SPE­CIAL­IST: ARTWHEELS

Few as­pects of the 911 en­cap­su­late Porsche’s her­itage bet­ter than the Fuchs wheel. We’ve come to see them be­ing re­stored at Art Restora­tion’s work­shops at Holtzheim in Eastern France

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Fuchs restora­tion in France

Fuchs wheels. In­stantly recog­nis­able, and im­me­di­ately syn­ony­mous with Porsches and the 911 tra­di­tion. In­deed, there’s some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about a row of in­di­vid­u­ally coloured Fuchs, and that’s what forms a fo­cal point in the garage work­shop at Art Restora­tion, lo­cated on a light in­dus­trial site in ru­ral coun­try­side at Holtzheim near Stras­bourg, eastern France. It’s the spe­cial­ity of pro­pri­etor Pa­trick Pu­gin, and we’re here to see just what the process of ren­o­vat­ing Fuchs wheels in­volves.

There are two strings to Pa­trick’s bow: Art Restora­tion, the main busi­ness also ren­o­vates Porsches, and the Fuchs wheel re­fur­bish­ment is car­ried out un­der the Art Wheels ban­ner. In re­al­ity, though, all the work is car­ried out un­der the same roof, with ded­i­cated spa­ces for spe­cific ac­tions to take place on wheels and on cars. In the depths of the build­ing is a paint booth, a ma­chine shop with tools and equip­ment to clean parts and re­move rust at high pres­sure, high tem­per­a­ture and ul­tra­sound, as well as smaller cu­bi­cles for grind­ing and pol­ish­ing wheels. There’s an en­gine and trans­mis­sion shop which also takes care of car­bu­ret­tors, in­jec­tion and ig­ni­tion, and off-site is an acid bath where bodyshells are dunked be­fore be­ing painted black ahead of restora­tion work. Every­thing in the yard and the work­shop looks spick and span, in­clud­ing the cars present, in­clud­ing an SC Targa, a 912, a cou­ple of 914s and a 3.2 Car­rera.

Pa­trick set up Art Restora­tion ten years ago, be­gin­ning with the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of a 2.2 911E and a 914. ‘I wanted to demon­strate the qual­ity of the work I could achieve, and grad­u­ally I started to have more restora­tions to do, and now I’ve got a team of 15 peo­ple work­ing here.’ They are con­cerned solely with air-cooled Porsches, and only street cars: ‘we don’t have any­thing to do with rac­ing cars,’ says Pa­trick; ‘and that avoids many com­pli­ca­tions, be­cause work­ing on rac­ing cars needs a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and we are still build­ing our ex­pe­ri­ence on street cars. We go very deep into the heart of our restora­tions, and we fo­cus on the mi­nut­est de­tail, right down to the cor­rect screw for a par­tic­u­lar model year. This is what clients ex­pect, and a lot of cars com­ing out of the

work­shop are go­ing straight to shows, ex­hi­bi­tions and con­cours, so this is why they are so par­tic­u­lar about our meth­ods and level of qual­ity.’

It wasn’t long be­fore Pa­trick be­came aware of the need for spe­cial­ist treat­ment for Fuchs wheels. ‘I tried it my­self with rea­son­able suc­cess, but I found a guy in Ger­many do­ing just Fuchs wheels and I worked with him one time. He told me he was go­ing to re­tire, so I paid him for his knowl­edge, as well as some spe­cial machines, and started my own com­pany, Art Wheels, (along­side Art Restora­tion) do­ing only Fuchs restora­tions.’ Even so, it took Pa­trick a few goes to per­fect the process be­cause his Ger­man source hadn’t thor­oughly ex­plained every­thing and it took time to re­fine the tech­nique. Now, Art Wheels cur­rently has three tech­ni­cians work­ing on the Fuchs al­loys.

Piece de re­sis­tance to the side of the main work­shop and re­cep­tion area is the eye-catch­ing line-up of Fuchs wheels, all pre­sented in dif­fer­ent colours, show­cas­ing Pa­trick’s team’s hand­i­work. We pass through into the wheel lab sec­tion, and he lifts a Fuchs onto the bench. He ex­plains the process the wheels un­dergo, de­pend­ing on the rel­e­vant build pro­gramme and fin­ish re­quired: ‘This one has the race fin­ish with the matte black back­ground to the spokes which are them­selves shiny. The ex­te­rior of the rim is not only pol­ished, it is an­odised too.’ He shows how to iden­tify the age of a wheel by the stamp­ing: ‘This one is 6in wide by 15in di­am­e­ter, and it’s from June 1969, so it’s for a 2.0-litre S, or a ‘T’ or an ‘E’. Then we have the clas­sic rims for the 2.2 and 2.4, and th­ese are the rims for the ‘F’ model and ‘G’ model, and this fin­ish is stan­dard for an ‘S’ model, and the RSR model of course has much wider rims; they are all nicely dif­fer­en­ti­ated.’

Ev­ery wheel passes through a sim­i­lar treat­ment process: ‘We clean it first, and then check the bal­ance and align it to make sure it is not buck­led. If it is crooked we can straighten it, and, if there are any cracks, they would need re­fur­bish­ment.’ Some wheels have gone be­yond the point of re­demp­tion. ‘There is a point where a wheel is just so bad that you say, I’m sorry, I can’t help this one: for ex­am­ple, if you have one crack in the rim or a spoke we can make a weld, but if there are two cracks we prob­a­bly won’t pro­ceed. Some­times there might be three or four cracks, and in that case, we cer­tainly don’t touch it.’ He shows

If you have one crack in the rim or a spoke we can make a weld

ex­pen­sive cast alu­minium ATS “Cookie Cut­ter” al­loys came on the scene in ’73. That year, for the first time, the 911 ap­peared with dif­fer­ing wheel and tyre sizes front and rear: the 2.7 Car­rera RS sported 6J front and 7J rear Fuchs rims with cen­tres painted to match the body colour or graph­ics. With the ar­rival of the im­pact bumper cars in 1974, the Fuchs took on a dif­fer­ent ap­pear­ance: gone were the pol­ished spokes, giv­ing way to black cen­tres and pol­ished rims, a look adopted widely – though not to­tally – across the line-up. By 1975 all 911s were fit­ted with 6- and 7J x 15 Fuchs, uni­ver­sally black cen­tred – un­less, of course, the cus­tomer spec­i­fied spokes painted to match the car’s body colour. It was all change in 1978 with the launch of the SC: stan­dard mod­els came with ATS Cookie-cut­ters, though in cer­tain mar­kets the SC Sport could be fit­ted with Fuchs. In ’84 the 3.2 Car­rera was avail­able with five-hole “tele­phone dial” wheels as well as Fuchs, and again, their spokes could be painted to match the colour of the car, which was par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive in Club Sport and An­niver­sary hues. By the end of the decade the 964 was shod with 16in De­sign 90 or 17in Car­rera Cup wheels, oc­ca­sion­ally painted to match or just plain black.

an­odised. But in the gen­eral process they im­merse all the wheels in a bath to an­odise them af­ter paint­ing. ‘An­odi­s­a­tion in­volves a ni­tric acid bath and an elec­tric cur­rent, which causes ox­i­di­s­a­tion of the sur­face of the metal. You can have coloured

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