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…

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Alex Grant Pho­tos: Andy Tip­ping

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…”

Above left: Owner James Shira gets a kick out of driv­ing Tan­ge­rina Jolie on a daily ba­sis. Who wouldn’t? Above cen­tre: Fac­tory-style roll-bar adds pe­riod touch Above right: Re­caro Ideal-s seats are stylish, com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. Per­fect!

Above left: In­te­rior fea­tures re­trim in leather, with OE Har­gaarn car­pet­sadding the fin­ish­ing touch Above cen­tre: That look­slike one happy man! Above right: Jamescalls Her­mosa Beach home. Sign on wall gives­good ad­vice…

Above left: Brakes are from 930 Turbo, and sit be­hind six- and seven-inch Fuchs Above right: 220bhp 2.7 to be swapped for Rsr-spec 3.4-litre mo­tor built by Marco Ger­ace at TLG TLG Auto www.tl­gauto.com Tel: (818) 982-7610

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