Spend time with anyone obsessed with crafting something truly beautiful and you’ll quickly realise it’s the details that count. That myriad of minor facets that make the difference between something being merely great, compared to something truly outstanding. It’s the same with sports cars, and spend just a couple of hours in Paul Stephens’ workshop and you’ll leave with the impression that no consideration is too small.
From a modest base in the south of England, Paul and his team spend an extraordinary amount of time bringing a level of perfection to the Porsche 911 that has to be seen to be appreciated. With 25 years’ experience in the supply and curation of Porsches to discerning buyers, Paul realised that he could really apply this passion for the marque in the way he restored cars. Today the company is renowned for its honesty, attention to detail and technical know-how. Through continuously enhancing the way he restores customers’ cars, Paul knows how to maximise driving pleasure and protect investment. Despite this he’s not one to shout about his creations, instead preferring to let the cars do the talking. “Some companies like to make a lot of noise, and display a sort of rock & roll persona. That’s not our approach – we’re more English. You can think of our cars as tasteful, almost classical pieces of work.”
Although not a race team, Paul and the Paul Stephens team have been hard at work ahead of this year’s Le Mans Classic as they ready something special. Conceived in collaboration with event organiser Peter Auto, Paul Stephens will unveil its highly limited Le Mans Classic Clubsport edition in a public premier at this year’s race at Circuit de la Sarthe. Revealed to the drivers and members in 2018, ahead of delivery to lucky owners at the Le Mans Classic in 2020, just 10 of these hand-finished and numbered editions are slated for restoration. In a celebration of what has become one of the world’s most respected motor racing events, each of the 10 events since 2002 will be marked with a car that’s an inspired celebration of the revered 911.
And it’s here that Paul’s attention to detail will make a difference, because each car will receive the finest of touches to ensure that it’s uniquely personalised in keeping with Le Mans Classic’s heritage. Starting with an original 911 body tub, the iconic sports car is carefully restored ahead of conversion to Paul Stephens Clubsport specification. Introduced back in 2007, the Paul Stephens Clubsport delivered a lightweight coupé, with an ethos that less should be more, when many had yet to see the potential of carefully restored Porsche 911s. Agile and formidable, it was capable of besting far more modern machinery on fast twisty roads or circuits. The next decade was spent refining the concept, and in 2017 the new Clubsport Series 2 broke cover. Inspired by the road-going high-performance derivatives of the Porsche 911, it takes the best styling and technical elements from all eras to deliver something truly special and bespoke car.
This is the starting point for the Le Mans Classic Clubsport edition. Comprehensively rebuilt to as-new condition, it features the Paul Stephens’ approach which includes a lightweight deseamed roof panel - including sunroof deletion, lightweight composite bumpers and engine cover, lightweight aluminium bonnet, lightweight soundproofing and aerodynamically designed lightweight external mirrors. Despite all this attention, the car retains an elegant, balanced approach, and to the casual observer it appears to be nothing ostentatious. For Paul, this is the whole point. “The more you look, the more you see, and slowly to can appreciate where the time has been invested. Understated elegance is our goal, and I want owners to be continually delighted with their car’s intricacies for years to come,” he says.
That philosophy extends to the engine bay where you’ll find a 3.4 litre air-cooled flat six, with 300 bhp. It’s far from standard specification, and the attention to engineering detail include a new cross shaft-less ITB injection system with GT3RS plenum, a programmable ECU mapped in house, RS specification camshafts, a lightened and balanced crankshaft, lightweight conrods, and a lightweight flywheel mated with a Getrag G50 gearbox and limited slip differential. With the car weighting as little as 975kg, depending on the buyers selected options, it offers a scintillating power to weight ratio. Sprinting from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and with a top speed of 175 mph, it’s capable of surprising the drivers of far more modern machinery on the road or track.
As befitting such a legendary car, hundreds of hours have been lavished on the cabin - as well as some genuinely creativity. With the intention of being both stylish and supportive, the full leather ST style touring seats are trimmed in black leather and unique Le Mans Classic houndstooth inserts in green, black and white. Despite its nod to Porsche interiors of old, the bespoke houndstooth cloth merits closer inspection. Containing the exact same colours as the Le Mans Classic brand, it’s been specially woven in Italy for Paul Stephens and will only be used to trim the 10 special editions. This sense of panache is mirrored by the fully trimmed and hand stitched leather interior panels, with houndstooth door pockets, and green boucle floor mats. Door pulls and seat belts, also in Le Mans Classic green, are matched by bespoke dashboard dials and, fittingly, a 24-hour clock. Externally the Le Mans Classic editions will be easily distinguished from a regular Paul Stephens Clubsports by the subtle race strips and hand painted Le Mans Classic bodywork detailing.
For buyers looking for a more focused machine, the Le Mans Classic Clubsport is also available in a Lightweight specification. Forgoing some of the more luxurious trappings found on the Touring variant, it pares the car back further through the use of lightweight carpets, the removal of sound proofing, Lexon rear windows and the installation of manual front windows, the deletion of central locking and the use of no-tilt lightweight seat frames. If that wasn’t enough Paul has even removed the glove box, and introduced a lighter cubby hole, and only fitted a single sun visor – on the driver’s side. “The Lightweight model is really intended for customers who aren’t worried about any creature comforts, and who want something rawer and supremely focused,” explains Paul. With the Touring version only weighing around 100kg more than the Lightweight, those lucky enough to buy one of the 10 cars may have to think carefully before ordering.
As a finishing flourish, both the Touring and Lightweight editions come complete with a specially commissioned three-piece Le Mans Classic luggage set, finished in soft black leather, and lined with that exclusive Le Mans Classic houndstooth cloth. In keeping with the Touring’s credentials, that specification also comes with a luggage box, mounted where the rear seats would traditionally be, to provide additional stowage space.
Paul is proud to be working with Peter Auto in naming this unique Le Mans Classic Clubsport. “It’s a real honour to be associated with such an important event. The Le Mans Classic has rightly established itself as a pilgrimage for enthusiasts and aficionados. I want our own devotion to the restoration of cars to reflect their passion for the event, and to be able to dedicate a bespoke version of our Clubsport model feels very apt.” One thing is certain, with just 10 examples available, those wanting to enjoy the fruits of Paul Stephen’s labour will have to be quick as the cars. Paul Stephens restores and modifies the Porsche 911 for its customers, but does not manufacture cars, is not affiliated, associated or endorsed by Porsche GB or Porsche AG and claims no rights over the use of the Porsche or 911 trademarks, which are quoted for reference only.
For more information on commissioning a bespoke AutoArt car or a Paul Stephens Design piece, buying a classic or specialist vehicle, or the company’s engineering and workshop services please contact:
T: +44(0)1440 714 884