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How to buy a project Porsche 911

How brave do you feel? Buying a project 911 isn’t for the faint-hearted; we’ve all heard tales of running repairs that snowballed into fully-fledged rebuilds. But for those with sufficient time, patience and money, restoring a car can be an edifying and enjoyable experience.
Here we round up what you need to know and look out for, with help from Autofarm founder Josh Sadler and his 911 2.7 Sportomatic.

Money is, of course, the elephant in the room. Parts availability for classic (1964-1989) 911s is at its best since the late 1990s – one positive side effect of rising values – but many components are expensive, and some still need to be custom made. Also, since most of us don’t possess the skills to restore a car ourselves, the task usually involves paying a specialist. With labour rates typically around £60 to £100 per hour, costs soon escalate.

It’s therefore best to approach most projects as a labour of love: a chance to save an ailing 911 from the scrapyard, rather than a business opportunity. Unless the car you plan to restore is a special model, such as an RS, you may find it hard to make a profit – even in the current, still-buoyant Porsche market. Work out how much you’re willing to invest before you start, not forgetting the cost of the car itself.

Josh’s 1976 2.7 Sportomatic is a perfect example of a project-in-waiting. On the plus side, it’s a very original, three-owner UK car with a verifiable MOT history and no obvious structural rust. Less positively, it’s covered 183,000 miles and hasn’t run since 1999 due to an undiagnosed engine problem. Josh wants £30,000 for the 911 and estimates it would cost a further £30,000 to fully restore. 

 

ENGINE

The engine is nominally the most complicated part of a classic 911, yet frequently the easiest to fix. “They’re a great big Meccano kit,” says Josh. “There are very few electronics to worry about compared to a modern car, and engines are potentially good for 200,000 miles if looked after properly. That said, I’d usually factor the cost of a rebuild into any project.”

The air-cooled flat six doesn’t suffer a pivotal, defining fault like the IMS issue that plagues early 996s. However, it evolved hugely over the years, so later cars are markedly more reliable. Josh singles out the final evolution of the original 911, the 1984 to 1989 model year Carrera 3.2, as having “a very solid and sorted engine”. 

One persistent problem that was fixed for the 3.2 concerns the timing chain. As 911 engines got bigger, torquier and lower-revving, more strain was put on the chain tensioners, partly with emissions in mind. These were pressurised in the 3.2, and many older cars have these upgraded tensioners retro-fitted – including Josh’s 1976. “Ironically, if you rev an early 911 hard, you get dynamic tension in the chain,” explains Josh. “So if you want your Porsche to be reliable… drive it like hell.” Advice we’ll happily adhere to.

Some oil seepage from the engine is almost inevitable, but oily cylinders are bad news. Look carefully at the crankcase: the O-ring seal around the crankshaft nose bearing expires, meaning the entire case needs to be removed and opened up. Cylinder head studs are problematic on earlier 911s with magnesium crankcases and also the 1978 to 1983 SC, as they can pull out or rust. Porsche partially solved this issue with coated studs for the Carrera 3.2, but the best replacements are 993 studs or ARPs.

For the full guide on how to buy a project 911, with specialist advice for engine, chassis, interior and body, plus our ten golden rules to consider before purchasing the project, get your copy of Total 911 issue 165 in shops now or available for direct delivery here

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Classic icons: Porsche 911T v 911E v 911S

In issue 159 of Total 911 we compared the 991.2 Carrera, GTS and Turbo S, declaring them the “modern-day interpretations of the 911 T, E and S”. Now, we’re rewinding the clock 45 years to the classic originals. Meet the mainstream F-series range as it was in 1973, the final year of the ‘long bonnet’ before the impact-bumpered G-series arrived, a move which changed the 911’s look forever.

Why ‘mainstream’? Well, as Porsche enthusiasts, we all have ‘1973’ branded on our collective consciousness as the year of the first road-going Rennsport. The Carrera 2.7 RS is a fully paid-up icon and arguably the greatest 911 ever made, yet, then as now, it was exclusive and expensive. So, just as we excluded GT models from our 991.2 triple test, the RS fails to fit the brief here.

The three-tier 911 hierarchy was established in 1968, when the entry-level T (Touring) and mid-range L (Luxury) joined the flagship S (Super) – the latter introduced in 1967. At this stage, all had 2.0-litre engines and a 2,210mm wheelbase. The carburettor-fed L gave way to the fuel-injected E (Einspritzung) in 1969, when wheelbase was lengthened to 2,271mm. A year later, the flat six grew to 2.2-litres, then 2.4-litres in 1972. The 2.4 F-series models were thus in production for just two years, compared with 15 for the G-series.

The three cars gathered today – kindly sourced by Paul Stephens in Essex – all hail from 1973, and look near identical at first glance. Get closer, though, and it’s apparent there are detail differences, most obviously the colour of the engine shroud: black on the 130hp T, green on the 165hp E and red on the 190hp S. However, as those power outputs suggest, by far the biggest difference is felt on the road.

I start in the middle with the 911E: a model Paul describes as “undervalued”. This particular example is resplendent in Light ivory (colour code: 131) on polished 6×15-inch Fuchs. It’s the only UK car here, which explains the round door mirrors – both the T and S are US imports and sport rectangular mirrors – while the absence of optional bumper over-riders or chrome wheel arch trims results in a cleaner look.

The E being a right-hooker helps me acclimatise more quickly, yet there’s still much that feels alien about a 911 of this era. The hand throttle, a hinged choke lever nestled between the seats, is one notable quirk, as are floor-hinged pedals that force you to skew your legs towards the centre of the car. Unassisted steering and a five-speed 915 gearbox that’s obstructive when cold are further features that would confound drivers of modern machines – not least anyone accustomed to water-cooled 911s.

To read the full article on our Porsche 911T vs E vs S mega test, pick up a copy of Total 911 issue 161, in shops now and available to buy here or download.

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Total 911’s top seven pre-impact bumper Porsche 911s of all time

The pre-impact bumper generation are revered as the purest era of Porsche 911, their silhouette unsullied by the unsightly ‘concertina’ bumpers of post-1974 and their driving dynamics unspoilt by the numerous electronic aids seen today. The 911 range was much simpler too but, that hasn’t stopped us from ranking our top seven long-nose Porsche 911s:

7) Porsche 911L
Porsche 911L

The 911L is a rare beast. Only 1,603 were ever built with the model only lasting for the duration of the A Series cars (1967-68). As such, we have never photographed a stock example, with the above photo taken from the Porsche Archive. This alone justifies its place in our lucky seven pre-impact bumpers 911s.

6) Porsche 901
Porsche 901

This is the car that started it all. Without the Porsche 901 there would be no Porsche 991s sitting on show at your local OPC. Upon its release in 1964, it was a revelation, with its short wheelbase embuing the 901 with spritely handling, matched by its 130bhp flat six. Less than 90 now remain in existence.

5) Porsche 911S 2.0 (0 & A Series)
Porsche 911S 2.0

The 2.0-litre Porsche 911S is far from the perfect car however, without Zuffenhausen’s first attempt at a performance 911 in late 1966 there would be no heritage of extracting ever more speed from the rear-engined sports car. For water-cooled fans, that means no GT3. It is, therefore, a pretty important model.

4) Porsche 911E 2.2 (C & D Series)
3 'D' series Porsche 911s

Released towards the end of 1969, the 2,195cc brought a noticeable boost in performance for the flat six. The 911S may have had a range-topping 180bhp but its delivery was peaky. Therefore, many chose the fuel-injected 911E. Its smooth revving 155bhp motor proved popular, as did its plush interior.

3) Porsche 911S 2.4 (E & F Series)
Porsche 911S 2.4

Probably the ultimate embodiment of the pre-impact bumper ‘S’ (as Josh finds out in issue 120). Built between 1972 and 1973, the 2.4-litre Porsche 911S was quick and comfortable. As classic-shelled 911s go, the Porsche 911 2.4S only sits behind the 2.7 RS in current auction values, with good examples going for nearly £200,000.

2) Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS
Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

‘What? Only at number two!’ We can hear you crying from here. This list wouldn’t be complete without the most iconic long nose Porsche 911 ever built though. In fact, the 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS is probably the iconic Porsche 911 built full stop. We’d all have one in our dream Zuffenhausen garage.

1) Porsche 911R
Porsche 911R

There will never be a Porsche 911 as light as the 911R. Built to go racing, only 20 production Porsche 911Rs were ever built, forcing it to race as a prototype. It has inspired many people to replicate both its look and its ethos yet it is a lesser-known legend than the 2.7 RS. For that reason it tops our list.

Do you agree with our pre-impact bumper choices? Join the debate in the comments below or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages and share your favourite long-nose Porsche 911.

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Porsche 911 2.4s duo set to star at Salon Privé sale

The prestigious Salon Privé show is quickly becoming London’s own mini version of the famous Monterey Classic Car week with exotic displays, Concours d’Elégance, and an auction full of high-end automobiles.

On the latter, the Silverstone Auctions-run sale (held on the middle day of the three-day event) is set to feature two exemplary examples of pre-impact bumper Porsche 911, both in 2.4-litre guise.

The 1973 Porsche 911S Targa, finished in black with black interior, is estimated to achieve between £115,000 and £135,000. Just 18 Porsche 911S Targas were imported into the UK during the Seventies by AFN and only nine now remain.

1972 Porsche 911 S 2.4 Coupe

This makes it an exceedingly rare choice for any 911 connoisseur however, there is another 2.4-litre Porsche 911S up for auction on the same day that arguably steals the limelight thanks to its rarity and its backstory.

A Sepia Brown 911 may not appeal to all but this 1972 Porsche 911S is one of the rare E-Series cars that featured an external oil filler cap on the right rear wing. This feature was quickly removed for 1973 after a number of owners mistakenly filled up their oil systems with petrol!

The matching numbers car is believed to be one of just six Sepia Brown 911Ss configured with the Beige interior and while this is a right-hand drive example it was originally delivered to a German doctor in Hanover who specified it thus so that he wouldn’t have to step out into traffic at his usual parking space.

1972 Porsche 911 S 2

For once, the rest of the Salon Privé sale is noticeably bereft of Porsches, with only a pair of 356s adding to the Zuffenhausen lots on Thursday 4 September. More information on the two cars can be found on Silverstone Auctions’ website.

More photos of the stunning Porsche 911S duo are available below. Click on each image to enlarge and use your left/right keys to scroll between the images.

If you want to know more about recent Porsche 911 auction results, make sure you check out our roundup of all the bidding action from the recent Monterey Classic Car Week where we have final prices from RM, Gooding, and Bonhams.

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