Not Your Average Porsche Specialist

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Meet Derek Price: Creative coal face of Ford’s UK marketing and Porsche enthusiast

Meet Derek Price: Creative coal face of Ford’s UK marketing and Porsche enthusiast

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Selling Porsches in Essex, as we do at Paul Stephens, is to be merely a guest in a county that is synonymous for a manufacturer that transcends all others: Ford.

Yep, Essex is to Ford what Stuttgart is to Porsche, or Modena is to Ferrari. Not Ford Cologne you might ask, or Ford Dearborn in the US? Nope, without Ford of Britain, there would never have been a Lotus Cortina, or a Capri (‘The car you always promised yourself), or an Escort Mexico, RS1800 or RS2000. Without FoB, there would never have been a Ford Cosworth DFV or a Ford BDA or a Sierra Cosworth, or numerous other ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday Homologation Specials. Oh, and here’s a thing: That RS (Rallye Sport in Ford speak) badge? Ford was first with that and for fast Ford fans it’s just as special.

Porsche has Weissach, Ferrari has Fiorino and for fast Ford fans, there is Aveley and Boreham, home of the RS Fords and Ford Motorsport, respectively. Ford is Essex and Essex is Ford, make no mistake.

Favourite Fords? We’ve got as many of those as we do Porsches and that’s not just an Essex thing, it’s part of being a car person, growing up in the UK, where Ford is as much a cultural icon as a manufacturer. Think Roger Clark on the RAC Rally, think Jackie Stewart and the Tyrell Ford, think Regan and Carter, think Bodie and Doyle, think Derek Price… OK, that last name might not be quite so familiar, but Derek is a great friend of Paul Stephens and a man who understands the Ford phenomenon and the glory days, largely because he was at the creative coal face of Ford’s UK marketing and he’s got plenty of stories to tell. Which is good because he’s just arrived in his rather immaculate Porsche 944, a car that he’s owned four times. But we’ll come to that, and the other Porsches, plus the Fords and even Ferraris…

An East End London boy, of the 50s, there is something of the Bob Hoskins to Derek in stature and tone. “My dad was a delivery driver and that’s where my love of cars sort of came from, I guess.”

Like many in the 60s, Derek and his family shipped out of the East End and into Essex. “In 1961, we moved out to Hutton and just down the road was Warley, Ford’s UK HQ.” The significance wasn’t lost on Derek. “Ford were big, Ford was also exciting. I was a huge Jim Clark fan, with all those Ford connections like the Lotus Cortina and the Ford DFV.” To use the rather modern phrase in relation to Derek and Ford: ‘If you know, you know.’ And if you’re in the right place at the right time, then Ford’s orbital pull, will pull you in.

“I was at Art College, but not really hitting it off, so I left and found a job in a studio in Brentwood, close to Ford HQ. And being in the Ford vicinity meant that Ford work was picked up from time-to-time, but by no means regularly.” And here comes the ‘right place, right time, sliding doors’ moment, that if you’re lucky, we all get once in a lifetime.

“It was late on a Friday afternoon, December 1969 and we got a call from Ford, to get over to Ford Motorsport Boreham. I jumped into my Mini, arrived at the workshop, which was deserted save a couple of Escort Twin Cams, being prepped for the Monte Carlo Rally. Then Stuart Turner (legendary Ford Motorsport chief and ex BMC Competition manager), who was another Ford hero of mine emerged from an office. ‘We’re just plotting the route for the World Cup Rally and you’re doing the press pack. We need it tomorrow!’” Boom! On such chance encounters careers are made.

Let’s not forget the 1970 Daily Mirror London to Mexico World Cup Rally was a big deal, starting from Wembley Stadium and covering 16,000-miles through Europe and South America. And of course, it was won by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm, driving a Ford Escort, a car so well-known now in Ford circles, that it’s simply referred to by its registration: FEV 1H. Masters of the ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,’ ethos, Ford turned the victory into the wildly successful Ford Escort Mexico and as a footnote, Derek got to drive FEV 1H himself in 1993 on the Norwich Union Rally.

Selling himself as a graphic designer for hire, Derek started meeting the right people and found himself at Alan Burrows Ltd, a leading design agency, taking the business over in 1974 at just 23 and with three partners developing it into an agency of 100+ people. This is an era when design agencies and creative studios were hugely influential, contracts were worth millions and campaigns were glamourous and memorable. Ford had plenty to sell and plenty to promote and absolutely ‘got’ the power of marketing and winning in a way that, say, the beleaguered British Leyland or Vauxhall, just didn’t. “Ford did it properly,” reckons Derek. “They always had terrific management in place. It was central to their business.”

Burrows were mainly involved with Ford’s commercial vehicle side, but an offer to pitch for Ford’s huge passenger car brochure business was transformative for both sides. Again, we’re talking about different times, when these glossy productions were a coffee table gateway to dreams and aspiration for buyers and collected by car mad school kids from dealerships and motor shows, myself included.

“Ford asked me what I thought of their brochures? ‘Not the best,’ I said, which could have set us up for a fall, if we hadn’t delivered.” Derek and Burrows’ genius was to turn Ford’s brochures and catalogues into a classy monthly production, simply entitled Cars, with a magazine style outlook and design and taking in the whole Ford range. Everyone wanted that month’s new catalogue and because of the monthly frequency, they could include pricing too.

“I bought in people like Mel Nicholls from Car magazine – who I hugely admired – and leading car photographers, to write and photograph them.” Not that they always got the shot. “I found myself at Brands Hatch for the 1985 European Grand Prix, needing to get a front cover shot of Andy Rouse in the Merkur XR4Ti in the BTCC support race after the main event. I was on the inside of Druids and practiced getting the framing right on Mansell and the rest (it was Mansell’s first GP win). Basically I had 10 laps to get it right…”

Ford pervs will know that the Merkur was effectively a stop gap to the Sierra Cosworth and Derek was right there for that glory period of Homologation specials, starting with the Cossie and the RS200 Group B rally car, reuniting him again with Stuart Turner. “I was at Boreham one day in 1986, when Mark Lovell was doing tyre testing with the RS200. Ford’s rally team boss, Peter Ashcroft, suddenly appeared and called Lovell in. ‘it’s over he said, they’ve canned Group B.’” Suddenly Ford had a lot of unsold RS200s, that weren’t going anywhere fast.

Double page spread from Ford’s CARS Magazine, April/May 1987, featuring Derek himself standing in for modelling duties.

Still, it was a blip as rallying found its feet again with the Group A Sierra/Sapphire Cosworth and the Escort Cosworth. The Sierra Cosworth Touring Car gave way to the Mondeo Super Tourer era and Derek was there for all of it. He was also a tried and trusted member of Ford’s product agency appraisal team, driving rivals from other manufacturers and Ford’s own prototype.

Burrows continued to thrive, taking on Ford’s European business for the last 10-years of Derek being at the helm, before the business was sold and Derek retiring in 2008. In between Derek and his team went from analogue cut, paste and airbrush to digital and Apple Mac and also pioneered the technique of producing 3D engineering diagrams and animation from engineering diagrams, using techniques developed for animating those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. “We were the first to do that, I believe…”

The Carrera 3.2 was Derek’s favourite 911. He had a few of them! Including this one.

And the cars in Derek’s life? “I’ve got Caritis,” he says. “I’ve had more than 130, starting with a Mini 850!” There have, of course been Fords, lots of Fords, too many Fords to possibly list here. And Lotus’ and MGs and VWs and even the aforementioned six Ferraris, including a 328, three 348s and a 355. And Derek’s take on the Ferrari legend? “I loved them to drive, and the mechanical feel them, y’know the clackety gearchange stuff, but I grew tired of people’s reaction to them, the hand gestures, all that.”

And Porsche? Well fittingly, Derek’s love for Porsche predates all else. “I delivered newspapers as a kid. One house – 28 Cotswold Gardens – got Motorsport magazine every month. And I used to read it in their porch. It was the stories about Dennis Jenkinson driving his Porsche 356 across Europe to all those amazing races, that really turned me on to Porsche.” You and many others, Derek.

“My first Porsche was a 924 in 1982 from Porsche Colchester. That’s when I realised what premium really was. A Porsche for me was a personal bar” Beyond that Derek has always had a Porsche in his life and on the drive, many of them having been supplied by us, for which we’re proud. The front-engined cars have certainly featured heavily, especially in period when a 924, 924S, three 944s or 928 made for very practical daily drivers, “They all used to go in and out of London, no bother,” says Derek.

The 911? “The Carrera 3.2 was a favourite, but they’re all good. 911SC, five 3.2 Carreras, 964, 964 Turbo 3.6, 993 and even a 993 Techart. My first 911 was a SC Cabrio with Turbo rear spoiler etc. After all the conventional stuff, I had to learn how to drive again! I changed for a white 944, the car I’m in today. It immediately felt right and I loved the factory bodykit. It was my company car.” And it’s the car that Derek keeps coming back to. “Well it keeps coming back to me, really. I’ve always kept tabs on it either locally or further afield and I’ve either stepped in when it’s not been used, or I’ve been contacted by a new owner.

We have both sold the 944 on Derek’s behalf in the past, and subsequently recommissioned it for him and it is one of the best out there and a great advert for the “less is more” 2.5-litre Lux variant.

The 944 shares garage space with a 996 Turbo, another car that we, at Paul Stephens, supplied to Derek. And unlike some, Derek really loves the 996. “The Turbo is epic and I really loved the design of the 996. It replaced a Carrera 3.2, that was just becoming too valuable to use, so I exchanged it for the Turbo, with Paul. I think only a wooden box will get me out of it.”

Derek’s son, Elliot, is also a 996 convert, his Carrera 2 being standard and completely refreshed to be as a good as a 996 Carrera 2 can be, which is to say very. “People knock the 996, but it’s time will come. They are great cars and the design is really starting to come of age.” You are preaching to the converted here, Derek. Future Porsche ambitions? “I’m about to tick the Boxster itch. Paul’s got a green 986, which I’m going to buy.” He has, and it’s a very nice one too. ”Not your average Porsche Boxster, a Paul Stephens car!”

And back to Ford again. Derek has recently collaborated with author and ex-Ford design engineer, Steve Saxty, on his Ford magnus opus: ‘The cars you always promised yourself.’ It’s a top read, even for Porsche fanatics like us. Ford? Resistance is futile it would seem.

About The Author
Picture of Steve Bennett
Steve Bennett

Steve bought his first Porsche – a Carrera 3.2 – from Paul Stephens in 2002, and since then we’ve been unable to shake him off. A motoring journalist of nearly 40-years - via Cars & Car Conversions, Autosport, Circuit Driver and 911&PW - he’s been there, seen it, driven it and isn’t afraid to wang on about it. Just don’t get him and Paul started about the ‘good old days!’

In fairness he has extensively driven just about every variant of Porsche, from 356 to current 992 and has a strange fondness for 944s and 996s. Oh, and he’s probably the only person in the world who has delivered pizzas in a 924 Carrera GT…


Favourite classic Porsche: 911 Carrera 3.2
Favourite modern Porsche: 997 GT3 RS Gen 1
Most disappointing Porsche: Any 991
Picture of Steve Bennett
Steve Bennett

Steve bought his first Porsche – a Carrera 3.2 – from Paul Stephens in 2002, and since then we’ve been unable to shake him off. A motoring journalist of nearly 40-years - via Cars & Car Conversions, Autosport, Circuit Driver and 911&PW - he’s been there, seen it, driven it and isn’t afraid to wang on about it. Just don’t get him and Paul started about the ‘good old days!’

In fairness he has extensively driven just about every variant of Porsche, from 356 to current 992 and has a strange fondness for 944s and 996s. Oh, and he’s probably the only person in the world who has delivered pizzas in a 924 Carrera GT…


Favourite classic Porsche: 911 Carrera 3.2
Favourite modern Porsche: 997 GT3 RS Gen 1
Most disappointing Porsche: Any 991

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