Forget the Porsche Cayenne; Paul Kramerʼs backdated Carrera shows you donʼt need an SUV for that all-season, every-day Porsche experience. Given the choice, we know which weʼd rather drive…
Not every hot-rod Porsche looks like a race-track renegade…
Itʼs a sign of the times, but of the record 246,000 cars Porsche delivered globally last year, two thirds were SUVS. That blend of badge cachet, family-carrying ability and all-weather usability found homes for twice as many Cayennes and three times as many Macans as 911s. But Paul Kramer reckons you donʼt need an SUV to get a piece of that lifestyle – and heʼs right.
ʻIʼd see these old pictures of German or Swiss guys, who had one car and theyʼd do everything in it,ʼ he tells us. ʻTheyʼd be out doing hillclimbs or going skiing in it on the weekends, then driving it to work during the week. Itʼs their Macan, in a way. And I figured that clamp-it-on style would really suit this car as soon as I saw it.ʼ
Touring is something the 911 was built for – there are plenty of high-mileage cars to prove it. And this car has done its fair share, even before Paul took ownership. Registered in 1986, it started life as a red Carrera 3.2, and passed into the hands of a Maryland-based owner early in its life who drove it every day until he sold it in the early 2000s. It worked hard, but was well looked after, the stack of receipts from those early years hinting at around 300,000 miles of use. That and an unusual, unplanned, chapter in its story.
ʻAt some point in the early Nineties, the car was hit either in the front or rear,ʼ says Paul. ʻThe owner must have really loved the car, because while it was getting fixed he decided to backdate it, which was kinda unusual at that point because he could have bought an early car for less. I guess he liked having the comfort, power and torque of the later cars.ʼ
This would almost have been flying blind back in 1992. A process which would involve buying an early chassis and transferring bolt-on parts across to the later shell, including building custom wings using sections from both cars. No easy job at a time when, on the whole, it was more common for owners to do exactly the opposite.
Paul would come across the car some years later, which is a plus point of his job. Co-running Auto Kennel, a classic car dealership in Orange County, he was contracted by its then San Diego-based owner to help sell it. Recent life hadnʼt been quite so sympathetic and, even by his admission, it was a ʻmishmashʼ of parts; an RS replica complete with graphics and staggered Fuchs, its interior a mix of aftermarket and different era factory parts. Paul could see a use for it closer to home.
ʻI made the mistake of telling him I wanted the car for myself,ʼ he laughs. ʻThe more I thought about it, and the
thousands of miles of vintage driving we were doing, the more I realised this was perfect. Heʼs pretty savvy, so the next thing I knew the price had gone up. I probably overpaid by $5000 in the end.
ʻBut karma played a part. We were working on the air conditioning, and Iʼd taken the Fuchs off. They were 7s and 8s, painted yellow on the side, really cheesy, but I noticed they had July ʼ73 date stamps. I didnʼt know they made 8inch Fuchs that early, so I called Harvey Weidman, whoʼs a guru of wheel restoration, and he said straight away that heʼd buy them. I didnʼt want them, and suddenly I felt nervous about bending them. They sold within an hour on the Early S Register for $5000.ʼ
Paul had no plans to complete the Rs-inspired makeover. Having tied up some of the mechanical loose ends, he readied it for long-haul driving with a rally-style overhaul; meshed headlamps, spotlights, mudflaps and a modified SC exhaust to give it a signature note. Within thick-sidewalled Dunlops, one of his customers built a set of 908-inspired sixinch steel wheels to toughen it up.
Not a move he regrets, but he admits this caused some hesitation. ʻWhen I was putting the tyres on the steel wheels, I realised they weighed three times more than the Fuchs. They were anchors. I was taking the “sport” out of “sport purpose”, but I thought…screw it!ʼ
The more you talk to Paul, the more you realise just how much care has gone into every detail. Right down to the painstaking process of hunting for the contents of the roofrack, and the 80-inch leather belt that holds it in place – hand-made at the Mexican market on Olvera Street, LA – all picked out to add to that all-weather Alpine touring flavour.
ʻI love roofracks, Iʼm a wagon guy so all our cars have them,ʼ he explains. ʻIʼd seen a picture of a Volkswagen roofrack from the 1970s, and managed to find a guy in San Diego to custom-make a similar one for this car. I didnʼt want to have to take it off to access the engine, and I told him to make the wood look as worn as possible – or use reclaimed wood if needed. Itʼs all about the details.ʼ
No surprise, then, that the interior is far from a mishmash of parts these days. Itʼs a functional layout for touring: a pair of checked seats and a Nardi wheel from his dadʼs old Mercedes, still marked by years of his wedding ring sweeping around the rim. A woodworker by trade, Paulʼs dad fabricated a dash insert from a single piece of spaltan maple, then
matched it to an artificially-aged 917-style wood gearknob. Early S clocks are on the plans, but heʼs in no rush to have the car off the road for several months while theyʼre being worked on. After all, this wasnʼt built to be laid up.
ʻIn the last four years weʼve done 45,000 miles in this car,ʼ he says. ʻIt used to feel like I had a different car for every event, but this has been to Mexico four times, to Texas, to Emory in Reno. My dad borrows it if Iʼm servicing his car. Iʼve driven so many hot-rod cars and itʼs really hard to get right, because you end up chasing stuff and breaking it. But Iʼm a big fan of the way this drives, and itʼs never left me stranded on the side of the road.ʼ
In part, thatʼs because itʼs meticulously maintained. The drivetrain is as it was back in 1986; a stock 3.2-litre Carrera motor, paired with renewed factory suspension, brakes and the original 915 gearbox. And, while the receipts show itʼs had valve guides at some point, all of those 300,000 miles have been done without a full rebuild. Porsche built the 911 tough – and this one has no plans to retire.
ʻIt doesnʼt leak a drop. Weʼve talked about whether to do the motor, but when we speak to the mechanic he says heʼd hate to open a motor that doesnʼt leak. The ʼbox weʼre on the verge of rebuilding, because there hasnʼt been first gear synchro since I got it, and third gear is going, too. But Iʼve never had to put a new clutch in a 911 – Iʼm sympathetic with how I shift, because it doesnʼt make it any faster.”
Porsche might seem like a brand changed beyond recognition these days, but the bloodline into those first 356 prototypes turning 70 this year is easy enough to trace. Allweather Porsche touring takes many shapes – but weʼll take this one, if you donʼt mind. CP
“WE’VE DONE 45,000 MILES IN THIS CAR…”