Not Your Average Porsche Specialist

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Porsche People: Robin Ellis

Porsche People: Robin Ellis

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One of the great pleasures of being in the Porsche game is the folk that we meet at Paul Stephens, and the customer relationships that we forge along the way. Indeed, it’s as much about the people, as it is about the cars.

Porsche ownership and obsession, doesn’t automatically mean an interesting back story and career, but then again, it very often does. So meet Robin Ellis, London based architect/builder and creator of amazing spaces and subterranean worlds to some legendary names in the world of music and show biz. How legendary? Think David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and members of Led Zeppelin, amongst others. Rock royalty indeed.

So, we have to ask: what are these rock heroes like? “Well”, says Robin, “they are largely very charming, but the person I got to know best, was Peter Gabriel. He really is a lovely guy, as you might expect.” And any lessons learnt from dealing with the rich and the famous? “There are no hard and fast rules really. Whether from new money or old money, they can be equally charming or, you know, not. But mostly the former.” Reassuring, when perceived wisdom says that it’s often best not to meet your heroes.

Podium finish at Goodwood with his Lotus Elite in 2015.

A successful career in facilitating the grand designs of the Rock Aristocracy means that Robin can certainly buy and drive his heroes, something that we at Paul Stephens have been able to facilitate, which is always a pleasure, as has been following Robin’s racing exploits. Not that the story starts with Porsches, because it rarely does.

Rewind to the 70s and for Robin it’s all about Cars & Car Conversions magazine and modding Mini Coopers. Sound familiar? Well it was either Minis or Escorts, for most of us of a certain age. “When I was a kid, growing up in Bristol, there was a bloke building a Mini Cooper in the next road and I used to help him out. Castle Combe was nearby and he would race it there. I got my own Mini and messed around with that, but then Uni came along and there was no time or room for cars…”

Studying for an architecture degree is a lengthy four-year gig. Then you’ve got to get out there, join a firm, work your way up. It doesn’t happen overnight. And then there’s the other life stuff, like getting married and having a family. But get it right, like Robin and you might end up running your own business, with Peter Gabriel on speed dial and then you might also remember that you were quite into cars and now there’s a bit of time and the where with all to pick-up, where you left off, although probably not with that old Mini.

“Robin’s 993 RS set him back a mere £36,000, so he wasn’t shy about putting 60,000-miles on it”

We’re fast forwarding to the mid 2000s now. “Yep, I was able to get back into cars. Not that I was out of them, as such. I’d done the going to Le Mans thing with mates, and I’d had some big family Mercs. Interesting stuff, like an E500 and 300 SEL 6.3.”

Track days were the big new thing and that’s where Robin’s enthusiasm was rekindled. Enter a couple of Lotus Elises and then a Porsche 993 RS. Indeed, enter an existential ongoing battle between Lotus and Porsche for Robin, that exists to this day. Not that he would be the first or last to be conflicted by the Chapman way vs the Porsche way to driving Nirvana, something that we well understand here at PS too, with an early S1 Elise on the fleet.

Just back from an RMA tour to the Hungaroring and Brno many years ago. Covering 800 miles back from Prague in ‘no time’ cruising through Germany at 150mph – those were the days!

Read this and weep, though: Robin’s 993 RS set him back a mere £36,000, so he wasn’t shy about putting 60,000-miles on it, with track day operator RPM and events all over Europe. Those were the days.

And, as we all know, track days are a gateway drug or conduit if you like, for going racing and if you can, then you will. “It was the Caterham Academy, recalls Robin. “You know, £5k down and £25k for a full season of racing, sprints and hillclimbs. Amazing fun, and it taught me so much and I made a bunch of friends who I still see to this day.” A season in Caterham Roadsports followed and then a Caterham R300. “It’s a David and Goliath thing,” reckons Robin. “I like to punch above my weight. Caterhams and Lotus’s are all over the supercars in the corners and they teach you so much about car control.”

The racing drug bit hard with historics and regular appearances at Goodwood from 2013 onwards in an ex Peter Joy, Lotus Elite, a well-known and competitive machine. “It’s another giant killer, isn’t it? I was amazed at how quick it was, and I loved the way it moved around on its crossply tyres.”

More Lotus? A pukka Elan 26R, with Shapecraft coupe bodywork, replaced a faux one and took over from Robin’s Elite on Goodwood duty. Just the thing for snapping at the heels of the Cobras in the main TT event, with David Brabham co-driving and contributing to a fine 17th place in 2020.

However, when you’ve spent all your time chasing down the big bangers, curiosity is bound to creep in and Robin campaigned a Ford Falcon in the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car Championship for a few events. “I thought I should try and see, and just kind of fancied something different. And there is something about whacking down the straight at Brands, with a 4.7-litre V8 rumbling away. But ultimately, I much preferred the Lotus.”

But what about Porsches? What indeed? Well if Lotus and lightweight are your thing, then in Porsche terms, the equivalent has to be the 911 2.0 SWB and Robin has campaigned such a weapon at Spa, with well-known 2.0 SWB protagonist, Jaz’s Steve Winter, finishing a fine sixth in class in 2017 and fifth and first 911 overall, in 2018. “The Porsches are so different, says Robin. “The way they move and swing around, but actually so very predictable, once you’ve learnt to use the weight.” Further Porsche adventures followed with the SWB 2.0-litre Cup and even a spot of historic rallying, again in a 2.0 SWB and a rookie prize at the Monte Carlo Historic.

And now it’s all about a road race legal 911 2.8 RSR, which Robin keeps in London, and gets a kick out of making a noisy escape, watching the capital receding in the rear view mirror. Not as much of a kick as racing it in the Le Mans Classic, though, to 10th overall in 2023. “The RSR just looks sensational and banging it down the Mulsanne straight is one of life’s experiences. It’s super flexible too, in terms of what you can do with it, like Tour Auto. I plan to race it in Spain and Portugal too.”

Le Mans Classic 2023

Modern Porsches include a daily Panamera S and a manual 997 Turbo in stealthy Atlas Grey, surely the modern 911 Turbo sweetspot?

And there’s more because we’ve currently got a couple of Robin’s hot rod Porsches in stock right now, one ex and one current. The ex being an SC based Carrera 2.7 rep, with a cooking Redtek motor and the current being another sensational looking Carrera 2.7 rep based on a ’75 LHD 911S and painted in its original hue 117 Light Yellow. Also featuring a Redtek motor and 300+bhp, Robin spared nothing on this build, which he configured for fast European Touring with the odd track day thrown in. “I don’t know why I’m selling it really…” he says. We can confirm that it’s an absolute blast to drive. Check out the details here but needless to say, we would suggest that any prospective buyers get in quick, before Robin changes his mind.

And finally the big question: Peter Gabriel or David Bowie? Er, no that’s not right… Porsche or Lotus? Cue some agonising on Robin’s part. It’s not an emphatic answer, but: “Probably go Porsche, more flexible, more useable. But Lotus is amazing too…” We get it Robin, we do.

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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