Visitors to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart canʼt fail to come away impressed with the mouth-watering selection of cars on display, from factory prototypes to famous race-winners. However, until last year, one car was missing from the collection: an origi
How the Porsche Museum finally got its hands on a 901-series coupé
When Kuno Werner stands next to the bright red coupé, the 43-year-old director of the Porsche Museumʼs restoration workshop looks for all the world as if heʼs stepped out of the pages of a 1964 edition of the house magazine Christophorus. All thatʼs missing are the Rodenstock glasses and the 1960s-chic silk cravat needed to complete the image. As he strokes the steering wheel of the Porsche coupé, he explains in a precise manner why he wouldnʼt have chosen to buy a Mercedes 230SL back in 1964…
It is obvious from his words and manner that this rare 901-series Porsche has fallen into the right hands. There is far more to a restoration than fixing sheet metal and mechanical parts – a great restoration is what Porsche refers to as ʻempathicʼ, one that does not obscure the history of the subject.
ʻOf course, we could have returned this car to a condition thatʼs as good as new,ʼ says Kuno Werner. ʻBut that would have meant removing all traces of its past life.ʼ Such traces as those small scratches and scars on the steering wheel, windows and panels that only catch the eye at a second glance and testify to the car ʼs vulnerability and history even after a restoration. Itʼs what some today call ʻpatinaʼ…
This car is the earliest 911 currently in the Porsche collection, a coupé with the chassis number 300057. Strictly speaking, of course, it is not a 911 but a 901, assembled on the evening of 22nd October 1964, the very day on which Ferry Porsche announced the renaming of the new model as the 911, following protests from Peugeot. Sadly, at that time, Ferry never made the decision to keep such an early car for the museum, which is why Porsche in more recent times has been searching for a 901 for its collection. And now it has one, thanks to a TV show.
“THE EARLIEST 911 CURRENTLY IN THE COLLECTION”
The point at which the team at the Porsche Museum knew theyʼd struck lucky was one day back in August 2014 when they received a telephone call from an employee at a television production company who worked on a TV show called Trödeltrupp – literally translated as ʻJunk Troopʼ. The show was about tracking down old treasures – a little like the popular American Pickers or Salvage Hunters shows in the USA and UK – and in their travels, the team had stumbled across an old Porsche.
Not knowing anything of its history, one of the crew called the Porsche Museum, who in turn asked what condition the Porsche was in. ʻRedʼ came the answer. OK, so how about the chassis number? It was when the researcher read that out the Museum knew it had struck gold, for it turned out it was number 57 off the line…
The Porsche Museum looked in the files and discovered that #300057 was sold through a dealer in Ratingen (NRW) on 27th November 1964, with the car registered to a customer in the Federal state of Brandenburg. It then passed through eleven owners, the last being a Bernd Ibold from Berlin, who registered it in 1978 and then put it in storage in a local village.
At some point, Herr Ibold decided to ʻrestoreʼ the car, and as was customary in the days when an old Porsche was simply an old sports car, he began dismantling it, removing the rusty doors and wings before throwing them away without finding any suitable replacements.
When asked, he said he wanted 20,000 Euros for the car, but keen to be seen as nothing but fair, Porsche sought an independent valuation from two different experts, resulting in the Museum paying 107,000 Euros for the purchase of the Porsche. Apparently, after the TV show was aired, Herr Ibold received no fewer than 50 marriage proposals(!), and the viewing figure soared to a record-breaking 5.5million.
Kuno Werner was on a business trip when the programme
was aired on TV but, once the 901 was safely back at Zuffenhausen, was soon spending even longer out on the road, searching out all the 901-series Porsches he could track down, to look at the details to ensure that #300057 was restored correctly. Among those he visited was Alois Ruf, who had previously restored #300024, and who was able to pass on countless tips. ʻWe could now say,ʼ says Werner, ʻwhat the correct headliner looked like, for example.ʼ
He made countless trips to the archives to look at photographs and files, which threw light on a number of puzzling details his team had discovered. For example, there was a strange ʻholder ʼ in the glove box – was it to secure a drink, a forerunner of the modern cup holder? No, as it turns out, it was to keep safe the driver ʼs pack of cigarettes… Also in the records was proof that the padding on the driver ʼs seat was meant to be softer than usual. The research also showed that #300057 still retained the original extra-long pre-production interior mirror and correct seat adjusters used solely on the first cars.
Kuno Werner also discovered that the grille on the engine lid was not correct, it having been replaced by a previous owner for some reason. The original is held together by captive nuts, rather than rivets, and sits a little more proud of the lid. This meant that the owner could easily cut his hand while cleaning the car, so Porsche decided in 1964 that the design must be changed. But for Werner, it was imperative that they refitted the correct original part, managing to track down two at a dealer in the USA. A deal was agreed at a figure which would have secured a new modern hatchback… The restoration team was keen to retain as much of the original car as possible, sheetmetal included, and after having the bodyshell dipped to remove the paint, they were able to save around two thirds of the panels,
“HE MADE COUNTLESS TRIPS TO THE ARCHIVES”
replacements for the corroded sections and missing bolt-on panels being sourced from a 1965 911 bodyshell purchased specially as a donor. Sadly, the original engine was not with the car, but a year-correct factory replacement was built up and pressed into service.
So as not to remove evidence of the car ʼs history, the museum workshopʼs crew left not only the original factory decals, some of which are now scratched, but also the various stickers which one of the eleven previous owners had attached, including the Bardahl (oil additive) logo and the member ʼs badge of the Berlin Police Sports Association, Motorsports Department.
The interior of the glovebox was reflocked, but the original ashtray was welded and repaired, rather than replaced, as it opens wider to accommodate cigars, a feature peculiar to the 901. Once again, keen not to hide the story of this car, the decision was also made to restore the damaged mahogany-rimmed steering wheel in such a way that the repair work was visible as darker areas showing where the original material was missing. They also kept everything they found when stripping the car down, including a half-finished pack of HB cigarettes, which is now displayed along with other artefacts in a case alongside the car.
Kuno Werner is proud that the restoration of the 901 has been carried out in such a sympathetic way, when it would have been so easy to fall in line with what has become the normal practice of over-restoring important cars. With the project thought to be complete, there were already about 1000 hoursʼ labour in the bodywork, and a further 500 in the mechanics, but it turned out even then the work wasnʼt all done. The upholsterer was called back in to make some changes subsequent to the official unveiling after Werner and his team had discovered exactly how the seam on the inner door panel should look. Perhaps, philosophises Werner, a car like #300057 is never really finished.
Looking back, nobody would have complained if Porsche had delivered such an early example of the 911 in better than new condition, but the courage of the restoration team to leave traces of use is to be applauded. Number 57 lives to tell its own story, not simply that of the restorers. CP
“NUMBER 57 LIVES TO TELL ITS OWN STORY…”
Above: Timeless in every way, the 901 marks the start of a bloodline which can be traced to todayʼs 991-series 911s. Although it looks little different to any other SWB 911, the 901 differs in many important details
Below: The restored interior is a joy to behold, with great care taken to preserve as much of the history as possible. No attempt was made to hide repairs to the steering wheel, for example
Above left and right: The interior trim was mostly intact, including the wood dash inserts and gauges
Top left and right: As found, the car was in poor condition but fortunately it had not been the subject of a botched rebuild in the past
Below left and right: About 75 per cent of the original metal was retained, a ʻdonor ʼ 1965 911 bodyshell used to literally fill in the gaps…
Above: Kuno Werner (left) and author Christian Steiger discuss the project. As you can see, the 901 was in good company…
Below: Once back from chemical dipping to remove all traces of old paint and corrosion, it was possible to assess what work was required to restore the ʼshell