SA­FARI SUR­VIVOR

His­tor­i­cally, Porsches are bet­ter known for their cir­cuit rac­ing es­capades than ral­ly­ing. How­ever, in ad­di­tion to Wal­ter Rohrlʼs 1981 San Remo hero­ics and ERC wins with the Group B SCRS, Porsche made some high-pro­file at­tempts at win­ning the leg­endary Saf

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & pho­tos: Robb Pritchard

Robb Pritchard tracks down one of the rare sur­viv­ing works rally cars

The stun­ning Mar­tini colours of the 1978 Sa­fari Rally en­tries are per­haps the­most fa­mous, but the first full works en­try was in 1973 with the yel­low Bosch-liv­er­ied 2.7 RSS. Af­ter a huge fac­tory de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme in 1974, they were back with the blue striped Kuhne & Nagel-backed cars, although the twin ʼ73 and ʼ74 cars were ac­tu­ally the same ve­hi­cles, just re­painted.

The 1978 en­tries of Vic Pre­ston jr and Bjórn Walde­gaard, who fin­ished sec­ond and fourth re­spec­tively, are trea­sured items in the Porsche mu­seum, wheeled out only for spe­cial oc­ca­sions, but the Bosch and Kuhne & Nagel cars are in pri­vate hands. But even though they are both ab­so­lutely price­less ex­am­ples of Porscheʼs sport­ing his­tory, they are owned by the same per­son and are reg­u­larly wheeled out to take part in clas­sic ral­lies and shows. Uwe Kurzen­burger is the lucky man who owns both and this is his story.

Uwe and his lovely wife Gabrielle had been Porsche en­thu­si­asts for many years. To­gether they started the Clas­sic Car­rera RS own­ersʼ club to or­gan­ise week­ends out and be an on­line hub for lo­cal 911 own­ers look­ing for re­pair/main­te­nance ad­vice. From its launch it was a pop­u­lar web­site and its meta­data put it at the top of a Google search car­ried out by a Kenyan with a rot­ting and much abused 911 shell in his work­shop yard.

In nor­mal cir­cum­stances e-mails from africa of­fer­ing deals that seem too good to be true are best ig­nored, but this one got through and the num­bers it con­tained werenʼt for a Nige­rian wid­owʼs bank ac­count but for a long for­got­ten works rally car. Two days later Uwe and Gabrielle were on a flight to Nairobi.

What they found, though, was a car in a very sad state. Af­ter spend­ing many years be­ing cam­paigned in lo­cal ral­lies on in­sanely tough African tracks it was al­ready in a pretty sorry state, but when an en­gine re­build in­volv­ing incorrect parts caused it to seize it was pushed to one side and spent many years qui­etly wast­ing away.

By the time Uwe found it most of the floor had gone, the front roof pil­lars were held in place by screws and then roughly cov­ered with filler, and it had lost all its orig­i­nal Sa­fari rally ac­cou­trements, such as the dis­tinc­tive bull bars, roof rack and lights. It was well on its way to be­ing a write-off.

The num­bers on the VIN plate matched those in the records, though, so there was no ques­tion about leav­ing it to the el­e­ments. Uwe ar­ranged for the car to be dragged out of the yard but find­ing a con­tainer ship bound for Ger­many proved to be a bu­reau­cratic night­mare, so they by­passed the ex­port red tape and put it on a cargo flight in­stead.

But the real story of the car goes back some 45 years. Fresh from its wa­ter­shed vic­to­ries at Le Mans, Porsche looked fur­ther afield to demon­strate the com­pet­i­tive­ness and re­li­a­bil­ity of its 911s. The leg­en­dar­ily bru­tal East African Sa­fari Rally was the event they chose.

Two cars were painted in the same Bosch liv­ery Willi Kauh­senʼs 917/10 sported in the In­ter­series cham­pi­onship. SAR 7909 was read­ied for Björn Walder­gaard (who would go on to win the in­au­gu­ral WRC cham­pi­onship, along with four wins in the Sa­fari) and S-AR 7910 for So­biesław Zasada, a Pol­ish driver who had won the 1967 ERC Class 1 cham­pi­onship in a 912.

Nei­ther car reached the fin­ish, though, Zasada stop­ping with

“WHAT THEY FOUND, THOUGH, WAS A CAR IN A VERY SAD STATE”

col­lapsed sus­pen­sion while Walde­gaardʼs rally came to an end with en­gine fail­ure. With two com­pre­hen­sively bro­ken cars on their way back to Ger­many, the team knew that a stan­dard car had no chance of com­pet­ing on the long dis­tance bush roads of Africa. A thor­ough de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme was be­gun which even­tu­ally in­cluded a mas­sive 300 up­grades.

The ʼ74 spec­i­fi­ca­tion cars looked much more ready for the hard­ships ahead, raised by three inches, with longer travel sus­pen­sion and spe­cially-de­vel­oped shock ab­sorbers. They also had a full set of bash plates fit­ted un­der­neath and unique bull bars fit­ted front and rear – not only did large game an­i­mals have a ten­dency to wan­der onto the tracks, so did lo­cals as the rally was held on open roads.

This time Walde­gaard switched to S-AR 7910 and 7909 was taken over by 1970 and ʼ71 Sa­fari win­ners Edgar Her­rmann and Hans Schuller. Af­ter all the test­ing theyʼd un­der­taken, and two top class crews, Porsche were con­fi­dent they had a po­tent team… but de­spite all the test­ing noth­ing done in Europe could pre­pare them for was the weather.

Tor­ren­tial rains flooded the route and turned the tracks into what mod­ern and sen­si­ble peo­ple would only at­tempt with a Land Rover fit­ted with a winch. De­spite this Walde­gaard led for the ma­jor­ity of the event un­til, cru­elly, al­most within sight of the fin­ish, the sus­pen­sion gave out and the time lost dropped him down to an even­tual sec­ond.

The sec­ond car fared less well, though. Due to a late en­try Her­rmann and Schuller were seeded well down in 41st place, so with all the roads be­ing churned up by the cars ahead, they had to cope with the worst of the con­di­tions, in­clud­ing get­ting stuck in a mud hole for three hours.

De­spite all the work Porsche had put into im­prov­ing the ro­bust­ness of the cars, there was one small thing that had been com­pletely over­looked… pro­tec­tion against mud ingress. Hans, now in his 80s, re­mem­bers those four days in the spring of 1974 very well and for Clas­sic Porsche mag­a­zine ex­plained what went wrong.

ʻThe car was too heavy,ʼ he says, sim­ply. ʻThey made it strong but did­nʼt make it light and in the mud you re­ally donʼt want to get stuck in a heavy car. In those days the stages were so long that if you did ev­ery­thing right you would get maybe four

hoursʼ sleep at night. If you got the car filled with 200kg of wet mud in the first half an hour, youʼd be stuck with it for the next 20 hours. It was a big prob­lem.”

And it was the mud that ended their event… not be­cause they got stuck but be­cause the en­gine in­gested too much of it on the con­stant wet roads and seized. Be­cause the car was so dam­aged and ended up crip­pled in such a re­mote place, Porsche HQ did­nʼt feel it was worth re­cov­er­ing and so it was aban­doned as a write-off, sold cheaply to a lo­cal who could ar­range a tow-truck when the roads dried out.

Its new owner used it for many years in African ral­lies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia, but af­ter a decade of sub-par re­pairs the fi­nal straw came when the in­ad­e­qute en­gine re­build failed… he knew the car had pedi­gree, though, so did­nʼt want to just pass it on for spares. But it was­nʼt un­til the owner was ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment that he de­cided to sell it.

Want­ing it to go to a good home and get the re­build it de­served, he looked for some­one with the req­ui­site Porsche know-how and made that fate­ful Google search. A cou­ple of days later Uwe was in his liv­ing room sign­ing the bill of sale.

Once the car was back in Ger­many the full strip-down re­vealed just how bad a con­di­tion it was in. Gaps that any halfde­cent me­chanic should have welded up were, in­stead, just full of filler. And af­ter sit­ting so long in the hu­mid cli­mate, large sec­tions of the floor­pan and sills had been to­tally dev­as­tated.

Uwe was, of course, very con­cerned with keep­ing as much of the orig­i­nal­ity of the car as pos­si­ble, so took great care that ev­ery­thing that could be sal­vaged, re­con­di­tioned and reused was, in­clud­ing 60 per cent of the bodyshell and, thank­fully, most of the en­gine com­po­nents.

Ob­tain­ing ac­cu­rate di­men­sions of the an­cil­lar­ies was a big chal­lenge and many pe­riod pho­tos were pored over with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to get ac­cu­rate mea­sure­ments. Uwe also found a few help­ful peo­ple at Porsche, so the roof rack, bull bars, light cov­ers and mud lad­ders were all fab­ri­cated with the ut­most ded­i­ca­tion to his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy.

Three years af­ter be­ing dragged out of the aero­plane, SAR 7909 was fi­nally ready and painted in the Kuhne & Nagel colours again. The care and amaz­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail of the re­build is what led to Uwe own­ing the sis­ter car, S-AR 7910…

The 1974 Walde­gaard en­try (S-AR 7910) had lived a com­pletely dif­fer­ent life to its sib­ing. Af­ter the Sa­fari it was brought back to Ger­many but sold on to a pri­va­teer, who en­tered it in the 1977 Tour Dʼeu­rope – a gru­elling 10,000km event that wound from Ger­many down to Croa­tia, then over to Morocco for a charge through the At­las moun­tains be­fore re­turn­ing to Ger­many, via Por­tu­gal. Only six cars man­aged to make it back to the fin­ish, with S-AR 7910 in first place!

Still in pri­vate hands it was owned and ral­lied for over 30 years in Ger­many. With­out the need for the African hard­ware and raised sus­pen­sion it was low­ered and fit­ted with widened arches, which is why not many peo­ple were aware of its her­itage. But see­ing that Uwe al­ready owned S-AR 7909, when it was time to sell he seemed a good first port of call.

He bought this one quicker than the plane tick­ets to Africa for the first one…

The re­build for S-AR 7910 was made much eas­ier thanks to the pre­vi­ous owner keep­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing heʼd taken off and plac­ing it in stor­age. It pleased Uwe im­mensely to learn that S-AR 7909 only needed a cou­ple of barely no­tice­able ad­just­ments to make it per­fect.

Now the proud owner of two price­less ex-works Porsches, Uwe could be for­given for keep­ing them locked safely away for pos­ter­ity. How­ever, we must give full credit to Uwe and Gabrielle that both cars are taken to clas­sic events and, to the de­light of the tens of thou­sands of spec­ta­tors, are put through their paces.

One of the premier such events is the mas­sive Eifel Rally Fes­ti­val (see re­port in is­sue #47) in the moun­tains near the Nür­bur­gring, which is where Gabrielle had brought the car for me to drive.

First we had to get out of the ser­vice park. Nor­mally traf­fic jams are a source of frus­tra­tion but when youʼre wait­ing for a Lan­cia S4 and a Ford RS200 to get out of the way itʼs not quite so bad. With all su­per­flu­ous in­te­rior pan­els and sound­proof­ing stripped out, the en­gine is much louder than nor­mal, but with the bark of the 2.7 flat-six thatʼs cer­tainly no bad thing.

The clunk­ing from the top sus­pen­sion tur­rets was ap­par­ently noth­ing to worry about but, tak­ing the ad­verse cam­ber of a round­about, it felt as though a wheel had fallen off. Gabrielle laughed and ex­plained that the three-inch-raised sus­pen­sion is also much softer than a nor­mal road car…and thus gives a ride qual­ity more akin to a Land Rover than a 911.

On a gravel road around the side of a field, Gabrielle gave the go-ahead for me to put my foot down, but the sound of the stones hit­ting the un­der­neath of the mu­seum piece, as well as the clat­ter and squeak­ing of the sus­pen­sion, meant that there was no way I was go­ing to push it to the limit, es­pe­cially as it was easy to feel how the back wanted to step out on the loose, grav­elled sur­face.

How Walde­gaard and the oth­ers could have driven 4000km at full tilt on roads much rougher than this – and in 40°C heat and six-inch-deep mud – I can only imag­ine… CP

Above: Roofrack car­ries ramps to as­sist re­trieval from mud. Sadly it was the gluti­nous mud that fi­nally called an end to play…

Be­low left: Although stripped of car­pets and sound dead­en­ing, the in­te­rior re­mained re­mark­ably stock in ap­pear­ance

Be­low: Halda Twin­mas­ter was the height of so­phis­ti­ca­tion in its day

Above: Bull bars front and rear were nec­es­sary to pro­tect the cars from way­ward an­i­mals – and equally way­ward spec­ta­tors…

Be­low: S-AR 7909 been re­stored with im­mense at­ten­tion to de­tail and is now cor­rect down to the very last de­cal. And far from be­ing wrapped in cot­ton wool in a mu­seum, itʼs still put to good use in his­toric events

Above right: Spare wheel was stored in­side car…

Above: 1974 and the iden­ti­cal sis­ter car (S-AR 7910) sets off on the Sa­fari Rally in the hands of Björn Walde­gaard and Hans Thorszelius

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