Tom Gädtke lives for Porsche. Time, effort, and a lot of love has gone into his dedication to that famous crest. Starting his restoration exploration at an impressively young age – buying his own 1960s VW Beetle while still in school – Tom has learned first-hand the art of being patient. You often need to take the long road to return an oldtimer to glory. With a diverse career that spans professional restorer, magazine publisher, social media influencer (@onassisporsches), international car community cultivator and event coordinator, Tom’s Porsche passion fills every facet of his life.
Learning the classics
Tom's Porsche history spans the decades. Based near Dortmund, Germany, 41-year-old Tom recalls the early days, where bundles of enthusiasm made up for a lack of experience. “It took me years to finish restoring the VW Beetle, because there was so much to do,” Tom says. “I didn’t have much money and had zero training.” But it was an experience that sparked his passion for classic restoration, one that would see him take his first step into the Porsche scene alongside his father. “I sold my Beetle, my dad sold some of his camper vans, and we bought a Porsche 356, because of its close relationship to the Beetle. It took about nine years to finish it since we had a lack of money and experience. Sometimes we made mistakes and had to go back a step, but that was part of what made the experience.”
After studying automotive engineering at university, Tom went to work with his best friend, the son of a second-gen restorer. “Suddenly, I went from being a hobby mechanic to a professional restorer,” he recalls. “I had taken yet another step without having had any formal training. Instantly, I could see myself doing this for a day job.” And he did just that for the next six years, professionally restoring air-cooled Porsche cars. With a steady flow of restoration jobs, being able to work alongside his best friend and blast their favourite tunes around their workshop day-in, day-out, work couldn’t have been more fun, says Tom.
The long and winding commute
However, there eventually came a point when he had to move on. Waking up at 5am, travelling two hours each way to get to work and not getting back home until 9pm to see his wife and three daughters made the decision for him. “I’m super happy that I made that decision, as I am still so involved with Porsche today,” he says. Tom may have left the world of professional restoration behind, but as a hobby restorer the flame burns brighter than ever. Cue a behind the scenes invite to Porsche Classic Factory Restoration to view the experts at work.
“It was great to watch those guys doing their work with such attention to detail,” he says. “It reminded me of our workshop, but way bigger, way cleaner and way more professional. And so quiet. Everyone was so concentrated on their work. The mechanics had this aura of experience and passion.” He adds that customers learn to understand that you need to give classic Porsche cars the right amount of time to be restored. “You must wait until it’s ready. Let the experts do the cars justice and you can really be sure it will be done to 110% perfection with Porsche Classic.”
You must wait until it’s ready. Let the experts do the cars justice and you can really be sure it will be done to 110% perfection
As a self-professed “nerd” on such matters, Tom knows more than most that Porsche Classic parts and accessories have unique stories to tell. So getting his hands on the freshest edition of ORIGINALE magazine was exciting. “It’s a collector’s item that shouldn’t just be displayed, but used for knowledge, an overview of new parts, and to read important innovation and people stories. This world is so fast. Amazing stories can be consumed and disposed of online within minutes. But look at the photographers from the 1960s to 1980s – printed books have meant that their work lasted longer. For this reason, getting ORIGINALE physically into people’s hands is very cool. It opens up a world beyond the car parts to a world of classic Porsche.”
Senses working overtime
To Tom, his Porsche life is a sensory experience – from first sight to the feel of every angle, from vintage odours to the roar of the engine.
His 356 – the only Porsche he’s ever owned – remains the apple of his eye. It’s still a special occasion when he takes it out into the traffic-filled city. “I never get any thumbs down when I’m driving this car,” says Tom. “It’s a true old-timer. It smells like an old car, and it’s not as comfortable as a newer car, but that’s the special thing about it. I really love its rawness. You have to really focus on it.”
If there’s one piece of advice that Tom can offer classic owners, he says that if you take care of your Porsche, it will take care of you. “Porsche cars are so reliable that they don’t have any real problems if you care for them,” he explains. “But if you don’t handle it right, it can kick your ass, just like any car would.” Simply being mindful of elements likely to wear over the years, he advises, will see owners right. He mentions things like checking bushings, suspension springs, cables, oil pressure, fluids, and not firing up a car that’s been sitting stagnant.
Pillar of the classic car community
Tom started Onassis while he was restoring cars. It was born out of observing that few young people seemed to be driving classic Porsche cars. His low-key tunnel runs didn’t take long to upscale into hugely attended events, today known as ‘Streetart.Motorsport.Revival’. Onassis meet-ups aren’t any old cars and coffee events – we’re talking full-on festival vibes and an outward display of community that means a lot to him. “It’s been incredibly difficult [recently] as I’ve been ill, and for the first time in seven years I wasn’t able to attend my own event. But the feedback and support I got was overwhelming. I just love these people.” This is a man responsible for connecting kindred souls to celebrate classic cars. He’s spied new trends, like younger attendees embracing transaxle models and using them as an accessible step into the Porsche world. Onassis has also spawned satellite communities in Berlin, Munich and beyond. “The cars are part of the show, but never the centrepiece,” says Tom. “It’s about the people. There’s so much positive force that I can’t separate the brand and the community. It just belongs together.”
There’s so much positive force that I can’t separate the brand and the community. It just belongs together
To a future Porsche classic
Tom’s past and present has overflowed with Porsche passion, but what about the future? Talk turns to electric driving and how car culture will change. Driving the Porsche Taycan, he discovered a quality to electric driving that you might even call mindfulness. “Moving in near total silence is something I really love,” he says. “It’s so relaxing. You get this quality time. You can feel and can recognise that you’re in a Porsche – and then see this fascinating new design. It’s a very interesting combination.” When fellow classic Porsche fans drove the Taycan their response was similar, he says. “I wasn’t sure what the diehard oldtimer and air-cooled folks would think, but the reaction was really positive. Everyone was open-minded to try something new.”
Thinking about the future plays a big part in his life. With three daughters, he is already contemplating how he can hand his love for Porsche down to them. “I think I will need to build two more Porsche cars in order to be able hand three of them over one day!”