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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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Technology explained: Mechanical Fuel Injection

While early Porsche 911s used carburettors to regulate the air/fuel mixture, changing emissions regulations at the end of the 1960s and the quest for greater power soon saw Zuffenhausen turn to mechanical fuel injection on its iconic rear-engined sports car.

Originally introduced on the 906 sports racer, the MFI fuel pump (developed by Kugelfischer and later built by Bosch) was later fitted to the 911R before making its road-going debut on the 2.0-litre Porsche 911S of 1969.

Built in an age before electronic sensors and regulators, the MFI pump uses a series of mechanical ‘sensors’ to create an ever-changing fuel map based on throttle position, engine speed and barometric pressure.

Orange Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera

The bottom half of the Kugelfischer pump features a camshaft (phased to match the engine’s firing order) while in the top half, six plungers – one for each cylinder – sit in their own individual barrels.

As the pump’s camshaft (belt-driven off of the crankshaft) spins, it acts on tappets that in turn operate the plungers via pushrods. As each plunger drops, it exposes a suction valve, where fuel is drawn through towards the injectors. A return spring keeps the plunger in position when closed.

Injected at a pressure of between 225-250psi, the increased injection pressure of the MFI unit (compared to a carburettor) creates greater atomisation of the air/fuel mixture. The result of this is a more even flame front during ignition, producing more efficient combustion.

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To regulate the amount of fuel depending on the throttle position, a pull rod on the throttle linkage adjusts a 3D ‘space cam’ housed in the bottom of the pump. The irregular profile of this cam was shaped to match Porsche’s desired fuel map for each 911 and differs on ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘RS’ variants.

Via a rack-and-pinion gear, the space cam rotates the plungers on a corkscrew-like trajectory, providing more or less fuel during their movement within the barrels.

On top of this a centrifugal governor, connected to the camshaft, helped to regulate the overall fuel flow through the pump depending on the engine speed, while a solenoid valve provides automatic cold-start enrichment, doing away with the need for a manual choke.

Our online ‘technology explained’ features are the perfect way to brush up on Porsche’s increasingly complex engineering. Read them all here.

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Porsche exotica at Canford Classics 2016 open day – part two

There were just too many incredible cars at Canford Classic’s latest open day to confine to a single gallery; the workshop was full of Slate Grey Neunelfers and the independent specialist’s latest RSR project while the yard was packed with Porsches of all flavours, from 356s to a 997.2 GT3.

If you missed out on attending and can’t wait for next year’s event, our massive two-part gallery will help you to relive Canford Classic’s 2016 open day. Enjoy part two!

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Ten top photos from Total 911 issue 139

From super rare Porsche 964s to our Porsche 997.2 GT3 ultimate guide, there’s something for everyone in the latest issue of Total 911. Don’t believe us? Here’s our photographic summary of issue 139:

A flatnose of a very different kind graces the cover of Total 911 issue 139 as part of our super rare 964s feature.

A flatnose of a very different kind graces the cover of Total 911 issue 139 as part of our super rare 964s feature.

Lee gets his first taste of the Porsche 964 Carrera RS behind the wheel of this 1-of-20 N/GT machine.

Lee gets his first taste of the Porsche 964 Carrera RS behind the wheel of this 1-of-20 N/GT machine.

Looking to buy a Porsche 997.2 GT3? Our ultimate buyer's guide in the latest issue is the place to start.

Looking to buy a Porsche 997.2 GT3? Our ultimate buyer’s guide in the latest issue is the place to start.

We celebrate 50 years of the Porsche 911S, Zuffenhausen's original performance Neunelfer.

We celebrate 50 years of the Porsche 911S, Zuffenhausen’s original performance Neunelfer.

Josh gets behind the wheel of a professional driving simulator to see how the racers keep sharp during the off season.

Josh gets behind the wheel of a professional driving simulator to see how the racers keep sharp during the off season.

A Porsche 996 endurance racer heads back out on track. We grabbed our helmet and fireproof overalls for the test...

A Porsche 996 endurance racer heads back out on track. We grabbed our helmet and fireproof overalls for the test…

We sit down with the UK's very own 'Mr 911', Nick Faure, a stalwart of the Porsche racing scene, for an exclusive interview.

We sit down with the UK’s very own ‘Mr 911’, Nick Faure, a stalwart of the Porsche racing scene, for an exclusive interview.

Go behind the scenes at Porsche Design's London boutique to see what makes Butzi's other venture tick in the 21st Century.

Go behind the scenes at Porsche Design’s London boutique to see what makes Butzi’s other venture tick in the 21st Century.

You can read our Porsche 964 Turbo 3.6 Flachbau test drive in the latest issue of Total 911, available to buy now.

You can read our Porsche 964 Turbo 3.6 Flachbau test drive in the latest issue of Total 911, available to buy now.

To read all of this and much, much more, pick up Total 911 issue 139 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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