying about timescales. There's a car in one of Autofarm's outbuildings being built now, and it might as well be coming off the production line in Stuttgart such is the attention to detail. It's a powder blue car with a wide body, with the owner still considering the exact final engine specification.

You really can have anything you like. Autofarm currently has a stunning green ST recreation in stock that's awaiting a new owner. It's a cosmetic job, still running the donor car's engine, but it wouldn't require too much investment to have an engine rebuild befitting of its looks. If I hadn't just blown everything I've got on a house, I'd be very tempted.

The black car's gold lettering on the engine cover states 2.2-litres, but underneath it there's actually a 3.6-litre flat-six from a 1990 964. It's been completely overhauled, had a stainless steel sports exhaust fitted and had its engine mapping optimised before being fitted in the rear. It's good for around 250bhp, and drives through a 5-speed G50 gearbox. There's a limited-slip differential, Bilstein Sports shocks front and rear, uprated front and rear torsion bars and an adjustable front anti-roll bar.

Fifteen-inches for alloy wheels might seem comically small today, but when fitted to the S and wearing period correct-profile Pirelli P6000 tyres they look fantastic. Behind them are four-pot calliper Boxster-sourced brakes front and rear, but you're hard pushed to see them behind the five spokes of the wheels.

That's true of all the modern touches, to all but the best-informed Porsche spotter it all looks right. If you're in that obsessive camp you might notice the back windows don't pop out, or the dash is from a later 993, but none of it looks out of place.

What's most important is how it feels on the road. Get in, turn the key and the 3.6-litre engine fires quickly. It settles down to that familiar air-cooled flat-six rhythm. Crucially, it also starts first-time, which is useful. There's even a London parking permit on the window, as this car sits outside all year round and is a daily driver. Try that in a period 911 S and you'd need a full restoration every couple of years. That's part of the recreation's appeal, it looks every inch the classic, but comes without the classic problems. It's not too precious to actually use, either.

Anyone who's ever sat in or driven a 911 would feel at home in the cabin. Even so, compared with its modern relatives it feels tiny. The slim window pillars give excellent all-round visibility, while the narrow body makes it extremely wieldy in traffic. The perfect London town car? Perhaps, but I've only a wet, winding road in Oxfordshire to drive it on and I'm glad of the open road and testing tarmac.

The beauty of the driving experience can be summed up in one word - feel. There's loads of it. Whether it's the constant stream of information coming from the steering wheel, the brake pedal or just the seat of your pants, the Autofarm 911 reminds you that driving doesn't need to be about electronics. The suspension is taut, with the body being nicely controlled, yet the ride doesn't suffer - thanks in no small part to the massive sidewalls on those Pirellis.

There's real pleasure to be had from slotting the five-speeder though its gate. Sure, that shift is not as precise or quick as a modern 911, but each swap of cogs requires thought, input and some delicacy to the action. If you like the process of driving, rather than the simple raw sensation of speed then this 911 S is an absolute joy. There's very little slack in any of the controls, your inputs being faithfully reproduced with more speed, greater stopping power or a tighter radius on the steering.

The brakes are strong, and without ABS you need to be sensitive to how much grip's available to prevent locking up. The same is true when you push the accelerator; you need measured inputs rather than simply mashing the floor-hinged accelerator to the floor. With 250bhp there's plenty of speed, but it's the challenge of driving it that's so pleasing.

Anyone can drive a modern car quickly, but this requires some skill, finesse and planning. On the wet roads my confidence grows and it's surprising just how much grip is on offer. The acceleration is instantaneous, the correlation to input and action being quick and precise, with the Autofarm 911 being an excellent reminder that cars should be about driving rather than simple performance statistics.

It all comes down to what you want. A modern 911 might monster the Autofarm 911 on the road in pure performance, but you'd have more fun behind the wheel of the recreation and worry less about your licence. It's way cooler, too. Pricing is difficult to pin down, as each car is tailored to suit its owner's tastes, but you could have a recreation like this for around the same money as a decently specified new 911. I know what I'd buy...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (122) Join the discussion on the forum

  • rogerhudson 08 Aug 2012

    AdamPT said:
    having lived with a genuine '71 2.2s (garaged, rebuilt engine, regular use) I have to say I am not with the purist brigade. Everytime I went out in it I'd hear a new squeak, rattle or whatever and shudder at the potential cost and if it was something minor or far more sinister. The alternator was a b**tard and went through 2 of 'em in 4 years....maybe I was just unlucky. I would go for one of these autofarm jobs anyday. Having said that, the 2.2s was the sweetest engined of the lot and at high revs it was as beautiful a sound as you'll ever hear, and 180bhp in something that light was plenty performance enough. Autofarm have a great rep and are not to be confused with a lot of the 'restorers/rebuilders' out there. In summary, if you love proper air cooled 911's and you don't care what purists think (and why should you) you can't do much better. The depreciation on one of these compared to a modern one is incomparable...well looked after this will still be worth similar money in 5 years whereas a modern one? No chance.....Plus you'll learn how to really control a car without the needs for abs, psm and whatever other electronic safety gizmos they throw at Porsches these days.
    I have a 2.2s and agree 100%, great but horrendous to keep alive, the Bosch fuel pump in the front is now 1000 euros.
    I do remember when Sadler at Autofarm used to deride modified cars as 'bitsas', it must be different now. The featured one is still for sale in August 2012 at 107,000 euros, it will depreciate a lot faster than a genuine 2,2 S. Isn't the Steve McQueen 2.2S the most expensive car ever sold at auction?

  • rogerhudson 08 Aug 2012

    anything fast said:
    wonderfully understated and utterly tasteful... worth a few bob though i bet!
    August 2012 ,Autofarm want 107,000 euros !
    The problem is that it is now what Sadler used to deride with the term 'bitsa', originality is what costs the real money.

  • Alnassma 10 Jul 2012

    Lumpit said:
    964 engine ? That'll leak oil then. Why didn't they use a 3.2 or 993 lump, if money's no object ?
    Does ALL 964 lumps leak oil?

  • crbox 30 Dec 2011

    Alternatively buy a 3.2 for a fraction of this price and find out how great the original actually is.
    Everone bases their replicas on the 3.2 because it's the best resonably priced all rounder, out of the box.

  • MrCooke 16 Feb 2011

    I've not seen the Singers up close, but the new green one looks like it's got a lot of lovely little details.

    In theory, you could build an early looking car based on a 993, but it would require significant bespoke metalwork around the sills and arches to look half decent and the cost probably wouldn't draw enough benefit over what can be acheived with the 964.

    The 993s do have more power but also weigh more and (IMHO) aren't as nice to steer as a well sorted 964.

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