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20 Dec 2018

Photos by Carlos Linares

Heaven on Earth

The City of Angels is home to a salvage company that helps bring classic Porsches back from the dead

Depending on how you view it, LA Dismantler is either the final resting place of a cherished Porsche or the answer to your prayers. The company, based in California, provides an abundance of parts and complete cars in various states of distress, all waiting to help resurrect a willing recipient. They died so that others could live.
Established more than 20 years ago by husband and wife team Todd and Sara Dakarmen, the company specialises in Porsches and has broken up pretty much every model from the 1980s onwards. Take a deep breath now – Carrera GTs, 959s, GT2s, GT3s and Turbo Ss have all limped through their doors at some point.
Todd knew he was a ‘car man’ from a young age and worked with his dad and brother at the family salvage yard. He bought his first Porsche at 16, fixing it up with parts he acquired from buying wrecks and selling on what he didn’t need.
Then Sara came on the scene. Within a short time, a hobby became a full-time job and they decided to go it alone, specialising in their favourite marque. Sara says: “I answered the phones while studying for a business degree focusing on the salvage industry, which I found really interesting. Then we secured our first yard and it took off from there.”

The growth of the internet, and particularly eBay bursting on to the scene, was a turning point for the fledgling company. “It created a huge opportunity,” recalls Sara. “We had access to the likes of Europe, even selling parts back to Germany. That was a real game changer – people from all over the world could find you.”
Today, online sales make up around 90 per cent of LA Dismantler’s business. Naturally, the US is their biggest market, but there’s also significant demand from South America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Procuring stock comes via several routes, primarily insurance write-offs (Sara jokes that rain is her friend as Los Angelenos aren’t adept at driving in slippery conditions). If the cost of a repair outweighs the price of a replacement, the car will be put up for auction.
Another important source is the owner market. If a vehicle isn’t in good condition, or a specific problem is too expensive to fix and there’s little demand for that model, it’s cashed in. And, of course, parts are obtained from uninsured road and track cars,
as well as those that have suffered fire damage.

“Sometimes we buy a car for a specific reason – we may know someone who needs a part quickly and is ready to go. It’s really about timing,” explains Sara. “Such is the cost of real estate we have to be very efficient with our space. After 20 years we’re almost blind to what we have.
“When a car comes in, we have to ask, ‘Right, which customer will snap this up? How can we get the maximum benefit from it?’ We have waiting lists for hard-to-get items, while other customers may always need a certain type of part. There are also people flying in from around the globe to pore through our stock.”
Has she noticed any shifts in the market or emerging trends? “There’s currently a huge push for 964s, 993s and SCs. This is partly driven by modifiers like Singer, who are taking a lot of the 964s. The older these things get, the more the demand – then the price goes up,” says Sara.

So, what advice does Sara have for Porsche Club members trying to track down that elusive part?
“The website is only a snapshot of the stock we have. If I was able to do an inventory of every car and component that came in I would be in heaven,” Sara says. “Things come in and go out so quickly, and the high-end stuff is always going to be in demand and hard to come by.
“If you want something specific you have to make it known; you have to contact us on a regular basis. We’ll put you on a waiting list and do our best. Being patient is the key.”
As the saying goes – good things come to those who wait.

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