My Car: Jasper Eckert of Fine Eleven

By A Collected Man

The Porsche community shares a likeness to the watch world, being comprised of similar personalities obsessing over details, product codes and originality. Over recent years, car values have soared, giving birth to specialist restoration companies bringing cars back to their former glory; sometimes even further. We are pleased to present a new editorial series focussed around cars and their respective owners called 'My Car'. For the inaugural instalment, we popped over to Hamburg to visit Jasper Eckert of Fine Eleven, a family run business restoring Porsche and building custom cars for clients to talk about that one special car.

 

Let’s not beat around the bush, you’re obsessed with cars…

[Laughs] Yeah…

 

Where did this obsession begin?

Well, I don’t remember this personally, but my father picked me and my mother up from the hospital when I was born, in a Porsche 911.

 

[Laughs] Really?

Yeah, I don’t know if this was ingrained in me literally from birth, but it certainly seems like it left an impact. My first personal memories of being in a car start with my mother’s Volkswagen Golf MK III convertible.

 

A classic…

We drove around in that a lot, but my father always had classic cars, classic 911s. My family owned a car garage, servicing and repairing mostly modern cars at that time, but we always had a 911 knocking around.

 

Jasper Eckert and his Porsche 911 M491 Turbo-Look

 

Does your father still have the 911 you were picked up in?

Unfortunately not, he had to let that car go to buy the piece of land that our house is now on, so…

 

[Laughs] Parental responsibility kicked in?

Yeah, something like that; the reasonable decision-making took over the passion.

 

Did you ever get the chance to drive when you were young?

I did actually, and the first thing I drove was a 911.

 

"The first 911 I drove was an SC Junior, which Porsche built for kids"

 

We’re seeing a pattern here…

The first 911 I drove was an SC Junior, which Porsche built for kids. I got that car when I was maybe six or seven years old…

 

And this had a petrol engine?

Yeah, and it was a three pedal car, so you have a clutch, a brake and the throttle. This thing was as close as it gets to real for a young man, with first, second and reverse gears.

 

Jasper Eckert’s (from Fine Eleven) Porsche 911 M491 Turbo-Look

 

Wow, so six years old and you’re driving your first geared Porsche 911…

Porsche 911 convertible [laughs]…

 

[Laughs] Oh!

The only problem with that thing is that it never wanted to start because the carburettor was always full of dirt and old fuel. That motivated me to learn how the thing really worked, because if it didn’t run, then I didn’t get to have fun.

 

Right…

I have more memories trying to start it than driving it actually [laughs]

 

So, that was a first introduction of sorts to the family business?

I suppose so, though it wasn’t until later on that I had gotten into motocross around the age of eight or nine and I really got to grasp the basics of engine mechanics.

 

Getting onto the family business a little more, the business began to shift from modern servicing and repairs to restoration work as the primary focus, right?

Yeah, we would always have classics in for restoration which could be anything from a Mustang, to an E-Type Jaguar, and we of course always had 911s. This side of the business played a minor role for a long time, as these cars just weren’t that valuable in the early 2000s.

 

Absolutely, tricky to make a business solely for that back then…

The passion for it was always there though.

 

Jasper Eckert’s (from Fine Eleven) Porsche 911 M491 Turbo-Look
in Hamburg

 

So, following on from your first driving experiences in the Junior 911, what was the first full size car that you drove?

Yeah, of course when you’re working at your father’s garage and there are cars and keys around, you get to drive the cars around the property, illegally…

 

 "I sold that thing very quickly because the amount I was driving it required two to three petrol fill ups per week and that got expensive."

 

[Laughs] And then presumably you were applying for your license the day after you’d turned driving age?

Yeah, basically. But the first car I drove properly with a licence was an Opel Corsa which had an OPC engine in it, so it was a bit quicker than standard. It was the same engine as the Lotus Exige, with 192 horsepower. I must admit though, I sold that thing very quickly because the amount I was driving it required two to three petrol fill ups per week and that got expensive. 

 

 

That will add up…

For such a small car, the fuel consumption was immense, so I switched to something a little more reasonable...

 

Like a Porsche…

[Laughs] No, that came later.

 

Let’s talk a bit about your personal obsession with Porsche, clearly it began with your father, but what is it about Porsche that you find so appealing?

It was definitely a lot to do with my father having owned a lot of them over the years. There have always been pictures around the house and stories from my father about owning 3.2 Carrera’s, or 964 Porsches' because these were just the cars of the time. The first 911, I remember sort of building a relationship with, was a 2.7 narrow body G series in an eggshell colour.

 

And the first BIG 911 that you drove?

[Laughs] Yeah, the first BIG 911 was a 993 convertible, with an automatic gearbox.

 

Automatic…

[Laughs] Yeah. Being someone who really appreciates the driving experience of a stick shift, it was a bit of a let down; it wasn’t the experience I had hoped for. The second was a 1974 911 S, a very early one with no sunroof, no electric windows, no nothing.

 

No frills…

This was a very pure car and it got me completely hooked.

 

Jasper Eckert’s (from Fine Eleven) Porsche 911 M491 Turbo-Look
in Hamburg

 

What was it about the driving experience of this that got you hooked?

First of all it was the noise coming from the back, there’s a special feeling to a car with the engine right at the back. The second was the agility of the car because I had been used to the difference in handling between modern and classic cars but this felt different. It was so powerful and agile that it must have felt incredible 40 years ago.

 

Absolutely…

If you compare this car to what was available at the time, the rigidity of it is amazing. It still felt sporty 40 years after coming off the production line....

 

"You have to have a lot of experience driving Porsches to really control them at high speeds"

 

It seems counter intuitive that a car with the engine in the back would handle so well…

Of course, but then it brings other advantages because the engine is sitting right over the rear-axel which gives you a lot more traction. You have to have a lot of experience driving Porsches to really control them at high speeds; this can seem a downside initially but once you master it, it’s incomparable.

 

Is that quite challenging to really get to grips with?

It can be, but finding the car’s limit is an interesting process. I find 911s to be very controllable, they don’t suddenly punish you for pushing it too hard. You have a really good feel for it before it totally loses traction.

 

Unless you’re driving the Turbo that is…

[Laughs] Then that’s a different matter.

 

So, your personal 911, tell us a bit about how you first became aware of this version because it’s not quite what it seems, right?

Exactly, I had become obsessed with the look of the Turbo 911s with the wide fenders and the big rear wing. This iteration took an elegant looking car and made it a bit more brutal, which I liked. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to drive the car all the time, and so I was a bit afraid of the maintenance costs of a real turbo car, because they can be astronomical.

 

Jasper Eckert’s Porsche Design Orfina

 

Ok…

That engine is a lot more complex and the fuel consumption too, there are a lot of aspects that make this car not such a good choice for a beginner. I was looking at the 3.2 Carrera and luckily the M491 turbo-look package was originally made available for that model, so this became the ideal 911 for me.

 

That’s lucky, so where did you manage to find one?

Well, my father had a lot of contacts for this kind of thing and so phoned some of his old Porsche friends and found one available from America. The car was rough, and needed a full restoration, but it was a very reasonable price. We jumped in the car and off we went, on my parents anniversary…

  

 "The thing had very worn paint, some rust, high mileage and the inside was completely screwed because it had lived basically in a desert."

 

 [Laughs] Oh dear…

My mother was not amused. We spent the whole day sorting out securing the car. The thing had very worn paint, some rust, high mileage and the inside was completely screwed because it had lived basically in a desert.

 

A big project then…

The good elements were that all the stickers were in the right place, the engine was correct and it had the real turbo brakes. Everything on my checklist was there.

 

So, it was an honest car, but just a little beaten up…

Yeah, it was a very honest car for an honest budget back in those days. I bought the car without hesitation, knowing that my father had an inside-out knowledge of these cars, so he could assist me in building it back up. We got it back to the workshop which was filled with modern cars at that time so this was kind of the… 

 

The one wreck among the fresh cars?

[Laughs] Yeah, absolutely. Over the next 12 months I started to disassemble the car and began searching for parts. I thought about maybe just doing a part-restoration, getting it technically sound and keeping it sort of rough looking, but the more you dig into a project, the better you want it to be.

 

Your OCD took over?

Something like that. I ended up doing a full and perfect restoration on it, and it turned out to be a good thing for the business, because it prompted clients to tell us about their projects, which ultimately became projects for us to work on.

 

So in a sense this car effectively transformed the business from being a relatively straight-forward garage, into Fine Eleven as it’s known today?

That’s true, yeah. This car got us back into classic 911s, and as I said we'd never 100% lost focus, but it wasn’t the central element to our business. When the car was done, I had the idea to rebrand and focus on doing 911 restoration of a certain standard in our area.

 

Did your father take to the idea well?

Well at first it was hard for him to let go of something that had nurtured the family over so many years, but the process of transformation wasn’t abrupt. The more Porsche restorations that we took in, the more requests we were getting, so it got to the point that it was a no brainer.

 

Social media seemed to play a huge role in the awareness of the business for you guys right?

Yeah, Instagram was a major part of how we became known. I never intended for this to become such a thing, but really it began because I asked out IT engineer to make something on the website so I could upload images on a daily basis. He suggested just signing up to Instagram and installing a plugin…

 

Jasper Eckert’s (from Fine Eleven) Porsche 911 M491 Turbo-Look
in Hamburg

 

That turned out to be a good decision…

[Laughs] Yeah, and I wasn’t really a big social media person. I had no Facebook account or anything, so it was quite surprising to see the reaction over a few weeks. We built up 600 or 700 followers, which is a small number, but through that we got floods of questions and clients from places like Denmark asking us to restore their cars.

 

"...all of a sudden I’m shaking hands with some heroes of mine like Magnus Walker."

 

 

Wow…

It was incredible to see the level of trust that people gave simply through seeing your profile on Instagram; someone entrusting you with their prized possession. I attended a Porsche gathering in Miami in 2017 and posted a picture from a 911 on Ocean Drive saying that I was attending and tagged the organiser. Within minutes he had invited me to the VIP opening prior to the event and all of a sudden I’m shaking hands with some heroes of mine like Magnus Walker.

 

All thanks to Instagram… 

Exactly, that one post lead to all that. This really helped me to see the power of it and how I could maybe use it to develop the business. It was around this time that I started working with my photographer, Roman, who does a lot for us now.  

 

There seems to be quite a community spirit among Porsche collectors particularly, have you found that to be the case? 

Yeah, that was certainly my experience in Miami, but the German community back then would look at you funny if you changed the wheels of a car. Originality was everything to them then, but that’s starting to open up a little now. The idea of custom restoration work is now more accepted in these circles, as long as they’re respectfully undertaken.

 

Fine Eleven's Jasper Eckert's Porsche 911 in Hamburg

 

Were those circles a little more snooty about it, rather than having fun?

Yeah, that’s what I experienced. The Porsche scene nowadays is a very vital scene which is getting younger and younger; I see that even with our new clients.

 

To conclude, give us an idea of what we can expect from Fine Eleven in the coming twelve months or so…

Right now we have two big construction sites, one is the renovation of our facility and the second is that we are having the final signature series, which is our interpretation of a good 911 backdate restoration. This is probably the car that will influence our year the most.

 

Right, and backdating for the uninitiated is taking a modern car and making it appear older than it is right?

Yes, more or less. We decided to research what others were doing so that we could decide on what our perfect interpretation of a good backdate would be, and we’ve now built the first car. We had a very brave client who trusted in the concept, even when there was no physical car to show what we were talking about and now we have orders for cars two to seven, and negotiations for the cars up to number twelve.

  

Wow, so it’s going amazingly well then… 

Yes, it’s going great. It was important to us to make something that was affordable too, because as beautiful as a Singer Porsche is, you can almost buy two modern cars for the price of one. It’s hard to weigh that up as a consumer because you can have one backdate model or two brand new GT2 RS. Our idea was to not challenge the modern Porsche price range.

 

Makes sense…

We make cars that are fun and built for enthusiasts that wouldn’t necessarily break the bank.



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