The Guards Red Porsche 968 Cabriolet sits in front of Porsche Canada’s headquarters in Toronto, looking as good – or possible better – than it did when leaving the Zuffenhausen factory in 1994. You can almost hear it channeling Norma Desmond, “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille.” Or in this case, Mr. Marc Ouayoun, the President and CEO of Porsche Canada.
No ordinary 968 this, not that any of these last-generation front-engine four-cylinder Porsches are particularly ordinary. Being #1 of only 159 registered in Canada, this car is significant in that it is the “ambassador” for the Porsche Classic program in Canada. It will be the first classic car to enter the Porsche press fleet in Toronto, with a mission to bring awareness to the Porsche’s heritage and shine a light on Porsche Canada’s Classic Restoration Competition, a program that has twelve dealerships across the country vying for the win. This 968 was restored by North Toronto Porsche, and Ouayoun and I will be taking it on its first official drive.
Okay, “drive” might be a bit of a stretch as we spent all of half an hour tootling around a residential neighbourhood with a video crew, yet it was enough to a) discover these super-low-slung tan leather seats are supremely comfortable, b) the big 3.0L four-pot (236 hp, 225 lb-ft) is a mighty unique engine, and c) Marc Ouayoun is a true classic Porsche enthusiast. Before our drive he showed me his very pretty burgundy-over-white 1990 911 (964) Cabriolet tucked in the garage, and he vows to own 356B Coupe some day.
Ouayoun came from France about a year and a half ago to helm Porsche Canada, and brought with him some serious momentum to promote the Porsche Classic Partner Program, which in Porsche-speak means the availability of expert, ground-up restoration work for classic Porsches at select dealerships. Ouayoun initiated a restoration competition among Porsche dealerships in France, and with the announcement of his similar program here in Canada last fall, he was thrilled that twelve of the nineteen Canadian Porsche Centres rose to the challenge. As Ouayoun notes, about 70 percent of all Porsches built are still on the road, and yes, there is good business in restoration as many owners of new Porsche are now acquiring the classics.
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While most Canadian dealerships can perform a certain degree of restoration, there are only three certified Porsche Classic Partner dealerships – Pfaff in Toronto, Porsche Centre in Victoria, and the just-opened Porsche Centre Lauzon in Laval, Quebec. A Classic Partner is selected based on their knowledge, passion and expertise surrounding Classic vehicles. Prerequisites include advanced technician training, investments in tools and equipment, and spaces within the dealership that have a focus on the Classic owner.
All this stems from the Porsche Classic facility just outside of Zuffenhausen – the mothership of Porsche restoration – where on any given day you will find a handful of technicians/craftsmen toiling away on the rarest of Porsches. Porsche Classic currently offers nearly 60,000 genuine parts for past model ranges, with most coming from former series suppliers or new certified partners.
This 1994 968 Cabriolet we are driving was purchased for $28,000 from an owner in Woodbridge, Ontario, and as it was in pretty decent shape, not a whole lot was needed to get it into “concours” condition.
The project car just 31 kilometres away at Pfaff Porsche is another story altogether. For the Restoration Competition, Pfaff is entering a 1962 Porsche 356 Coupe that was stripped to the bare shell, acid washed and then painstakingly rebuilt from there – some new panels, new sheet metal welded in, engine rebuild – the whole nine yards. It’s a huge (and hugely expensive) undertaking that will result in a pristine example of the “bathtub” Porsche 356 – that in this fettle currently fetches over $100,000.
The other vehicles entering this challenge include a 993 from Downtown Porsche, a 993 Cabrio from Porsche Centre Lauzon, a 944 Turbo from Mark Motors Porsche, a 356 from Porsche Centre Saskatchewan, a 993 from North Toronto Porsche, a 1986 944 Turbo from Porsche Centre Oakville, a 1969 911 Targa S from PC Victoria, a 911 from PC Vancouver, a 911 SC from PC Winnipeg, a 1988 911 SC from PC Winnipeg, and a 993 C4S from PC Calgary.
A panel of Porsche experts, of which Marc Ouayoun is one, will be judging the cars when they assemble at Circuit Mont-Tremblant north of Montreal some time in the early fall. Now that sounds like one heck of a party.