MARK SAND­FORD

Richard Holdsworth spends time with one of Aus­trali­aʼs best known Porsche com­peti­tors and tells the tale of his hard-used 1972 911, which he calls an RSRT…

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Richard Holdsworth Pho­tos: Sam Lacey, Mark Sand­ford, Bob Tay­lor

We meet Aus­tralia’s Mr Porsche and his racy red 911

ʻYes, Iʼve got air con… I wind the win­dow down.ʼ So says Mark Sand­ford with a wry grin. This throw­away line sums up this racer and his won­der­ful ʼ72 911. OK, the car is nearly 50 years old, but with Mark at the wheel this iconic 911 punches way above its weight, gives more youth­ful Stuttgart ma­chin­ery a run for their money whether it is on a sprint, rally, hill­climb or out-and-out race track.

And what fun in the process. ʻI drive the car as I feel it should, no hold­ing back, that is what it was built for.ʼ And I can tes­tify to that hav­ing been his lucky pas­sen­ger ear­lier this year at The Bend in South Aus­tralia, the first jour­nal­ist to get to see the twists and turns on this fab­u­lous new in­ter­na­tional race track. ʻWe were only do­ing seven-tenths,ʼ says Mark as we pull into the pits. I am glad it was­nʼt ten-tenths – I am not sure my life in­sur­ance pol­icy could have stood a ten-tenths white knuckle ride.

Markʼs 911 – he calls it a 911 RSRT for no other rea­son than it rep­re­sents a 1972 RSR but it started life as a T – has mor­phed over the years as pre­vi­ous own­ers have tried to make it look like cur­rent mod­els in the Porsche colour brochures. ʻI want to bring it back as it was when it left the Stuttgart fac­tory in 1972,ʼ he says.

It is not only air-con­di­tion­ing that the car lacks. ʻI donʼt have power-as­sisted steer­ing or trac­tion con­trol, no ABS, no sta­bil­ity man­age­ment…and no sat nav and no wa­ter…ʼ Mark smiles, ʻJust spar­tan light­weight, plenty of power, tyres with heaps of grip and tuned sus­pen­sion… My 911 stands out in the crowd, it is en­tirely vis­ceral when driven hard, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the road with won­der­ful feed-back to val­i­date its con­trol.ʼ

Markʼs 911 is used on the road most days and there are no fancy trail­ers to take it to race meet­ings: Mark sim­ply climbs in, starts up and heads for the track. I canʼt imag­ine how the car does­nʼt at­tract the at­ten­tion of the Boys in Blue – the rau­cous sound of the ex­hausts can be heard streets away and the bright red colour is hardly de­signed to slip be­neath the radar.

Early his­tory: Mark ad­mits he does­nʼt know much about his 911T after it rolled off the Stuttgart pro­duc­tion line on 29 De­cem­ber 1971, other than it was right-hand drive, Sig­nal Yel­low and des­tined for the UK. ʻIt seems that at some stage it was con­verted to Rsr-spec with a 2.7-litre engine,

al­loy trail­ing arms, S brakes and a ʼ73 in­te­rior, and at some time was raced in Eng­land.ʼ It was also clear that the owner tried to keep pace with de­vel­op­ments in the de­sign of the 911, and as part of that had 930 im­pact bumpers and whale tail in­stalled.

The 911 was im­ported to Aus­tralia in the mid 1980s, but once again re­search turned up lit­tle of the car ʼs his­tory after un­load­ing at Ade­laide docks. ʻI did dis­cover the car was raced at the Mal­lala cir­cuit with some de­cent times in the mid 1.20s (the cur­rent Porsche lap record is held by a 997 GT3 Cup car at 1.09). But then it seems to have been re­tired from any form of com­pe­ti­tion and parked up.ʼ

Then it came into Mark Sand­fordʼs life. ʻMy first car had been a VW Bee­tle and it was log­i­cal to move up to an air-cooled Porsche. I wanted a project car and ran an ad­vert in Gumtree and to my sur­prise this guy phoned. He said his car was­nʼt re­ally a project but it did need some work and might suit me. He said it had been stored for 20 years. This seemed too good to be true but then the guy changed his mind – it took two years of gen­tle per­sua­sion to change it back again!ʼ

Mark con­tin­ues, ʻWhen I first saw the car it looked in good shape and the oil was clean – an­other plus point. But in re­al­ity, that was ei­ther be­cause the oil had set­tled or, per­haps, had been changed be­fore be­ing put up for sale. Buyer be­ware! The owner wanted one last bash around Mal­lala – for­tu­nately I per­suaded him oth­er­wise as the carbs had suc­cumbed to cor­ro­sion and could have done un­told da­m­age to the engine.

ʻOnce the car was in my garage, I changed all the flu­ids, re­built the brakes, stripped and cleaned ev­ery part of the 40IDA3S car­bu­ret­tors and fired up the engine. Out on the road I found very few me­chan­i­cal is­sues and that made me feel hap­pier with my pur­chase.ʼ

Mark stood back and looked at the 911 in de­tail. ʻI wanted to bring it back to its orig­i­nal spec and the first thing I cot­toned onto was the open­ing for the ex­ter­nal oil filler had been filled in and welded over. It was an iconic fea­ture of the 1972 car; po­si­tioned as it was just to the rear of the pas­sen­ger door on the right rear quar­ter.

ʻI plucked up courage and cut open the hole to ex­pose the orig­i­nal filler and then lo­cated an orig­i­nal oil tank (from

the United States) – this was the first step in re­turn­ing the car to the unique­ness of its fac­tory spec­i­fi­ca­tion. I re­placed the front slam panel with the long nose ver­sion and in­stalled a car­bon bon­net and glass­fi­bre bumper. My 911 started to look good.ʼ

The rear re­flec­tor panel was re­moved and the heavy im­pact bumpers re­placed with glass­fi­bre units and the duck tail was sourced lo­cally in Ade­laide. Mark thought the car looked odd with 16-inch three-piece Porsche Cup wheels and match­ing tyres, and they also tended to lose trac­tion un­der heavy brak­ing from the al­loy S calipers. ʻI tried to get Fuchs from ebay but in the end sourced Tuv-com­pli­ant replica Fuchs from Clas­sic Wheels in Mel­bourne which had been im­ported from Ger­many.ʼ

Mark was keen to en­ter the Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val rally that was com­ing up in late No­vem­ber of that year (2016), but was con­cerned with a rat­tle that ap­peared to be com­ing from the tim­ing chains. Mark set to work. The chain guides were re­placed and a new tim­ing chain in­serted by join­ing the new chain to the old and ro­tat­ing the crank. ʻItʼs a bit fid­dly,ʼ Mark tells me, ʻbut can be done with per­se­ver­ance. How­ever, in the end the noise turned out to be from the 915 gear­box. But at least the op­er­a­tion had given me con­fi­dence that the old chain would­nʼt jump a cog and punch a valve through the pis­ton crowns at 7000rpm!ʼ

The car per­formed well in Markʼs first rally un­til the engine blew the rear seal on the down­ward run at Ge­orge Road com­ing out of the Ade­laide Hills, spilling oil over the road and pro­duc­ing a spec­tac­u­lar plume of smoke as the oil sprayed over the ex­haust. ʻThe rally was over for me and my co­driver, John Hunter, but we had en­joyed our­selves with much to smile about. We de­cided at that very mo­ment we would be back next year…ʼ

With the engine out of the car, Mark took the op­por­tu­nity to seal other leaks and, as with many mag­ne­sium Porsche en­gines of that era, found prob­lems with the through-bolts. ʻYou canʼt ac­tu­ally get the bolts out with­out first re­mov­ing the cylin­ders but you can fit new O-rings by stretch­ing the rings over the head of the bolt and un­der the washer where the bolt neck re­duces in di­am­e­ter. Again, it needs per­se­ver­ance, but can be done…ʼ

The next de­ci­sion was to take off the cylin­der heads and Mark was pleased to see hon­ing marks, no step in the cylin­ders and, as the Time-serts/case savers had al­ready been added to the mag­ne­sium case, there was cause to feel sat­is­fied.

Twin-plugged cylin­der heads were also in­stalled and the in­let man­i­fold ported to match the heads. ʻPorted, not pol­ished, as I rea­soned that leav­ing some tex­ture would im­prove bound­ary layer tur­bu­lence and bet­ter mix­ing of fuel en­ter­ing the cylin­ders,ʼ says Mark.

To pro­vide power for the twelve spark plugs, Mark used some in­ge­nu­ity – yes, this is a man of con­sid­er­able in­ge­nu­ity as well as a great en­gi­neer by trade (he runs a con­sul­tancy busi­ness, Hone Prime Global). He ma­chined a cover to fit over the stan­dard Bosch dis­trib­u­tor and adapted a Jaguar V12 cap and then made an­other adap­tor from a mod­i­fied Jag ro­tor arm. Now each of the two plugs on each cylin­der fire in uni­son.

Mark rea­soned that a sin­gle MSD was more than am­ple to pro­vide power for the NGK BP7ES plugs and give the engine smooth run­ning right up to 7200rpm. The rev lim­iter from the MSD unit gave the nec­es­sary con­fi­dence to put the

“IT NEEDS PER­SE­VER­ANCE, BUT IT CAN BE DONE…”

foot hard to the floor.

The 2017 Ade­laide Rally was on the hori­zon and Mark next turned his at­ten­tion to the han­dling of the car. He sourced and fit­ted 11Jx15 Fuchs for the rear and 9Jx15s for the front, tyres be­ing Pirelli P7 305/35R1x15s at the rear and 235/40Rx15s up front to match the RSR of 1973. ʻI pump them to 28psi early in the day and work up to 30psi when the tyres warm up. I find the rear tyres take a lit­tle time to come up to tem­per­a­ture.ʼ

Han­dling was fur­ther im­proved by mak­ing and fit­ting cam­ber plates for the back – ex­pe­ri­ence had shown that the stan­dard cam­ber bolt was lim­ited in achiev­ing the re­quired ge­om­e­try. Mark ex­plains that ad­justers are avail­able on the mar­ket and these al­low a neg­a­tive cam­ber of around two de­grees at the rear and one-and-a-half at the front. ʻI have tight­ened up the Koni ʻOrangeʼ shock ab­sorbers. The rear shocks have to be taken off the car to be ad­justed as they have to be fully com­pressed to en­gage the ad­just­ment mech­a­nism, but the fronts are dead easy and sim­ply done with a key.ʼ

The next prob­lem to raise its head was at a race day at the Mal­lala cir­cuit north of Ade­laide. ʻWith the new level of grip I got from those liquor­ish tyres and with a hard gear change go­ing into the turn at the north­ern hair­pin, the dif­fer­en­tial skipped a tooth and cracked the mag­ne­sium side cover of the 915 box…ʼ Track­ing down a 4.43:1 ring and pin­ion was not easy but a friend found one 2000 miles away in Perth (the Perth in Western Aus­tralia) from an ad­vert in a Porsche mag­a­zine. It was fit­ted with an af­ter­mar­ket alu­minium bil­let side cover.

In­side Markʼs ex­tra­or­di­nary 911 it is all 1973, he has no in­ten­tion of bring­ing it back just one year to match its 1972 vin­tage. ʻAt one stage a stereo was fit­ted but I have no plans to fit an­other – the mu­sic I hear is that of the flat-six work­ing hard just a few feet be­hind my ears.ʼ

I could­nʼt agree more. Hav­ing sat in the pas­sen­ger seat around the race track – and with that mu­sic also a few feet be­hind my ear drums – I would­nʼt want a sin­gle thing to in­ter­rupt the sheer joy of hear­ing Markʼs air-cooled Porsche at full blast! CP

Above and be­low left: Hav­ing fun in the 911! Mark Sand­ford at the wheel in the Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val Ade­laide Hills Rally

Be­low right: Our man Richard Holdsworth about to get the ride of his life in Mark Sand­ford’s 911 at The Bend, the new in­ter­na­tional race track lo­cated at Tailem Bend, South Aus­tralia

Above: A fea­ture of the Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val is the Gouger Street party where the gen­eral pub­lic can get close to the cars and meet the drivers

Be­low left: The end of the 2016 Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val Rally for Mark and the 911

Be­low right: The cor­roded We­ber car­bu­ret­tors from when Mark first bought the 911. They hadn’t faired well after such a long time in stor­age and needed a com­plete over­haul

Above right: Mark’s 911 as res­cued ‘from obliv­ion’ – at some point it had been ‘up­dated’ to im­pact bumper spec. That was the first thing to go…

Above left: Look­ing pleased with their day’s work – Mark Sand­ford and his rally nav­i­ga­tor, John Hunter, Ade­laide 2016, car #86

Be­low: Mark at work on the Ade­laide Mo­tor­sport Fes­ti­val Ade­laide Hills Rally (photo: Bob Tay­lor)

Above left: Fuchs-style wheels were sup­plied by Cameron at Clas­sic WheelsAbove right: New ex­haust sys­tem helped both power and sound out­puts!

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