A Visit To Historika 911, The UK’s Premier Vintage Porsche Race Shop
Photography by Tom Shaxson
Whenever I get over to the other side of the pond, I try and ask around for story leads from guys I bump into in the community. Over and over again, I had heard the name Historika at events like the Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed. But it wasn’t until I was catching up with my godson and his family that I made the connection that my little godson’s playmate was in fact the grandson of Kevin Morfett, founder of Historika.
We put all this together and got in contact with the young and talented Tom Shaxson to document what was happening over in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Then I hopped on the phone with Nick, son of Kevin and right hand man in this operation.
Ted Gushue: Why’d you and your father choose Porsche?
Nick Morfett: Well, Kevin Morfett always had other jobs, but while doing so he was always buying and selling and working on his own cars. He would own a car for a bit and then sell it and buy something else. He worked through a Lotus phase. Then Ferraris. He actually had a 275 GTB 4-cam at one point. He did the suspension and the engine and then he sold it for the same money he spent to buy his first house, so he knew there was a business model there. Then at some point he borrowed a 2.4L 911S off someone and was just like, “That’s it. I don’t want a Ferrari. I don’t want anything. I just want Porsches.” So since that 2.4S he never really looked back.
From then, he’s bought and owned a few different cars. He’s owned ten 2.7RS’s in his life because he’s been doing this for 35, 40 years. He raced a couple of them in the eighties. He’s owned one 31 years, so longer than he’s owned me. [laughs]
TG: When did he start turning that into a business?
NM: He never really mentioned that he was going to launch a business full time till about ten years ago when he sat me down and asked me if I wanted to start the business with him. Of course I said yes. At the time he noticed more and more cars were coming into his garage and he had more and more parts building up. He’s always had a lot of parts. He’s sort of a hoarder of useful things like parts and stuff so now we have a great source of original and used parts that we don’t really sell. We keep them for our builds.
TG: How many cars are you guys working on a year now?
NM: Proper builds, I would probably say four full restorations. We try to get two in the summer, two in the winter, and then other work in between.
TG: When you look at the Porsche restoration community, where do you find Historika sits? Clearly there is a lot of competition, how do you manage that as a business?
NM: Obviously there is, but you’re so involved in what you’re doing. We’re so consistently filled with projects, and we’re putting out such quality work that I would like to think that we’re towards the top of the heap. I’m comfortable and confident in saying that our work is world class. We’ve gotten there because it’s something we’ve tried to grow organically and haven’t rushed. So many business have taken on investment or thrown money at it, but we’re different. We’ve just slowly and carefully built or capacity to do great work over time. We were always looking for a perfect live/work scenario so that our family could be close to the garage, and it just turned into what’s now known as Historika. Taking our time and doing it right has enabled us to build up our client rolodex the right way and get our name out there the right way, which is why we go racing, to promote our business. That is the best marketing strategy we could ever have, to believe in our product so much that we’ll race the hell out of it on the weekend. It’s how Porsche has always been and always should be. As a result of all this, we’re now well regarded in the Porsche community.
TG: Who else in your space do you look at with admiration?
NM: Over in America, definitely Rod Emory. Kevin actually went to visit him. He was over in LA about two weeks ago to go and see him. I mean the work he does is just on another level. Then in the UK we have Tuthill Porsche who build what I think are the best rally Porsches in the world. They are really at the top of their game. They do the Safari 911s just so properly.
There’s not a lot of people who do the classic stuff at the level that we aim to work at, but Emory and Tuthill are definitely shops that we look up to.
TG: What do you think of the current Porsche market and the bubble that everyone has been talking about?
NM: I think the really good cars are worth what they’re worth and I think they always will be. But I think unfortunately that sort of brought up the price of everything including your run-of-the-mill Ts and Es that haven’t even been looked after well and need restoring. And suddenly, rubbish cars are fetching over £100,000 in people’s eyes and I just think it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy. But I think the good cars are definitely worth what they’re worth and that includes T’s and E’s that are original and have been looked after properly.
When I started at Historika I was always looking for an SC or something as a project and you could pick them up for £5,000. Now you can’t pick up a rusty SC for less than £25,000 for a really, really rusty car. That said, I still think some Porsches are undervalued when you look at other stuff.
I just think that it’s kind of a shame because of a lot of people, when you talk to them, come see a car and don’t ask you the history or the provenance or the races it’s won or where it’s been. They don’t ask you what you’ve done to it. They just ask you how much it’s worth like an evaluated asset.
Which of course is the nature of what we do. It’s kind of a shame because I want people to talk to us about the quality of the restorations that we are doing, not just the street value on some hyper inflated auction market.
TG: What do you guys have on the docket right now? What’s in the shop being worked on?
NM: We’ve got an ’73 RS Lightweight right hand drive. So that’s pretty rare. We’ve got a 1965 race car that we started on as well for a customer. And then we are also prepping a Euro spec ’74 Carrera, right hand drive car, that we’ve just finished the metalwork on. And then in between them, when we’ve got some space or time because we’re waiting on parts, we’ve got a 1968 911S that will be for sale once it’s done. But that’s just taking a bit longer. You know, fitting it in when we can.
Then, up in the workshop, we’ve got a 1965 FIA race car that we’re building for a customer. Our own 1964 901 that we’re building back into a race car because it’s got racing history from the late eighties, early nineties. It’s done a lot of rallying and races. So we just thought it was already a race car so we decided to continue it as a race car to sell or run along side of our other cars. Our other 901 is in there that we race a lot. What else? We’ve got a 3.2 Carrera that we’re restoring for a customer. Did some metalwork and paint work on it and got rid of all the rust.
There’s a backdate that we’re finishing. The owner’s a local guy and got to the point where he said, “You know what? I’m not going to get this finished”. So we’re helping him out. We’ve got an ST replica that we’re doing some modifications on for a client in London. We’ve got a 901 road car that’s our own that we’re going to build eventually when we get some time. We just got a Pre-A 356 in the States that we’re going to do either a race car or a hot rod job on, like an outlaw. And we’ve just got another ’65 car coming over from America that we sold as a donor car and we’re building into a race car for another customer. So the race cars have really gone pretty mental recently. And that’s obviously what we aim for because we do the pre-’66 stuff. Because that’s big over here in Europe with Appendix K FIA racing.
We’ve been focusing on that really because we enjoy going racing as it’s a good honest way to market our business and we’ve built about six of them now and sold them to all UK customers. And now we’ve sold the next two that we’ve got. So we just go looking for more projects for us to do. But what we’ve got we’ve sold out and built, which is pretty good.
They’re good fun and we try to build them up as they would have been in period with all the carpet and all the trim trimmed out because when you build the cars, you have to build them to the homologated weight, which is a thousand and two kilos. But when we build them, they come in underweight so we have to put lead in them anyways. So we might as well trim them out with all the carpet and trim to make them look more period and less aggressive. So they basically just look like a road car until you let loose with it on the track.