Precious Metal

Precious Metal

Jeweller to the stars Reino Lehtonen-Riley considers his 993 far more than just a car

Priding himself on the pursuit of individual expression, whether at work or play, Mr Reino Lehtonen-Riley wouldn’t be seen dead owning an ostentatious hyper car. After sampling a premium McLaren on the streets of London, courtesy of a motoring journalist friend, Reino was left suitably unimpressed, or, to put it another way, “I felt like a right tosser.”

Far more appealing is his very own 993 Carrera 4, whose driving experience he describes as ‘an event’. “You take part, as opposed to being a spectator.”

Reino’s commitment to authenticity is also driven by his job, that being the owner of celebrated ‘anti-hero’ jeweller The Great Frog, which specialises in gothic-inspired designs – skulls and daggers come as standard. Picking up the reigns from his dad, who founded the company in 1972, the brand’s customers now include the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, and Jared Leto….to name a few.

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Growing up alongside his dad’s business provided Reino with various moments of enlightenment, as numerous ‘characters’ from his father’s social circle took him under their wing, providing both practical lessons, such as stripping a motorbike, and some that were more, perhaps, recreational.

Previously describing it as growing up in a Wes Anderson film, Reino recalls getting picked up by a biker on his chopper, or another time by a car that was painted matt black to look like a hearse. “These things were massively embarrassing.”

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Initially steering away from the idea of succession, Reino studied product design and industrial engineering, motivated by his obsession with cars and motorbikes.

“I ultimately wanted a job in automotive. As a kid I was always drawing cars and motorbikes, I was obsessed with every car out there, I think it was one of my first words!”

Porsches were always a standout for Reino, particularly as there were plenty about growing up in a pleasant part of London.

“They looked so wild compared to anything else. I was also taken with old VWs, Beetles and Carmen Ghias. The family car at one point was a VW Variant, which was given to us…my dad then painted it by hand. I remember it had trouble getting up the hill back from school, so we’d have to pile out and help push it to the top.”

Finally able to indulge his passion for four wheels, this baptism, a Mk1 Ford Cortina with Lotus engine and livery, also turned heads.

“I’d be pulled over by the police all the time, which was stressful as the car always stank of dope. Contrary to my paranoia, they just wanted to chat about the car.”

From there, a Mini Cooper, various American trucks, a Subaru, Honda Civic, and several Golfs passed through. “Yet I’d got it into my head that I had to have a Porsche at some point.”

This itch was compounded by a drive in his friend’s 930 Targa, picked up for a reasonable £8k eight years ago.

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Founded in 1972 by Reino's dad, The Great Frog has gained a cult following
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“He asked if I wanted to drive. I remember sliding it round a roundabout in London, thinking ‘This is the most fun I’ve had in a vehicle.’ I had to get one!”

Initially missing the boat when prices were reasonable, before the 911 renaissance, Reino persevered.

“I Initially wanted a 964, I love that shape - that said, a 930 Turbo if you please! However, 964s went crazy, so I had to get practical.”

The idea of being able to work on a car, to channel a degree of individual expression and make it his own, was a big draw.

“I’m a bit of a tinkerer. I’ve got over 30 motorbikes and nothing is standard: stock doesn’t interest me. I wanted something I could mess about with as I always want to personalise.”

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Taking a chance on a 993 Carrera 4 manual, sold by an old ‘biker on a rainy day up North, a subsequent once over by professionals confirmed he’d done good. “It had Cat C history but it was well priced at £26k (five years ago) and had loads of paperwork, well, so he said, as he couldn’t find any of it on that particular day.”

That classic silhouette and scale, combined with its analogue technology, has engineered a lasting love affair for Reino, who plans to keep it in the family after he’s gone.

“The 993 is the perfect mix, the pinnacle. It’s still small and chuck-able, there’s no driving aids, and it’s just incredible to drive, like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

What’s also appealed is the welcome from the Porsche community, who’ve been generous with advice and invites to various events.

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Reino also paid a visit to notorious modifier RWB Porsche, while on a business trip in Tokyo. After days of phone calls, founder Akira Nakai finally picked up. A three-hour taxi ride out the city later, Reino, glass of Jack Daniels in  hand, was talking shop with the chain-smoking Akira, as he took a chainsaw to various exotica.

“He’s a right character! I initially asked if I could employ his services, then he showed me his waiting list. Plus, my wife would be pretty embarrassed with the results if we drove to the supermarket.”

“I drove to Germany for the Onassis event and met organiser Tom Gaedtke (Ed: interview coming soon!), who was really cool.

I was also introduced to Frank Cassidy, director of Boxengasse, who gave me great advice on the car.

Coming from the motorcycle world, which is very inclusive and friendly, I wasn’t sure what the Porsche world would be like.”

“The people I’ve met have been super cool, really helpful. It’s opened up a whole new friendship group.”

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With a family now a priority Reino has taken his foot off the gas and quit drinking, to maximise his days in the pursuit of naturals highs. “I don’t want to miss those downtime moments as I have so much going on.”

“So when I do get out in my Porsche it’s extra special. I plan to put half a million miles on it and eventually hand it down to my daughter. This car is part of the family.”

thegreatfroglondon.com

Reino/Porsche Photos - Sam Christmas - www.samchristmas.co.uk

Style's 'Drive Five'

Most memorable road trip?
Driving and taking part in the Onassis event in Germany – I had such a great time!
Favourite stretch of road?
The roads of New Zealand are amazing. I’d love one day to get the Porsche over and do a loop of the country.
Ultimate Road Trip?
Besides New Zealand it would probably be Switzerland, covering those legendary passes. The roads in Scotland are also incredible, I drove in the Porsche to wedding and was stunned by the views and topography.
Porsche of choice?
I’d love to be let loose on a stripped down 993 Turbo or RS.
Ultimate driving partner?
Lemmy from Motor Head. He’s a very interesting man, though he’d probably hate being in a Porsche! One of my biggest regrets is not going to a strip club with him when he offered. It was my shop opening in L.A., so it was sort of hard to duck out and take up the invite. I still haven’t got over it…

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The incomparable Lemmy - Great Frog fan and dream road trip partner