Original publication on Petrolicious.
On a rainy day in the Cotswolds, UK—of course I know it’s nonsense even mentioning the weather here, but the stereotype holds true—I find myself in a little cafe waiting for a very special car and its owner to arrive and literally brighten the day.
Just as I was finishing my morning coffee, Nick Bailey, from Elan PR Limited, walked in followed by Josh Sadler, the Porsche specialist over the last 40 years in the UK. Sure enough, they brought with them something a bit more interesting than your typical 911.
But before we get into that sporting slice of citrus, let’s talk some background knowledge so you can start to fully appreciate the car, the business, and ultimately Josh himself.
Who is this man? What does he do? Well, it all started back in the early 1970s when Josh was working with his colleague Steve Carr in R&D at Glacier Bearings in Wembley. He still clearly remembers that seeing a Porsche back then was rarer than a sighting of the Queen strolling down the street, and he also remembers the feeling he when he first saw such a rarity in person; the unique shape, and then the “duck tail” wing, or “Entenbürzel” to say it in the native German—he didn’t quite know what it was supposed to be, but it stuck in his mind from that first encounter, and clearly, it’s stuck around for quite some time.
As a little side project, Josh was building sport racing cars with Steve, but predominantly ones built in the country they were born in. On a pretty frequent basis then, the pair would wander around scrap yards trying to find the parts needed for a little bit of extra pocket-money. On one such scavenge Josh came across a 911 with front-end damage sitting in the yard amongst the typical junk.
“We bought the 911, but I was still uncertain about it, as I had only worked on British cars and ‘this was foreign’,” he chuckles as he recalls the memory, “and I wouldn’t have anything to do with anything ‘foreign’ back then. But the quality of engineering was just in a different league, undeniable. It was a detail-engineered car, properly built.”
So after taking more than a cursory look at it, he decided to buy the damaged 911 and rebuild it but while he explored more than a few avenues to find parts for its repair, he was met with close to no luck in such pursuits. After a trip to Germany though (remember this is well before the global parts bin called the Internet), Josh and Steve located a Porsche-centric scrapyard and were able to find what they needed to fix up the damaged car as well as source other parts to sell in the UK. This ultimately led to Josh and Steve’s business idea: why not start a Porsche parts business in the UK?
Though they were still quite exotic, a growing number of Porsches were being sold in the English market, and major parts like wheels, bumpers, trim pieces, lights, etc. were desperately needed, especially as the cars were increasingly popular as competition cars—“rubbing’s racing,” right?
In the tail end of 1971, just as the 1972 model-year cars were released in September, Josh and Steve started to reproduce the fiberglass front spoilers themselves in order to offer them to clients as spare race and road parts. Clearly they’ve expanded since.
A few years later in late-1973, the pair found a dedicated location for their fledgling business: an old council site just outside of London. It came with minimal security measures sure, but at least they now had a place to store and distribute their parts from.
And this is how the story of one of the UK’s best-known independent Porsche specialists, Autofarm, began. “Having no concept of running a business in second-hand Porsche parts, we were desperately green,” Josh adds with a smile, but the company grew all the same, with the “headquarters” moving around the country as ever more space was needed to accommodate the demand. Josh knew little about the Stuttgart marque before all this, but their timing was superb: the Porsche market in Britain was starting to take off, and they rode the tide. Autofarm became a Porsche specialist, and within a couple of seasons he and Steve would no longer be racing Clubman U2s, but 911s.
Ever since the decision was made to open up shop, the company started to build up a reputation as not only 911, but Carrera RS specialists, and eventually not only sold spare parts for those cars, but offered partial and total vehicle restorations from 1983 onwards.
So that’s the background in a nutshell. Let’s get back the particular P-car Josh has brought to the cafe on that drizzly day: the Gulf Orange RS2.7 from 1973, a beauty it may be, it is far from a garage queen.
This special car, Josh’s personal RS, was found around three years ago in France. Josh explains: “The car was part of a collection owned by the former president of Porsche Club France. Unfortunately, he had passed away and so too had his wife, so the family was selling the cars that he’d amassed over the years. This car was one of three RS 2.7s, and after buyers had been found for those and the other Porsches, including a 993 GT2 and some competition cars, this one was left over.
“Everything was there, and I could see that the car was in good condition having been stored in a dry and warm building. It had originally been brown though, and now repainted in orange, but besides that and a new crankcase, it was a very original and honest RS. Nothing too special about it at all, just a perfectly survived car.
“The original valuation was set too high for this particular car by the assessor in charge of offloading the Porsche collection, so it didn’t get sold with the others and as I had spent some time with the family, they eventually asked would I like to make an offer for it and, fortunately I managed to buy the car. It needed everything recommissioning as a result of its storage; fuel lines, brakes, and a thorough service, but we soon had it running.” Josh is still researching the car’s history today (there are a few photos of the car on track days and even competing in the Tour Auto in 1996, but not much else) as he wants to add more details from the 1970s and 1980s when it had done a lot of its mileage with the first owner.
And as casually as he describes the car as “nothing too special” he gets in it, lets me jump on the passenger seat, and off we go, racing through the beautiful countryside of the Cotswolds as I my smile gets a bigger and bigger every time a corner approaches and Josh doesn’t move his foot from the accelerator.
The drive is short, though telling of his and the car’s abilities. Josh’s smoothness and speed behind the wheel underlines his familiarity with his car, with the RS in general, and the roads that make up his daily drive. After only five minutes or so I get handed the keys to the RS and off we go again in different seats. Once I get used to the clutch pedal, it’s an original car after all, and more familiar with the roads, the drive turns into magic, in the way that only a Gulf Orange 2.7RS and wet B-road in England can deliver.
In case you ever find yourself in the Cotswolds, make sure to stop by at Autofarm and get a flair yourself.
Meanwhile, enjoy the gallery.