Taking a 31-year-old car and putting it in middle of your new car showroom is perhaps not the normal way to attract customers through the door, but when that car is a freshly restored Porsche 911 SC then you can allow the Porsche Centre Cambridge a little bit of unconventional thinking. It is the end result of a competition launched in May by Porsche Cars GB, encouraging dealerships from around the country to bring an abandoned, damaged, or simply unloved classic 911 back to life as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the marques most famous model.
The first job was to find the right car to restore, which is where luck played a major part in the process. A long-standing customer was looking to trade up to a newer 911 and brought their 1982 vintage model in as a part exchange.
“Having looked around the car, we thought it could be an ideal one to restore,” explained Dan Fisher, the centre’s senior technician and leader of the restoration project. “It didn’t look hopeless; it had some little holes in the sills and door surrounds, a front wing had some accident damage and had been repaired badly, and there was some corrosion on one side. We thought it would need two front wings, a repair to some of the corrosion and a bare metal respray.”
A deal was quickly done and the project was finally started in June, at which point it became obvious that a lot more work than anticipated would be needed, especially once some of the ‘unique’ work from a previous bodyshop had been found.
“When we started knocking the corrosion out, the hole got bigger and bigger,” said Fisher. “The hole had been stuffed with rags, and even a pair of underpants, with papier-mâché over the top!”
“Things are always worse than anticipated,” adds Dan Stackhouse, the bodyshop supervisor and panel beater. “We had to cut entire sections from the car and then remake the panels and inner sections out of fresh sheet metal. For a new car it’s easy, you just put a new wing on, but it takes so much longer to make a section by hand. The skill involved is why we like to do these jobs.”
The competition was all about restoration, something that the team at Harston took very seriously. It would have been all too easy to simply call up Porsche and order a set of parts to replace anything that was less than pristine, but there was a strong desire to ensure that the 911 was kept as original as possible.
Fortunately a lot of parts were salvageable, with the car still sporting its original wheels, hubs, suspension and even brake discs. Everything that was structurally sound was removed and stripped down before being repainted and fitted back on the car.
For any parts that couldn’t be rescued, Porsche are on hand to provide replacement. Through their Porsche Original scheme, some 75% of all parts are still available for models dating right back to 1950.
Throughout the entire restoration there was just one part that the team were unable to source. While the interior is remarkably tidy and intact, with the cars original cloth seat panels being retained alongside refurbished leather bolsters, it’s only the roof lining that differs from the factory specification.
“The headlining was cream coloured, but there had been water leaks over the years so it sagged,” said Fisher. “We couldn’t get the original colour but could get a black one from Porsche. This is the only thing that isn’t original, even the cassette player was refurbished with new belts.”
It leaves the 911 with, arguably, a better interior than when it left the factory, with black leather seats under a black roof, matching its dazzling black exterior.
“It was fairly straightforward,” explains Leigh Sparks, the paintshop technician. “We stripped it back, applied three coats of primer to make sure it was nice and flat, sanded it down and repeat. It’s got more modern paint on it with a layer of clear coat on top. Then there was about a week of polishing!”
“It’s better than it would have had at the factory.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. With the car just two weeks from the competition finals and with the engine rebuilt and ready to be installed back in to the 911, one of the crankcase studs sheared and dropped out of the engine. Without this bolt holding the engine together, the car simply wouldn’t work and so the team had to strip the engine down once again, get the part repaired and then rebuild it all.
The entire project took the team an astonishing 680 hours to complete, but what they have produced is a classic 1982 vintage Porsche 911 that is genuinely better than new. With more than 25% of Porsche’s on the UKs roads now being classified as Classic by the manufacturer, having the expertise on site to restore and maintain such cars is something that will become ever more important.
Now the competition is over there is still plenty more for the team, and the car, to do. While it won’t get much use over the winter months, and has only been driven for three miles since completion, next year will see the car being driven to Le Mans as part of a bigger convoy of Porsche’s, and there’ll be another restoration competition entry in France.
Once back home it seems the car will eventually be auctioned off to raise money for charity, but it will leave a big hole in the showroom, as well as in the hearts of the staff.
Since the restoration started in June, it has been a gruelling but rewarding process for the two Dan’s and Leigh, who worked tirelessly to bring the car back to its former glory. However, there’s already talk of starting again and restoring an early Boxster model.