THE MIDDLE WAY
Falling between the T and S in the 911 line-up, the 911E may be the best of all
Over the years, Oxfordshire-based Tuthill has become very much a specialist in pre-impact bumper 911s and usually the staff can quickly distinguish the wheat from the chaff. So when Vimal Tilakapala presented his 1973 2.4E for service and refurbishment, the firm could immediately see the potential.
It was a slightly tatty dark blue, but what really appealed to Tuthill was that the owner had bought it to use regularly and wanted to be able to continue doing so. Many ground-up restorations simply end up shut away in storage afterwards, emerging only occasionally, if at all. This 2.4E was not to be a concours project, but destined for regular use – just as Porsche intended.
Owner Vimal has been a 911 fan for twenty years: ʻI bought a 996 when they were new and owned a series of 996s and 997s: I really got into them and traded them in every two years to enjoy the next phase. Finally I had the 997 Turbo, but by then my first child had been born, so I wasnʼt getting enough use out of what was a marvellous car. I sold it and began to look around for an older 911 – one I hadnʼt experienced – for occasional use.”
He came across a 3.2 coupé: ʻI had always admired the air-cooled cars and, when I saw this one, I fell in love with it. Itʼs the mechanical interaction, the noise, the archaic switchgear of the older 911s that is irresistible, though – it took me a cold winter before understanding how to operate the heating properly! After driving modern 911s, I was also fascinated to discover what an earlier 911 was like, to see where the thinking came from.ʼ So enamoured of air-cooled 911s was he that he sought out a 993 for his stable, as well.
Vimal now began to think in terms of a much earlier 911 and one he would use regularly. After a long search he found a blue 2.4 911E in Scotland which seemed to fit the bill. Bodily it was not perfect, but it was a matching numbers car with a traceable lineage, its seventh owner Mike Burtwhistle having owned it from 1987 to 1998, before buying it back from its eighth owner in 2012. Burtwhistle then had the engine rebuilt by a known marque specialist as part of a planned restoration.
ʻI managed to persuade him to sell it to me and spent two days driving it back to London. I envisaged using this 2.4 as my daily commute across London and indeed for a couple of years I did just that. It was an old Porsche and, as it was far
from pristine, I didnʼt regard it as special or rare, but I began to feel it would be worth spending some money on it to keep it going reliably. The history showed that the car had originally been metallic green, and I decided to restore that colour especially as the existing Albert Blue paint, a respray which dated from 2010, had been badly done.ʼ
Vimal took his 2.4 to Tuthillʼs Oxfordshire premises at the beginning of what would turn out to be a longer project than he originally imagined because, as the worked progressed, he decided to do more and more work to refurbish an already eminently usable 911. Paul Green of Tuthill takes up the story:
ʻVimal wanted to restore the original metallic green which I thought was a particularly successful colour which did mean, though, a certain amount of dismantling. As we stripped the ʼshell there was evidence of patching which clearly had been done many years before to pass the MOT. In fact the extent of any corrosion we found was not serious and the metal was quite strong, if uneven-looking, though in a part of the car where it would always be completely hidden.ʼ
However, on seeing this Vimal decided that he would have new metal fitted. So Tuthill carried out significant work, fitting new floors, inner and outer sills, both A-posts and the passenger seat well, though none of these strictly needed replacement. Various body panels were changed, too, although as a matter of principle, Tuthill always endeavours to retain as much as possible of a car ʼs originality. The rear wings were left in situ, though Paul suspects these were not original. Panels often present a difficulty, he says. ʻToday you can obtain good quality replacements and it is more cost effective in terms of saving labour to fit these instead of patching, though we try to guide the customer, given the
“I DIDN’T REGARD IT AS SPECIAL OR RARE…”
value of the car, whether to retain original metal or replace it.ʼ
Vimal steadily became more ambitious. He opted, for example, for a new wiring loom and a new windscreen when both the existing items were entirely servicable. That said, new wires and new glass obviously look nicer with shiny new paint than the originals. The replacement loom came from Dutch supplier Kroon; a decision to replace the rear screen as well allowed a working screen defroster to be incorporated, the old one evidently having expired at some time in the past.
ʻFitting a new windscreen allowed us to reinstall the correct rear view mirror,ʼ observes Paul. On the other hand, both parties agreed that the Fuchs wheels which had undergone a competent refurbishment at some point required no attention.
For the cabin, the 2.4 E has received a selective renewal programme. The sports seats have been reuphostered by a specialist who also fitted new carpets and Tuthill replaced the headlining; the dash and instruments, as well as the steering wheel, stalks and controls, are all original and the dash top, though not perfect, was good enough to leave – Vimal was clear that he did not want an over-restored car as so often happens. By the same measure, the door furniture is all original, but the internal latch mechanisms have evidently had a ʻseeing toʼ because there is none of the sogginess that can make it a fiddle to open an older 911sʼ doors from the inside. Tuthill sourced the correct covers for the inertia reel seat belts and advised Vimal to opt for the ʻmodernʼ version of the Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio, which exactly replicates the original yet has Bluetooth and other connectivity.
Mechanically, at first sight there did not appear to be a great deal to do on a 911, which had recently undergone a major overhaul and which was running well. However, when examining the oil at the outset, Tuthill discerned signs of bearing swarf, which meant that, at some point, and probably sooner rather than later, the engine would have to be stripped: ʻI admit this was a bit of a blow, but I didnʼt want to risk a suspect engine, recent rebuild or not. This is not just my everyday 911, but one I intend to keep for ever,ʼ observes Vimal.
As a matter of course, new brake discs and pads were fitted all round, and replacement wheel bearings and new trackrod ends tightened up the steering of a car that already handled correctly.
After the findings of oil analysis, the engine was rebuilt anew, though once again reusing as many parts as possible. Dismantling revealed that the 2.4 had ʻSʼ cams and a bore of 85mm rather than the standard 84mm, raising its cubic capacity to 2397cc. According to Paul Green, this kind of aftermarket modification is not uncommon and neither is the compression ratio on this engine, which was measured at 10.7:1, rather higher than the stock 2.4 911Eʼs 8.1:1.
Tuthill uses race valve springs and ARP rod bolts systematically in its rebuilds: long competition experience with these components has proved that they are more robust than the stock Porsche items. The standard exhaust and silencer were again in good condition so left untouched, the silencer simply refreshed with a coat of paint. And while the standard 915-series fivespeed transaxle was in a dismantled state, in the interest of longevity Tuthill fitted a new crown wheel and pinion.
On the road this 2.4 E is a model of smoothness. Its willingness, that distinctly 911 keen-ness to get on with it, is to be expected; more surprising is this 2.4 Eʼs tractability: if you insist, it will even pull from 1700rpm on a soft throttle opening, though this is hardly the forté of the flat-six.
That is at the other end of the rev range and this 2.4 does not disappoint, rushing once fully warmed up to its red line in the intermediate gears. Here in its first incarnation, the 915 gearbox is a delight to use and a major factor in the pleasure of driving this 2.4.
Ride, too, is impressive: on its factory suspension and standard 185/70-profile tyres, the 2.4 proves remarkably comfortable. Driver and passenger are well insulated from the roughness of the edges of some of these Oxfordshire lanes and the 911 feels well damped; the steering is light and responsive and its feedback and
“ON THE ROAD, THE 911E IS A MODEL OF SMOOTHNESS…”
the acute connection the driver feels with the road are a large part of what makes these early 911s so exhilarating. It is easy to see why, passé paintwork aside, this 2.4 appealed so strongly to Vimal. Indeed, so powerful were his withdrawal symptoms on having to give the car up to Tuthill, that he purchased a 2.2 911S, which he now enjoys for high days and holidays!
ʻTuthill helped me find it – itʼs a completely restored car and quite lovely, though in contrast to the 2.4 E it is extremely revvy, a very different 911. My E is much torquier and quite beautiful to drive, so more practical in London traffic on my commute, which can take 40 minutes.ʼ
Clearly for Vimal the journey has become as important, if not more so than the destination: ʻPorsches are always very special. Itʼs very distinctive, an emotional connection on a certain level.ʼ CP
Below left: Porsche had plenty to shout about by the time the 2.4 911 arrived…
Above: Interior trim, complete with desirable sports seats, required the attention of a local trim specialist. The steering wheel, gauges and dashtop, though, remain untouched
Right: Such an iconic sight – a 911 with the tail squatting hard while accelerating out of a favourite corner
Itʼs hard to imagine anything more rewarding than taking to the byways of Oxfordshire in a classic Porsche – especially one as striking as this 911E