The Dorset couple renovating classic cars

PUBLISHED: 09:57 03 October 2017

1981 3 ltr SC, looked after by Canford (Josh Barnett | ©2017)

1981 3 ltr SC, looked after by Canford (Josh Barnett | ©2017)


Valerie Singleton meets a couple whose passion for Porsches created Canford Classics, a business which renovates and restores these iconic cars back to their full glamour

Tucked away on a working farm in Dorset, on the edge of the village of Winterborne Kingston, is an unexpected treasure trove. Inside a collection of renovated farm buildings are some of the most beautiful and iconic cars ever produced. This is where Canford Classics have their business, renovating and restoring Porsches of all marks and dates.

It was here, on a rather damp and overcast morning, that I met the owners, Dr Alan Drayson and his wife Dominique. My aim was to learn a bit more about what is involved in bringing these classic cars back to pristine condition.

The former hay barn, now the build shop, is where most of the work goes on. Lined up inside, in a dazzling range of colours, were cars in varying stages of repair. The first one that caught my eye turned out to be a Le Mans tribute: a 1970 2.2s replica of the one Steve McQueen drove in the film Le Mans.

Alan has been car mad since he was a teenager. “I took my first Beetle to bits and put it back together again when I was just 16,” he tells me proudly. “And I’ve never stopped enjoying working with cars.”

He and Dominique met at an inter-school play and became childhood sweethearts. They’ve been together for 25 years and both followed other careers before Porsches took over their lives. Dominique was in marketing, sales and event management and Alan has a PhD and Masters in Coastal Geology.

In the end Alan’s passion for classic cars won out and soon Dominique joined him to form Canford Classics in 2007, though she admits she’s still learning about all the various models. I could quite understand her confusion. Walking around the build shop with Alan I found it difficult to get the hang of the different marks and features; sometimes this could be down to subtle variations in design, like the duck back or specific wheel hubs, though I did recognise some Targas and Carreras.

The floor above the build shop was packed floor to ceiling with Porsche parts of every description. Some bought in, but many made here in Dorset by Canford’s expert team. One of them, Scott McCurdy, once worked for the Porsche Centre in Bournemouth and now looks after operations and customer communications. Attention to detail is vital to this business and something Alan cares about deeply. Canford even create their own paints because many owners like to stick to the original colour of their Porsche. The room beyond the build shop will soon be the paint room with a spray paint booth.

When it comes to buying a Porsche prices vary enormously. The cheapest I could have driven away with would probably have been a Porsche 911 at around £80,000, or it could have cost me £250,000. Restoration, done properly by experts, can hugely increase a car’s value. For instance, a ‘back to basics’ full restoration on a 1971 Porsche could take up to 15 months and cost about £100,000. But then that car could be sold for about £150,000.

People sometimes come along to Canford Classics just to admire the cars out of interest, their Open Days always attract a lot of visitors and some end up buying. Once they fall under the Porsche spell Alan likes to involve the owners as much as possible. “Many owners come along to watch the progress on a car they’re having done up, and a lot of them are very knowledgeable about their cars,” he tells me.

“I have never restored a car owned by the business that hasn’t sold before it’s been finished. I was recently doing up a car for myself but a customer fell in love with it and now I’m restoring it for him!”

Is there a typical Porsche owner I wondered? Well, it tends to be people who have reached a certain stage in their lives, these cars are not cheap to buy or maintain. They like the Porsche because it has heritage and tradition and yet it’s not flashy or ostentatious. Though Porsche owners tend to be men, Dominique was keen to tell me about a 78-year-old lady who has only just given up her Porsche after 40 years.

With her marketing skills Dominique has some great ideas for Canford and there are plans to introduce Motoratus - a premium clothing and accessories brand inspired by the culture surrounding, owning and driving a Porsche. She also thinks that a glossy coffee table book about their work and the different models would sell well. After all many how many posters of a sleek Porsche have adorned the walls of teenage boys (and girls) over the years? This is just the next step up.

My morning ended with Alan taking me on a couple of fantastic spins round the local lanes, first in the replica Le Mans tribute Porsche and then in a more recent 2013 991 Carerra 4S. Even if I couldn’t get my head around all the model numbers, I could tell the different performance of these two cars.

And if I could have driven away with any car, my favourite had to be the 1968 T/R Porsche in the most stunning shade of tangerine. I didn’t dare ask how much it cost … just in case I was tempted!


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