THERE AND BACK 52
This 911T went from stock to outlaw and then all the way back again
Tempted into Porsche ownership after watching a TV crime drama, California native Bob Beach ultimately found himself the custodian of a 1972 911T. He restored it himself, first as an ʻoutlawʼ and then, several years later, back to stock. It was quite a journey…
Inspiration comes in many forms, but for one Porsche owner it was Hollywood that played a key role in his enthusiasm for the brand and sparked a 20-year DIY journey. This started with the purchase of a 1972 911T which turned into the ultimate project, going from original to outlaw and back again. The 1980s marked an era of change and the world was evolving. America was learning Reaganomics, the UK had a female Prime Minister and Communism was collapsing. Kids clambered for new electronic games and flocked to the arcade to play Pac-man while others fiddled with a Rubikʼs Cube or listened to their Walkman. The media could now report worldwide events 24/7 on CNN, while regular scheduled television programmes were just as much about the cars as they were the stars, with popular shows like Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider and Magnum PI.
Automobile manufacturers were looking toward the future and in September 1981 the Porsche 944 was launched at the Frankfurt motor show. The 944 quickly made its way into film and was an instant Hollywood socialite appearing in many television shows and movies like ʻPretty in Pinkʼ.
If you were a young adult growing up in the ʼ80s you just had to own a sports car. As a California native, Bob Beach was no different, cruising the streets of San Francisco with the wind in his hair driving his 1976 Tahiti Blue Triumph TR7. At the time, the TR7 was perfect: he loved how the car cornered, and how easy it was to park in the city.
But all of that was about to change after seeing his future on television one evening. He recalls watching one of those popular ʼ80s crime dramas where a Porsche 944 was racing along a coastal highway (he laughs as he reflects on this memory that kick-started his Porsche curiosity). Though he couldnʼt afford the 944 at the time, he started on his path to becoming a Porsche enthusiast with the purchase of a 1980 Porsche 924. It wasnʼt until 1986 that Bob could get that 944 he once longed for. His desire for the Porsche marque had been awakened and since that initial purchase, heʼs owned approximately a dozen Porsches over a 30-plus year period.
However, it was the 911 that would capture his heart when he purchased a 1972 911T. This car would be the one he would keep in his collection the longest. He states that ʻOne of the reasons I kept this car so long was due to its exclusivenessʼ. The 1972 911 was a one-year wonder that had the unique design of the oil filler door in front of the right wheel well. Porsche had decided to move the oil tank further forward to help with the weight distribution, but this design only lasted one year due to inattentive consumers and gas station attendants putting gas in the oil tank.
The purchase took place in 1998 when Bob had just sold his weekend driver, a 1979 911SC, and acquired this light
“IF YOU WERE A YOUNG ADULT GROWING UP IN THE 1980S, YOU JUST HAD TO OWN A SPORTS CAR…”
yellow 1972 911T from a friend to take its place. He recalls ʻIt was parked at his house for quite a while; it was a solid, running car but a bit tiredʼ. On the drive home he had to pull the brake pedal up with his foot at every stop. The first item on the repair list was to rebuild the binding pedal cluster so he could have working brakes!
The car was very original with the exception of the MFI system, that had been replaced at some point with a set of Weber 40 IDAS, and the front bumper which was replaced with a glassfibre Rs-style piece. Over the next couple of years Bob just drove it as often as he could. ʻThe previous owner had lowered it and fitted some stiffer torsion bars. I really liked how it handled and enjoyed driving such a nimble car ʼ. Then in 2000, the Porsche got an exterior cosmetic restoration but since money was tight Bob did it himself on a budget of just $800. He had taken some courses in college and learned how to weld, so he set out to repair a couple of small rust spots.
With these imperfections repaired it was now time to apply the paint. Although he knew how to weld, he had never painted a car before, but that didnʼt deter him. He converted his garage into a spray booth, then using a hand-me-down spray gun from his dad and some single stage light yellow paint, he gave the car a fresh coat of paint. Once the paint
was cured, it was time for reassembly. The parts required were relatively few since only some of the original trim was being used and the brightwork was still in excellent condition.
ʻFrom a short distance, my car looked kind of new,ʼ Bob recalls. ʻI didnʼt know what I was doing at the time, so up close you could see a lot of orange peel in the paint.ʼ
At the same time he added rubber pull straps to the hood and the rear deck lid, and purposely left off the torsion bar covers, wheel center caps and side trim. He was going for the early ʻlightweightʼ look, similar to the race cars of that era. To finish it off, he went to a local sign shop and ordered ʻPorscheʼ letter decals for the sides and rear of the car.
Pleased with his DIY makeover Bob continued to enjoy driving and maintaining his air-cooled 911. But he wanted to keep going in the direction of converting the car into a lightweight 911 with a minimalist interior. However, anytime he enquired about having work done at a local shop, it was as if he had asked them to restore the space shuttle. Since the work he wanted to farm out was too expensive, he kept to the DIY path. Of course it helped that he continued to attend local Porsche events and shows, surrounding himself with the right people to engage with – likeminded Porsche-philes.
Nobody likes to start over again, but in late 2003 thatʼs exactly what Bob was forced to do when he lost his job during a company reorganisation and subsequent downsizing. So, he went back to school and took several courses at the local community college. He started learning the proper way to
“FROM A SHORT DISTANCE THE CAR LOOKED KIND OF NEW…”
repair dents and paint cars in the auto body and collision courses he attended.
Learning these skills gave him the opportunity to get the job done the right way without taking short cuts. However, without a source of earned income, the 911 project would come to a halt. Most dreams for automotive hobbyists would have an unhappy ending at this point, but not for Bob. He returned to the work force in 2004, but for him the monotonous and tedious 9–5 daily grind was the motivation to get back into the garage and finish working on the ʼ72 911, plus a few other projects that had been keeping it company.
ʻEight hours a day I would think about my cars and what I was going to complete on them when I came home from work,ʼ he recalls The passion was intense as his goals were written down on notepads during the in-between moments at work. He would also note which tools and parts he needed to complete each task and then spent his break times calling shops to acquire what he needed to get the job done.
Bobʼs wife was also influential during this time as she would join him in the garage to assist in fixing or cleaning parts of the car whenever he needed some help. ʻIʼm extremely lucky to have an understanding spouse!ʼ
“EIGHT HOURS A DAY I WOULD THINK ABOUT MY CARS…”
Fast forward to 2016 and, after many years of enjoyment, the 911 was starting to look tired again and the values of these early cars were skyrocketing. At that point Bob decided he wanted to bring the car back to its original state. For most people, the mention of the word restoration comes with a heart-stopping price tag, but not for Bob. Since time was no object, his only concern was to keep the budget within realistic proportions. He started to disassemble the car, mounting the chassis on a rotisserie stand to prep it for minor bodywork and paint once again.
This time there was no need to take short cuts, which made for a much better job where the whole process went more smoothly since he knew what he was doing. The interior work, mainly the seats and door cards, were farmed out to a local upholstery shop to help complete the journey back to originality. Last on the agenda, Bob set out to get all the mechanicals of the car sorted. This was more familiar territory to him as he grew up learning to wrench on cars with his father, who was once a mechanic in the Air Force and had taught him the ropes when it came to servicing and repairing automobiles. He tackled the engine rebuild himself but enlisted the help of a friend to rebuild the gearbox. With the original 2.4-litre engine and 915 transaxle sorted, the car was back in one piece and roadworthy once again.
The story now becomes slightly bittersweet as this 911 restoration takes an unexpected turn. With the prices of early air cooled 911s soaring and since taking an early retirement, Bob is contemplating selling the car, but not before acquiring another Porsche. Which model will it be? He is unsure of that at this time, but one thing that he does know is that his Porsche journey, inspired by Hollywood, isnʼt over yet.
Above: No more Rs-style front bumper and dummy oil cooler mount, the 911T now looks as it did when it left the dealer showroom
Below: Bob Beach (left) carried out the majority of the restoration work himself in his garage, with the exception of the interior trim
Below: For a home-grown restoration, Bobʼs car is hard to beat. It goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it…
Above left: In its ʻoutlawʼ incarnation, the 911T bore more than a hint of Carrera RS, with the exception of the stock narrow rear wingsAbove right: A proud Bob Beach poses with his first Porsche, a 1980 924
Above: ʻSugar scoopʼ headlights were part of the original specification, so Bob opted to retain them rather than swapping to Euro-spec headlight units Below left: When Bob acquired the car, it had lost its original factory-fitted MFI induction, a pair of Webers taking its place
Below right: The restoration became a family affair…
Below: Out on the open road once again, the restored 911T is a delight to drive, but soaring values of these early cars is prompting Bob to consider selling it to make way for a new project
Above left: The 2.4-litre engine was rebuilt by Bob and is mated up to the original 915-series transmission