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

  • AdamPT 08 Feb 2011

    Now that is motoring perfection! Used to have a '71 2.2S targa in black and the article bought back fond memories of arse-out cornering in the and scary all at once. A stunning car with style, pace and panache!

  • chunkymonkey71 08 Feb 2011

    The speedo is at a hell of an angle...!

  • trickywoo 08 Feb 2011

    How much?

    Also, why have they put ditch finders on it?

  • Pat H 08 Feb 2011

    Whilst it is a thousand times more interesting than a modern 911, I can't help but feel that a 3.2 Carrera deserves to be restored to its original state, rather than turned into this (admittedly gorgeous) retro 911.

    But it really is very nice.


  • Raven 930 08 Feb 2011

    I've had the pleasure of driving that car on a number of occasions...... even in the pouring rain on the M25 in the evening rush hour! In all conditions it never feels less than supremely assured - a fabulously balanced package - and with so much performance on tap, the urge to drive just for fun is irresistible.

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