Dressed in gorgeous Gulf blue and developing 250bhp, this St-styled restomod started life as a Guards Red Carrera 3.2 before landing at Stuttgart Classica’s base in the Cotswolds…
An St-styled Carrera 3.2 backdate.
There’s a lot to be said for buying once, buying right. After all, there are few cars capable of proving as expensive as a cheap air-cooled 911. “It’s a false economy,” says Will Chappell, co-owner of classic Porsche restoration specialist, Stuttgart Classica. “I speak to many enthusiasts who get in touch asking for advice regarding the choice of car to use as the starting point for a restomod project. Often, as they begin to explain their thinking, they tell me they’re considering the purchase of the cheapest 911 they can lay their hands on.” It makes sense, right? If you’re going to rip an old Porsche apart and put it back together in custom specification, why splash out on a perfectly presentable car to begin with? Surely, the best course of action is to buy a basket case? “I always recommend starting with the very best car you can afford,” Will continues. “You may think you’re saving money by getting hold of a really tired 911, but in reality, you could be buying into major expense for remedial work relating to rust, which is an old 911’s worst enemy. As a case in point, our recently revealed ST evocation saw ten grand invested in fixing corrosion alone. Moreover, the kind of compromised metalwork we were dealing with was nothing out of the ordinary. To all intents and purposes, this was a completely normal Carrera 3.2 showing its age in the usual places, yet it still required a significant amount of corrective work before the project could begin in earnest.”
A left-hand drive Guards Red Carrera 3.2 originally registered in Germany in 1985 (“there really was nothing exceptional about this Porsche”) and in the custody of Stuttgart Classica client, Ralf Webber, the car had been used by its master in more or less standard trim for a couple of years. Other 911s came and went from the Webber garage, but the red Porsche stuck around,
rewarded for its loyal service with the appointment of a tartan interior. It was a sign Ralf wanted to personalise his Porsche, though a far cry from his ultimate ambition to own an ST, a dream likely to remain unrealised due to less than thirty genuine STS being built by Porsche between 1970 and 1971 and any surviving example (many were raced to destruction) commanding an astronomical sum at auction.
LICENSE TO THRILL
Essentially a Weissach-developed performance package to transform a 911 S into a full-blown race car, the resulting ST has gone down in history as a hugely influential Porsche. Understandably, with so few examples built in period, the aftermarket has worked wonders to provide owners of mass-produced 911s with all the equipment they need to turn their air-cooled classics into ST replicas. The seldom seen 911 has also provided the blueprint for many signature models produced by some of the best-known marque-specific restoration houses. And, of course, the ST aesthetic — Fia-sanctioned wider wheel arches to accommodate bigger rims and tyres, thereby delivering a more aggressive stance, but sticking to the simpler, purer shape of the early 911, free of bigger bumpers and aerodynamic aids, such as the later ducktail — served as the starting point for the design of Singer’s series of bonkers-spec 964 backdates.
A reaction to increased threat from rival manufacturers participating in motorsport as the 1970s got underway, the ST’S fantastic power to weight ratio saw it perform well at the Targa Florio, 1,000km of Nürburgring and in the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Works driver, Gerard Larrousse, memorably used an ST to embarrass sports prototypes at the French Tour Auto. Little wonder this raucous air-cooled track attacker — a model pre-dating the Carrera RS 2.7, remember — has drawn such devotion from Porschephiles over the years. Indeed, many admirers have combined the ST look with the extra poke, refinement and enhanced reliability of later air-cooled 911s, such as the SC and, as we see here, the Carrera 3.2, launched for the 1984 model year and remaining in production until the arrival of the 964 in 1989.
“One of the biggest hurdles my business partner, Jase Eaton, and I have to overcome when starting on a client’s restomod project is working out exactly what they want from the finished build,” Will tells us. “It’s not unusual for a customer to buy an old 911, know they want to give it a new lease of life, but not really be clear on what the finished Porsche’s overall specification will be. Colour and the style of wheels are easy to determine, but what about the mechanicals? What about the interior? Are we expected to ape a specific 911? Thankfully,
Ralf had absolute focus on what he wanted well before he asked us to take on the project.” The brief was to turn the car into a Gulf blue ST evocation, but keeping standard Carrera 3.2 specification under the engine lid. The wheels were to be staggered fifteen-inch Fuchs
(“he sourced originals at a cost of around £8,000!”), as opposed to aftermarket replicas or the classic ST mix of Minilites at the rear, a combination thought to be dictated by the lack of Fuchs five-leaves deep enough to satisfy Porsche’s requirements when the first STS were being assembled. Ralf also wanted a sunroof. “It’s not really in
GERARD LARROUSSE USED AN ST TO EMBARRASS SPORTS PROTOTYPES AT THE FRENCH TOUR AUTO
keeping with the spirit of an ST,” Will laughs. “We did try and talk Ralf out of it, but he wouldn’t be swayed. In truth, we loved the fact we were dealing with a client who had such clarity of vision. It saved a huge amount of time for everyone involved in the build.”
First things first, though — what was the condition of Ralf’s Carrera 3.2? “Nothing shocking,” Will recalls. “The car looked decent enough, but there was rot in the sills, the door shuts, kidney bowls and around the battery tray. To the uninitiated, this might give cause for concern, but it’s standard fayre on an unrestored air-cooled 911 of this age. In truth, we were pleased with how solid the car was in other areas. When engaging in a project like this, it’s important to be aware of the fact you can never truly know the condition of the metal you’re working with until you strip the subject car back to a shell. Only then can you inspect and deal with corrosion in the proper way, else you’re left to guesswork.” Stuttgart Classica’s extensive experience dealing with air-cooled 911 bodywork correction and modification — not least on Jase’s wide-arched Carrera 3.2-based Group 4 replica and Will’s 993-powered St-look SC backdate — is known far and wide through promotion of the company’s work across social media, and it was this high-profile coverage which encouraged Ralf to commission the boys to turn his dream into reality.
“In fairness, the car’s mechanical components were in much better condition than the body,” Will reveals. “A Carrera 3.2 isn’t exactly a slouch, and I can understand why Ralf wanted to leave the flat-six well alone.” The only alteration was to fit 964 camshafts (with accompanying refurbished rocker arms), SSI heat exchangers and a different backbox, the changes introducing a little more power high up in the rev range — whereas a stockspec Carrera 3.2 develops approximately 230bhp, the brilliantly healthy boxer in Ralf’s car registered 250bhp
when tested by tuner, Wayne Schofield, on the rolling road at Chipwizards, his Lancashire-based engine mapping business. Not bad at all, providing perfectly adequate performance for driving in modern traffic and, interestingly, enough to encourage Ralf to dispense with his treasured 993 Carrera.
DOWN TO THE LAST DETAILING
A full detail of the engine, involving vapour blasting of key components and replating of all tinware, also took place. “It does seem somewhat counter-intuitive to spend serious money getting the exterior of a car to look fantastic, but to leave the engine bay in a poor cosmetic state,” Will reasons. “We’re really pleased with how the engine turned out. It looks as fresh as the baby blue paintwork and the stunning interior, which was completely overhauled.” A standard Carrera 3.2 cockpit suddenly looked very out of place with early 1970s styling everywhere else, leading Stuttgart Classica to source BF Torino seats from Rennsport in nearby Moreton-in-marsh. Together with new old-style carpets extending up the A, B and C-pillars, as well all the way to the rear window (note the Rs-style rear pew delete), the comfortable fabric-centred sports seats join a completely reworked dashboard. “We backdated most of what you can see in the car, but we also rebuilt the dash clocks, including recalibration of the rev counter, which now reaches 10,000rpm,” says Will. A vintage four-spoke 911 steering wheel (now mated to a bespoke boss for Carrera 3.2 fitment), custom door cards, a retrimmed headlining, red sports-style fabric door pulls and one of Stuttgart Classica’s own 917-inspired wooden gear knobs also feature in the customised cabin.
The 915 transmission itself was treated to an overhaul, while those fantastic Fuchs (eight inches of width at the front, ten at the rear) were refurbished, rough anodised and wrapped in Avon semi-slicks. Tucked under fully lead-loaded extended wheel arches and hiding Bilstein dampers, they give this special 911 the purposeful stance its owner demanded. “The arches are from our own pressings,” Will announces, proudly. “Jase and I created moulds from an original ST. This is really the only correct way of achieving an ST look. Where other builds make use of fibreglass arches with a limited service life, ours are steel. The only GRP here is the front bumper and corners, just like an original ST.” All parts are lifted from the Stuttgart Classica product portfolio and are available to anyone looking to build their own ST replica. “At one time, everyone seemed to want a Singer lookalike, but ST builds are now proving hugely popular,” Will shrugs. Unsurprisingly, he and Jase are selling bucketloads of associated products, including the centre-mounted fuel filler and accompanying bonnet recess, both products showcased in recent issues of Classic Porsche.
The Carrera 3.2’s standard black exterior brightwork was fully restored, polished and clear anodised, resulting in an early 1970s appearance without the expense of acquiring period Porsche parts. The matching horn grilles, door mirrors, chrome wiper arms and interior mirror are all from Stuttgart Classica’s own Porsche parts catalogue, as was the walnut-mounted, colourcoded resin model Will and Jase presented to Ralf on completion of the build. “We thought it was a lovely souvenir to accompany the car, but we also recognise
A 912 BEING CONVERTED TO RUN ON TESLA POWER IS THE LATEST BUILD WILL AND JASE ARE WORKING ON
owners and other restorers might want something similar to mark the end of an extensive restoration or a restomod project, which is why we’ve added this item to our list of product offerings,” Will confirms. And what was this car’s first outing after work was complete? “Ralf, Jase and I hopped into our respective 911 restomods and drove to popular petrolhead hangout, Caffeine and Machine, not far from Stuttgart Classica’s workshops. We enjoyed dinner, worked on a snag list and then drove back to our base in Blockley.” Snags, you say? “Every project has them,” Will sighs. “It’s usually annoying silly stuff. In this instance, the new fuel level sender we fitted wasn’t supplying the right reading to the fuel gauge. It proved to be a duff part, which we replaced. When you strip a car to a bare shell and then rebuild it in a new configuration, introducing lots of new parts and custom componentry along the way, you have to expect a few niggles in the first few miles. As was the case with Ralf’s ST, faults are usually something to do with electrics, even though we installed a new loom, replaced many of the switches and much of the wiring susceptible to failure through age. Thankfully, it was an easy fix.”
Clearly, Stuttgart Classica has a wealth of experience taking a tired 911 and turning it into something spectacular, but what advice would Jase and Will have for anyone thinking of embarking on their own restomod project? “Before you get bogged down worrying about detail, such as door cards or exhausts, work out what you really want from the finished project,” says the latter. “We were very lucky to have Ralf as a client — he knew precisely what his Carrera 3.2 should end up like, making our job far simpler than it often is. A singleminded vision of what you want to achieve makes life a lot easier for you and your service suppliers, who may end up serving as project managers.” He’s also keen to stress knowing what you want is as important as what
you start with. “It’s always useful to witness the car you intend to modify running without fault before the process of disassembly begins. You can make a far better assessment of the vehicle’s overall condition, which will help to determine the cause of teething problems when the finished Porsche is back together again. If you buy a non-runner, regardless of whether the seller tells you the lack of operation is caused by years of inactivity or minor faults, err on the side of caution and work on the assumption the car is broken and needs a significant amount of remedial work to put right. Factor this into the price you’re prepared to pay for the car.”
Being realistic about budget and the project timeline is also crucial. “Speak to your chosen restorer and find out how they are going to bill you,” Will suggests. “Will it be fifty percent up-front, fifty percent on completion, or are you expected to pay chunks of the outstanding balance monthly or, perhaps, bi-monthly? Maybe as yet undetermined bills will be itemised as you go along? Your project partners are likely to come across unforeseen problems, which is why each party being clear about the other’s expectations is of paramount importance, especially where money is concerned. Be flexible in your approach and ensure you’re in regular contact with your suppliers — these conversations will enable you to keep a handle on what work is being done and where your money is being spent.”
It’s just as important to be aware of how your restorer works. It’s all very well being impressed by the cars they turn out, but it’s important for you to be happy with the processes involved in reimagining your Porsche. Visit the company’s workshop and don’t be afraid to ask fellow customers to tell you about their experience. You should also consider whether you’re likely to want to return the car to standard specification at some point in the future, perhaps when you’ve had your fun and feel it’s time to move onto a new Porsche project. “Think laterally and you’ll realise you can overhaul and personalise a Porsche by introducing entirely reversible updates,” Will advises. “What you see as Porsche perfection might not be what others enjoy, and you don’t want to have difficulty selling the car at a later date because of bold styling and performance choices you make today. It’s like owning a custom suit — the product you lust after isn’t necessarily a good fit for everyone. As long as you’re not too wacky with your choices, you’ll be able to put your car back to standard specification without too much hassle, should you be so inclined. Just remember to store the old parts away in your loft or garage for the long term.” As ever, at the time of writing, an eclectic mix of projects occupies the Stuttgart Classica workshop. A 912 being converted to run on Tesla battery power is the latest build Will and Jase are working on, the pair delving into their company’s extensive range of parts for air-cooled Porsches to see the project through to completion. And if it’s half as good as Ralf’s ST evocation, the formerly flat-four-powered Porsche’s owner is going to be in possession of yet another outstanding Stuttgart-crested restomod.