Porsche owners in West Yorkshire have
the undoubted asset of Porsche Centre
Leeds on their doorstep. Part of the
JCT600 group - headed by chairman
Jack Tordoff who, back in 1973, took the
ever-spectacular Carrera 2.7RS to outright
victory on the international Circuit of Ireland
rally - it's a state-of-the-art corporate palace
that is the largest Porsche Centre in Europe.
However, just a few streets away, you'll find the
alternative, independent specialist Porschtek.
Driving straight from one to the other, as I did,
the contrast is striking. But there's also more
than a whiff of similarity. Separated only by their
size, both premises are immaculate: clean
workshop floors, tool chests neatly lining the
walls and diagnostic equipment blinking. Plus
tidy waiting room with leather seating,
magazines (both 911 & Porsche World and
Stuttgart's own Christophorus) on the coffee
table and drinks machine to one side.
But the difference is also obvious. Porsche
Centre Leeds has a staff of 67, Porschtek just
two. Which probably explains why both can
happily exist, even co-exist, nearly side by side.
I'll illustrate my point.
My morning call at the official dealer premises
saw me arrive in the twenty-year-old (freelance
editorial) 911. Pretty fair condition and
impressive in its own right, if I may say so, but
faced with massed ranks of gleaming Caymans,
Cayennes and late-model Carreras, I thought it
prudent to tuck the red beastie out of sight on
the extremities of the car park. (I felt a bit like I
did many years ago when I first went into a
Porsche showroom - should I have worn a suit?)
At Porschtek the same afternoon, I drove right
up to the front door with not a tinge of inferiority.
Which, I think, sums up the role of the
independent in the Porsche world. The Centre is
primarily for new, and nearly-new car owners -
identified perhaps by the size of their wallet, and
perhaps by the fact a company is footing the bill.
Don't get me wrong, you'll get first-class service
at a Centre, but you'll rarely see a Carrera 3.2 or
944 in the workshop, and almost never in the
used car - sorry, pre-owned - lists. It's not the
way they do business. Once the typical Centre
customer's car has passed out of manufacturer
warranty, he's thinking about the next one, not
will it pass its first MOT inspection?
The independent is for the rest of us, with
older cars and less money, craving what we
perceive as a more personal service from the little
guy around the corner. But the gap is narrowing,
as Porschtek's Tony Snowden explains:
'Porsche new-car warranty is two years, and
with the latest cars the first service, typically,
also comes in two years. The cars coming to
independents like us are getting younger, and
we're even seeing cars for that first service.'
Porschtek is just two people - Tony Snowden
and Phil Woodhead. Tony started as an
apprentice at a Leeds Lexus dealership and,
at age 22, achieved the status of Master
Technician. He then joined JCT at its Brooklands,
Leeds, branch which in pre-Porsche Centre times
lumped the German manufacturer with
Maserati, Ferrari and Lotus.
Phil, meanwhile, started at JCT's Ferrari
outlet, worked at Brooklands and did time in the
workshop of the group's Jeep agency (before
returning to work at Brooklands). At this point,
both of them had progressed to the highest
grade of Porsche technicians, Tony in charge of
the workshop and one of a select few to train on
the Carrera GT supercar.
When, in 2006, JCT opened its stand-alone
Porsche Centre, just a short distance down the
road from the Brooklands agency, the duo
moved, too. From there it was a short step -
but for them a massive leap - to Porschtek early
'It wasn't a long-thought-out process,'
explains Phil. 'We'd chatted about the possibility
of setting up on our own for a couple of months,
then Tony came in to work one day and said we
should make the move.'
'We could see a market,' says Tony. 'A lot of
people would bring a car into the Centre for a
service, we'd report a number of additional
faults that needed repair and then we 'd never
see the car again. They were obviously being
After a busy time spending a couple of weeks
setting things up, local advertising and
launching a website, the pair opened the doors
of their trading estate premises, and one
customer - with a 928 - appeared on the first
day. 'It was a wonderful feeling,' remembers
Tony. Now the word's got around and Porschtek
Obviously, a certain number of owners moved
from main dealer to independent, but the
parting from Porsche Leeds was amicable, and
the pair continue to have a good relationship
with the nearby Centre - most of the (only)
original Porsche spares they use come from the
dealership. 'We have no hard feelings for JCT, but
we felt we wanted to put another angle on our
passion for Porsches,' says Phil.
'Not blowing our own trumpets, but we
believe we can offer an excellent service. We
know the cars and are good at our job. We can't
say we can do a better service than a Porsche
Centre, but what we can offer is quality work at
an affordable price, and with a one-to-one
relationship. People come in and talk through
their problems with us. Everyone who's been
here has been more than happy.'
The pair are seeing a much wider range of
Porsche models than at the dealership - witness
the brace of Boxsters, an Eighties 911 Turbo and
a 968 Cabriolet rubbing shoulders with a 997
GT3 at the time our photographs were taken.
The Boxster - it's been around for over ten years
now, the Turbo and the 968 are understandably
independent specialist material, but what
about the GT3? Is this not still a car for a
Porsche Centre ?
'I've dealt with the owner for years, and he's
found out where we've gone,' explains Tony. 'He
trusts us, which is good.'
The 997 is under two years old, but with
European block exemption legislation
effectively forbidding a 'closed shop' on
servicing, the Porschtek men see no problem
with it, or any other Porsche still within warranty
period, being handled outside an official Centre.
All work done is within the manufacturer's
schedules, only genuine Porsche parts are used,
and the independent has the required diagnostic
equipment to deal with even the latest models.
But with an hourly labour rate of £50 and a
competitive fixed servicing 'menu', the company
is attracting older cars. Especially, says Tony, in
the summer period when owners are more
prepared to put their limited-mileage or classic
cars on the road. A few trackday participants
have also found their way to the workshops for
Porschtek undertakes engine and
transmission rebuilds - the number of failed
3.4-litre M96 Boxster and 996 engines in for
repair seems to be reducing - and it seems
that many local dealers are sending cars
with hard-to-find electrical problems to the
experienced pair. Tyres and bodywork are about
the only two areas of Porsche care the two don't
handle at present.
Tony and Phil see their compact (small?) size
as an asset, the independent giving the
customer personal service and modest bills.
They admit they might have to grow a bit -
adding a sunken, four-poster lift and upgrading
the wheel-alignment equipment - but for now
they'll continue as a pair, liaising with
customers, sharing office work, fixing the cars,
washing them and invoicing. Because it's small,
the system, says Phil, is pretty bulletproof,
there's no communication breakdown.
Several times in conversation the word
'passion' is used by the Porschtek duo. These
guys clearly have a mission and, as Tony
Snowden says: 'It is our passion, working on the
cars, fixing and repairing them, looking after
Maybe, when it comes down to it, that's the
strongest case for the independent.