FIELD OF DREAMS
From a rolling chassis found in a field, James Shira turned this once-abandoned classic into a big-power sleeper capable of rubbing shoulders with the best of the R-gruppe. And it's driven every day…
An R Gruppe hot-rod that brings a welcome dose of California sunshine
With early 911s attracting near-supercar price tags, cars like James Shira's are becoming a rare breed. Chances are, if you spot the Tangerine paintwork of this narrow-bodied 911T on the roads around California, it's not some fair-weather outing for a hardly-used classic. Having survived the harshest abandonment the United States could throw at it, this one gets used almost every day.
'It turned up in a field in Ohio about ten years ago,' says James, pulling up in a sidestreet of his Hermosa Beach hometown. 'I was looking for a project for my friend, Tyson Schmidt, at the time. I believe he paid about $3500 for it – I had no idea that I'd end up owning it.'
What would've been a good find back then has become the stuff of myth since. Originally a California car, it had endured years of all-season use on Ohio's often-salted roads before being exposed to at least a decade of rain, snow and underbody dampness before it was discovered. But, while the car – now nicknamed Tangerina Jolie – may have been deprived of its running gear, it was undamaged, had hardly any rust and survived unscathed through the Frankenstein era of flared arches and slant-nose conversions.
Cybersecurity expert James wouldn't get his hands on it until several years later, but the influences on the way it looks today go back decades. Growing up in Los Angeles as the son of a hot-rodder, he'd spent most weekends helping in the garage or out at car shows. Now the owner of four Porsches – three of them modified – and a member of the R-gruppe since 2002, modifying and 911s didn't come together until he traded a truck for his first 911T in 1998. It wasn't an easy start.
'That car ended up being a ton of work. I didn't know how to look for rust on an early 911, and it had lots of it. The previous owner had covered it with roofing tar. So, needless to say, I learned a lot about early 911s the hard way.'
That meant this car 's past was never going to put him off. James and Tyson traded cars in 2009, and the 911T moved to California with a 2.7-litre engine and 915 transmission
“IT TURNED UP IN A FIELD IN OHIO ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO…”
already under its decklid. But it arrived just before James and his wife were due to move to Switzerland for two years. Instead of mothballinghis latest addition, he enlisted the help of close friend Marco Gerace to get it through Swiss technical inspection, then loaded it into a container and shipped it to Europe as the couple's only car.
'The Swiss vehicle inspection process is well-known for beingdif ficult,' he says. 'We had to fit the standard exhaust, and took a separate set of wheels for winter weather. But the car never let us down, and I drove it to work nearly every day. Because the Swiss allow you to use your home country license plate for any remaining registration, I spent the first year drivingaround with California plates.'
This was only ever going to be a temporary spec, and, when Marco flew over to visit in 2011, the two drew up a wish list for the 911 which could be put into action once it returned to California. Tangerina Jolie transported the duo all over Europe for a week, visitingfactories, droppingin on RUF and a rain-soaked Nürburgring and seeing a Gps-verified 155mph on a derestricted section of Autobahn. The coupé had plenty more to give.
'Because of my dad, modifyinga car to make it better, or make it how I wanted it, is in my blood,' says James. 'I wanted a car that was true to the R-gruppe ethos, something you might have come across but overlooked, almost a sleeper. I also only wanted to use the best parts, and being
“MODIFYING A CAR TO MAKE IT BETTER IS IN MY BLOOD…”
better off than I was when I got my first 911T meant I could execute the vision I had for that one.'
So, when it landed back in the US, it was trailered straight to Marco's garage (TLG Auto) for a full rebuild – a mechanical overhaul using almost nothing but OEM parts, rather than a concours restoration. The 2.7-litre engine was already making 220bhp, using modified 911S cams and with some mild head work to help it breathe better. Plenty of power, but a first step rather than a finished product.
Marco paired this with a custom 915 transmission to suit the coupé's fast-road use. It's a close-ratio setup with a tall fifth gear for high-speed cruising, using a full package of WEVO upgrades to match the short-shifter James had already fitted. A ZF limited-slip differential means none of the power is wasted, and the electrical speedometer drive was switched to a mechanical one, which meant the original instruments could be kept.
Behind the deep six- and original 7R seven-inch Fuchs, there's a set of 930 brakes and lighter aluminium control arms from a later 911, and, one of the few non-oem upgrades on the car, this was the first early 911 in the United States to run Ohlins coil-overs. It's using brand new RSRspec Bilstein struts at the front, with spaced spring platforms at the rear to give more height adjustment. Marco then set the corner weights, and dialed in plenty of stiffness to suit winding Californian roads and tracks.
Visually, it's straight out of the Sports Purpose mindset. James sourced a reproduction 100-litre fuel tank and wrapped a period-correct rollover bar around a set of reconditioned 1970s Recaro Ideal-s seats, before getting the interior restored in leather and Oe-style Hargaarn carpets by George Baloian at Levon's Mobile Upholstery. Upgrades which suit aggressive driving without taking away the character of the original car.
'The decklid is aluminium so that's been painted, but otherwise I left the paintwork untreated. I didn't want the car to be too nice to drive. The only area that had rust had a specific style which meant we had to use the right replacement to make it correct for 1972. But we managed to find the right part, and that came out great.'
Combining period parts and modern upgrades with classic narrow-bodied 911 style, the end result might just be the perfect Porsche street rod. But it looks like James might have to shelve his addiction for a while. Not because it's being retired from daily duty, but because Marco has built a 3.4-litre twin-plug motor with high-butterfly injection, OEM SCRS stacks and troughs with a modified plastic airbox (with integral cold start squirter), RSR camshafts, Pauter rods, Pauter crankshaft, Pauter rockers, GT3 oil pump, Aasco springs and Ti retainers, and Rarly L8 headers.
With 300bhp on tap, it's guaranteed to make the commute to work an enviable one for the foreseeable future. CP
“I DIDN’T WANT THE CAR TO BE TOO NICE TO DRIVE…”