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
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