That’s how Aut­o­farm’s Josh Sadler de­scribes his his­toric racer

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tos: Antony Fraser

Josh Sadler has pret­ty­much al­ways had a 911 race car at this dis­posal. As founder and primem­o­ver ataut­o­farm itʼs part and par­cel of what they do – not so­much a show­case but a way of life. So, when some­one­made Josh an of­fer he could­nʼt refuse for the S/T that he raced at the last Rennsport Re­union at Day­tona, he nat­u­rally felt the need to re­place it.

As with many of these things, serendip­ity played a hand. An ac­quain­tance pointed Josh at a down-at-heel rac­ing 911 that hap­pened to be lurk­ing – where else? – in a barn. ʻIt turned out to be a 1975 car with a lot of SC in it,ʼ re­ports Josh. ʻBob Wat­son had built it in 1990, ini­tially for hill climb­ing, and then it had gone on to a cou­ple more own­ers who car­ried on mod­i­fy­ing it but with­out any se­ri­ous us­age.

ʻIt had a very early en­gine man­age­ment sys­tem and full-house sprint cams, which was a com­bi­na­tion that never worked as far as I can see. The man­age­ment sys­tem was rel­a­tively sim­ple com­pared to af­ter-mar­ket sys­tems nowa­days.ʼ

Some­thing as ba­sic as that would­nʼt faze Josh, nor his Aut­o­farm con­fed­er­ates. Iʼve been with him on a car buy­ing recce mis­sion be­fore, and heʼs very much of the mag­ni­fy­ing glass per­sua­sion: noth­ing es­capes him, and heʼs been at the coal face for long enough to know what build-year codes sig­nify and where to find them on ev­ery com­po­nent. That be­ing so, he quickly sussed that this barn find was sport­ing 3.3 Turbo sus­pen­sion and brakes: ʻItʼs a con­glom­er­a­tion,ʼ he says, ʻa bitsa for a bit of fun, which suits me very well. You get to a point where build­ing some­thing too ex­otic is too de­mand­ing. This is more a case of, “oh, Iʼve got one of those so Iʼll use that,” and the only thing I had to buy for se­ri­ous money for this car was the twin-plug dis­trib­u­tor.ʼ

So, nearly 30 years ago, Bob Wat­son cre­ated a 3.5-litre flat-six on an SC crank­case, in­cor­po­rat­ing a 100mm crank-rod set, which drops into an SC 3.0-litre crank­case and is le­gal for HTP (His­toric Tech­ni­cal Pass­port) pa­pers for a ʼ74–ʼ75 car, which, sur­prise, sur­prise, is whatʼs at the back of Joshʼs mind. ʻItʼs cos­met­i­cally a 3.0 RS with a 1975 ID, so I need to work to­wards it hav­ing a ʼ74–ʼ75 RSR spec­i­fi­ca­tion, with HTP pa­pers.ʼ

For­tu­nately, a very good friend, Nigel Gar­land, had two of the 8-pin CD boxes that they used on the 3.0 Tur­bos and the RSRS of the pe­riod – ab­so­lutely per­fect for an RSR – so, armed with those, Josh needed to find a dis­trib­u­tor that worked with them. ʻThereʼs a cou­ple of out­fits that make repli­cas of the orig­i­nal Bosch twin-plug – most peo­ple use the Morelli, which was the ear­lier one, go­ing all the way back to the 906.

ʻBut the Bosch has been re-man­u­fac­tured in

Amer­ica, and I re­mem­bered that Iʼd bought one from Richard Cham­ber­lain when we did a deal with him on all his left-over bits, which in­cluded a new-old-stock Bosch twin-plug dis­trib­u­tor cap and ro­tor arm. So, I al­ready had a brand-new dis­trib­u­tor cap and ro­tor arm, the two CD boxes, and the dis­trib­u­tor body was a replica cast body, which cost a cou­ple of grand.ʼ

This 911ʼs spe­cific his­tory is hazy. Hav­ing done some light track work, it ap­pears to have been un­used for most of the 2000s, pass­ing through two auc­tions and end­ing up in the prover­bial barn. ʻI hate to think what he used it for, be­cause the un­der­side was caked in mud and gravel. Chap seems not to have done any­thing competitive with it, just posed around and then traded it in. It was in a bit of a state, gen­er­ally, with­out be­ing par­tic­u­larly worn out, but when we got stuck into it, it was ob­vi­ous that no sin­gle per­son had fo­cused on sort­ing it; one per­son had ob­vi­ously done one bit and then some­one else had done some­thing else at one garage or an­other, and there were nu­mer­ous in­voices from var­i­ous Porsche spe­cial­ists over the decades. And yet it had never re­alised any­thing like its po­ten­tial.ʼ

Be­fore tak­ing the plunge, Josh was scep­ti­cal. ʻI looked at this thing and I thought, “shall I, shanʼt I?” Its main prob­lem is that it has had a mas­sively com­pre­hen­sive roll cage welded into it, which is all very well, but if you want to get HTP pa­pers it in­volves a ma­jor en­gi­neer­ing job to get it back to the bare ʼshell and chop a lot of roll cage out of it. In the end I thought, “sod it, letʼs go for it,” and this was over a year ago. We had a sum­mer of plan­ning so we could get stuck in over the win­ter.ʼ

Ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing needed at­ten­tion, be­cause it had been con­verted piece­meal rather than as a sin­gle pro­ject. Itʼs al­ways been black, and itʼs re­tained the glass­fi­bre body­work ex­ten­sions that Bob Wat­son fit­ted, ex­cept it had lost its rear spoiler, so Josh man­aged to gen­er­ate a pukka Group 4 rear spoiler com­plete with fac­tory rub­ber lip, which came from an orange 2.7 RS he bought in Rouen, along with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing parts col­lec­tion. ʻThe orange RS had come with 7in and 9in x16 Fuchs on it, which, in or­der to get HTPS, needed a set of 15s. So, a set of 7 and 9 x16s was ideal for the Barnfind Bitsa, be­cause Iʼm run­ning in the CSCC (Clas­sic Sports Car Club) events, and the size fits the regs for the tyres.

ʻI think the brakes were the only thing we did­nʼt have to re­build; in fact, we did­nʼt even change the pads, al­though they wore out quite quickly in the first race we did.ʼ As for the rest of it, all the sus­pen­sion had to come apart, along with seized bushes and bits that were miss­ing. He sourced a pair of RSRspec anti-roll bars, again with a view to HTP pa­pers, ʻbe­cause it had a Mickey-mouse front and a stan­dard rear anti-roll bar.ʼ Josh switched its rear duck­tail lid for the RSR spoiler, and fit­ted an­other front bumper purely be­cause Aut­o­farm had one in bet­ter con­di­tion. The paint­work was ti­died up by Robin Dal­wood, whoʼs based at West­cott near Aylesbury and who goes back to Aut­o­far­mʼs days be­side Amer­sham sta­tion.

Josh wears his tech­ni­cal tal­ents lightly: ʻIʼd got a pair of

46Idawe­ber car­bu­ret­tors that had been ly­ing on the shelf for decades and, with a bit of sweat and toil and much help from Car­bu­ret­tor Ex­change in Leighton Buz­zard, we built the car­bu­ret­tors up. And I had a pair of the Gar­ret­son G60 camshafts which are half­way be­tween an RS and an RSR cam, and I thought letʼs fit what weʼve got and weʼll hot the en­gine up a bit more later on. I had to in­stall new pis­tons and we cleaned up the heads, stuck it all to­gether and fired it up.ʼ

The carʼs first out­ing was a Bent­ley Driv­ers Club event at Silver­stone, con­sist­ing of a cou­ple of 15-minute races, one a hand­i­cap and one a scratch fun race on the Club cir­cuit, and as he ap­proached the end of the straight, Josh was aware of a slight vi­bra­tion, which he judged to be to do with the crank­case cast­ing: ʻthey went over to the mag­ne­sium crank­case in ʼ68, which ran through to the end of the 2.7s, and they used it for the 2.8 RSR, and al­though they beefed the crank­case cast­ing up, the mag­ne­sium was­nʼt quite up to the job, and it gave prob­lems with har­monic vi­bra­tion. Over the decades weʼve had a num­ber of prob­lems with 2.7 and 2.8 en­gines break­ing cranks and crack­ing the crank­case through har­monic vi­bra­tion. One of the har­monic bal­ances is called a rat­tler, and itʼs got weights that are in free space, and once the har­monic starts they shuf­fle around and coun­teract the har­monic vi­bra­tion.

ʻItʼs a tech­nol­ogy thatʼs been around for years and is quite widely used on the big V8s in the States. So, Helix Motorsport who do a huge range of fly­wheel and clutches for his­toric motorsport built one into the clutch.ʼ And you can re­ally dis­cern the dif­fer­ence? ʻWell, this is the prob­lem: you canʼt, re­ally, be­cause youʼre talk­ing about a har­monic in the 7– to 8000rpm range, and itʼs hard to keep the revs con­stant and think, “is this slightly dif­fer­ent?” and to ac­tu­ally sense the har­monic vi­bra­tion in the car, so Iʼve never been able to specif­i­cally pick it up be­cause thereʼs a lot of other stuff go­ing on.ʼ

Other­wise, that Silver­stone de­but was a per­fect play on the Silver­stone club cir­cuit. Josh shared the driv­ing with Aut­o­far­mʼs Mark Henderson who car­ried out most of the me­chan­i­cal work

on the car. ʻItʼs a per­fect event to cut the carʼs teeth on,ʼ beams Josh; ʻit was stonk­ing down the straights, and it was work­ing ex­tremely well in the cor­ners. Then we went to Cas­tle Combe where it won the ʼ70s class in Fu­ture Clas­sics.ʼ

Next round was at Don­ing­ton Park, where Josh handed the reins to Aut­o­far­mʼs Steve Wood, whoʼs got an in-depth rac­ing CV, been a Silver­stone in­struc­tor and raced in the Porsche Cup, and he co-drove it with Mark, run­ning with the ʼ70s and ʼ80s Fu­ture Clas­sics, which they won.

Af­ter that there was a bit of work to do on the chas­sis, and Josh had to make a fresh front oil cooler: ʻitʼs go­ing to gen­er­ate some heat, and a 911 lives on its oil, so you do need a de­cent cooler. I got one from Lloyd Al­lard, whoʼs the grand­son of Sid­ney Al­lard and whoʼs got a lit­tle alu­minium fab­ri­ca­tion op­er­a­tion in Glouces­ter – car­ry­ing on from his fa­ther Alanʼs tur­bocharg­ing and su­per­charg­ing busi­ness – and he does ra­di­a­tors and in­ter­cool­ers, and I then got Radi­cool in Brack­ley to fin­ish off the ends. Itʼs work­ing OK, but I had to mod­ify it, the same as the fac­tory used to mod­ify them, and just cut out the front panel so the air flows through the cooler. And we put a lit­tle oil cooler on the gear­box as well.ʼ Thanks to Josh, itʼs now had the de­tailed at­ten­tion lav­ished on it that it should have had all along. ….

ʻWe have gone from front to back, top to bot­tom, taken ev­ery­thing apart, re­built the gear­box, changed the ra­tios, ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing. I got a Stack rev counter adapted into a

10,000rpm rev counter by Reap Au­to­mo­tive, and you pull lit­tle bits and pieces to­gether from var­i­ous dusty cor­ners as you go along. The pow­ers that be in club rac­ing in the UK donʼt re­ally en­force dat­ing the seats, though youʼve got to have the seat belts in date, plus your hel­met, gloves, boots and Nomex knick­ers. One ad­van­tage hav­ing a ʼ75 car is that you donʼt have to wear a HANS device: can you imag­ine at my age wear­ing one of those when youʼve got to do a light­ning driver change? I canʼt even cope with a full-face hel­met; if youʼre do­ing a quick driver change you canʼt look down and get the buckle done up: youʼve got to sit there, get your hands out of the way and let some­body else fid­dle around with your crotch! So, I al­ways wear an open face hel­met.ʼ

All the side win­dows are in Per­spex, and itʼs a fixed win­dow on the pas­sen­ger side with a slid­ing sec­tion for ven­ti­la­tion, sup­ple­mented by a cou­ple of fans in­side the scut­tle vents, so in the event of a wet race the screen would be less in­clined to mist up. So, is it the new Aut­o­farm show­case race­car? Josh is scep­ti­cal. ʻIt is­nʼt fair to im­pose it on Steve and Mikey (Wastie) be­cause itʼs an old club racer and itʼs a bit scruffy. As it stands, the paint fin­ish is­nʼt up to it, and itʼs up to them if they want to adopt it. I was grate­ful for Steveʼs feed­back, but weʼve only done a cou­ple of meet­ings so far and we need a test day.ʼ

So, does Josh see his new black bomber as a re­ver­sion to how it was in the mid-ʼ80s? ʻIn terms of the car, yes, itʼs all stuff we had kick­ing around in the ʼ80s, though in those days the dis­trib­u­tor would have been a sec­ond­hand one that we fished


out of Ger­many, but nowa­days youʼve got to get the late re­pro ones. But, yes, itʼs very much a car that we might have built in the ʼ80s, which is all ʼ70s stuff. Once youʼve got pa­pers to say, “yes, itʼs an RSR rep,” then it does take you into a dif­fer­ent realm; you can run in the Masters series, which EB Mo­tor­sportʼs Mark Bates does, run­ning a cou­ple of Rsr-spec cars very ef­fec­tively at places like Zand­voort His­toric GP and the Spa 6Hours meet­ing. So, weʼll prob­a­bly do a lit­tle bit more tidy­ing over the win­ter, and if Steve and Mikey feel com­fort­able to run with it, then it will be the Aut­o­farm club racer next sea­son.ʼ

Time for an out­ing. Thereʼs a knack to the start­ing pro­ce­dure, which in­volves crank­ing it over and if Iʼm very lucky on the throt­tle I can catch it with­out flood­ing it. The Sparco race seat is an ex­tremely tight fit, and the pedals are canted to the left as youʼd ex­pect. A glance over my shoul­der re­veals the hefty built-in roll cage whose tri­an­gu­la­tions are se­ri­ous in­deed. The ul­tra-light doors are copies of Porscheʼs orig­i­nal glass­fi­bre ones, and thereʼs an elec­tric fire ex­tin­guisher sys­tem. Once itʼs warmed up I press the hand-throt­tle lever be­tween the seats and the revs fall back to a healthy 1000rpm. Three ex­tra gauges show gear­box tem­per­a­ture, am­me­ter and fuel pres­sure. Josh com­ments that, ʻitʼs not a very high oil pres­sure en­gine, so when itʼs hot and tick­ing over thereʼs no oil pres­sure reg­is­tered on the gauge but donʼt worry about that.ʼ

The cabin in­te­rior is rac­ing car Spar­tan, bor­der­ing on crude, but for club rac­ing itʼs all you want. Out of the Aut­o­farm in­dus­trial com­plex, onto the Oxfordshire back­roads and over to Wood­stock and En­stone, it sounds to­tally awe­some be­tween 3000- and 7000rpm, and the gearshift is nice to use once Iʼm ac­cus­tomed to it; it feels some way stronger than a reg­u­lar gate.

The sus­pen­sion fol­lows ev­ery nu­ance of the road sur­face, so it feels very lively. It has a ten­dency to un­der­steer, and when cor­rected it quite sharply over­steers. But it is in­cred­i­bly fast, and the revs are zing­ing right round the clock, so I con­clude that on a track this must truly be a marvellous piece of kit. Amaz­ing what can emerge from a barn, pro­vided youʼve got the time and parts to throw at it – once youʼve blown the cob­webs away.


Above: Front-mounted oil cooler was made by Lloyd Al­lard, grand­son of the leg­endary Sid­ney Al­lard, with fur­ther work by Radi­cool. The 911 was first built back in 1990 by Bob Wat­son for use in hill­climb­ing

Be­low left: In­te­rior is race car Spar­tan, as youʼd ex­pect. Doors are lightweight glass­fi­bre mould­ings

Be­low right: Stack rev counter was given the retro treat­ment by Julian Reap at Reap Au­to­mo­tive

Above: Sub­stan­tial welded-in roll cage, which would need to be re­moved if the car was to be is­sued with HTP pa­pers. Group 4 spoiler came from a 2.7 RS which Josh had bought in France

Be­low left: Itʼs far from be­ing a con­cours car, hav­ing had a hard life over the past years, but now itʼs in the hands of the Aut­o­farm crew, the fu­ture looks rosey

Be­low right: Bob Wat­son built the en­gine orig­i­nally, with 3.5-litre ca­pac­ity

Above: Josh Sadler re­gards the car as very much a ʻbit­saʼ and en­joys it all the more as a con­se­quence

Be­low left: 16-inch wheels and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing tyres fall within the re­mit of the CSCC reg­u­la­tions

Be­low right: 46IDA We­bers were re­built with help from Car­bu­ret­tor Ex­change

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