Once upon a time, Tony Ruggles went on a school trip to Wales. They went pony trekking for the day and stopped at a pub for a break – the teachers going in for a quiet pint, the children sitting outside with sandwiches and soft drinks, the ponies corralled nearby. Then they heard a car coming.
“It had been raining and the roads were wet. Even though my father was a mechanic and I knew about cars, I didn’t know what it was and had never seen one. Then the Porsche 911 went past us on the wet road with the rooster-tail of spray coming up. As a young kid, I was like ‘Bloody hell, I want one of those!’” he laughs. And who would disagree?
In time, Tony followed in his father’s footsteps, completed his five-year apprenticeship and became a professional mechanic himself. Now living in Hertfordshire with his partner Deborah, he can be found at Carrera Engineering when he isn’t busy being the Technical Assistant for the 911 2.7 Carrera and 3.0 Register. He’s been working on Porsches since 1982, both personally and professionally, and you don’t need to get far into a conversation at all to appreciate that he really knows his stuff.
But his schoolboy wish to swap one type of horsepower to a much more impressive kind won out too, and he’s also the proud owner of a 1974 Carrera 2.7 Targa – “the first of the G series, impact bumper models” – in gorgeous Blue Metallic that has had an extensive restoration. However, that wasn’t exactly what he had planned at first.
“I didn’t want a Targa, I wanted a coupé,” he remembers. “But I found this one for sale in Essex. I could see it had had some work done on it, on the bodywork. Very extensive history, although it didn’t have full service history, and there was a big folder full of invoices. I could see it wasn’t rust-free; it looked in good condition, but it was hiding stuff. In the end, I made the guy a silly offer and he actually accepted it.”
Tony bought the car in August 1984 and took it off the road to begin doing it up at Christmas in 1985, thinking that it wouldn’t take that long to tidy up the bodywork in his spare time. However, that turned into a full-scale restoration and it didn’t go back on the road until May 1995. With the power of hindsight, why the previous owner was willing to part with it for £5900 instead of something closer to his original £9000-10000 asking price may not be a mystery.
“It went from being ‘a few months’ to ‘maybe a year’ to ‘it’ll be finished when it’s finished’,” Tony admits. “It’s easier to say what didn’t need doing. The only component on the vehicle that I never did any work on at the time of the restoration was the gearbox. Everything else came out. Every nut, bolt, screw, washer and clip was replaced. All of the external wings were replaced. The seals were all replaced. The doors were replaced. The inner wings were replaced or repaired. I did even contemplate buying a new shell rather than repairing the old shell at one point because it was really quite bad. It had a new front boot floor pan welded in where the front wishbones mount and that was all replaced because it was all just rotten. It was all back to bare metal and acid dipping wasn’t an option back then, so I did everything by hand.”
But nearly a decade of hard work paid off and the end result was undeniably impressive. With the now-pristine car back on the road at long last, Tony decided to enter the Club concours scene. Starting at Thruxton in 1995, his dedication was ultimately rewarded and his Targa won the 1998 Club concours at Highclere – a distinction that’s not earned lightly.
The judges may have felt that the car stood out for another reason too. “It’s the only right-hand-drive Carrera Targa ever imported into the UK in that colour, and it’s believed to be the only one in the world that’s a right-hand-drive in that colour,” Tony says. “And the other thing is, because it’s UK spec for 1974, the UK stuck with chrome trim whereas the rest of the world all went to black trim unless you specced chrome trim at the factory.”
After this accolade, Tony also found the time to get involved in racing too. His time in a team competing in the Clio Trophy took him to Monaco in 2002, where the cars were racing around the streets of Monte Carlo the day before the Formula 1 Grand Prix along with the Porsche Supercup. Unfortunately, Mediterranean glamour turned out to be in short supply for the support crews. “We spent the best part of a week in an underground car park. It went from being in the mid-20s to the high-40s. You can imagine a pack of about 30-odd racing cars all in an underground car park. Boiling. We would literally be dripping sweat on the cars. It was so hot in there, it was unbelievable.”
So, after all that time and elbow grease, would Tony recommend a 2.7 to somebody else?“Yes, as long as you can find a good one that’s been restored,” he says, instantly. “They’re a brilliant car. They always want to go. Every time you put the throttle down – doesn’t matter whether you’re in first gear or fifth gear – it wants to go. You touch that throttle, it wants to go. It’s almost like a stallion; you’re holding it back all the time. Everything about them is alive.”Although man and machine are taking it somewhat easier now (and he’s ended up restoring the gearbox as well), pouring so much time and effort into a car leaves its mark and he’s letting it retire gracefully rather than put it through any other big projects or having it judged against concours standards again. He still takes it out once in a while for relaxed trips, though, and one of those at Hedingham Castle led to a chance encounter with the previous owner.
“He saw the car because it still has the same number plate on it. He saw me parking it up, came over and talked to me, and he said, ‘Oh, I think I might have sold you this’. And I looked at him and then I started swearing: ‘So you’re the one who we sold me this piece of crap!’” he laughs. The pair soon started talking about that long-running restoration, complete with going over Tony’s photos that detailed the work in all its stages. They concluded that the Targa had ended up in the best possible hands. And Tony, of course, had kept his childhood resolution and fulfilled a lifelong dream to own an air-cooled 911.