Meet Michelle Hambly-Grobler, a successful property project manager and self-confessed Porsche addict. She has an enviable collection of classic cars – in particular Porsche 911s – and uses the brand’s extensive and vibrant social platform to keep in touch with Porsche enthusiasts the world over (www.instagram.com/porschegirlct).
Born in Cape Town, Michelle’s paternal grandfather Wilfred Hambly owned a Ford dealership in Ceres and it was no surprise that his son Wilfred Jnr would grow up with a passion for cars; Fords in particular. Opting not to take over his father’s business, Wilfred Jnr moved to Cape Town with five pounds in his pocket to seek his own fortune. He met, and later married, Maranda Bergh who was a nurse at Groote Schuur, and Michelle became the oldest of four children. Incidentally, Maranda’s brother Lesley raced stock cars on the dirt track at the Goodwood Showground, as well as a Renault Gordini at Killarney, further evidence of why a passion for cars is in Michelle’s DNA. Educated at Fanie Theron Primary and Eben Dönges High School, Michelle recalls the many family holidays and picnics taken in a Ford Fairlane, and regular trips to the drive-ins dressed in pyjamas.
When she left school to study law at the University of Cape Town, she was lined up to receive a Fairlane for her 18th birthday, but the car was written-off in an accident three weeks before… So, Michelle started her driving life in a VW Karmann Ghia, before moving on to a Beetle, then
a Suzuki Jimny. She married, and bought a BMW 320i before starting a family, which heralded a practical switch to a VW Caravelle, none of which really expressed Michelle’s passion for cars. However, in 2001, Michelle’s interest in classics began when she acquired a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, which, in turn, was sold to finance the purchase of a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette. No Fairlane? That omission was put right when she was presented with one for her 44th birthday.
The Corvette was sold to start the Porsche collection that has since grown into quite a flamboyant mix. Almost inevitably, there is a 356 to represent the start of the Porsche legend. In Michelle’s case, a superb 1962 two-owner Super 90. She also has a replica Speedster, which has more than earned its keep with film work. These are in company with a 1970 912 that is increasing in desirability. Next we get into the 911 range, starting with a restored 1970 911 T that is soon to be joined by a long-sought-after 1979 911 S. Moving to the ’80s, there is a 1984 930 Turbo, a 1985 Targa SC, and two examples of the last first-gen 911s, a 1983 SC 3.0 that sports a Gulf racing livery and is Michelle’s rather extroverted daily driver, and a 1989 Targa 3.2. From the next decade, there is a 1991 ex-US Porsche Cup racing-spec 964 series and a concours 993 series Twin Turbo painted in a deep-lustre arena red, which was the model’s launch colour. The latest 911 in the line-up is a striking orange 2007 997-series GT3 RS, already considered a classic.
The newest addition to the collection is a bright yellow 2016 Cayman GT4 one of the last built and dubbed by many as one of the purest drivers’ Porsches ever. In addition to all these intriguing examples, there are two front-engined Porsches, both 1991 944 Turbos, one of which is a race car. Five years ago, Michelle began competing in endurance races at Killarney, but in April 2015, while practising in her tricky-to-handle 1974 short-wheelbase RSR, she had a serious accident at the Cape circuit’s Turn 2. The crash left her incapacitated for a while with a number of broken bones, including a broken wrist. Following this, she bought a 964-series Tiptronic in order to stay mobile. The car is currently up for sale, but the racing bug is still there and she has lined up a Mopar Endurance Series drive in an ex-works Nissan Primera.
A postscript to all these road and race cars is something rather more agricultural – a tractor. Not just any old tractor mind, but a Porsche Junior, manufactured by Porsche-Diesel from 1957 to 1963. It is powered by an air-cooled 10 kW 822 cc, single-cylinder diesel engine – a far cry from the 383 kW of her GT3 RS…
Besides the Porsches and the Fairlane, Michelle’s collection also includes a trio of ‘outsiders’ that hark back to her early years. These consist of a ’60s VW Karmann Ghia Type 34, an unrestored1928 Dodge, which frequently goes on display and participates in classic car events such as The Crankhandle Club’s annual Oily Rag Run, and finally a 1954 Citroën Light 15 that is also brought out periodically to take part in classic car gatherings, often with Michelle dressed in suitably Gallic attire.
Along with all the cars in her collection, which are in superb condition, kept fully charged, driven regularly, and covered in custom Porsche covers known as ‘pyjamas’, the ground floor of Michelle’s multistorey home – itself a mind-boggling conversion from a woolshed that was originally built in 1886 – is a spacious open-plan shrine to Porsche. A collection of books, banners, models, signage and objets d’art are spread around the walls, along with some Gulf-branded items as a reminder of the oil company’s legendary association with Porsche. The complete collection can be viewed and enjoyed from the comfort of a small, adjoining entertainment area.
Michelle says that she and her husband are fortunate to be able to combine business with motoring pleasure, and, in addition to their active lifestyle, they are able to travel to international countries regularly to attend major and important race conventions and classic-car events. For Michelle, it is clearly a case of ‘east, west, Porsche is best’.