Head down the unassuming Hayes Avenue on the eastern approach to Ontario’s city of Guelph, and you will find, among the many industrial buildings, a red brick-fronted construction. Above the door, 914 body panels have been chopped and arranged to sit against the masonry, providing an insight into what this firm has to offer the Porsche connoisseur.
Unlike the multitude of companies we have featured recently within these pages (companies who are able to find and sell you a 911, or service and restore your Porsche), Restoration Design are different. The Canadian outfit produces body panels and chassis components that are vital to keeping 911s, 914s and 356s looking as fresh as the day they left the Werk 2 at Zuffenhausen.
The company has been active for over 25 years. However, we will take up the story in 2009, when the de Jonge family bought the business as a means of furthering their own Porsche restoration projects. “The original owner did this for about 20 years,” explains Alex de Jonge (one of three family members, alongside his brother and father, involved in the day-to-day running of Restoration Design). “My dad was restoring Porsches at home here, and couldn’t get the metal from this company,” Alex continues. “He [the original owner] was looking to get out of it, so we purchased the company from him, and here we are today.”
A quick look through the prices listed for various parts on their website (even for a European audience unaccustomed to working in dollars) will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. How can these panels be made so cheaply? It’s a simple matter of economies of scale, according to Alex. “The metal we buy in large quantities, so the quantities of steel we order are maybe 10,000 pounds.” Doing all work in-house is also a factor, he explains, in helping to drive the costs of each panel down, as is keeping an eye on the prices of competitors.
It’s incredible, especially considering the time-intensive nature of the business. “Usually, it takes about four to five months to create a new part for sale,” explains Alex. The whole process starts with the need to find a new-old stock (NOS) body panel or chassis component. “If that is unavailable, we’ll find a good original,” he adds. Even at this stage, the quality of the panel is key, as this will be the panel scanned and eventually replicated as a die.
“When a scan of a part comes to us, my brother will bring it into Master CAM software, and he has to redesign that a little bit. Then he takes that data to create an actual mould,” Alex says, describing the formative steps of creating a new part. “That process can sometimes take several weeks.”
From there, the die is created in a CNC mill, but before it can be used to stamp new panels it has to be polished – a painstaking process that Alex tells me can take “another four or five weeks.” Even then, the work is not done for Restoration Design’s crew. After it goes to press, it isn’t always the case that you “put the mould in, stamp the part, and it’s good to go.”
“A lot of the time you have to re-polish parts of the die or you have to play with the size and shape of your blank to get all the wrinkling and the rips and the tears. That takes a lot of our time, and it can take a lot of material too,” Alex explains as he talks about a process he has pretty much grown up around. All three members of the de Jonge family are self-confessed car nuts, with a definite soft spot for Zuffenhausen’s fare (even if Alex’s current car is a Volkswagen Beetle).
Finally, once the first finished part has been stamped, Restoration Design still need (and want) to check the quality by offering it up to a car. “That way we can see first-hand maybe it needs a quarter inch of material on this side, or needs to be tweaked a little bit here.” This final check and (if necessary) tweaking ensures that when the finished part is eventually put on sale, the small Canadian press shop is not subsequently inundated with dissatisfied customers.
While Alex contends that some components can come together in just a month (with others, such as a Porsche 911 C-pan, taking closer to seven), it is easy to see why development of new components is a steady rather than swift process. Despite this, Alex believes that over the coming years, Restoration Design will likely expand its panel and chassis line-up to cater for 964 and 993 owners, because as these cars get older, they will undoubtedly require remedial work.
In the meantime, the selection of 1965-89 stock (of which there are thousands of pieces waiting for shipment on the shelves) continues to be a strong business for the 12-strong Canadian firm. While Alex admits that the 356 is possibly the more popular car choice among local Porsche enthusiasts, the 911’s strong international presence sees business being conducted readily with clients in the United States, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Moreover, a new European importer (who started operating out of the Netherlands last year) means that the company’s wares are strongly represented ‘over the pond’ too.
Owner: Mike de Jonge
Location: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Most unusual car worked on: A replica of the original, Adam West-era Batmobile is currently in the workshop. The owner wants the car to be completely reskinned in aluminium.
Other brands catered for: Restoration Design has recently started producing panels for the BMW -02 series of cars.
Telephone: +1 519 836 3555
Another area the company is looking to grow is full chassis and body restorations of customers’ cars. It’s a sensible move given the ever-rising classic prices, and with a talented panel beater now in-house (well versed on working metal on the English Wheel and Power Hammer), one that is easier than ever for the firm to undertake. What’s more, it also enables bespoke panels to be made as one-offs, preventing the need for the arduous die-making process. As a result, on top of all the factory-standard panels, supplying customers with flared arches for a hot-rod build is possible.
“We carry a whole line of different flares, from ST flares to RS flares to Turbo flares. Those are all available and, if a customer requires us to install them for him, then by all means we will do that,” Alex says, explaining the lengths Restoration Design goes to when helping satisfy all corners of its client base.
With the ultimate goal “to be a one-stop shop for all your Porsche metal,” along with plans for a bigger shop enabling more cars to be worked on at once, it’s likely that your air-cooled Porsche will, one day, be wearing some Canadian-built clothing especially as, with their knowledgeable and enthusiastic approach, Restoration Design’s foundations are rock solid.