C&N Customs 911

The last time I saw this 1968 911T, it had more in common with a lace tablecloth than a classic Porsche. “It was in a state when it arrived,” agrees Mike from C&N Customs in Middle Aston, Oxfordshire, “but that didn’t put us off. Lots of basket cases come through these doors and they always leave looking good.

“Our first reaction was that this was not going to be cheap to restore, and to ensure the customer knew that. Looking at these projects, you can’t give a reasonably accurate assessment until you know what you’ve got, what you’re missing and how long it will take to fill in the blanks. We stripped what little suspension there was on the chassis, and sent the body to be dipped to remove all the paint. This would give us a much better idea of the potential scale of restoration.”

Mike’s son, Nick, is the N in C&N. Nick collected the car after dipping and brought it back to base. “When it came back, it was obviously going to be a huge job. Jacking the shell up, the whole structure would flex and bend: you could move the front sections just by pushing on them. It really needed a new shell, but that’s never an option on a right hand-drive car of this vintage. So we bolted it to a jig, welded braces into the door apertures and started cutting into the rust. There was plenty of that to choose from.”

“As the panels began to come off, it was obvious that most of the metal work would need replacing,” remembers Mike. “Floors, inner and outer sills, front and rear wings, door skins, rear seat wells and the roof: all would be replaced. The big problem on a short wheelbase car is that you can buy some parts new, but not others. The roof is a good example: it was a used part that we had shipped in from Canada. The rear seat wells came from the same source.

“After the car came back from dipping, it was probably three months before we could start doing any work on it: that’s how long it took to gather the parts required. Some bits came new from Porsche, some bits we found in the UK from Roger Bray and the like, but other bits were so obscure that we needed specialist help. Andy Hornby at R to RSR helped us to find quite a lot of parts for the rebuild, no matter what the value. Even on parts costing almost nothing, Andy would use his contacts and get the bits to us: his help was invaluable.”

“In some ways this was more build than restoration,” says Nick. “The car came in with nothing: just a body on wheels. Wheels off a Rover! There was no engine, no gearbox, no suspension. The car had been to a Birmingham bodyshop for restoration some years before, but they’d just bodged some bits and given up. After that, it sat outside for who knows how long before HERO bought it.”

HERO is the Historic Endurance Rally Organisation: the people behind classic rallies like the Summer Trial, Scottish Malts and Le Jog (Land’s End to John O’Groats). The organisation runs an impressive fleet of arrive-and-drive rally cars including Alfas, an E-Type and a pair of Porsches: a 1970 2.2-litre 911S and this little green T. The S has been past C&N’s door once or twice, says Nick.

“HERO use Bob Watson for mechanical work on the 911S, so rang him when they found this little T for sale. When they brought it into Bob’s, it was obvious that bodywork would come first, so it ended up here and Bob did all the mechanicals. We’ve since done quite a bit for HERO, including paintwork on the members’ road cars: it’s been a great relationship so far.”

Three months after starting the hunt for non-corroded metal, the panels began to arrive. It was time to get stuck in. Securing the structural integrity was a priority, so inner wings, sills and floors were at the top of Nick’s list. “When we took off the front wings, part of the A posts came away, too: there was nothing left of them. The Birmingham bodgers had stuffed them full of filler and just left it at that.

“Replacing the A posts is tricky. Because everything up front relies on them for position, they are key to the whole shape of the car. Everything was tacked and trial fitted: that was the way the whole build went. Doors, windows, bonnet and engine cover were constantly offered up as new metal went in, to make sure they all fitted properly.

“From our earliest conversations, the intention was to paint the car Guards Red: that’s what HERO wanted. Though the chassis had arrived with a V5, there was no chassis number. Armed with the build number from behind the dashboard, HERO applied to Porsche for a letter of authentication. The V5 chassis number was confirmed, as was the original colour: Irish Green. Red was taken off the plan: the car would be Green, which we thought was perfect.”

Irish Green is not a colour often seen on right-hand-drive 911s. In this pale December light, rolling among the remains of an abandoned Air Force base, the green is a treat. The FIA-approved rollcage came from Porscheshop and was painted white: the two go together perfectly. Admittedly, there’s some bias: I’m from Limerick, and these are our county colours.

Driving the T is fun: HERO clients who rent this for £480 a day (plus insurance) should enjoy it. Though the view from the driver’s seat will be familiar to any 911 driver, motoring in a stripped-out short wheelbase 2.0-litre is quite different to a later car. When you’ve not driven one for a while, the short wheelbase chassis initially feels fidgety: quick to follow a new direction. The rear wheels track the fronts tightly, emphasising the need to be switched on right from the start.

Wheeling through the village of Middle Aston, a farmer passing parked cars in his 4×4 pickup hammers forward on my side of the road. I take urgent avoiding action, but the surge of energy as the truck blasts past is a heads-up on how compact this classic is versus modern traffic.

After the pickup incident, the little T has a definite air of retribution. Pushed to the verge by a pickup bully just won’t do: time to reassert some superiority on home turf. I’m wearing no rally gear, so no helmet. The seat is fixed as low as C&N could get it, but still quite high in the chassis. As the white rollcage top bars are closer to my skull than I’d like, this could be quite a short drive.

Shot from a standstill, the T is excited, an attitude exaggerated by the noise of engine, transmission and road surface rattling off the floor, thanks to those aggressive Vredestein Snow Trac winter tyres. The gearchange on this car still needs a bit of breaking in – there’s a squeaky-stiff rubberness to it that could be sweeter – but the ratios mesh nicely with the character of the engine.

Though these seats are a bit tight for my Christmas-sized posterior, eventually I squidge a bit and slip into place. The suspension is stiff but not overly so: running on an almost-empty tank, the front end is solid compared to other run-in rally cars I’ve driven. Some fuel up front would add a bit more movement.

1968 was the first year for the 911T, taking the rear-engined range to 90bhp 912, 110bhp 911T, 130bhp 911L and 160bhp 911S. All were rallied in their day. While the later LWB 911S is perhaps the most famous – Björn Waldegard winning the Monte Carlo rally with a 911S in 1969 and 1970 – the 911T was homologated some 35 kilograms lighter than the 911S, and enjoyed success in its own right. Englishman Vic Elford won the 1968 Monte with a 911T, ahead of European Champion Pauli Toivonen in his 911S.

Porsche made 2,123 911Ts in 1968: 512 Targas and 1,211 coupes. Some were built at the Porsche factory, with the rest assembled by Karmann. The 1968 model year had a lot of one-year-only parts that are not easy to find, particularly cabin parts, like the door pockets. Restoring a ’68 for rallying relieves the workload: no interior required.

Getting a 2.0-litre T to shift itself involves revs, and lots of them. Up to the mid-3,000s, the car feels perky but not exactly fast. Passing 3,000 with a wide-open throttle is where the fun starts. Pulling onto a nearby short stretch of dual carriageway that has seen many Porsche drag races, the engine has warmed and is ready for action. Flooring the gas in second, revs climb steadily and then – whoa – cams, carbs and chassis all begin to boil.

Sliding into third, that stubborn gear shift is required sooner than you think as the rev limiter appears: shift to fourth, keep the loud pedal buried and you’re going at quite a rate of knots. Johnny Law Esq would not be amused if he found me right now, especially with the U-turn I’m just about to pull. I have a few runs in the T and convince myself the engine feels quite special. Time to talk to Bob Watson about what’s beneath the lid.

“HERO wanted to stay as original as possible, so all the suspension and brakes are original: right down to the brake pads,” says Bob. “The 901 gearbox came from Chris Turner in London: we were on the phone one day and it occurred to me he might have one. Chris dropped it over, I stripped it and it was very nice inside: all it needed was a freshen-up with new synchros. It had a light bead blast to clean the case and I found the type number: 901/12. Looking that up, it was from a 912, with perfect rally ratios. On our dyno, fourth gear tops out at 112mph, while fifth is quite tall: 137mph at 7,000 revs.”

Seven thousand revs sounds like quite a redline, but as I suspected, it’s not exactly standard. “We found the engine in Germany: a ’68 911T, thankfully on Webers. The seller reckoned it had been stored under a bench for 25 years but they all say that. When we got it back, I took it apart and sure enough, the crank was standard at top tolerance: all it needed was a polish and it was ready to go.

“We put a lot of work into building the motor and it paid off on the dyno. I don’t always shuffle pin cases – the factory never did – but we gas flowed and shuffle pinned these, and balanced everything. I was tempted to use E cams, but this was for a rally car and a 2.0-litre one at that, so it wants to rev. We used S cams, barrels and pistons and then put it all together. It’s still pretty new but, after running it in on the dyno, it showed 175bhp. We’ve had 192 from an FIA 2.0-litre on Solex carbs, so I think this will be up there once it’s had a bit of use.”

That power is a great result, and for sure there’s more to come from the whole package as HERO and its clients clock up the miles. Might be interesting to catch up again in a year’s time: say for a Le Jog drive? Sounds like a plan to me.

www.heroevents.eu

www.candncustoms.com

This was taken from issue 84, for all Total 911 back issues visit www.imagineshop.co.uk/

 

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