1973 Porsche 911 T 2.4
When Charlie Thresh bought his 911 T, it appeared to be in need of only light restoration. After the shell was shot-blasted, however, the car’s poor condition was fully revealed. Fast-forward four years and we are in the presence of a masterpiece of reconstructive metalwork...
Words Johnny Tipler
Photography Dan Sherwood
A freshly restored classic 911 T.
Paignton, Devon, sometime in the mid-1980s. Seventeen-year-old Charlie Thresh is out riding his motorbike. He’s overtaken by a white 911 manufactured in the early 1970s. Immediately, he is hooked on Porsche.
Fifteen years passed before he achieved his ambition of owning one of Zuffenhausen’s air-cooled classics — he bought a long-bonnet 911. Later, he became the proud owner of a Carrera 3.2, a model now regarded as a fine sports car in its own right. “I’d changed jobs and managed to scrape together some money, which was intended for a kitchen, but these plans were deferred, giving me £15,000 I didn’t plan on having at my disposal. I managed to negotiate with my wife and bought a metallic dark blue 1987 Carrera 3.2. I assured her I could sell the car for a profit, thereby recouping the money required for a kitchen.” It’s an all too familiar tale.
ANOTHER INTERESTING DETAIL IS THE OIL PRESSURE GAUGE TUCKED AWAY IN THE TOP LEFT-HAND CORNER OF THE ENGINE BAY
“That was an amazing 911,” Charlie continues. “I paid £13,500. Eighteen months later, I sold the car for £15,500. Even back then, in the mid-2000s, values were on the rise.” During his ownership, he narrowly escaped a stiff speeding ticket, leading him to regard the 911 as a potential licence loser. A fitted kitchen, on the other hand, was less likely to make trouble. Later, he enjoyed a dalliance with a 986 Boxster S. “I kept the Boxster for about eighteen months before selling it to a friend and switching up to a Cayenne as a family workhorse.”
The image of a white 911 tearing past his motorcycle remained clear in the mind — an F-series was at the top of Charlie’s sports car wish list. “There were plenty of left-hand drive examples available to buy, but I wanted a right-hand drive classic 911. My family laughs at me because I’ve got a track record of buying cars on eBay and then discovering they’re not as good as I’ve led them to believe. As you can probably guess, this Porsche was an eBay find.”
The asking price was £60,000 for what was, apparently, a straight 911. Visually, the only real difference between then and now is the set of Fuchs wheels replacing the ‘cookie cutters’ on the car at the point Charlie first laid eyes on it. “I bought it from a Porsche specialist in Cornwall,” he recalls. “I got the sense he was running his garage as a career break from being an engineer. Even so, he told me he was folding the business and getting rid of all his cars. This 911 was one of them.”
Charlie bought the Porsche sight unseen. “I would have preferred a 911 E over a T, but this is what I ended up with.” Here comes the reckoning. We knew it was coming — there wouldn’t be much of a story without it. “I asked automotive restoration specialist, Justin Simmons, to collect the car on my behalf. It was subsequently driven from Cornwall to Pinkney’s Green, the home of Justin’s workshop.” A short while later, Charlie jumped into his new toy and motored down to the Goodwood Members Meeting. It was March 2019. “That was the only time I drove the car,” he tells us. “It performed very well. It wasn’t a hot rod by any means. No 911 T is, of course, but this particular Porsche didn’t feel like it wanted for any extra power. I was frustrated by the gearbox jumping out of third and there were a few obvious issues with the bodywork, but I was prepared for a light restoration.”
The car was handed back to Justin for dismantling. It was at this point its true condition was revealed. “A complete mess,” describes Charlie. The price we pay for buying without inspection.
Word to the wise: at the very least, make sure you view a car in the metal and complete a test drive before handing over your dosh. Charlie seems unperturbed. “When driving this Porsche, I didn’t get the slightest inkling there was anything amiss with its metalwork. I remember noting the steering assembly was very close to falling apart and the wheels were doing a good job of cartoonish negative camber splaying, but these are easy fixes.” Even now, knowing how much work the car needed, he is remarkably sanguine. “I don’t want this story to come across as a criticism of the seller. We exchanged emails and he insisted the Porsche was advertised as a rolling restoration. I chose not to argue the point.”
Based near Maidenhead, Justin is a well-regarded restorer in Jaguar circles. He agreed to take on Charlie’s 911 T because of the pair’s personal friendship. “Justin considers himself to be a specialist in the restoration of classic British sports cars,” says Charlie. “He had just taken on a guy named Terry Humphries, who had worked at St Albans-based independent Porsche servicing, repair and restoration outfit, JAZ. Both Terry and Justin are artisans. They meticulously rebuilt my 911’s bodyshell, welding seams and plates and gradually putting the entire car back together. I bought new wings to replace the fibreglass parts in place when I took ownership. Terry and Justin sourced the rest of the new body panels. I’ve got a picture of the shell on a gurney after having been shot-blasted and sprayed lightly with paint to keep rust at bay. It’s like looking at a photograph depicting Swiss cheese — there were so many holes in the body. It was horrific. The high level of corrosion is why it took four and a half years to restore this Porsche.”
Justin endorses the extent to which the 911 had to be restructured, telling me that, having dismantled the car, he transported the shell to Bead and Shotblasting Ltd in Halifax, where it was subjected to a low-bake treatment to remove underseal and sundry filler before being shot-blasted to bare metal. “I took the car to Yorkshire on my trailer, but I could have brought back what was left in a rucksack,” he laughs. “It was clear to see metal plates had been welded on and rewelded many times, back when old 911s weren’t worth a lot and were patched together to get them through their annual MOT test. This was the start of what turned out to be a major body job.”
DUE TO THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TERRY AND JAZ, THE FLAT-SIX WAS SHIPPED TO HERTFORDSHIRE FOR A REBUILD
He goes on to confirm the poor condition of Charlie’s 911 made it one of the most corroded cars he’s ever welcomed into his workshop. With the shell attached to a rotisserie, however, the painstaking process of restoration saw the metalwork return to as-new state, after which it was painted in a fresh coat of Light Yellow (Hell Gelb) by Dave Graves at DSAG Auto Bodyshop in Chingford. There are certain areas on a 911 body of this vintage shipped new from factory without topcoat (just a blow of undercoat). Justin and Terry did their best to make sure the new paint was applied as close to period practice as possible.
The bodywork restoration occupied at least two years. “Terry majored on it,” Justin explains. “He did most of the welding. Justin ‘Taff’ Harris refitted everything. The pair spent a lot of time sourcing parts. The work took place during the lockdowns experienced at the height of the pandemic, which made it difficult to get hold of what we needed when we needed it. And many parts didn’t fit. The headlights were a particular hassle. They weren’t quite right and had to go back to the supplier more than once.” With hindsight, four and a half years is maybe par the course for a comprehensive restoration. It is nevertheless a lengthy stretch to be without what you had high hopes of being your pride and joy. Again, Charlie is phlegmatic. “I’m not going to tell you the cost of the restoration, suffice to say it was an astronomical figure, far more than this 911 is worth, though I suspect this is a story familiar to many people restoring old Porsches.”
We haven’t talked about the immaculate cabin. The headlining is new Porsche material, as are the carpets. The seats are new reproduction parts made in Italy. “The originals were long gone,” Justin sighs. “Charlietried to source period Recaros, but they command between ten and fifteen grand a pair. Surprisingly, the dash top was uncracked, which doesn’t tally with the condition of the rest of the car. I imagine it must have been replaced at some point in the recent past.” Additional upholstery work was carried out by Piers Walsh at Bespoke Auto Trim.
THE POOR CONDITION MADE IT ONE OF THE MOST CORRODED CARS HE’S EVER WELCOMED INTO HIS WORKSHOP
The nudge bar atop the rear overriders — spanning the rear numberplate — was optioned from new, possibly an adjunct to the Lux pack, including the front spoiler. The rear windscreen wiper was lost by the time Charlie’s name appeared on the car’s logbook. He hasn’t felt the need to reinstate.
The engine was removed when the car was dismantled. Due to the connection between Terry and JAZ, the flat-six was shipped to Hertfordshire for a rebuild. “When JAZ boss, Steve Winter, took the engine apart,” Charlie says, “he confirmed it was all original. The cylinder barrels, pistons, rings, connecting rods, the crank and valves had never been replaced and, importantly, never messed with.” Would the 2.4-litre unit be put back together as standard, or transformed into something a little more special?
There’s a backstory — Charlie had already caught whiff of the joys of a higher-capacity flat-six. “Before I bought my Carrera 3.2 twenty years ago, I tested a genuine three-litre Carrera RS backdated to look like an RS 2.7. The owner told me he wasn’t using the car and was prepared to let it go for £11,000. It was a bit rough and hadn’t been restored. Of course, I should have bought it, but didn’t. Anyway, I took it out for a test drive and completely fell in love with the feeling of RS power and torque. I was enraptured, which is what led me to buy the Carrera 3.2, which isn’t an RS, obviously, but boasted higher displacement. Importantly, the newer 911 wasn’t in need of restoration.”
Referring back to his brief time in charge of a classic Rennsport, Charlie wondered whether his 911 T’s 2.4-litre flat-six might be upgraded to Carrera RS 2.7 specification. It was, so he considered, theoretically possible to develop the engine into something akin to the powerplant of a 911 S/T with carburettors. After Steve gave an indication of price, rather than full-on RS specification, Charlie settled on the idea of a much enhanced 2.4-litre 911 T motor, coupled with the standard five-speed 915 transmission. “The cost was pretty eye-watering,” he admits. “I just couldn’t justify it, instead opting to jump a notch down, although the difference ended up being only £5,000 or thereabouts.”
The revitalised boxer makes use of a 911E crank, slightly higher-compression pistons and tweaked fuel flow. The original Solex carburettors were judged to be worn out, leading them to be replaced with original Weber IDA 40mm parts from Steve’s stockpile. They were rebuilt by Weber in Italy and incorporate competition-oriented modifications, making them idealfor Charlie’s 911 T engine, which he is delighted to report runs perfectly. Another interesting detail is the oil pressure gauge tucked away in the top left-hand corner of the engine bay.
The suspension was also rebuilt by the team at JAZ. “It is, essentially, completely reworked,” Charlie states. “I wanted the ride height slightly lowered, but not like a hardcore hot rod, where the wheels are compressed into the arches. I simply wanted to reduce the gap between tyre and wheel arch. The front shock tubes make use of Bilstein inserts, while the rears were new when I bought the car, meaning they didn’t need to be replaced.” The fifteen-inch Fuchs wheels are wrapped in Pirelli tyres, 185/70 ZR 15 front and rear, which Steve recommended.
This brightly coloured 911 was back in Charlie’s custody a few weeks before this issue of Classic Porsche went to print. “I haven’t covered many miles in the car since being reunited with it, meaning the engine is still being run-in,” he concedes. “Looking at the old MOT certificates and comparing them with the odometer’s readout of little more than 80,000 miles, it’s safe to say a few digits have been lost along the way. My reckoning is this Porsche has covered closer to 100,000 miles, but given almost everything is now new and the engine has been rebuilt, this discrepancy isn’t exactly a big deal and, if anything, adds to the story — clearly, rogues as well as gentlemen have owned my 911!”
At fifty-five years old, Charlie’s not exactly what you’d describe as boy racer, although some of us never shake off the teenage urge. Indeed, he admits to being a little bit of a hooligan in this gorgeous 911 T. “It’s great to drive,” he says. “Power delivery is fantastic, all the way through the rev range. Those Pirellis are super-sticky in the dry, too. I haven’t driven it in the wet, though.” He recalls piloting his Carrera 3.2 on a damp surface. “The worst driving situation I’ve experienced was in the 3.2 going downhill in the wet through a series of left- and right-hand bends. The back-end of the car was feeling very skittish. I’m fearful of experiencing the same in my 911 T when the road is a bit greasy, but in the dry, it’s a joy to whip around a corner and duck in and out of roundabouts.”
Charlie splits his time between the UK and Bermuda. The 911 T is stationed at his home in Blighty. There’s a marked contrast with the four-wheeler he makes use of in the North Atlantic archipelago. “Cars aren’t very exciting in Bermuda — they’re limited to a certain power-to- weight ratio and size. Additionally, only one car is permitted per household. I run a Honda FR-V. It’s very good for carrying six of us, plus our dog, to the beach. And nobody cares about sand in the car on the way back!” The climate notwithstanding, it’s easy to see why he’s not averse to being back in Britain and having fun in his beautifully restored 911 T.
Above Not-so-mellow yellow Neunelfer is a far cry from the Honda people carrier Charlie drives when he is in Bermuda.
Above Yellow paintwork looks fantastic on any Porsche, but is particularly at home on a 911 of this vintage.
Below Every aspect of this restoration has been executed to extremely high standards.
Above An engine upgrade to Carrera RS 2.7 specification was dismissed in favour of a thorough overhaul of the original 2.4-litre boxer, including the appointment of original Weber IDA 40mm carburettors from the parts store at JAZ Porsche.
Above Seats are new reproduction parts from Italy and replicate the classic Recaros found in 911s made in the early 1970s.
Above Charlie was prepared for a light restoration, but the 911 T he bought ended up becoming a comprehensive multi-year project.