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03 Jul 2019

Photos by Rupert Clark

Robin Hood 356

After strapping my son into the passenger seat, I checked the fuel cut off position, pulled the choke out and fired her up. She started up first time!

So, in our first meeting as the newly formed R19 committee we were discussing the planned Nuffield Place event where we had been asked if we could display a number of classic cars outside the home of William Morris of (Morris Cars fame). R19 had been offered the Club 1600 356 b to show at the event and our new RO John Evans asked the group if anyone would like to pick up the car from the Clubhouse. I had seen the car last year in the Porsche Reading Showroom, when it was being displayed for the #SportscarTogether event and I had fallen in love with it then. For a nanosecond I considered playing it cool in front of this new group of people, but who was I kidding, what an opportunity and my hand shot up. Surprisingly there was no objection, the others had commitments, or perhaps they were playing it cool. There I was, in my first committee meeting and my first job would be to pick up the stunning 356 and not only that, I needed to pick it up from the Clubhouse on the Friday and return it for the Monday. I was going to have the car for a whole weekend, deciding to get involved in R19 was starting to look like a really good idea.


The day of the pickup arrived. What hadn’t been planned was a day earlier my twelve year old son had been sick and because of school rules, had to spend 48 hours off school. A day into his imposed time out, he was of course 100% well and so I had a road trip buddy to share the momentous occasion with. We travelled up to Moreton-in-Marsh in my 20 year old 911 C2. We were met by Paul Grainger who had been busy preparing for Porsche at Prescott and other events that weekend. Paul was great and gave us a tour of the clubhouse and showed us the other club vehicles and the cutaway display cars. Once done, he took us to the 356 which was looking stunning in the afternoon sun. He took us round the car and explained how to work the fuel cut off and all the nuances of operating it. After the first impression of how beautiful the car looked inside and out, the thing that stood out next was the way the car smelt. Like all cars of the era it had that heady whiff of petrol, oil and leather, which to me is one of the most intoxicating smells there is. Being one to anthropomorphise cars I asked if it had a name. Expecting to hear the response to be the name of a beautiful lady (all my cars are lady’s) to match its stunning looks I was surprised that the response was Robin Hood. Paul could clearly see the confusion in my face and explained this was a one previous owner car and his name was Robin Hood, so that’s what they called it. After many years of fun Robin had part exchanged Robin in the early eighties for a Golf GTI. At the time this was quite a common occurrence, as believe it or not, these cars were not worth much on the second hand market at that time. In fact, last Christmas I found out my Father in-law had done the exact same thing with a 356 super 90 around the same time! Grampy (as he’s known to me) has not really kept up with classic car values, so when I told him what a super 90 was worth now he nearly chocked on his turkey. Anyway, Robin had bounced around the dealer network a bit and was offered to the Club, where it was sat on for a bit and when the values started to go up a restoration programme was started to bring it back upto its former glory. So Robin it was, but in my head it was a Robyn.


After strapping my son into the passenger seat, I checked the fuel cut off position, pulled the choke out and fired her up. She started up first time! I gave the throttle a gentle blip to encourage the engine to better match the choke and gently slotted her into gear. The sound was incredible and reverberated and sang through the cabin. On the road her manners were fantastic. The ride was smooth and she glided over road imperfections much more comfortably than my 40 year younger car. The aesthetic feel of the large steering wheel and the way the gears changed were perfect. Not only did she look amazing for her age she felt it too. The best way to describe the handling was that she handled like a Porsche! With the familiar lay out and balance, and the way she turned in, it was clear how right they had got the handling right from the start and how every generation of Porsche since (and I include the way a transaxle feels) had been an evolution of this handling philosophy. I had quickly fallen in love and after a few tentative first miles I felt at one with Robyn and was able to drive more confidently. She’s not fast, by today’s standard, but with very long gear ratios it was progressive, sonorous and joyous. My son was initially alarmed by the extra noise and inputs that the car needed, but soon relaxed and came around to the experience. What surprised us both was the attention we received on the road. During our roughly 60 min journey home four cars slowed down to take a closer look and on two of those occasions passengers in those cars hung out of their windows and cheered at Robyn.


We spent a fantastic weekend together, she was the belle of the ball at Nuffield Place (Summary in a separate piece) looking stunning at the front of the beautiful house and Gardens alongside other classics. During our time together she started on the button and was completely reliable. When it came time to take her back I was very grateful for the opportunity and privilege to experience such an amazing Porsche. The smell lingered in my garage for a few days after and I can still smell it on a hat I left in the car during once of its night’s stay. The memories of Robyn will last much much longer.


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