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28 Jul 2022

Reunited with a family friend

For 49 years, John Arnold searched for his uncle’s beloved 356…

Our story begins in 1961 when an 11-year-old John Arnold travelled with his uncle, Arthur Sheffield, to meeting at Chateau Impney in a Ford Zephyr. On that day, John and his uncle attended the first-ever meeting of what would become Porsche Club Great Britain, creating both an institution and a life-long love of Porsche within a matter of hours.

It was Arthur Sheffield who, along with Jeff May, organised that first meeting and founded the Club. For a joining fee of 25 shillings, the Club offered Porsche enthusiasts something new and hard to come by in a pre-digital age: the opportunity to chat with fellow Porsche fans. With an experimental engineer for a father and a Porsche-mad uncle, it's no wonder the young John's head was turned by the German marque famed for its exquisite motors.

"It was a very special day," John remembers. "From then on, the Club grew and grew, although it took a long time for the numbers to develop to where they are today. All of the people who attended were very like-minded. They all bought a car for the same reason; its build quality, its reliability and its driveability."

On 13 April 1962, a year after that first meeting, Arthur became the proud owner of a new right-hand-drive T6 B coupe in Slate Grey. The young John was by his uncle's side every step of the way, joining him during its registration and sitting in the passenger seat during thousands of miles of adventures all over the country.

Tragically, Arthur Sheffield passed away in 1965 at the age of just 52. His beloved T6 was bought by fellow founding member Ron Smith, sadly forcing John to say goodbye to a car that once held so many happy memories.

Moving forward to 1971 and with John now sitting in the driver's seat of his own 356, he finally became a member of the Club in his own right. However, he still felt a pang of longing to own the car that once meant so much to him. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible for John to find out what had become of the T6 since he had seen it last.

That was until 1975, when an early member of the 356 Register explained to John that he had found his uncle's car. John remembers that, after a drive in the T6 (his first time ever in the driver's seat, having not been able to reach the pedals during his last trip), the then-owner agreed to sell it to him for £735. However, as the time to hand it over grew closer, the owner mysteriously disappeared.

"I couldn't get In touch with him, I couldn't find him. It all went quiet. I waited two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. Nothing!" John remembers. After trying everything he could to find the elusive seller and the T6, "the trail really went dead. I didn't know what to do."

John spent the next 30 years with only fond memories of the time he spent with his uncle in the T6. That was until one sunny day in 2006 when, gazing out of the window, John thought to himself: "Somewhere in the world, that same sun is shining down on Arthur's car. I've got to find It!"

And find it he did. On 28 March 2013, John received an email that read: "Hi John, I think I've got the car you're looking for. It's in Portland, Oregon In the USA."

It turned out that the car had made its way across the pond in 1977 when an American from Seattle purchased it from a dealer in Cornwall.

During the T6's trans-Atlantic stay, it had three owners and Its last owner had driven it nearly every day. Remarkably, modern technology seemed to back up this assertion. "What was truly Incredible was that the T6 was visible on Google Earth, just sat in the driveway, clear as day," John says.

After decades of searching and countless phone calls and emails, John bought the car and Arthur Sheffield's T6 was now back in the family again. But how did John feel when he finally laid eyes on It?
"I just thought 'Oh my God, there it Is! That's the seat I sat in, that's where Arthur drove the car, that's the key he put in.' I was speechless. I looked at it and thought 'I've chased you halfway around the world, little car, and there you are.' It had that sort of lovely 356 happy look about it, as if It was going to say 'You've rescued me. I'm going back home!"'

But the story doesn't end there. John is currently enjoying spending his retirement restoring the T6 to its original state.

"I stripped the whole car down and it's not finished yet, but it's rolling," he says. "I've had the body shell redone and the engine and transaxle rebuilt. I've also had it re-sprayed from red back to its original Slate Grey.''

With the help of 356 Register's Fred Hampton, John was also able to recover the T6's original registration of '777 FON'. He also plans to add something extremely special to him back onto the car; the original Porsche radio plaque that Arthur gave him in 1962. "After all those years, it feels good to reunite the plaque with the car. It really is the final cherry on top.''

So, what does it mean to John to finally be in possession of the T6?

"After saying goodbye in 1965 and the disappointment of losing the T6 in 1975 to eventually being its owner, it really means the world," John says. "I remember everything about being sat in the front with Arthur and I think he would have been delighted that I took the car over and be thankful it's in my life once again.''

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