Classic Porsche Restoration owners, Bruce Wakefield (left) and Josh Pritchett. with a nearly completed 1963 Porsche 356B SC.
Local shop specializes in restoring classic cars in Easton
BY MANNING LEE
It’s the gleam of the sunon its sleek body, racing down the road at breakneck speeds. It’s the thrill at the sound of the engine, deftly shifting between a whisper and a bellow. Merely watching them is torturous to their devotees.
Oh, to get behind the wheel!
The classic Porsche is a motorized legend, made so by ingenious design and a kitten-like purr idlingthat rushes to a lion’sroar as drivers go from stoplight to highway. Porsches are beautiful and powerful, and owning one or two of them is the stuff of dreams.
When people buy Porsche, it’s like they’re “mating” for life. Porsche lovers buy one then drive it until it’s time for the next one. They don’t sell them. They hand them down. In turn, many families get ‘Dad’s hand-me-down Porsche’ to remember him. Every ride in Dad’s old car keeps a part of him alive.
Eventually, Porsches need restoration. Where do you take Dad’s old red, turbo 911 from 1977 to restore it to its former glory? Would you trust it to just anyone? It’s important to consider that every dollar spent restores the car’s value, even if it is expensive.
If something is worth doing, isn’t it worth doing right?
Top: Porsches are prepped and paint stripped down to the metal; From nearest to farthest: a 1954 Porsche 356 Pré-A Coupe; a 1970 Porsche 911 Targa; and a 1961 Porsche 356B Cabriolet. Bottom, from left to right: Troy Smith uses a foot-powered shrinker and stretcher to form a car panel; Smith inspects the shape of a hand-formed panel using a custom pattern; Smith hammer-forming a piece of metal over a tree stump.
A well-kept secret in Easton may very well be an old Porsche’s fountain of youth. At Classic Porsche Restoration (CPR), the crewdoesn’t just revitalize old Porsches, they restore them beyond their original beauty. Owners Bruce Wakefield and Josh Pritchett have developed a team of artists and craftsmen who make the magic happen at CPR.
I don’t know much about Porsches, and I went to CPR to learn. There, I witnessed miracles. Wakefield and Pritchettguided me, a neophyte, through the process of restoring the beautiful beasts. I saw sad, dilapidated, end of the road Porsches transformed, and discovered a team of dedicated craftsmen become magicians when put to the task.
The cars were in such awful condition. It was nothing short of miraculous what each craftsman knew how to do. Each impressed me more than the one before with their depth of knowledge and understanding of the brand’s history.
I started in the metal shop. “Each car takes about 1,600 hours to restore from beginning to end. A lot of the time and a lot of the money is absorbed right here in the metal shop depending on how much rust there is on each car,” said craftsman Troy Smith. When I arrived, Smith was lying on the ground welding the bottom of a 1961 Porsche Cabriolet with a removable hardtop.It was completely stripped down to the very metal of its case.
He graciously pulled himself out from underneath the car to speak with me.
Top: Bill Hommnick uses the technique of block sanding which is the next step after the metal shop.Bottom: Ryan Gill, protected by a hi-tech mask, block sands a panel after a coat of primer.
“When this car got here, it was falling apart,” he said. “Someone had done a very poor restoration and welded two halves of two different cars together. It was literally coming apart. We can tell this car has been involved in at least four accidents. It’s one of the worst we’ve seen.But when it’s finished — it’ll be perfect.”
It’s impossible to order new vintage Porsche parts. While regular body shops use computer settings to make panels, the CPR team creates the new bodywork of each Porsche by hand. Each tool manipulates aluminum sheet metal into perfectly appointed parts for each car. In the metal shop, each craftsman welds, bends, and stretches metal into the shapes determined by a hand-drawn pattern.
Wakefield and Pritchett and fellow team member, Jason Gallo, laid out a piece of aluminum sheet metal for me to manipulate, hammer, bend and stretch. With much help, I finally crafted my own little bowl out of a piece of sheet metal with the same tools the guys use to restore the Porsches. What energy handcrafted restorations take!
I next visited the priming and block sanding shop. Here, Ryan Gill and Bill Hommnick prime and block sand the cars. Like the metalwork, the priming and block sanding is also done by hand after each of four coats of primer is applied. For these tasks, immense strength and stamina are required, and the artists are passionate about their work. It takes this level of Porsche passion to achieve the perfection CPR requires.
“We work hard and usually every week by Tuesday I’ve sanded so much I don’t have any fingerprints left,” Gill laughed. From start to finish, each car takes about 400 hours to complete —and that’s just the priming and block sanding phase. From there, each car goes to the painting booths at an offsite building, then is reassembled.
“Our restoration work is expensive,” said Wakefield.“We encourage our customers to do their homework and know what kind of restoration they want. CPR provides a #1 restoration which is classified as better than perfect. Our work starts at around $150,000 per car and can run upwards of $250,000 as high as $300,000. It takes more than a year to complete our restoration process. What the customer gets in return is a car that was restored by hand to better than industry standards.”
Top Right: Bruce Wakefield, co-owner of CPR, who has a hands-on approach to shop management, often keeps the mood light. Left: An English Wheel used to shape and form body panels. Bottom Right: Porsche- specific fixture table used to check and align Porsche bodies to match factory specifications.
Repeat customer Ralph Ichter said, “Classic cars are an old guy’shobby. To me, it’s more than driving around the Eastern Shore in an old Porsche on a nice sunny day. It’s all about the restoration process and the craft and skills needed to create a thing of beauty. What I like about CPR is they let you participate in the process. Working with CPR is more than handing over a big check and coming back two years later to take possession of the finished vehicle. They let you follow the process step-by-step and learn from the craftspeople.”
That spirit is evident throughout the CPR shop. This team loves its work, their customers, and their cars. It’s their level of passion for Porsches, and their esprit de corps that ensures the customer’s final product achieves the perfection that was promised. This truly is a special place on the Shore.
For more information about Classic Porsche Restoration please visit their website: www.classicporscheresto.com.