I was introduced to my first 911 a long time ago – waaaay back in 1972. I had several 356’s in my ‘shop’ with rusted out bottoms that I made feeble attempts at fixing. I'll go into those details at a later date or we will need to change the name of this blog. The car in question was a 68 Irish Green soft window Targa. I found the car listed in a local newspaper and the car was only 5 miles away. I made arrangements to look at the car the next Saturday morning with great anticipation.
Truth be told, I knew nothing about the 911, nothing about the engine, nothing about short wheel base, AND I knew nothing about Targas, This was the first year in America of the Targa and with the top off and the back window zipped out it was a dazzling looking car. Different than the popular coupe – but in many ways better looking. This Targa I went to see was now 4 years old but the paint looked like new, the interior was perfect and purred like a kitten. After a discussion with the owner pointing out the virtues of the Targa, a deal was struck and I drove it home. Remembering back, the Targa Top might have been a little worn and that might actually have been my very first Targa Top restoration. How time flies.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is an important, small detail about the engine. The reason it purred like a kitten instead of roaring like a lion was because it was a 4 cylinder 912 not a 6 cylinder 911. My first ‘real’ 911 was a 1972 911S Targa sportomatic and I’ll write about it in a future blog. But first, back to the Irish Green machine.
I LOVED that car, my boys practically grew up in the back of that 912 Targa. We drove it to soccer games, Porsche picnics, Watkins Glen – ohhh the memories. My kid’s favorite memory was when the back end caught on fire one cold winter morning while I was spraying some ‘boy scout juice’ into the carbs to help get it started. My aim was a little off, boom, backfire, poof, flames. I can still see the look on the boys faces. There’s just something about the smell of a combustible engine firing up on a cold morning that gets you going.
I drove that car off and on for about 20 years and every minute was pure, low horsepower driving enjoyment. Then I ended up selling the 912 to a very close friend with buy back rights for life. He drove it for a few years and it’s been in storage for the past 15 years or so. I think it’s time for the 68 912 soft window Targa to come back home. As they say, you can always go home.
I received a call last week that got me thinking. This person knew I have cars in various states of completion lying around all the time and was inquiring whether I had a suitable project DE car. I told him I had none. Here’s why. The price of all 911s have skyrocketed, and this has dried up the supply of ‘donor’ track cars – they've just become too valuable to risk stuffing in the wall at the track.
So, where are suitable inexpensive track cars going to come from now? This got me thinking back about the DE cars I had built over the years.
The first was a 1968 912 that I extended the wheel base, added flares, big brakes, 911 suspension, painted it white and added a big 3.0L engine. This is a car I bought for $200 finding in a shop’s scrap yard in the outskirts of Philadelphia. I used this car for over 10 years and it never let me down.
The second track car was a 1975 Carrera I bought for $12,000. My loving wife Anne drove it as her daily drive for 15 years and finally the 2.7 engine wore out. Actually it caught fire in the driveway but we’re not allowed to talk about that. Since it was not being used I built into a track car. After one year as a track car I sobered up and realized this car was too rare and turned it back to a street car. With age comes wisdom.
My third DE car was a 72 911 which I bought for $700 as a shell. This car I painted white everywhere, added big brakes, lots of light-weight plastic parts and a 3.6 engine. This is the car I drove at Daytona at Rennsport Reunion II. I used this car for several years before I bought a true Race Car - a 964 with all the bells and whistles. Now that was a great track car that provided a lot of memories.
What was common about these DE track cars was that they were low priced, very reliable, low maintenance, safe and fast. They were made out of worn out street cars and the parts we hung on them were more valuable than the chassis. We used to say if something bad happened all you needed was a pickup truck to gather the unbroken parts, since that is where the money was and you could probably put it all back together for next to nothing.
These days, there are no beaters. No worn out older 911s that can be turned into track cars. Every 911 regardless of condition is restorable and valuable. The end value is so great that even basket cases are prized. So, where do we go from here?
The answer lies in a car that has balance, good brakes, power and is relatively inexpensive - The Boxster. The newer, lighter, less expensive red-headed step-child of the 911. Purists don’t much care for them, but I think they make perfect track cars. If you don’t believe me come watch Boxsters perform at any of our DE track days.
You also have a second choice since 996’s are also relatively affordable (if you must drive a 911 at the track). And guess what, I think I have a couple of those lying around. Actually, I have a couple of both.
I thought it would be great time to highlight one of Porsches greatest limited production cars of the past. The RS America came out in the spring of 1992 as a1993 model. It was light with suspension and wheel upgrades found on the 965 Turbo. It came only in a coupe version with only 3 color choices - red, black and white (although you could special order it in midnight blue metallic or polar silver) and only with four options. It was made for the track and most of them happily found their way to a track at some point in their life. There were only 701 made in two model years, 93-94.
The only reason the RSA exists is because Porsche felt the European RS model was too aggressive for the US market so it was not sold here. Alas, the RS America was born - it was an RS made just for America. No power steering, no cruise control, no AC, no sunroom and no radio. It did come with a very distinctive 'whale tail' spoiler that still stands out today.
I am lucky enough to have two RSA’s in my collection. Here are the highlights of one of mine.
Porsche RS America 1993 WPOAB2966PS419115, 77 K miles Black with black, 1 of 701 made, Rare Car. Stock. Original engine & transmission: Options: AC, LTD, non-sunroof, package box, correct seats, Cup 1 wheels, tires ex, suspension upgrade to PSS 9, Euro ride height, Brake upgrade to 993 fronts and larger rears, chip, This is a fast car. Minor paint work, Well-maintained. No wrecks, no rust, no stories. It's a nice car, but aren't they all.
The Bike, The Scooter And The Twin Turbo
We were all headed to our last track even of the year. It promised to be one of the best, as twelve of us were going to VIR for a three day driving event. It is the longest trip for most of us, between 7 and 8 hours drive. However the track design, speed and setting are incredible. It rivals the Glen for all out speed and you get your speed fix three different times on each lap, whereas only once at The Glen.
My youngest son Matthew, who relocated to Charlotte, NC a few years back, decided to meet us there since it’s a short trip for him. Matty was going to drive my RS America Race car while we were building him his own race car. We decided that the 80% track and 20% street is just a little too much over the top Racer for his young family now. Or is this a ploy by him to drive my RSA? Anyway, I planned to build him a 50/50 car over the winter.
I was pleasantly surprised when Matty showed up on Friday morning, with his 5 year old son Mason in the 1996 KBF (Kills Bugs Fast) Twin Turbo he was borrowing while we built his new race car. I was not as happy when they began unpacking the Twin Turbo. He had it packed like a paneled station wagon on a trip to Disney. I questioned him about the need for a bike that he was extracting from the back seat area. He then reminded me that I have always touted the Porsche as a perfect family car with a wry smile. Ha. Now the kid is using my own stuff against me. I was afraid to look at the glove soft leather in the car. Oh well, it was great to spend time with Matthew and Mason and I guess that’s the price you have to pay sometimes.
There is a lot of walking a VIR due to the size of the paddock being long and narrow. This is the place I blew-up my knee two years ago from excessive walking. Now though I have a scooter to get around (A Christmas gift from Matty). This scooter is basically a gas powered skateboard with a fold up handle, in other words a broken shoulder and concussion waiting to happen. It is capable of 35mph with shaky steering, so it is nearly as exciting to ride as VIR is to drive. Fellow PCA member, Claudia thinks it is a hoot but she is a skier and we know how they live on the edge.
During the day I noticed that we were having trouble with losing air in the front right tire of the RSA. I had another tire and rim but this was a new set on the car and I wanted to wear this set evenly. Therefore, prior to every run session we had to add several pounds of air. The air was down at the other end of the paddock, so it was a pain. Just before the last run group of the day, I borrowed an air tank and headed on down to the air pump on my trusted scooter. The scooter handle bar has gas on one side and brake on the other. This means you need to carry the air bottle in the brake hand. I took it nice and slow down to the air pump; however coming back would be a different story. As I coasted the sandy parking area where we were setup, I realized I was carrying a little too much speed. I was headed for trailer ramp, not good. Mind you I am only going 2 or 3 miles an hour at most. Having a difficult time getting to the brake, I yelled ‘coming in hot’ and turned the handle bars to the right to miss the metal ramp that most certainly cause brain damage. That is all it took. The front wheel dug in and over the handle bars I went. I wish I would have just hit the sandy ground but no such luck. My knee hit the air tank on the way down and broke my fall. Most had seen the crash and came rushing over to see if I were still alive. They found me laughing out loud. Here I am at a race tack driving a car at over a 150mph and I get hurt on a scooter at 2 mph.
The problem is this is my bad knee, been cut twice due to injuries. I knew what I was in store for. Only one thing to do before the swelling flared up, pop two Motrin and strap myself in for the last run group of the day. At this point I could hardly walk but you don’t need to be able to walk to be able to drive.
I guess I was right about some things, like a Porsche being the perfect family car.
And wrong about others, like the scooter being a broken shoulder waiting to happen. Should have said broken knee. Either way, it’s a good story. See you around.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent popularity of taking new and old air cooled 911’s and doing unusual things to them, which some may call sacrilegious. If you haven’t, it’s time you woke up and smelled the gasoline (or reality). I realize this is not for everyone –certainly not Porsche purists – but there are plenty of people forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars for these cars.
There seems to be a trend to have either 100% stock or over the top modified. Companies like Singer (pictured above) are taking 964’s and making them in to $500k long hood retro cars with unique touches and pristine interiors. Others like Magnus Walker are taking Long Hood 911’s painting them unique colors, putting big motors in them with performance suspensions and more. Some of these cars are bringing well over $100,000.
Since I’m at least twice as ‘experienced’ as these guys, I’ve decided to jump in and, with the help of my buddy Mike and Schatten Rappen’ readers, we will build a car. However, we are going to do this on a budget so we don’t have more money in the car than what it is worth. Half of the people who embark on such a project spend way over what the car is worth.
Rule number 1: A car’s worth isn’t how much you have in receipts, it’s the price someone is willing to pay for the it when its completed. If you build a car for a $100k and it is worth only $70k this means you were $30k stupid.
Our budget will be $60k and Mike and I will build this car in his shop at a secret location undetectable by Stuttgart and government drones. The car will either be a ‘68 or ‘69 911. The car will come to us without lids, doors, front fenders, bumpers, gauges, interior, engine, trans, and brakes. In the big leagues we call this a Tub - a blank canvas ready to be customized how we wish.
But wait - What should we call it? Is this going to be a tribute car, an outlaw, a club car, a bandit or something different?
Task 1 is to let me know what you think we should call this project car. Pick one or suggest an alternative.
□ Tribute car
□ Club car
Task 2 is to decide a theme (body configuration).The theme will determine the configuration: No flares, SC flares, RSR flares. Body work: front, rear lid, spoilers, front and rear bumpers, doors, light weight parts, front fenders. This will allow us to stay focused. Here are our theme choices:
□ Short wheel base 911 R
□ ‘73 911 Carrera RS clone
□ ‘73 Carrera RS over the top custom □ ‘73 911 RSR wide body
Help Petch and Mike build this project car using Survey Monkey – just follow this link:
The color will play a big part in the build, choosing a color from the 60’s or 70’s is the way we should go. It will be spectacular because the paint will be done correctly: doors off, lids off, glass out, etc. The total for prep and paint will be $9,000.
Task 3 is to choose a color for the car from these options: □ Mexico Blue, a bright medium blue
□ Gulf Blue (light powder blue)
□ Crystal Blue (very light blue)
□ Lime Green (light bold green)
□ Sebring Green (medium light green)
□ Signal Orange (deep bright orange)
□ Rally Yellow (bright yellow)
□ Grand Prix white (white with a touch of purple)
Email to tell me your choices or use our online survey. The chosen build gets a free beer in my garage and first right of refusal to buy the car we create.
Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the project - this is going to be fun.
Dan Petchel is a Porsche driver, enthusiast and longtime PCA member and he's been tinkering with these beloved German sports cars for close to 50 years. He writes about Porsches, Targa Tops, vintage parts and the people he meets along the way