Monday, 14 February 2011

Chapter 1 - Ginger and AFN

Chapter 1 - Ginger and AFN

Porsche - First Encounter

My first encounter with a Porsche was when my elder brother Michael (who was subsequently nicknamed “Ginger” because of his flaming red hair), brought one home from work one day. It was a Porsche 356; I was about 15 years old at the time in 1967, still at school, and I thought what a funny looking car.
Ginger was delivering this particular Porsche 356 to a customer that evening for his company so I pestered him to tag along for a ride. I vividly remember the power and performance of this car because up to that date, a Morris Oxford was our family saloon car at that time, which was the only car I knew and it could barely pull the skin off a rice pudding. This Porsche 356 motored like no other car I had been in and I knew this was something special. Ginger dropped the car off somewhere in North London, with me hiding around the corner whilst he delivered it to the customer. We then took the tube back to Hounslow West and walked home to our parent’s house.
It was at this time that I first took an interest in where and who my elder brother Ginger worked for. He was a car mechanic for a company called AFN Limited, located at Falcon Works, London Road, Isleworth, West London. AFN were the Concessionaires for Porsche GBMH of Stuttgart, West Germany at that time.
It also turned out that my elder sister Ann had a small connection with Porsche as her boss at the time also drove a Porsche 356A. I remember helping my brother Ginger change the king & link pins and replace the brake shoes on this car at our house one weekend. My first ever job on a Porsche was greasing all the suspension points as Ginger put the suspension back together.
In those days Ginger used to have an old 50cc, DKW moped, which he bought off someone at AFN and this was also my first mechanical transport the following September, when I was handed this down having obtained a license to drive it. Ginger had recently purchased a Ford E93A “sit up & beg” so he no longer needed his DKW so I got my hands on it. However, after a few months, I soon got fed up with the lack of power of the DKW, which needed pedalling up hills to assist it! I later progressed to buying a second-hand Vespa SS180 motor scooter. I took delivery of this shortly after my 16th birthday and I promptly fell off during the first hour of riding it home. 

AFN First Contact

My Vespa was two tone blue and whilst it looked good, I wanted it to be red. Some months later, I asked my brother Ginger if he knew anyone who could respray my Vespa for me? He said to, “Leave it with him for a while.” A couple of weeks later, he told me to get my Vespa stripped down, prepared and to be ready for painting and to be available to move at short notice. The following Friday Ginger informed me he had arranged for someone at his work at AFN to respray my Vespa in their own time over the weekend.
That Saturday morning, I followed Ginger in his car to AFN, driving my stripped down Vespa. Looking back on this with hindsight, it was probably illegal, as it had all it’s lights removed and all sorts of trim removed and basic systems taped up with masking tape.
That was my first visit to the AFN, and I remember meeting Nelson Ledger who lived in the flat above the works with his wife Olive. This was also the first of many meetings with Jock Wallace, the paint sprayer and subsequently Ernie Gregory who managed the body shop. I also met numerous other staff at AFN at that time.
From that weekend, I got to know Jock fairly well and sometime later he was involved in rebuilding Betty Haig’s classic split-screen aluminium bodied Porsche 356. I used to pop in to visit him at Harper Yard where Jock worked on this rare Porsche 356 car in an old workshop at the rear of the works, alongside his colleague Harry Olrog.
Needless to say my Vespa came out of the low bake oven late that Saturday afternoon, which was located upstairs in those days, accessed by a large lift that could take a car, all gleaming and looking like new in Porsche guards red. After thanking everyone I drove it home and fitted it up so it was again street legal and it looked terrific. At this time the nearest this to owning a Porsche was the paint on my scooter!

VW Van

            Another thing that I recall from those early days was the AFN VW transporter van. This van travelled between AFN and Stuttgart collecting spare parts, equipment and transporting these across to Great Britain. It had a large sign on it TIR (Transport International Routier), which was a customs clearance scheme that AFN took up. Ginger went on this run several times, but despite pleas from me, he would never sneak me in back for a trip.

Porsche Bug

I think it was at this time I was bitten by the Porsche bug or caught it? From that moment on I was down at AFN at every available opportunity, meeting people who worked there and helping Ginger out in the evenings and weekends.
Nelson Ledger always had a story of the “old days” talking of H.J. or W.H, doing this and that referring to the Aldington brothers who founded the Frazer Nash & Porsche business. Listening to these stories of life at AFN in the Frazer Nash days was totally absorbing for me and Nel could certainly tell them if you cared and took the time to listen.
I was soon helping my brother out working on a number of different Porsche cars whenever I could, which was always out of normal AFN working hours in Ginger’s spare time.
I especially remember delivering a white Porsche 911S Coupe to the home of Hank Marvin of the Shadows pop group in North London. I was a Cliff Richard and Shadows fan in those days; so actually riding in Hank Marvin’s new Porsche 911 was something special for me.
Cliff and the Shadows would sometimes call in and visit one of their granny’s who lived around the corner from our family house in Hounslow.

GVB 911D

On one particular evening I was helping my brother at AFN when I first came across one of the most famous Porsche 911’s in Great Britain ever. This was GVB, as it was affectionately known, because of its registration plate being GVB 911D, and this car was a guards red Porsche 911 coupe.
This car was previously owned and raced by AFN and driven by Vic Elford amongst others. Chris Maltin and Nick Faure had subsequently purchased GVB from AFN and they were racing it privately at this time. Ginger was involved in race preparation and looking after the car for them on a private basis and they had arranged for the use of AFN workshops in the evenings after working hours. There was also a rather dapper chap involved with this GVB venture called John Veness, who I got to know much better at the Porsche Club and elsewhere over the following years, who used to nip around in a tuned Mini Cooper S along with Mike Norrington another colleague.
After putting a lot of work in on a number of these long evenings, I was invited to join the team at my first race meeting at Brands Hatch the following weekend. The long hours and hard work resulted in a class win for us that weekend. In those days the Porsche 911 was allowed to run against Ford Falcon, Ford Lotus Cortina, Mini’s, etc; as it was classed as a “Touring car”, because someone argued that the two occasional folding rear seats in the 911 classed it as a four-seat car!
Some while after this meeting, I remember the engine blowing up to the disappointment of everyone and it turned out this had happened previously. After much investigation and discussions with George Sneath, who rebuilt all the engines at AFN, the fault was traced to the oil supply line from the oil tank to the engine. I was visiting AFN with Chris Maltin and Ginger that day listening to their conversation with George Sneath. I think it was something to do with the rear suspension trailing arm and damper compressing the engine oil intake hose, which supplied the oil from the dry sump oil tank to the engine, when it went around left hand corners. It turned out that Chris Maltin had moved the oil tank in front of the right rear wheel, instead of to the rear it’s standard position, to get a better weight distribution, but somehow that particular oil line was not routed correctly and fouled on the rear suspension. The problem was easily solved but it was very costly in the process, as GVB had titanium connecting rods, a magnesium crankcase, chromed cylinder barrels and a blow up was a major expense for the owners.
Some years later, the Porsche factory subsequently adopted Chris Maltin’s oil tank layout as standard on the 1973 Porsche 911 2.4 litre models and the oil filler tank cap was accessed via a flap similar to the petrol tank flap, for filling the oil up.
Over the years I became good friends with Nick Faure and Chris Maltin although at that time their relationship was very strained over the finances of owning and running of GVB. Chris was a very good and competent driver, but Nick Faure just had a natural talent and could really make a Porsche dance to his tune and was in a different league to Chris and most other Porsche drivers I have ever met.
During my earliest days visiting AFN, I also met a number of other employees such as; Ernie Gregory, George Sneath, Johnny Bartec, Harry Olrog, Jock Wallace, Jimmy Simons, Lawrence Hardwicke, Alan Smith, Iain Denham and Campbell Findlay.
Campbell, who was working in the parts department in those days, seemed to pop up regularly on a number of evenings, sometimes very late, wandering into the workshops whilst we were all beavering away on GVB burning the midnight oil. On one occasion we all went down to the local pub for a pint and a sandwich late in the evening to watch and listen to Campbell playing his trumpet, which was his real passion in life.
Campbell subsequently went on to be General Manager of AFN some years later.

Porsche 356 Crash

One evening at dusk, I was riding my Vespa along the A4 from Hounslow West towards my parent’s home at Beavers Lane. As I approached Henley’s roundabout, to take the A30 exit, I saw a badly damaged brick wall, broken glass and a lot of blood all over the kerb area and in the gutter, as I passed by very slowly. When I got home a few minutes later I was shocked to hear my mother say the police had just been to our house and Michael (Ginger) had been in an accident at Henley’s round-a-bout in a Porsche and had been taken to West Middlesex hospital. I told her that I had seen the damage to the wall and we were really worried about his condition as I stupidly told my mother that blood had flowed everywhere. A short while after, Ginger walked in at home with his head bandaged after having had twenty odd stitches put in it, cursing Malcolm his colleague who was driving him home. Apparently his was a passenger in the Porsche 356 driven by Malcolm, who had a glass eye, and he had lost control of his Porsche 356 cornering left into the roundabout and lost control and crashed into the brick wall outside some houses.
I told Ginger I had seen his blood all over the road and he said that was not he was worried about that so much, but apparently they both could have been killed as Malcolm had a spare 356 engine on the back seats loose in a cardboard box and that had flown around them during the crash!
I subsequently found out this Porsche 356 car had previously belonged to Bill Bates, which was registered as 75 PMG and I believe the car was written off as a direct result from this accident.

Porsche Club Great Britain

I was a regular participant in attending the Porsche Club Great Britain meetings in the early days, which was held at the Coach and Horses pub on Kew Green, London.
I first went along to the club with Bill Bates, who was a founder member number 4. Bill did a lot of the photography for the club in those days.
I was also very good friends with John Veness and Martin Bishop who were regular members. 
In those days, the Porsche Club Great Britain was very small compared to what is has grown into today. We met on the first Wednesday of each month at the Coach and Horses and we had a bar kept especially for club members.
Sometime later in May 1971, the Porsche Club moved to meet at the Popes Grotto Pub in Twickenham, which was a little more convenient for me living in Hounslow.
I remember people such as; Nigel Carey, Eric (Studerman) Studer, Bill Bates, Alex & Dorothy Battenero, John Veness, Nick Faure, Mike Maltin, Martin Bishop, Bryan Walls, etc.
I have searched through my records, but unfortunately I cannot find any record of my early Porsche Club membership(s). I have re-joined the Club several times over the years mainly because I moved overseas twice and some files went missing.

We used to leave these cards on Porsche cars to drum up members for the Porsche Club


  1. Hello, I am Ernie Gregory's granddaughter and would love to find out more. Do you have any photo's?

    1. Helen, I sent you 2 emails; the first with some photos of Ernie & family. did you receive these? Regards, Alan