OUR CARS

Our man gets to grip with new tyres on his 911S and gets all ex­cited about the con­tin­u­ing build of his mid-en­gined ʻspe­cialʼ. And, at last, he gets back be­hind the wheel of his 356 race car. Itʼs been a busy sum­mer…

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & Pho­tos: Steve Wright

Steve Wright brings us up to date with his 911S, Okrasa Spe­cial and rac­ing 356

Itʼs been a busy few months since I last gave you an up­date on my Porsches. My 2.2S has had new Pirelli Cin­tu­rato tyres from Long­stone Tyres fit­ted, which have made a lovely change from the Miche­lins. They are CN36 ho­molo­gated with Porsche, mean­ing they have done ex­ten­sive test­ing of the tyre and pro­claimed them as OEM fit­ment for their early 911s.

It would be fair to say that up un­til this year I was a ʻMiche­lin guyʼ, putting them on all my clas­sic Ger­man cars. How­ever, the tyres had been on the car nine years and only just worn out, so I knew it was pos­si­ble to go with a softer tyre that would pro­vide more grip and bet­ter han­dling, and not time-ex­pire. After scrub­bing in theyʼve quite changed the car ʼs char­ac­ter for the bet­ter – the han­dling of the car is bet­ter and it feels more lively and pre­dictable. Iʼve set the tyre pres­sures at 26 and 29psi, front and rear re­spec­tively.

Thereʼs all sorts of dis­cus­sion on in­ter­net fo­rums and in publi­ca­tions, it seems, about which is the best tyre, but my view is it all depends on what you do with the car (gen­tle road driv­ing or tour­ing, fast road use or rac­ing), your driv­ing style and the set-up of the car. Ba­si­cally it all comes down to per­sonal pref­er­ence. Not help­ful per­haps, but if you drive an early 911 in nearly stan­dard set up, in a spir­ited fash­ion on the road, and you en­joy the com­mu­ni­ca­tion so char­ac­ter­is­tic of these amaz­ing cars, then I can highly rec­om­mend them.

While I had the wheels off I cleaned the com­plete un­der­side of the car and rust-proofed it with Gibbs, a spray­can based oil that the US Navy uses to treat its ships. I fig­ure if itʼs good enough for the US Navy then itʼs en­tirely suit­able for a 911 on wet UK roads.

Rather an­noy­ingly I still have a nag­ging vi­bra­tion be­tween 65–75mph that I had be­fore I swapped the Miche­lins for the Pirellis so that will need in­ves­ti­gat­ing, but other­wise this just con­tin­ues to be a clas­sic sports car that I can get in, turn the key, cover hun­dreds of miles and have com­plete fun in. Long may that con­tinue.

The Okrasa Spe­cial has taken huge strides for­ward over the past four months: Mouland & Yates put in some long hours to get the outer body­work com­pleted but then had to fo­cus on a pri­or­ity job that came in. Now theyʼre back on the car full-time and, with two of them work­ing, itʼs on track for com­ple­tion this year.

Thank­fully the outer skin shows that the car ʼs de­sign has trans­lated through well into re­al­ity and the car looks fab­u­lous in the flesh. Phew! It wouldʼve been aw­ful to have put all the time, ef­fort and money into some­thing that only a mother could love and wouldʼve been ter­ri­bly dis­ap­point­ing. Thank­fully itʼs turned out well and the pho­tos re­ally donʼt do it jus­tice – the shape is just like a bul­let but still very pe­riod.

Each month weʼre work­ing through ques­tions and op­tions, solv­ing prac­ti­cal prob­lems such as how the clamshell will lo­cate on the steel scut­tle. The lat­est progress is the con­struc­tion of the A-post, B-post and sup­port­ing sills. Theyʼre tricky bits to cre­ate be­cause thereʼs no de­sign for them: the buck only pro­vides a ref­er­ence for the outer pan­els, plus Vic is hav­ing to at­tach an alu­minium bodyshell to a steel chas­sis. Tricky.

In ad­di­tion, heʼs got to make the doors as long as pos­si­ble be­cause hav­ing the en­gine in the mid­dle of the car, while great for han­dling, means the length of the cabin of the car is con­fined to the length of the Kar­mann Ghia roof panel. Thereʼs only so much you can stuff into that length so it means the doors might be quite short. Vic in­tends to fol­low the 356 trick of hav­ing the lead­ing edge of the door

‘HE’S GOT TO MAKE THE DOORS AS LONG AS POS­SI­BLE…’

open into the front wing area, ef­fec­tively can­tilever­ing the door on an off­set hinge.

Talk­ing of hinges, we went with VW Bus rear en­gine lid ones as theyʼre small and sim­ple, and more im­por­tantly work! The B-post is also tricky as this has to pro­vide the mount­ing sur­face for the rear clamshell, which will hinge from the rear sub­frame and at­tach via two Vw/porsche front bon­net latches, ex­actly as on the Porsche 550. If it was good enough for Porsche in the day, and all that!

Vic also trimmed ex­act tem­plates in alu­minium for the Plex­i­glas win­dows. Iʼd al­ready had them made but it was very ap­prox­i­mate – this way we have an ex­act shape and cur­va­ture that can be used to trim and heat the win­dows to shape. Sep­a­rate from all this Iʼve been buy­ing lots of bits to fin­ish the car such as gen­uine Bosch red lenses for the rear panel.

Their ori­gin is un­known but they have lovely em­bossed lo­gos and are crafted in deep red glass (theyʼre the ones on the left hand side of the photo, above right). Ian Clark also do­nated a set of switches for the mag­neto and fuel pump, again lovely pe­riod ones out of a Lan­caster or Spit­fire, so they will look a treat.

Fi­nally the 356 has been dusted off and raced, not once but twice in a month, the first time itʼs been raced in nearly a year. Firstly we took it to the Chateau Imp­ney hill­climb, which is a lovely event. Itʼs full of won­der­ful cars and nice peo­ple, with a great

‘IF IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR PORSCHE IN THE DAY…’

at­mos­phere. Thereʼs ev­ery­thing from Ed­war­dian aero­engined mon­sters and twin-su­per­charged Jap-en­gined spe­cials, to 1960s F1 cars.

The 356 was en­tirely un­suited to the one mile hill­climb as it was still wear­ing its Dun­lop L rac­ing tyres – and the gear­ing did­nʼt help – but I posted 87th fastest time out of about 250 cars, and eighth fastest un­der two-litre sports car, so I was very chuffed with the re­sult. Iʼve de­cided hill-climb­ing is a bit like drink­ing tequila – all done in less than a minute and highly ad­dic­tive.

After four runs I was be­gin­ning to re­ally en­joy this lark and di­alling in both my­self and the car. Make a mis­take and the run is over as there is no chance to re­cover the lost time, so you have to be very, very pre­cise and tech­ni­cal with the car.

There are also stone walls, trees and plenty of other solid things to hit very close to the Tar­mac (ba­si­cally a drive­way up through the grounds) so you also canʼt af­ford to put a foot (or tyre) wrong. It cer­tainly makes a change from cir­cuit rac­ing where you can get it all crossed up and out of shape, carry on and make it up on the next lap.

We then washed the car, changed the race num­bers and headed off to the Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic for the RAC Tourist Tro­phy race for pre-ʼ63 GT cars. We qual­i­fied 48th out of 58 en­tries and fin­ished 36th over­all, fourth in class. More im­por­tantly the car ran beau­ti­fully, of­ten see­ing 8000rpm be­tween gear changes, and we had a proper race with TVR Gran­turas, Lo­tus Elites, Aston Martin DB2S and DB4S.

It was so good to get back in the car and race. I was a cou­ple of sec­onds off our best lap time of 2m:49s but it was our first cir­cuit race in over a year, so it was a good start for the sea­son. It was cer­tainly great to be back in the race seat – Iʼd for­got­ten just how much fun it is to race an old his­toric car. Trust me, if you love your old Porsche then you sim­ply must try rac­ing at some point in your life; itʼs just in­cred­i­ble.

Hope­fully next time I up­date you the body­work of the Spe­cial will be com­plete and the 356 will have been fur­ther de­vel­oped be­tween races. CP

‘I’VE DE­CIDED HILLCLIMBING IS LIKE DRINK­ING TEQUILA…’

Above: Steve’s 2.2 911S is now sport­ing a new set of shoes, his much-loved Miche­lins now re­placed by Pirellis from Long­stone Tyres

Above: Mouland & Yates have been mak­ing great progress, turn­ing Steve’s ideas into re­al­ity. Old school ‘car­rosserie’ skills are alive and well… Be­low left: Pirelli’s CN36 is ap­proved by Porsche for use on its clas­sic mod­els

Be­low right: This view gives you some idea of the com­plex­ity of the spe­cial’s body­work at the rear

Above: Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic was a busy event but Steve man­aged to fin­ish 36th over­all out of a big field of 58 cars, but fourth in class

Be­low left: The work re­quired to form the A- and B-pil­lars is some­thing to be­hold!

Be­low right: A Lan­caster (or Spit­fire!) ‘do­nated’ switchgear to the project

Be­low: Alu­minium tem­plates have been made for the win­dows to make it eas­ier to cut the Plex­i­glas to the ex­act shape and formed to the cor­rect con­tours

Above: Steve ag­o­nised over the rear light treeat­ment, fi­nally opt­ing for some orig­i­nal Bosch units (on the left of the line-up)

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