Jonathan Barnes Blackburn's love of cars has been lifelong. As a child, he built his own contraptions out of cardboard boxes, wooden frames and wheels and, by the age of 14, he was already looking for the real thing. After weighing up various options, factoring in a limited budget, high insurance and fondness for classics, he settled upon a 924. At the age of just 18, Jonathan’s first car, the car he would learn to drive in, would be a Porsche.
“I’ve always liked mechanical and preferably analogue things,” says Jonathan. “I’m not a fan of the complex digital electronics involved in modern cars. Often, when a component fails it’s part of a sealed unit, so the whole thing has to be replaced. In my view, this is not a particularly sustainable approach to car manufacturing.
“Due to their simplicity, parts for most classic cars are relatively obtainable, and repairs are usually not too challenging. I like the idea of being able to keep an already 45-year-old vehicle on the road for an indefinite amount of time and I’ve always liked older things; they take you back in time and often have many stories to tell.”
A few years ago, Jonathan was browsing AutoTrader and came across a 968 Club Sport. “I thought back to that and recalled the models that preceded the 968: the ’24 and the ’44,” he says. Looking into the feasibility of one of these models, he found that the 2.5-litre engine in the 944 and 924S pushed the insurance costs up too much, but the 2.0-litre engine 924 yielded some more reasonable quotes.
Having spent a long time looking and waiting for his ideal 924, he set eyes on a promising 1977 model. “I only came across it because I was looking at spare parts, just to gauge how much things might cost. It was a bit of a chance encounter,” he reflects. “When I found it, I called the same day and arranged to go and look at it the following weekend.
“It caught my eye because the owner had added photos of the underside, something I hadn’t seen a seller do before on a 924 listing, and it looked incredible. He’d stripped everything back and either restored or replaced it to create a car that was, mechanically, virtually perfect. The interior was almost perfect too. It had been properly detailed, the dash was nearly completely crack-free and the front seats had been very nicely retrimmed. Just from that initial browse through the photos and the listing description, I had a feeling it was ‘the one’.”
Folding himself up into the rear passenger seat with his head tilted to one side around the limited roof space, Jonathan relied on his father to test drive it. "I was very impressed,'' he said. "If it hadn't been for my dad encouraging me to take some time to think about it, I probably would have bought it there and then. Instead, we chatted during the drive home, then I called the owner later that evening to let him know I would like to buy it. I collected the car the following weekend."
Deciding to purchase a classic car midway through the final year of school and without having learned to drive yet may seem like a bold move, but there's more to it. Having had a couple of driving lessons on a private airfield, Jonathan isn't a complete novice behind the wheel, but he had been holding out for the Porsche before progressing. "It probably sounds really silly, but I wanted the first car I drive on the road to be my first car,'' he explains. "My dad tried to add me to the insurance on one of the family cars, but it was going to be ridiculously expensive. I felt I was better off investing in my own car rather than paying excessive insurance premiums on another. It's such a shame for us in the UK; you look at countries such as the US and car insurance for young drivers isn't nearly as expensive. It discourages classic car ownership in a generation where it needs to be encouraged."
Shortly after buying the 924, Jonathan had to part with it for a few months due to the discovery of a slight fuel leak. Williams Crawford in Saltash took care of the repairs and the car was ready for its first proper spin in time for the Easter holidays. Clocking up around 600 miles over the break and under his father's supervision, Jonathan's first trip was to join R15 for their day out to Bodmin Airfield.
"It's very agile, well-balanced and great fun to drive,'' he says. "I've mostly been sticking to A and Broads, but I was a bit too adventurous the other day and took some single-track lanes. All of the tractors had been out and the roads were covered in dried mud. When I returned home, I had to treat the car to a thorough wash!"
After taking Jonathan three-and-a-half hours to carefully clean off the dirt, it's not a trip that's likely to be repeated anytime soon. With a few imperfections in the paintwork and early 924s typically only featuring a galvanised underbody, the car is vulnerable to rust. "I don't want to use a hose on it,'' he explains, "so it's basically a case of washing and drying it in sections using a bucket of water and several cloths."
Having initially been wary about the car's reliability, Jonathan is pleased with its performance. "The more I drive it, the better it seems to run,'' he says. "It just goes to show that classic cars are meant to be driven, not hidden away."
Between the family home in Cornwall and studying in Oxfordshire, Jonathan has joined three PCGB regions - R15, R19 and R31 - and is looking forward to joining more Club events and meeting fellow enthusiasts. He is particularly keen to learn more about his vehicle's history so, if you can shed any light on the past of Jonathan's 924, registration BWP 480S, please get in touch with him directly via email.