Yesterday, I travelled by train to the West Country to collect a Porsche 964 Carrera 4. This is a car that’s been owned for the last 20 years by John Miles who is well known in the Porsche world for his 964 website (now no longer running) and his car that’s been featured several times in magazines (including a couple of features I wrote). John’s now off to start a new life in New Zealand and has asked me to handle the sale of his beloved Porsche.
It’s a 180-mile trip from Plymouth to my base in Chichester, so it was a rushed hello and goodbye with John. A bit too rushed, as it happened, as I’d only gone a few miles when John rang me to say he’d left his back-up drive in the door pocket. Not a problem, though, as I left it in at a hotel reception enroute for John to collect later.
It was then a quick blast up the A38 towards Exeter, then a short hop along the M5 and onto the A35 which runs along the Dorset coastline. This is one of my favourite roads, with the rolling Dorset hills to the left and the stunning Jurassic coast to the right. The trick, though, is to drive it at a quiet time, out of the holiday season.
John has undoubtedly maintained his Porsche well over the years, and it was a joy to drive. The only non-standard item being a drilled airbox that gives a glorious sound at high revs. Another customer once told me that he and his wife found their 964 to be the most comfortable cruising car he’d ever owned, standing out against Range Rovers and BMWs. I can see where he’s coming from – the 964’s torquey engine means you’re rarely straining it, the ride is quieter and smoother than that of modern 911s, and the seats (Sports in this case) are supremely supportive.
A favourite spot of mine on the A35 is the little-known village called Symondsbury, or rather some trees atop a nearby Colmer’s Hill. This clump fascinates me because, as a child, I was told that they had been planted years ago by a young boy, who climbed the hill every day to water and tend the saplings. The boy became a man, died and has long been forgotten, but the trees live on. I’ve no idea if this story is true; in fact, searching online now, I suspect it isn’t. But, hey, so what? It’s a great tale.
I had a vision of stopping for dinner in a quaint local pub so headed off the main road to West Bay, which Apple Maps positioned two miles in land (there’s a clue in the name, Apple).
This is a charming mix of fishing port, Victorian villas and tacky tourist attractions, including an array of small huts each selling fish and chips. I couldn’t resist the temptation, so ordered a bacon sandwich and chips, which were freshly cooked inside the tiny building and, I have to say, were superb. I could, if I’d wanted opted for a kangaroo or ostrich burger…
The sun was setting as I continued eastwards, with the amazing sight of Chesil Beach in the distance, so I sped on, keen to get home at a decent hour. There was so much more I could have seen if it had been light, including Dorchester, the home of Thomas Hardy, and even a detour into the seaside town of Weymouth. Another time, maybe.
What I did see, just as the light was failing, was another childhood favourite. The three-mile long wall, along the right side of the A31, which just goes on and on. It’s the boundary of Charborough House and, apparently, is one of the longest walls in the UK, containing over two million bricks. No, I didn’t count them…
The last stage of my journey along the M27 motorway was marred by torrential rain. I was cursing the inadequacies of the 964’s wipers when I realised that everyone else had slowed to a crawl – it was too heavy for even modern wipers to cope with.
The 964 has long been my favourite 964 and John Miles and his car were instrumental in me buying a 964 myself. It is, then, an honour to be custodian of John’s very special car, albeit for a short time.
Update: John’s 964’s fame continues with a feature appearing in GT Porsche magazine very soon!