PAINT TO SAMPLE
A restored 1967 911S that left the factory in a unique colour
Sitting forlornly in the back garden of a suburban semi, the yellow-hued 911 was a sorry sight. Garry Hall had been tipped off about the car some while before, having been on the lookout for an early shortwheelbase 911 for some time – ideally that Holy Grail, a 911S. Living in Surrey, it was only a short trip down the road to Bognor Regis in Sussex where the car languished forgotten and unloved on jack stands in a state of only partial completeness.
At first sight it was a mess, and at second sight it was even worse. Although he was assured it was complete, it lacked the doors, engine, interior and rear bumper, all of which had been removed at the start of a long-abandoned rebuild. Worse still, the identity of the car had been hidden under a previous owner ʼs attempt at building an Rsr-inspired hot-rod. Wide front and rear wings, glassfibre bonnet and bumpers, wider than stock Fuchs wheels, all conspired to hide the real truth: this was actually a 1967 911S. And a right-hand drive one at that.
It was owned by a longtime VW collector who had run out of steam, having purchased the car as a project some ten years earlier but never quite got round to finishing (or barely even starting) the rebuild. Garry was unfazed by its condition, and his level of excitement grew when he discovered that the car came with its original engine, albeit in a very sorry state, and doors stamped with the last three digits of the chassis number, showing them to be the originals. It was a true ʻdiamond in the roughʼ, and it took Garry several weeks to close the deal – but it was worth it.
The car was taken back to the lockup shared with friends where Garry proceeded to begin the big tear down. It didnʼt take long for him to realise that this was going to be a major restoration, for the bodyshell was in worse condition than first thought. Mind you, as it had sat neglected, exposed to the elements for so long, this came as no real surprise. The first thing that became obvious was that the (or ʻaʼ) previous owner had delighted in the use of Bondo, with significant amounts being used to carry out what might loosely be described
as repairs. Never a good sign. But it got worse.
As Garry tore into the car, sometimes literally, he discovered more and more evidence of near terminal rust. Cutting away the outer sills revealed rot in the heater channels, while the floors and fuel tank support all showed evidence of advanced corrosion. The front slam panel had been butchered, too, crudely modified to allow the use of a later short bonnet/hood and latch. It was not a pretty sight, leaving Garry no option other than to have the bodyshell blasted to reveal the full extent of the damage.
His research – helped by the fact that the original green log book (pre V5C days!) came to light – allowed him to make contact with past owners, which turned up some old faded photos of the ʻSʼ in its early days, with proud owner standing alongside. Slightly alarmingly, one rear three-quarter view showed the car sitting decidedly lop-sided, evidence perhaps of a broken torsion bar – or worse. A later photo, taken sometime in the 1980s when such things were all the rage (the 911 changed hands for just £500 – how times have changed), show the car being subjected to a ʻforward dateʼ, with impact-style glassfibre bumpers and wide wings, the first stages of the ʻRsr-alikeʼ build that led to the abandoned project Garry eventually discovered. A ʻRothmansʼ decal on the rear bumper was a clue as to the time period in which the butchery took place…
With the car stripped, next on the list was to put the ʼshell in the hands of two well-established names in the Porsche restoration business: Chesterton Coachworks in Oxfordshire, and Canford Classics in Dorset. Canford stripped the body, arranged to have it blasted and rounded up the panels needed for the restoration. On its return from the blasters, the ʼshell resembled a colander, with more holes than the finest Belgian lace, but at least everyone knew where they stood. ʻThe bodyshell was delivered to Chesterton Coachworks to be rebuilt and aligned as per factory spec,ʼ recalls Garry. ʻThese guys really know their stuff so I was looking forward to it all moving gracefully forward from here.ʼ Famous last words? Weʼll see…
In the meantime, Alan Drayson at Canford Classics took on the task of restoring the suspension and drivetrain components, stripping, powder-coating and plating as necessary. North Hollywood Speedometers were entrusted with the task of restoring the gauges, and an amazing job they did, too (as always, it seems). Garry also tried his hand at zinc plating, using a DIY kit to plate the many small parts that remain (largely) out of sight, such as door lock and window winder components. If nothing else at this stage, the growing pile of shiny ʻnewʼ parts served as inspiration.
And talking of piles of parts, the floor of Chestertonʼs workshop began resembling the parts department at a Porsche dealership in the 1960s, with an ever-increasing array of repair panels laid out in readiness. Many new panels require modification to be correct on an early ʼshell, all these details being taken care of along the way.
There was plenty of evidence of past repairs, most having been poorly executed (a consequence of such cars having little value in the 1970s and early ʼ80s) and requiring extensive rectification. There was one repair that looked puzzling at first sight: evidence of a large section of the kick panel and seat pan being cut out and then welded back in position. Why? Well, remember we mentioned the possibility of a broken torsion bar earlier in the car ʼs life?
It turned out it was more than that, for the torsion tube itself had apparently split and allowed the rear of the car to collapse. A repair, of sorts, had been carried out using a piece cut from a VW Beetle, necessitating chopping out the section of kick panel and seat pan… Needless to say, a replacement torsion tube was welded in place to make a permanent repair.
Work on the bodyshell continued at a steady rate, with even the roof needing replacement. Fortunately the vast
“THERE WAS ONE REPAIR THAT LOOKED PUZZLING AT FIRST SIGHT…”
majority of panels were available, many from Porsche themselves, with whatever smaller repair sections that couldnʼt be tracked down being fabricated as necessary by Chesterton Coachworks. Some of the panels available were designed for use on a LHD car – a good example of this is the pedal box, which needed to be modified to work on the RHD bodyshell.
Both rear quarters required substantial repair, with not only the wings but also the entire inner wing and quarter panel pressing needing replacement. The car was looking very sorry for itself as it sat on Chestertonʼs Celette jig, but at least Garry knew the end result would be as good as, if not better than, new. Of course, the matter of just how much of the original car remains is always open to debate on a restoration like this: ʻGood question,ʼ says Garry. ʻThere was always going to be a sacrifice with this rebuild, as the ʼshell was in very poor condition when I embarked on the project. The essence of my goal was to keep as much of the original ʼshell as possible but at the same time weigh up the economies of scale between repair and replacement. My estimation is 50/50 with old to new…ʼ
While this work was being carried out, Nick Fulljames at Redtek was called in to take care of the engine rebuild. Although the original 2.0-litre ʻsixʼ had come with the car, it had been removed and allowed to sit outside in the elements. As a consequence, the internals were in a terrible state, the cylinder bores reduced to a crusty mess, pistons corroded, and carburettors requiring total restoration. Fortunately, Garry had managed to track down another 1967 911S engine in the USA, which he had shipped over and Nick sat down to build one good engine out of the two.
The replacement engine had been modified already, with 90mm Arias pistons and matching cylinders, the crankcase having been machined to suit, resulting in a capacity of 2.5litres when using the stock 66mm-stroke crank. This ʻshortstroke screamer ʼ combination works well and should provide plenty of thrills out on the open road when combined with the ʻSʼ cams and Weber carburettors.
The transmission wasnʼt in the rudest of health, either, with broken bearings and worn first gear slider and dog teeth. The best solution here was to ship the lot off to Mike Bainbridge at MB Porsche Engineering in the Lake District for a full rebuild, the unit being returned in double-quick time and with a perfect bill of health.
By now the body resto was coming to an end, after 600 hoursʼ labour, and a decision had to be made about paint. When Garry acquired the car, it was wearing a very uninspiring coat of insipid yellow. However, early photos of the car showed that it was once a very different colour, a metallic blue-green that had been specified by the original owner – a ʻpaint to sampleʼ order. This led to some head scratching on everyoneʼs part as nobody knew precisely what the colour would have been.
Fortunately there were still some traces of the original
hue inside the roof and on the inner wings. This showed it to be a very unusual mix, which looked blue in some light, but dark turquoisey-green in others. Garry managed to salvage a small piece of the original metal which still wore some of the paint and had it scanned prior to getting some samples mixed.
The task of painting the restored bodyshell lay in the hands of Canford Classics, who did a splendid job. As Garry recalls, ʻAfter some serious preparation and numerous spray outs trying to match the original “special order green” supplied by Porsche to the first owner, I was happy with the final decision on the colour match. Canford Classics created just what the second owner said when I first spoke to him regarding the original colour. His comments were along the lines of “some days it looks blue, and other days it looks green!”ʼ
Next followed the assembly of all the restored suspension and drivetrain, this work again carried out by Canford Classics, who also restored the original-spec 4.5J x 15 ʻnakedʼ Fuchs wheels, now shod with 165R15 radials. Nick Fulljames had finished working his magic and the engine was now complete and ready to install, along with that fresh Mike Bainbridge transmission. Things were looking good and the resto was on the home straight.
But what about the interior? Well, it will come as no surprise to those who know him that Garryʼs business, Classic FX, was responsible for the total resto and retrim of the seats, carpets, door panels and headliner – after all, it is one of the UKʼS premier Porsche-oriented upholstery operations. Simply put, the end result is faultless. Take a look at the website (address on a previous page) to see other examples of their work.
The completed project was first shown at last year ʼs Classics at the Castle event, where the unusual colour caught everyoneʼs eye. In the bright summer sunlight it glows – there is no other word for it. Whoever decided upon that hue way back in 1967 deserves a pat on the back, for it makes a very refreshing change from the more commonplace silver or white with which many early ʻEssesʼ left the factory. As a rolling advert for all the people concerned with its rebirth, this paint to sample beauty is second to none.
Above: Out on the road, the right-hand drive 911S is a fun drive, especially now it has a boost in capacity. Those extra 500cc, or so, make all the difference
Below, left and right: It should come as no surprise that the interior is nicely detailed, After all, trimming is Garry Hall’s speciality
Below: Any early 911S is desirable, but a right-hand drive version is surely the most sought after of all. Coco Mats and optional headrests add the finishing touches to a perfect interior
Above, left and right: It’s amazing how evocative one letter can be… ‘S’ means there’s no shortage of fun once the tacho heads towards the 7200rpm red line
Above: See how the paint glows in the sunshine? It looks blue here but in other lights it looks turquoiseygreen. However you see it, it was an inspired choice on the part of the original owner
Below left: Redtek were responsible for the engine rebuild, creating a 2.5-litre short-stroke ‘screamer’ using Arias forged pistons
Below right: Canford Classics restored the 4.5J Fuchs wheels in their correct ‘bare’ finish