When it comes to cars, the stories that surround them can often be as big as the marques themselves. However, our friends at Continental Cars – Porsche have an absolute doozy that we need to tell you all about.
It’s a story of vision, it’s a story of dedication, it’s a story of passion and, in many ways, it all began with a Conda Green Porsche 911E named Grasshopper.
Nigh on half a century ago, and with the ink barely dry on Continental Cars’ certificate of incorporation, an opportunity arose for its founder Tim Bailey, an opportunity that spawned their relationship with German sports car company Porsche…
It was 1970 and Tony Shelly (Tony Shelly Motors Wellington) had a consignment of performance cars on its way to NZ from Australia and he offered Tim Bailey the chance to buy them – provided he could produce the funds by 5pm the following Friday. Tim canvassed family and friends and on Friday at 4.55pm he arrived at the office and emptied his pockets, which were ‘stuffed full of cash and cheques’. The consignment, which included five Lotus cars, two 911 Ts and, of course, Grasshopper, was now Tim’s and it, in turn, began a relationship between Continental Cars and Porsche that has already spun nearly five decades.
But the story doesn’t end there; quite the contrary, in fact, and here’s a little more about Grasshopper’s starring role…
In September 1970, Ray (a businessman from Tauranga) became the green 911 E’s first owner and therefore Continental Cars’ first-ever Porsche sale. With a tow bar fitted and a trailer attached, Grasshopper became a daily driver for the subsequent eight years, often conducting duties wholly unfitting for the 2.2L six-cylinder, 114kW, air-cooled performance car, capable of doing 0-100km/h in 8 seconds and boasting a top speed of 215km/h. While the green 911 E was exploring the Bay of Plenty hospitality, the relationship between Continental Cars and the Porsche brand became official (in 1974 to be exact).
In 1978 (and with a hydropneumatic suspension issue) Grasshopper was mothballed and it wasn’t until 1988 that its second owner, Francis, put it back on its feet again. In an albeit short (about one-year) but sweet relationship, Grasshopper was spruced up and set free from the solitude of its dark Tauranga garage.
Through a car dealer called Richard (this is important), Paul became the third person to tend for the wellbeing of Grasshopper (1989-1991). But, unable to get the Porsche out of his mind, in 1991 Richard (told you he was relevant) who had by then relocated to Australia, made Grasshopper his own and flew (yes flew) the 911 E to live with him and be pampered in the idyllically warm climate of the Gold Coast.
In 1996, mainly due to the sports car’s lack of air-conditioning, the 911 E’s keys would be found in the hands of a Kiwi named Karl, which meant another hop back across the ditch to New Zealand. Then, three years later and after much research (followed by plenty of persistence), Grasshopper’s sixth (and current) owner, Greg, became ardently involved with our hero car.
On the subject of being ardently involved, Grasshopper became reacquainted with Continental Cars’ founder Tim Bailey in 2001, shortly before the opening of the new Porsche Centre at 40 Great South Road (early 2002). This new facility took Continental Cars brand representation to a new level, with a dedicated sales and service team, and an environment where passionate Porsche people could congregate and thus the place that (from 2003 to 2005) featured regularly as Greg began Grasshopper’s back to bare metal ‘restoration’.
In 2007, Phase II of Grasshopper’s revamp began, with the underside and ‘behind the scenes’ work being conducted, again ably assisted by the team at Continental Cars. The result was so good that in February 2009, Grasshopper was entered into the Concours D’Élegance and won; and then won again (having almost ‘reluctantly’ entered) in 2010! Since then, the lovingly restored car has attended a variety of the Porsche Owners’ Club events, but in true mollycoddling style (and quite rightly), only in fair weather and only when sure of sealed and smooth tarmac – bearing in mind its history… about time we say.
This month, Continental Cars celebrates its semicentennial with a specially crafted Porsche worthy of Grasshopper and Tim Bailey himself – a 911 GTS. The engine may be bigger: 3L (water-cooled now); the power may be greater: 331kW; the 0-100km/h may have halved: 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, but with its Continental Cars anniversary badging and green brake callipers, the admiration for both the company ethics and Grasshopper history is impossible to miss.
Although many things have changed over 50 years, (even the 911 has now grown to version 991.2), it’s blatantly obvious that Continental Cars are as passionate and committed to Porsche as the day that Tim Bailey ‘emptied his pockets’ on that desk at 4.55pm and claimed that very first shipment. We’re looking forward to 50 more years of tales, but in the meantime, thanks for the memories Grasshopper.
Great pics – Chris Dillon.
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