Arriving at the premises of Design 911 in Essex, UK, is much like arriving at the home of any discerning Porsche specialist. A modern fascia above large, glistening glass panels invites you inside and into an open-plan showroom with offices above, the atmosphere entirely convivial from the outset. However, it is what’s behind the showroom that marks Design 911 out as a Porsche specialist unlike any other.
Company founder, Karl Chopra, greets me and quickly sheds some light on the nature of this thriving global enterprise. “We do buy, sell, restore and service cars but this only accounts for around 20 per cent of the business.
The other 80 per cent is dedicated to parts,” Karl says as we exit the showroom and enter a conjoining warehouse, split into layers of maze-like corridors and stacked floor to ceiling with Porsche car parts. It’s hard for an outsider to distinguish just where to start; each corridor is numbered, with shelf space separated by brand name (though this is not organised in alphabetical order).
As intrigue gets the better of me, my legs follow my eyesight and I’m soon trawling down one, then two, then three alleys of car parts in succession. Products on the shelf are familiar to any Porsche enthusiast: Mobil 1, Sachs, K&N, Bilstein, LumeTechnik, PFC, Brembo, Dansk, Milltek, Powerflex, the list goes on and on.
Then there’s an area dedicated solely to Rennlist (“Those parts are particularly popular,” says Karl) as well as an entire mezzanine reserved for body panels of a variety of shapes and sizes dating right back to pre-impact bumpers, plus engine, gearbox, wheels, interior and other electrical and mechanical-oriented parts. I’ve truly never seen anything like it.
So, what numbers are we dealing with here? “We have 50,000 part numbers on the shelves and we obviously have multiple stocks of each,” Karl says matter-of-factly. That means Design 911 comfortably has over one million Porsche parts ready to go at any one time – and these parts move quickly, too.
Chopra has 12 employees working hard on the warehouse floor, sourcing parts for orders, carefully packaging and promptly shipping them out to recipients around the world for next day delivery where applicable. This speediness is key to the business and marks Design 911 as vastly different from the rest when it comes to sourcing Porsche parts.
“We deal directly with customers too, but a lot of our orders come from specialists themselves,” says Karl. “Instead of parts clogging up their own space on-site, they can order from us and know that no matter what it is, they’ll have that part the very next day no matter where they are.”
Design 911 works with the very best and counts the likes of Singer Vehicle Design and RWB as clients (“We don’t feel a need to shout about that,” Karl says), ever a key indication as to the quality of products supplied.
What’s equally as impressive from a UK point of view is that Design 911 isn’t concerned by the operations of Standard Motor Factors, itself known for quick access to parts for both trade and consumer customers. How so?
“Whereas SMF supplies basic service parts such as replacement air filters, we offer more specialised, Porsche-focused products that, again, are available for next day delivery,” says Karl, before walking over to a shelf of carefully-placed IPD plenums. “We sell lots and lots of these for Porsche owners, all delivered the very next day. This sort of stuff isn’t so readily available anywhere else, which is Design 911’s unique selling point.”
So how did this impressive one-stop parts empire begin? Chopra first began working with Porsches himself as a hobby back in 1996, forward-dating friends’ SCs and 3.2 Carreras with bigger bumpers to look like 964s.
Eventually, as more and more people wanted Chopra to undertake similar work on their pride and joy, he decided to enter into business with the idea of designing modern-looking 911s, hence the name.
“Now it’s all about back-dating, of course, so it’s gone completely the other way!” he says. The enterprise has evolved substantially from its humble beginnings in Chopra’s garage, with Design 911 moving to its vast new 34,000-square-foot premises just 18 months ago.
Back to that 20 per cent of Design 911 that is responsible for buying, selling, restoring and servicing cars. While Karl has no interest in treading on the toes of his trading partners who rely on this practice for their first line of business, Design 911 is very well placed to oversee an entire project from start to finish.
There’s a workshop and service area with two, two-poster ramps, along with a fully-equipped paint booth and detailing bay all on site – in fact, upholstery is the only part of a Porsche’s repertoire that is currently outsourced by Design 911, though Karl says this is something that is likely to change at the business very soon.
Design 911 sources its cars from all around the world and restores them before offering them to the market, though customer-led restorations are plausible too. The company favours the air-cooled cars for projects and it seems Karl still has a knack of kick-starting trends in the UK at least.
Design 911 were one of the first specialists to really champion the merits of the classic Targa some 18 months ago, before prices for the model really took off. Walking around the premises today, it’s clear to see that Karl thinks the next Porsche to realise its potential is the four-cylinder 912, with numerous examples in various stages of restoration located around the workshop.
Design 911’s core though is serving as a true one-stop shop and with every part available for every model, it’s no wonder the Essex company holds a special relationship with consumers, traders and every single one of the esteemed brands it serves.
The age of demand for quality products delivered near instantly may be relatively new in society, but Design 911 has been practising this for years – which is why nobody does it better now.