Sometimes you overhear a conversation and think, I wish I knew what happened next…
This story is a little bit like that. Prompted by a Social Media post hinting at a history rooted in Aircooled Volkswagens, we got in touch with Tom Fitzsimmons from Scottish sports car specialists Border Reivers, to find out just what makes him tick, and why he wouldn’t be without a VW or a Porsche in his collection.
Buggies in the beginning
While speaking to Tom on the phone he’s modest as to how interesting his story might be, but I explain a little more, ask a couple of questions, and then all of a sudden I hit the jackpot; out comes the tale we’re about to tell. “I was living in Glasgow working as an apprentice Coachbuilder and Panel Beater in 1979 when I built my first buggy. It was an orange Manta Ray which I purchased locally as an unfinished project, I fixed it up and used it as my daily transport for a while; as you can imagine it was quite cheap – there’s not much call for beach buggies in Glasgow!”
Off to Aus!
After completing his 4 year apprenticeship Tom left Scotland and went travelling in 1980 taking his skills to Perth in Australia, where he landed a job at a Porsche Auto-body shop. “Hanging around at the beach the car culture was so much cooler than back home, the surfers had Holden panel wagons, and some had beach buggies and Baja bugs too. I helped a couple of the guys out with their buggy builds, using my workshop facilities after hours, then eventually shipped a pair of Baja kits back to the UK, ready for me when I went home”.
One for me, one for you…
Tom returned to Glasgow in 1981 and took on a job managing a prestigious body shop. In his spare time he set about building himself a Baja bug. The second kit that he’d shipped home was built up for a friend of his. “I found out about an old Californian living in Edinburgh called John Forbes, who ran a metallic green Baja Bug, and had a good supply of parts and contacts. I got in touch with him, sourced some parts and that led to me building another 6 Baja’s for paying customers.”
The jump to owning a Porsche
“I was working with lot top-end cars on daily basis, many of which were Porsches, so the progression from owning old VWs to a Porsche was a natural one for me. I bought my first one in 1986, it was a red 1984 944 in LHD. It wasn’t my dream car, but it was close to my goal and all I could afford at the time.”
‘Upgrading’ to a 911
Like many enthusiasts, Tom had his sights set clearly on a 911, and about 6 months later he upgraded to the Porsche he’d always promised himself. It was a RHD 1978 Targa SC in white. “Sadly it was not what I had expected after driving the 944 and my BMW 320i company car. The roof leaked, although I remedied that with new seals, the ventilation was dreadful and the brakes were not up to the job at all. Disappointed, I sold the car about 3 months later.”
Back in a Beemer (short-term)
With a Bavarian saloon back on his driveway things were going ok for Tom. However when a 911 passed him on the road he knew he’d made a terrible mistake, and just had to have another. “I bought a white ’85 coupe with white wheel centres and black and white ‘pasha’ interior and that’s where the love started which has lasted to this day. Since then I’ve never been without a Porsche 911”.
Building a body shop
With a great deal of experience behind him, Tom took the plunge in 1988 and opened his own body shop. Business was going well, and within 3 years he’d relocated to a larger state of the art premises. In 1992 he was approached to become a Porsche Approved Repairer by Porsche Cars Great Britain. He later became the largest approved repairer in Europe, with a team of 65 under his guidance, and even provided training sessions to Porsche technicians from around Scotland and Northern England at his facilities in Glasgow. After scooping the UK Bodyshop of the year award in 1997 Tom sold his business – to as his website puts it “follow his passion for anything fast”.
With family links to the Armstrong clan, who were the original ‘Border Reivers’ (read more about what that means here) and with the history of Jim Clark racing a 356 for the Border Reivers race team back in the late ‘50s, the Border Reivers name was revived once more by Tom, as an extension of his passion for Porsche. “We specialise in the preservation and restoration of all makes and marques of classic and sports cars. Our services include anything from scratch repairs to full restorations, car sourcing and storage, vehicle sales too”.
Enjoying work, enjoying life
The Border Reivers workshops are located on the banks of the beautiful Loch Lomond, where Tom and his team, including brother Richard, offer landing facilities for both helicopters and seaplanes, not to mention accommodation for customers and friends wanting to visit the area. Tom’s affection for cars has done anything but fade with time. He’s been responsible for building concours winning Porsches, including a 1957 Carrera Speedster and also enjoys competing in classic motorsport events such as the Monte-Carlo Rally in his Saab 96.
Currently in the garage…
“I drive a Porsche 991 Gen2 every day. At the weekends when I take my son TJ football training we take the 1954 356 Outlaw and if I need to drop off my daughter Summer we take the ex-John Fitzpatrick 1971 Porsche 911E. We also run a 1942 Willys jeep which we use for trips to the local boat yard, I had to buy this as I got in trouble with the kids when I sold the last Buggy!”
Don’t forget the Volkswagen!
There is still an old VW in Tom’s collection too. “We purchased this 1957 RHD South African Splitscreen pick-up truck to use as a parts vehicle, and take to events” Tom tells me. “It’s been to Goodwood, Classic Le-Mans and the Monte Carlo Historic as a support vehicle to our race cars.
“It lives indoors but doesn’t come out much due to the climate, which is a bit of a shame. Sadly with space at a premium we’ve put it up for sale.” If you fancy yourself a mint single cab, take a look and get in touch with Tom here.