A TOUCH OF THE IR­ISH

When Nigel Allen de­cided to sin­gle-hand­edly re­store an Ir­ish Green Porsche 912 af­ter years of work­ing on Volk­swa­gens, he had no idea just how much fun it was go­ing to be. The end re­sult is pretty im­pres­sive, as weʼre sure youʼll agree…

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Keith Seume Pho­tos: Si­mon Cooke

Ir­ish Green and Minilite wheels make this re­stored 912 stand out from the crowd

ʻIwent to have a look at the car and was struck by the colour. I looked at it and thought, well, it is­nʼt go­ing to be too bad…ʼ Those were the fa­mous last words spo­ken by Nigel Allen as he looked over the Ir­ish Green 912 be­ing of­fered by his friend Matt Smith in Corn­wall. ʻBut,ʼ con­tin­ues Nigel, ʻI guess the fact it came with two floorpans was a bit of a clue as to what to ex­pect…ʼ

Nigel is well-known in south-western cir­cles as some­thing of the go-to man for en­gine con­ver­sions on VW campers, as well as be­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced pro­duc­tion car trial com­peti­tor in his well-sorted Bee­tle. Heʼs very much a jack of all trades when it comes to both VWS and Porsches, per­fectly happy to turn his hand to any­thing, from body­work and paint to en­gine and gear­box re­builds, run­ning a suc­cess­ful busi­ness with his son, Craig, from his home work­shop just out­side Newquay. Thereʼs no doubt­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence, but this was to be his first full-on Porsche restora­tion.

The car in ques­tion is a 1967 912 (built late 1966) that was im­ported from the USA and which, at first sight, ap­peared to be in rea­son­ably good con­di­tion. ʻIt was ob­vi­ous it was go­ing to need some work but as I poked around the car­pets, it was a case of “through the floor, through the floor, through the floor…” I could see a lit­tle bit of rot around the tor­sion bar area which I thought looked quite bad, but I did­nʼt re­ally know what to ex­pect. Once I got the car back here, I stripped it out and went “Oh dear”, as you do, and so rolled the body on its side and started un­pick­ing the welds round the floor.

ʻOnce Iʼd done that,ʼ Nigel con­tin­ues, ʻI looked and re­alised I did­nʼt have any­thing to weld the new floors to, as the whole perime­ter was miss­ing! Al­though a kit to re­pair this area was avail­able, I made my own but re­alised I was run­ning out of space where I had the car stored, so moved it into an­other part of my work­shop and built a ro­tis­serie so I could work on it more eas­ily.ʼ

Al­though it was to be Nigelʼs first Porsche resto, he

“THE FACT IT CAME WITH TWO FLOORPANS WAS A BIT OF A CLUE…”

was­nʼt daunted by the work that clearly lay ahead: ʻI re­ally like the shape of the early 911s and 912s, so that prompted me to have a go at one.ʼ But it was­nʼt an easy tran­si­tion from VWS to Porsches, not be­cause of the added com­plex­ity – ʻTheyʼre all just nuts and bolts,ʼ he jokes – but be­cause, as he says, when he em­barked on the re­build of a Volk­swa­gen, he knew in­stinc­tively what would need to be done and who to turn to for parts. ʻWith the Porsche,ʼ he con­tin­ues, ʻIʼd make a list of the parts I needed and then have to spend time try­ing to lo­cate them. It would be a case of “Oh, they do that bit, but they donʼt do that bit. So where do I get it from?” I canʼt be­lieve how long it took…ʼ

He spent the next two years restor­ing the bodyshell, start­ing out by sand­blast­ing it back to bare me­tal, learn­ing the hard way just how costly re­build­ing an early 911 (or 912) can be. In­evitably the 912 needed all the usual prob­lem spots ad­dress­ing, from the fuel tank and sus­pen­sion sup­port at the front (which had been re­paired but un­tidily), to the sills, par­cel shelf and tor­sion bar area. ʻBa­si­cally, the whole bot­tom six inches of the car,ʼ says Nigel. ʻI found ev­i­dence of some lovely re­pairs car­ried out by a for­mer owner in the USA – the rear cor­ners above the rear lights were mon­strous, but a friend had some pan­els heʼd cut out of a car, which I grafted in.ʼ

The en­gine lid was in a bad way, too, lead­ing our man to make up his own pan­els to re­pair the dou­ble-skinned sec­tions of the lid. But the up­per reaches of the ʼshell were ac­tu­ally pretty good. There was no ev­i­dence of rot around the wind­screen or scut­tle, and just a small amount at the bot­tom cor­ners of the rear screen: ʻI bought re­pair sec­tions but found they did­nʼt fit. I cut them into four bits and still could­nʼt make them fit, so threw them away and made my own,ʼ he laughs.

Rather than re­sort­ing to mod­ern filler (bondo), Nigel put his old school skills to use by us­ing lead, just like at the fac­tory. He spent nu­mer­ous hours set­ting the pan­els gaps (ʻTheyʼre way bet­ter than fac­to­ryʼ, he says proudly) but there was one thing that bugged him: the front wings that came with the car may have been per­fect but they were the wrong year, hav­ing a small flare that was ab­sent on the early short

wheel­base mod­els. This posed some­thing of a dilemma.

ʻI could­nʼt de­cide what to do. Should I sell them and try to find the cor­rect wings? In the end, be­cause they fit­ted so well, and were in such good con­di­tion, I got hold of some early wings, which were knack­ered but had per­fect edges to the wheel arch, cut them up and grafted the non-flared sec­tion into the later wings, lead­load­ing all the seams.ʼ

The bonnet was mint, the doors al­most as good, re­quir­ing only a small amount of lead work, and the front slam panel was fine, too. As far as Nigel could tell, with the ex­cep­tion of the later front wings, all the re­mov­able pan­els were orig­i­nal to the car.

It was around Oc­to­ber 2017 that he set him­self a tar­get: Le Mans Clas­sic 2018. ʻFrom that point on, I was do­ing bal­lis­tic hours, work­ing un­til mid­night two or three nights a week, then all week­end, ev­ery week­end. I did­nʼt want a blem­ish in the body­work. It had to be per­fect. My big­gest fault,ʼ he grins, ʻis that I wonʼt shop any­thing out to some­body else – in fact, the only work that I farmed out was the seat trim…ʼ Even then, he ad­mits, he came close to buy­ing a sewing ma­chine so he could tackle the job him­self.

Once the body­work had been com­pleted to Nigelʼs sat­is­fac­tion, he took the shell over to Colour­worx at Newquay where owner Nick Quince let him loose in the paint booth, etch-prim­ing the bare me­tal be­fore trai­ler­ing it back home. Then fol­lowed a cou­ple of weeks of block sand­ing in readi­ness for paint. There was no doubt in Nigelʼs mind what colour it would be: it had to be Ir­ish Green, just as the 912 had left the fac­tory. Again, Colour­worx let Nigel use the paint booth to ap­ply the top

“MY BIG­GEST FAULT IS THAT I WON’T SHOP ANY­THING OUT…”

coats, do­ing the main shell one week­end, the doors and bonnet, etc, the next.

Build­ing the shell back up again was one of Nigelʼs favourite parts of the restora­tion. He prides him­self in tak­ing time to do things right: the win­dows, for ex­am­ple, wind up and down with prac­ti­cally zero ef­fort re­quired, while the doors shut with a fac­tory-like ʻclunkʼ that seems unique to older Porsches. ʻI fit­ted the doors bare and was warned that they might not fit once the rub­bers were in­stalled. Why, I asked? “Be­cause the rub­bers will push the door out of line” came the re­ply. No, I replied, if the doors donʼt close prop­erly af­ter fit­ting the rub­bers, then the prob­lem lies with the seals, not the in­stal­la­tion. The doors shut beau­ti­fully…ʼ

The bright­work is orig­i­nal to the car and, while it could have been used ʻas isʼ with some pol­ish­ing, it did­nʼt come up to Nigelʼs stan­dards. In­stead, it was sent off to Doug Tay­lor Me­tal Fin­ish­ing in We­ston-su­per-mare for rechroming, who turned it around quickly as that tar­get of Le Mans Clas­sic was loom­ing large.

When it came to the in­te­rior, Nigel knew he wanted to in­stall some seats that would of­fer more sup­port than the orig­i­nals, yet would­nʼt look out of place in an early car. His choice was a pair of Re­caro re­clin­ers from a Vaux­hall Cav­a­lier SRI, less the head­rests, but they would need to be re­trimmed. ʻI had a pretty good idea of how I wanted the seats to look,ʼ he says, ʻso started to scour the in­ter­net for in­spi­ra­tion. I found a photo of some ma­te­rial that looked per­fect but then thought, “OK, so where do I get that from?”ʼ Read­ing a bit fur­ther he saw a ref­er­ence to ʻTRʼ and then dis­cov­ered it was ma­te­rial used in Tri­umph TR7S. Youʼd think that would have made life easy, but think again. He rang all the TR spe­cial­ists he could find, only to be told the ma­te­rial was­nʼt avail­able any­where.

Not to be put off, he con­tin­ued search­ing the ʼnet and found a com­pany who sold tar­tan cloth of var­i­ous types. Dig­ging deep into the web­site, Nigel even­tu­ally found ex­actly what he was af­ter: a green tar­tan iden­ti­cal to that used in the Tri­umph TR7. Great – or so you might think. The trou­ble was that there was none in stock.

A con­ver­sa­tion elicited the fact that an­other cus­tomer had

“YOU WOULD THINK THAT WOULD HAVE MADE LIFE EASY…”

talked about com­mis­sion­ing some more of this ma­te­rial, but the turn­around was go­ing to be some­thing like 12 weeks – a lit­tle too tight for Nigelʼs sched­ule. In the end, they man­aged to do it in 10 weeks, at which point he dropped the seats straight over to Matt Leach, a lo­cal trim­mer based near St Agnes in Corn­wall, who re­cov­ered the seats and door cards to Nigelʼs spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The rest of the trim Nigel han­dled him­self, in­clud­ing the dash top (ʻIt was poorly, sun-crackedʼ).

The sus­pen­sion and brak­ing sys­tems were stripped down, cleaned, re­plated where nec­es­sary and re­assem­bled us­ing Goodridge hoses on the brakes and new bushes from Ele­phant Rac­ing on the sus­pen­sion, along with new track-rod ends and ball-joints, plus up­graded ʻTur­boʼ track rods. Af­ter be­ing let down by the sup­plier when or­der­ing a heav­ier front anti-roll bar, Nigel made his own, us­ing a pair of Peu­geot tor­sion bars, no less. Does it work? Well, a photo of the car at Cas­tle Combe cir­cuit shows it ʻthree-wheel­ingʼ out of a cor­ner, so we can as­sume it does! A rear bar is now on the list of things to do.

ʻThe car just feels so nicely bal­anced. We set it up here in the work­shop and could only re­ally play with tyre pres­sures at the track, but it felt so good. It did­nʼt show any signs of want­ing to step out of line at all,ʼ says Nigel. Run­ning on 205/55x15 Yoko­hamas, the 912 has more than lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions on the track.

The car runs on a set of gen­uine Minilite wheels, 6Jx15, which had once been fit­ted to a car be­long­ing to Mag­nus Walker that was im­ported into the UK some while ago. Through a friend of a friend, Nigel heard that the wheels were for sale and got a fam­ily mem­ber to pick them up for him while on hol­i­day. Bead­blasted back to nat­u­ral alu­minium, the pe­riod rims suit the car per­fectly, al­though a set of steels might be in the car ʼs fu­ture.

The gear­box is the orig­i­nal five-speed (many 912s came with four-speed trans­mis­sions, so this was a bonus) that did­nʼt re­quire any­thing other than clean­ing up and be­ing treated to an oil change. The en­gine that came with the car was an­other mat­ter. ʻIt came to me full of wa­ter,ʼ Nigel re­calls.

ʻIt was seized solid, but we did man­age to free it off. How­evever, when I tried to start it, it ran badly, pop­ping and spit­ting. I de­cided to hang on for a bit as my in­ten­tion had al­ways been to in­stall a big VW Type 4 en­gine. How­ever, that would take quite a bit of de­vel­op­ment work and, as time was run­ning out, I made the de­ci­sion to re­build the 912 en­gine.

ʻAfter strip­ping it down, I had the cases and heads vapour-blasted, the bot­tom end bal­anced and then it was re­built all stock other than a 1720cc big-bore con­ver­sion. To be­gin with I ran the orig­i­nal Solexes but then changed them to 45DRLA Del­lʼor­tos. The ex­haust was al­ready on the car when I got it – not sure what it is, to be hon­est.ʼ

De­spite the at­ten­tion to de­tail, this is­nʼt the fi­nal en­gine. In its place Nigel plans to in­stall a 2.2-litre long-stroke Type 4 with dry-sump oil­ing, fea­tur­ing an ex­ter­nal belt-driven pump, and a 911-style cool­ing sys­tem.

The freshly-re­built mo­tor was bench run first of all, and then in­stalled in the car ready for ʻbed­ding inʼ out on the road. ʻI did a cou­ple of lit­tle trips around here, then headed off to Read­ing and back. It was then a case of oil and fil­ter changes, do­ing the tap­pets and sort­ing a mod­est brake fluid leak. Then we were ready for Le Mans Clas­sic.ʼ

Now with a few thou­sand miles un­der its belt, the 912 never ceases to thrill. ʻIt took me a while to get used to left­hand drive,ʼ ad­mits Nigel, ʻbut now I just want to keep driv­ing it and Iʼm now ex­pand­ing my ser­vices to of­fer restora­tion and en­gine work on Porsches (see con­tact panel, left – KS). Some peo­ple come into the work­shop and take a look, say­ing “How much is that worth?”, but I have no in­ter­est in know­ing. I just want to drive the car and en­joy it.ʼ

And, af­ter all, is­nʼt that what clas­sic Porsche own­er­ship is all about. Or at least, it should be… CP

50

Above: There can be no deny­ing that Ir­ish Green is one of the great­est colours ever of­fered by Porsche. The Minilite wheels add the per­fect fin­ish­ing touch

Above: Fac­tory-op­tion fog lights are a prac­ti­cal ad­di­tion spec­i­fied by the orig­i­nal owner. Lack of bumper over­rid­ers helps give the front end a clean look

Be­low right: Nigel is pretty happy with his first full-on Porsche restora­tion, and we can un­der­stand why!

Be­low: The Type 616/39 en­gine came with the car, but was full of wa­ter! Re­built by Nigel, it boasts a 1720 big-bore kit but is des­tined to be re­placed by a long-stroke VW Type 4 mo­tor

Above, left and right: Vaux­hall Cav­a­lier SRI Re­caro seats, sans head­rests, look good. Tar­tan in­serts fea­ture ma­te­rial orig­i­nally wo­ven for the Tri­umph TR7. Steer­ing wheel is a Momo Pro­totipo

Above: Nigelʼs un­de­cided whether to add some kind of decor to break up the side pro­file – we ac­tu­ally like it the way it is…

Be­low, left to right: As is com­mon­place with most 912 en­gine re­builds these days, new 1720cc big-bore bar­rels and pis­tons were used; a home-made ro­tis­serie en­abled Nigel to work on the un­der­side with ease; body­work above rear lights was de­scribed as ʻmon­strousʼ, ne­ces­si­tat­ing ex­ten­sive re­pair work

Con­tact: Nigel Allen & Son www.nige­lal­lenvw.co.uk 01637 880301 Matt Leach (trim­mer) 07563 776779 Nick Quince Colour­worx www.the­colour­worx.co.uk 01637 873 218

Be­low, left to right: Later front wings were mod­i­fied to SWB style by weld­ing in the cor­rect pro­file wheel arch lip; hid­den rust ne­ces­si­tated mak­ing up a new dou­ble­skinned sec­tion of the en­gine lid; un­der­side is as well fin­ished as the top. The car should last a life­time…

Be­low: Con­sid­er­ing this was Nigelʼs first full-on Porsche restora­tion, weʼre sure youʼll agree itʼs very im­pres­sive. So, Nigel, what comes next?

Above right: Clean and sim­ple – and ready for the hol­i­day lug­gage…

Above left: Chas­sis num­ber shows the 912 is a 1967 model, built in late 1966

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