An interview with Steve and Ali Smith
TWO CARS, ONE LOVE.
For Steve and Ali Smith, the journey with Rennsport began three years ago. With businesses doing well, mortgages paid and a modest inheritance burning a hole in their pockets, Steve and Ali had reached something of a crossroads in their lives. They had owned their own horses for many years and competed with them at numerous events, but now felt the pull of wheels over hooves! “We’d bought a Morgan Super Sport in 2013 and loved this new world but we’re certainly not mechanics and owning and running most traditional classic cars, requires you to at least be competent enough to carry out routine repairs at the side of the road. So that was a problem, but to be honest, I’d fallen in love with the idea of fulfilling the dreams I’d had as a child hankering after my godfather’s latest 1970s sports car!” says Steve. It was time for their stables to become garages.
Family connections saw Steve and Ali walking round the workshops of Steve’s brother-in-law, who having raced and collected classic cars all his life, was still very much active in repairing, restoring and rebuilding cars. As Steve recollects, “There would be twenty cars in his workshop, all in various states of repair: an E-type Jaguar here, an Austin Healy over there, you name it. Ali and I both started to catch the bug.” They talked to Austin Healey and Jaguar experts but the issues of reliability persisted, along with Steve’s fears over his lack of mechanical know-how. “I’d always loved the idea of having a wonderful car, but I’ve never been interested in taking an engine to pieces and putting it back together. It’s just not me!”
Walking around Goodwood Revival in 2017, this smouldering desire to own a classic car almost came to fruition just yards short of Rennsport’s door, when they were instantly captivated with the style and aesthetics of the Jaguar XK-120. Instead, the very next day, they turned a corner and found themselves drawn onto the Rennsport stand with its array of iconic 911 recreations.
“It was intoxicating - love at first sight! We got chatting to Paul Cockell and realised we could have the classic, iconic car that we craved for; a car that was fast, reliable, easy to drive, with a traditional gearbox and one that answered all my doubts about maintenance in that it wasn’t likely to break down at the side of the road!”
A couple of weeks later, the couple had shaken hands with Paul and Rennsport was commissioned to build a Gulf Blue 911 Targa in true and traditional 70s style. Originally built in 1988 but now sporting the iconic early 70s livery, the Targa has a sporty 3.2 engine and that much-desired G50 gearbox.
However, as it turned out, one Rennsport car wasn’t enough for Steve and Ali. “We enjoyed the process with Paul and his team so much that we asked him to build a second car for us,” says Steve. “We knew our first car was always going to be a Targa but this time we started with a 1987 911 Coupe and decided to beef up the 3.2 performance with a Throttle Boddies injection system.”
So, on a less romantic notion, what were the financial considerations that Steve and Ali had to take on board with, not one, but two cars? “It was the same with both, really. We didn’t want to invest in something that would have lost a third of its value in a year or eighteen months. A brand new Porsche could easily depreciate by 20% in a year. And it wasn’t about making money, though we are careful enough as people to want to own something that won’t lose us a lot of money.”
Steve and Ali have also become involved in non-competitive, touring car rallies. “On the last one, the resident mechanic who travels with the tour said that our Targa was the only one he wasn’t likely to be called out to! Good old German engineering!” The next trip will be a three-week rally to Italy. Will it be the Targa or the Coupe?
Ali admits that they both love having a fingerprint on the cars that Rennsport have built for them. “Oh yes, it’s very important. We love being involved in the various challenges that we take on. We like things to be a little bit different and a bit quirky.” And Steve adds, “A lot of people who have enough money to do something like this, want everything now, but we loved the whole process of the car being rebuilt and put together as much as having it and driving it down the road. It’s lovely when you set off on an adventure and love that journey.”