Words: Karlee Sangster Photography: Steve Sharp & Rich Colvill
Rich Colvill is living the dream. Imagine James Bond meets Don Draper and you’ll get the idea. The 39 year old hails from Leeds in the UK and is Creative Director of Agency TK Leeds, London and Los Angeles. He also drives a mean 911.
“When I was growing up my father was always restoring or building cars, from AC Cobras to Racing Coombs Jaguars, just to mention a few,” says Rich. “He is still doing it to this day - never too old! So I pretty much blame my father for my habits. I don’t like sport, including football, which is rare! I am a true petrolhead. My first car was a 950cc Ford Fiesta. This didn’t stay standard for long. It got the full make over; XR2 bodykit, full colour change, interior and wheel upgrade. It may have even had purple halo lights under it from the USA,” he laughs.
Rich began work on his current car after selling his 964. “I had to buy a Project Porsche and invest the money back into a gold crested project before the house project smoked it! Because I made so much money on the previous car, I just had to do it again, but on a bigger scale. I figured the worse the car, the bigger the investment possibility in the distant future (if ever sold it that is). I searched online and found a worthy wreck in need of rescue from a Bristol based air-cooled VW specialist,” he recalls.
“The car wasn’t far off being scrap; when the delivery truck turned up with it on the back my wife said “We aren’t gonna see Daddy for a long time, kiddies”. The car was multi-coloured, distressed patina style. Grey, blue, yellow with stickers all over it and white 14” wheels - not a pretty sight. But very cool in a rat rod sort of way. The interior was bare with no panels and was totally covered in Dynamat sound deadening, which initially hid a lot and made the car look like it was in much better condition than it really was. Once I stripped that off (a thousand cuts later) it revealed the amount of rot and garage floor visible through what should have been the rear seat buckets and parcel shelf.”
Rich got to work. “Hundreds of hours of welding commenced. The Type 002 IRS transmission was exposed and poking through the cutaway central tunnel so we fabricated a new cone shape over it, Singer-style. The entire floor section has been raised several inches for ground clearance. We used 16 gauge steel supported by 3/4” DOM tube braces for the floor structure. The dials were all rusted and misted up, I took these apart and refurbished them - a satisfying process. Up front, the entire frame/body was taken off the car and a one-off subframe was fabricated with six mounting points making it very stiff and very light. The stock A arms were kept, along with stock torsion springs and strut assemblies. The strut assemblies were shortened about 4” and new late model VW strut inserts installed. The arms and torsion assemblies have been brought in 10”, and raised 6” to get the 911 to a respectable height. The result is a stock handling front end with tucked front wheels. Out back, the rear end was dropped 6” using stock arms and rotated, notched spring-plates. A section of rear frame was also notched to allow full movement of rear suspension. The steering rack has been replaced with an 11” unit, 1.5 turns lock to lock making for super-quick steering. The shifting linkage is custom, with a Type 1 shifter and modified 911 shifting linkage. The pedal assemblies are CNC aluminium units, with dual brake reservoirs/master cylinders. The clutch was upgraded with a lightened flywheel and the axles have been modified to accept Type 2 CVs and stock Porsche CVs at the hubs.”
Did you get all that?
The car originally came from San Diego. Rich remembers: “Whilst I was restoring it (tearing it apart) my dad asked if I’d looked in the glove box, which was locked and had no key. He broke into it to find an abundance of historical treasure. I went from having a wreck with no history to having more than I could wish for. As far as I can tell the glovebox had been locked since the early ‘80s. There were ‘70s style credit cards, unopened and pristine, handwritten letters from owners and garages, US coins in envelopes from tyre shops, some great stuff.”
Rich certainly knows what he likes. “This is my 10th 911. I’ve not owned another type of Porsche yet. I fancied a 968 and a Macan for the Mrs. I have owned 964s, a 993, 996, 997 991s and this 911. I currently have a 991 2S aero kit Porsche as my daily driver, which is a great car and very different to the outlaw. I really fancied having the newest and the oldest models. My previous 964 was a dog's dinner turned to show winner, I got it at a great price with the mindset of fixing it up and moving it on, but I fell in love with it, I had an R8 and Aston Martin at the time of having it and sold ‘em both and just drove the 964 daily as I loved it so much. I put too much money into it, but once I started I couldn’t stop. I’d created a monster.”
Speaking of monsters, the Outlaw has been his most ambitious build yet, and Rich has taken his time. “I have done the majority myself from stripping it to the bodywork straightening and prep,” he says. “When you’re doing this monotonous task it gives you time to stew over design ideas and concepts. Like the plinth over the rear seats which houses the Porsche script, I had that idea whilst sanding the flush rear seats. It’s probably one of my favourite bits as it looks so nice with the gold on grey through the rear windows. The welding was done by my father and the paint was by a chap who specialises in Porsche. He worked on my 964 so I knew he was good for the job. Metal drag seats have been fabricated and installed on fixed ally runners, I did the RS style pad trimming myself, I figured if it doesn’t work out I’ll get a pro to do it. It worked out great and surprisingly comfy as the aluminium has a bit of flex.”
There’s no denying the amount of thought and careful consideration that has gone into the car. “I put design over purism,” says Rich. “I want a car I can stand and look at because of its details rather than how it was intended. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the originals but I wouldn’t be able to keep one pure for long. When I purchased the 911, I also purchased a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 with the intention of rebuilding it as a café racer. This inspired the details on the Porsche, I love the tan leather and polished ally on the café racers, the style is very gentlemanly with a hint of race. The Enfield’s got a gold brass exhaust to match the 911t badge, along with tan leather straps and powder coated black chrome polished tank to match the car’s tank. Another inspiration for the styling is the Outlaw 356s, I love these, but I had not seen this style of design take over what seems to be the holy grail, the 911. This car is now officially an ‘outlaw’. The Porsche purists are definitely not fans. As far as I know this is the lowest porsche in the world (on static suspension.) I am a designer so I can’t keep a car original. There is always an improvement in my eyes to be made. This started out as a bit of fun and soon took over me.”
A car this impressive is never built without challenges. Rich recalls: “It was really tough just keeping the motivation on this build. I’ve kicked this car many a time and walked away from it for days. I’ve not rushed it as there hasn’t been a deadline, but that’s a bad thing in some respects, but in others it’s good as it’s given me time to indulge in the substrates and techniques I wanted to play with. Many times I have just stood and stared at the car, analysing it and then sleeping on the next steps. I’ve done builds before, but never as intense as this. I have a young family too, so finding the time has been tough. Working till two and sometimes four in the morning while the family asleep. I’ve been working on it for two years now on and off, it’s not done yet and I can’t see me ever being 100% content with it. I’m always looking for new rare wheels, engines, suspension etc.”
While certainly not content to call the build complete, Rich admits there’s a lot to like.
“Once the windscreen and chrome went on I could stand back and look at all the individual elements now brought together as a car. They all work well together, making it a real feast for the eyes. I do love the seats and lap belts, I love the rear custom plinth I developed. The rear end is lovely with the gold lettering, very classy. The solid gold brass gear-stick ball is epic. I guess the rare magnesium BBS E28s should be my favourite, as these won me the world’s tallest trophy (16ft of custom made pink trophy flown over from California) at Ultimate stance this year, 1st prize for best wheels.”
A typical designer, Rich is always looking for ways to improve his work. “I don’t think this car will ever be 100% finished, but there’s no rush or deadline, although shows do keep inviting it down which stops me doing major work on it. The next step for the old girl will be a new engine and gearbox, a 2.2 I’m hoping. I’m running a 1.6 at the moment which isn’t too bad as the car is stripped, but it needs the correct engine for the era. I’m fancying a CEA shifter for that accurate shift and ally race feel inside. The front end is currently a tubular space-frame to get the car lower to the ground and bring the wheels in under the arches, but I’ve run this now and fancy changing this to a poking front wheel set up. This will be happening in the next few weeks (top secret!),” he laughs.
It’s fitting that a car of this caliber has a suitably dapper home. Rich has it covered. He parks the 911 in his man cave, an old barn converted into a garage/English pub. “The vehicle sits downstairs and there’s a pub above it,” Rich explains. “It’s a great place to be, drinking beer and looking at motoring art. The car gets invited to car shows and photo shoots every week. It will also be put on the TV register for any appearance needed on TV programs.”
Love it or hate it, Rich’s 911 certainly turns heads. It’s a product of experience, passion and an eye for detail. One might argue that you should never mess with a classic - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but Rich certainly wasn’t listening. Lucky that.
1968 Porsche 911t.
Colour: Slate Grey
Chassis: Space frame for lower, tucked ride.
Engine (temporary): 1.6L, sports exhaust with brass tips, lightened flywheel, Type 002 IRS transmission.
Wheels & tyres: 15” vintage BBS E28 magnesium race wheels, Toyo Proxes Tyres.
Interior: Ultra light aluminium fabricated drag seats, Crow lap belts, custom brass door releases, Momo wood wheel, solid brass knob, CNC pedal box.
Photographer: Steve Sharp.
Model: Courtney Lloyd. Styling Christie Basile. Make up: Maria Franco.
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 22.
Follow Rich: @corv26.