In the world of Porsche 911 sales, there probably aren’t many businesses – bar Zuffenhausen itself – with a spreadsheet of plans extending all the way to 2022. However, Carrera Classic isn’t like any other company I’ve come across in the Porsche world. Compared to the myriad of other specialists, restorers and brokers, the Finnish concern defines itself as “a commercial collection.”
The more cynical among you may be thinking that this is just business speak for “investors” but, while co-owner Jussi Itävuori explains that he “runs the collection [comprised predominantly of classic air-cooled 911s] as some other people run their financial investment funds”, the foundation of Carrera Classic has ultimately been a labour of love for a man with a deep-set passion for Zuffenhausen’s classic machinery.
The son of a car dealer, Itävuori’s father sold Volkswagens during the 1960s and 70s, giving him his first taste of air-cooled machinery. “I worked all of my school holidays in the workshop and, of course, my first car was a Volkswagen,” Itävuori explains.
“It was a Type 3 1500S, which was a great car but needed about two days repairing for every day of driving!” One day in the late 1960s, Itävuori’s father had a new Porsche 912 for sale in the showroom. “It was love at first sight,” he enthuses. “As a young boy I was allowed to sit in it but it would be 40 years before I sat in a Porsche again.”
After serving as a pilot in the Finnish Air Force in the mid 1970s, Itävuori enjoyed a long and successful executive career in elevator and aeronautical enterprises (KONE and Airbus respectively) and today serves as a non-executive director for Finnair (his native airline carrier).
During all this time though, thoughts of classic Porsche 911s were never far from his mind. “About 12 years ago I started to study the 1960s and 1970s Porsches seriously,” he explains. “I fell in love again with the classic lines of this small car [the pre-impact bumper 911] and the unique sound of its flat-six engine.”
Alongside his wife, Raili, Itävuori drew up plans for Carrera Classic about seven years ago before the duo bought their first Porsche 911 for the collection – a 1968 short-wheelbase 911S from France – in 2011.
Since then, the number of cars under Carrera Classic’s roof has only gone one way, with 17 Neunelfers (and one 356 Carrera 2) in their care. This has, unsurprisingly, required a new premises, which was built in Maalahti (near Finland’s south-western coastline).
Built over the course of two years and completed in 2014, Carrera Classic’s bespoke complex is a sight to behold for anyone used to the numerous industrial estate-based specialists in the UK.
Surrounded by one of Finland’s vast evergreen forests, the facility finds itself in a hollow, built in the traditional red wood style seen all over the Finnish countryside. Along with numerous garages, the complex features a spacious servicing bay backing onto the main, open-plan office.
There’s even a short tarmac loop (around 100 metres) so that each car can be run up and to ensure everything is kept in working order. At the back of the main garage block there are shelves and shelves of spare parts, from various Solex carburettors to rare original intake systems.
Of the latter, Itävuori believes he probably has one of the largest such collections going. Along with the help of neighbour, Jan Svenns, a highly experienced Volkswagen mechanic who keeps everything running day-today at Carrera Classic, Itävuori makes sure that the collection of early Neunelfers wants for nothing during their tenure in his care.
Despite currently having 18 cars in the collection, a visit to the Carrera Classic website only highlights five or six of them at any one time. This is because Itävuori is not – thankfully – in the habit of ‘flipping’ his 911s. “We buy special cars and we keep them four to six years before we start planning a sale,” he explains.
It all comes back to the fact that, when it comes to Porsches, the Itävuoris are enthusiasts first and investors second. “Classic cars are made to be driven and they need much more attention than many other collector items or investments,” he explains.
During our visit, Itävuori proved this in the most explicit way possible, organising a trackday at the nearby Botniaring, where everything from Carrera Classic’s 356 to their 997 GT3 RS 4.0 are put through their paces on circuit, very often with Itävuori himself behind the wheel.
With the time approaching for the first few 911s to hit the market, the intention of the business is to sell just two or three cars a year, with the money invested back into purchasing new classic Porsches. “In this way, the size of the collection will be quite stable over the years,” points out Itävuori. “The ideal size of the collection will be about 14-16 cars at any one time.”
While the collection is likely to continue focusing on early air-cooled 911s, such as the wooden-dashed 1965 cars and pre-impact bumper 911S models, Itävuori admits that, as the market changes, his interests may look towards the more unusual naturally aspirated models of the late 1970s and 1980s, as well as “the rare cars of the water-cooled era as well”, the latter already served by the aforementioned GT3 RS 4.0.
As well as using the cars as Butzi intended, Carrera Classic also ensures that, while in their custody, the 911s are cared for properly too. The business model may benefit from the rising values of classic 911s but Itävuori also feels compelled to “actively add to the cars by continually improving them.”
As such, of the 18 cars in the collection, four of them are currently undergoing full restorations using Itävuori’s carefully organised team of subcontractors, which are based predominantly across Finland, France and Germany.
“We are still on the learning curve,” he admits, talking about the challenge of building the company’s own skills and capabilities alongside finding others best suited to the various jobs required (engine rebuilds, body restorations and such like). “But today I am quite proud of our overall capabilities and our international network.”
One of the best examples of this approach – where Itävuori ultimately acts as project manager – is the 1970 Porsche 911 2.2S previously owned by ex-Swedish royal, Prince Bertil.
The three-year restoration is finally reaching its climax but, thanks to the incredible efforts of all involved, the car has been returned to its original specification.
Period photos showed that the Prince had fitted some unusual non-Porsche mirrors and, after much research and two years of hunting, Itävuori finally sourced a set along with the correct mud flaps used in Scandinavia at the time. It’s preserving these details that gives Itävuori as much joy as driving his collection, the former exec revelling in the Porsche-like perfection and precision of his operation.
While the commercial aspect is never far from their mind, Carrera Classic is infinitely more sentimental than most specialists. Despite the spreadsheet, the cars in Itävuori’s care are more than just numbers on a list. At the same time though, the concern is much more professional than most private sellers.
Carrera Classic’s business is, therefore, possibly the perfect way for similarly wealthy enthusiasts to enjoy some of the most iconic Porsche 911s ever built; a collector with a conscience, not just a calculator. Here’s hoping it’s a concept that catches on elsewhere.