Words: Alex Grant Photography: Andy Tipping Hidden away in a Los Angeles industrial estate, Marlon Goldberg’s Workshop 5001 is turning a lifelong obsession with Porsches into world-class hot-rods
There’s an all-too-common thread running through the world of classic cars – that the most interesting things frequently turn up in the most unlikely places. A truth that, as the lights in Workshop 5001’s timber-framed roof blink into life over the laboratory-clean workspace below, rings as true as ever. Within the sun-baked concrete shell of this unassuming former factory in an industrial corner of Los Angeles, decades-matured attention to detail is turning classic Porsches into works of art.
Located at the heart of the Californian Porsche scene, as much a home to racebred styling and patchwork-coloured panels as it is concours-spec restorations, this is a business marching to a different beat. A style embodied by its first end-toend project car; this 44-year-old 911T, a hot-rod hiding elegantly beneath steel wheels, narrow arches and Nardo Grey paint. The perfect preservation of the original 911’s hard-wearing, sharp-driving simplicity, yet with some very modern tricks up its sleeve.
“Too many people are building big fender, stickered-up hot-rods,” shop owner, Marlon Goldberg explains, firing the raceprepped engine to bring the coupe into the daylight. “We wanted a wolf in sheep’s clothing with this car – something that could blend in when necessary. It stands out to enthusiasts, but to normal people it’s just an old grey Porsche.”
Unsurprisingly, that eye for style comes from a long-developed affection with the marque. Growing up in Bridgehampton, a coastal town on Long Island, New York, Porsches were an ever-present part of his adolescence. Not only did his dad own a 911, but Bridgehampton Raceway used to host Porsche club events, before it was turned into a golf course. The cars brought out by those track days were weekend toys – sand and stone-weathered streetlegal part-time racers, built to the sport purpose recipe book, rather than pristine status symbols.
It laid some strong foundations. When the world of work beckoned, that childhood love of Porsches steered the way to an apprenticeship at Andial, working
alongside the technicians behind Stuttgart’s North American motorsport efforts. Experience which in turn led him to become part of the team at Singer Vehicle Design as it got off the ground, before eventually branching out on his own. Workshop 5001, named after the address of the factory in which it’s housed, opened its doors in 2014 after a nine-month refurbishment process, and the ’73 T emerging into the LA sunshine is a hint of what they can offer. Expertise that’s already attracting some rare and extensive rebuilds.
“It was pretty ratty when the client brought it to me,” says Marlon, stepping out out of the cabin. “It had been painted silver at some point, and it was already a bit of a hot-rod with a 3.2 motor from an ’86 911. Though it was rough to look at, we could tell that it was a good starting point.”
Of course, it’s always wise to be cautious. As with all of the team’s projects, the shell was stripped back to bare metal, uncovering 40 years of mechanically sympathetic ownership and no serious rot or damage to worry about. Behind the protective coating and underneath the Nardo Grey paint – the only job not carried out in-house – the body was strengthened, stitch-welded and fitted with a half roll cage to give it rigidity that 1973’s pre-cad engineering could never have allowed. Make no mistake, this might be built to concours-high standards, but it’s built to be just as capable of carving a path through California’s canyon roads and race tracks as it is winning trophies.
It’s a mix of talents that you get a real sense for once you lift the decklid. What’s in the back of the 911 is still based on the 3.2litre engine the car arrived with, but only loosely. Fully rebuilt with Carillo rods, CP pistons and Mahle sleeves, it’s now displacing 3.4-litres and running a twin-plug setup and Jenvey throttle bodies, controlled by a MOTEC M84 ECU. Dyno tested before being reunited with the body, the engine makes 305bhp at 7300rpm and 250lb ft torque, delivered with the unmistakeable warm-blooded bark of an early 911 racer on every brush of the throttle.
This would have put it far beyond the abilities of the original chassis setup. Marlon matched the stiffened bodyshell with a three-way adjustable KW coilover kit, built to hillclimb spec, with Tarett Rsr-style swaybars and droplinks, taking out a little of
the roll and arch gap in the process. There’s still a 915 gearbox at the back, but strengthened to cope with the extra power and fitted with a limited-slip differential to put it it use. Those body-coloured steel wheels, wrapped in period-style Avon CR6ZZ track tyres, also hide a set of ’S’ brake calipers – an early upgrade similar to the 908’s endurance racing setup – which are plenty to bring its roughly one-ton mass to a stop when needed.
Sure, you can push the power further with a turbocharger, but for Marlon there’s nothing quite like that naturally-aspirated muscle in an early 911: “It’s awesome to drive – the chassis and engine updates we’ve made give it a perfect blend of modern and vintage,” he says. “I wish I had more time to drive it, and I’m sure the client feels the same way. We’ve not taken it on track yet, but we might at some point so we can make changes to alignment, sway bars etc and test it in a controlled environment.”
That it can mix that usability with impeccably good looks makes it even more enviable. Half-leather, half-tartan bucket seats with a Momo three-spoke wheel merge sport purpose with a hint of luxury, while helping to keep the weight down. The flat paint job and hubcap-free wheels would have made an abundance of chrome look incongruous – most bare metal parts here wear a brush finish, matched across engine and trim pieces. It’s an adjustment over what could have been a very different look, had the client gone back to its less understated factory hue.
“When we stripped the paint, we discovered that it was originally Royal Purple,” Marlon tells me. “We couldn’t convince the client to return it to that, but the Nardo Grey looks awesome – it’s a bit like primer or a battleship. The original colour inspired the tartan inside – our cars have some similarities from one to the next, but our builds allow more creative freedom for the clients than anything else on the market. They all sort of evolve during the build, as ideas pop up and changes are made.”
Not that you’d know it. Every detail, every part of this 911 works so perfectly together it could almost have been crafted out of an obsessive pre-build plan. A little like the workshop where it was reborn, there’s so much more here than a quick glance can pick out. In both cases, it’s amazing what you find when you dig a little deeper. PW
They all sort of evolve during the build, as ideas pop up