Sports car firm arrives in the city with a giant roar

Emma Judd test drives the new Porsche Boxter from Portsmouths new Porsche dealership at North End. Sales executive Andrew Palmer hands over the keys. Picture: Ian hargreaves  (123097-3)
Emma Judd test drives the new Porsche Boxter from Portsmouths new Porsche dealership at North End. Sales executive Andrew Palmer hands over the keys. Picture: Ian hargreaves (123097-3)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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WHEN news broke that a Porsche supplier was to build a dealership in Portsmouth, eyebrows were raised. Why Portsmouth? And why in the middle of a recession? EMMA JUDD finds out... and had a go in a Boxter herself

Portsmouth isn’t really known for having lots of Flash Harry types.

Well, we’re known for having had one, but he left the football club a while ago now.

No, when it comes to all things ostentatious, Portsmouth usually leaves it to Southampton, with its boat show. Where they do shiny sleek yachts, we do gun-metal grey warships.

And that’s something to be proud of.

But despite the city’s persona, the statistics don’t lie – our city’s rich are getting richer.

Between 2010 and 2011 the top 10 per cent of earners had their wages increase by £1,000, to – on average – just over £50,000.

There’s also 150 more people in the city who have joined that elite.

But whilst it must be nice to earn that kind of money, having a pre-tax income of £50,000 or so will still only just get you a new Porsche Boxter S.

So why, if such a car costs a year’s wages for Portsmouth’s average top earner, has the German car firm opened a franchise in the city?

The answer, according to the man in charge of the new dealership, is simple.

Phil Brine, sales manager, said: ‘Portsmouth is absolutely the right area for us, because our area of influence is within a 45-minute drive time.

‘If we had built our dealership in Southampton it would be too close to the one we have in Bournemouth.

‘And this location is absolutely right to get to the A27 corridor.’

Just a year ago there was a patch of land to the south of the 1000 Lakeside building at North Harbour, with planning permission to build a business unit there.

The firm which runs Lakeside had already announced it was going to be redeveloping the whole site in order to attract more businesses to the area.

The plans, released by Highcross, featured a hotel, a care home, a retail hub and, innocuously enough, plans for a car dealership.

Eventually, once the ink had dried on the contract, Highcross announced that the car dealership in question would be run by a firm called Inchcape Retail.

And Inchcape Retail sell Porsches.

Anglo Holt Construction soon had hoardings up proclaiming Porsche was coming.

And as soon as the steel skeleton was clad in sleek dark panels, and the giant Porsche lettering was added, it wasn’t long before cars were being lifted into position within the showroom’s two floors.

The dealership is one of the largest in Britain.

It occupies a space of nearly two acres, and has two floors indoors to fit 26 new and used Porsches of various models – and has space to park more on the roof.

It also features a spotlessly clean workshop and an MoT bay.

Though the dealership has been open for a number of weeks, it only had its official launch on September 13.

Around 400 people attended, and cars were taken up to the showroom’s roof using its impressive car lift.

Bigwigs from both Porsche in Germany and Inchcape attended, along with the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Frank Jonas.

Now Porsche customers can pop into the Portsmouth centre, which has already proved popular with customers – and has even had tourists arrive for some maintenance work after getting off the ferry at the international port.

So maybe while only Portsmouth’s top earners can afford to buy one, the rest of us will benefit from the investment in the city.

‘I’M IN LOVE WITH IT’

So what was it like driving one?

I’m in love. There, I’ve said it. I’ve been ruined for all other cars for ever more.

To say I was nervous picking up the keys to my metallic blue Boxter S was an understatement, not least because at a retail price of around £50,000 I certainly couldn’t afford to bend it.

But when I got in it, and heard that roar as I headed to the top of Portsdown Hill for a photo shoot, I knew this was the car for me.

The acceleration really kicked in after 4,000rpm, and it just kept on going.

The gears, all six of them, were smooth, and the brakes worked well, which was a relief for my reporter’s bank account.

And, of course, driving with the roof down around Portsmouth was always bound to turn some heads, because it’s not every day you see a brand new Porsche cruising down London Road, oddly not caring about the permanent red state of the traffic lights. Those walking along the seafront, too, also stared a bit, as did people sitting outside the Spice Island pub in Old Portsmouth.

Luckily, though, the car was easy to keep at the speed limit too, so I didn’t attract any undue attention from the boys in blue.

The heated seats took care of any slight chill from having the top down on a cool autumn morning, and the sound system proved to work well also.

In all I would say to anyone with a spare £50,000 lying around – buy one. Buy one right now. And buy me one too.