Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

This blue oyster is almost a blank canvas, certainly in terms of its future competition career. Set up and freshly fettled for present-day historic rallying, it could also be flipped for the Peter Auto 2.0L Cup...

Words Johnny Tipler

Photography Dan Sherwood



911 swb

A competition-ready 1965 911 SWB

When referring to a car they were trying to sell, there was a time vendors used to list “never raced or rallied” as a plus point to tempt potential buyers. This short-wheelbase 911 hasn’t exactly been raced, although during its former life, it participated in Stateside trackdays. The Porsche has, however, been rallied. On account of it emanating from those doyens of historic off-road motorsport, Tuthill Porsche, we wouldn’t expect anything less. This Sky Blue air-cooled classic’s latest owner is bent on reprising the car’s previous actions, which is why he’s brought it to the workshops of independent Porsche restoration specialist, Greatworth Classics, for fettling and updating to the current historic rallying specification.

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

Proprietor, Angus Watt, talked me through the car’s specification. “The owner bought the car direct from Tuthill. It’s a 1965 two-litre short-wheelbase 911 equipped with Solex carburettors and a close-ratio gearbox. The Porsche makes use of heat exchangers, meaning there’s obviously warmth in the cabin, which is obviously useful for cold winter rallies. The owner has used the car for a couple of track days outings, but little more to date, but he’s keen to engage in classic rallying,” hence the bright blue 911’s presence at the Greatworth Classics team’s base of operations in Banbury.

This Porsche’s conversion from road to rally specification took place in the 1990s, when historic motorsport really started to take off. The car was then shipped to North America, where it enjoyed the aforementioned trackdays and “desert stuff”, before returning to the UK and spending time not only with Tuthill, but also with Neil Bainbridge at nearby aircooled engine rebuild and tuning outfit, BS Motorsport.

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

Specification at this point in the car’s timeline was typical of the way historic competition cars were prepared in the period. “Owners used to buy all the bits they wanted from a Demon Tweeks catalogue and bolt them into place,” Angus continues. “Fast-forward to the present day, and our customer decided he wanted to explore the possibility of competing in events run by the Historic Rally Car Register. With this in mind, we pulled the car out of Tuthill’s storage facility and reverted to a more original and genuine-looking period rally car.”

To this end, the car’s interior paintwork, which was a jarring contrast of blue and red, was painted black. “We got rid of the old seats and installed BF Torino buckets, which are more appropriate. We kitted them out with OEM-look multi-point safety harnesses. We also changed the suspension to a much more compliant setup suitable for both gravel and tarmac rallying. A historic rally’s special stages are typically run on narrow lanes and broken-up airfield perimeter tracks, where the going is rough and a participating car needs to be able to turn-in and change direction quickly.”

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

At the same time, the ride height was lifted, the engine was serviced and Group 4 Wheels LMZ alloys were installed, complete with chunky Max Sport tyres. “Most of the work was carried out in the interests of eligibility for the events the car’s owner is interested in,” Angus confirms.

“Historic road rally regulations have always been derived from road rally rules, but they haven’t been enforced particularly aggressively in recent years. They’re now being imposed far more strictly. For example, scrutineers now want to see headlinings, carpets and rear seats in place.” The blue finish is down to the Tuthill team — many moons ago, father-and-son duo, Francis and Richard Tuthill, ran a number of 911s painted this very colour.

“When Francis was building his first historic rally 911s, he painted three or four in this shade of blue. I guess you could say it became his signature.”

The car’s owner is also in possession of a 1972 911 S 2.7. Sadly, he doesn’t know much about the rally machine’s history, but being left-hand drive, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t delivered new to the UK. “It was originally sold in Sweden,” he tells us, unaware of the poignancy of this statement — if you’ve read this issue of Classic Porsche page-by-page, you’ll know our news bulletin pays tribute to Per Anders Ygberg, the first and foremost Porsche dealer in Sweden, who recently celebrated his ninety-seventh birthday. Almost certainly, Ygberg supplied this 911 to its first owner.

“Much later, it became a Tuthill customer car. A conversion to hand throttle was required because the owner, David Butler, suffered serious injury as a young man. He’s now President of the British Motorsport Association for the Disabled. The car then went to a friend of Richard Tuthill’s in America before returning to UK. Since I took ownership, I’ve used it for occasional track days and the odd road trip.”

Back to Angus at Greatworth Classics. “When historic rallying took off in the early 1990s, we were repairing cars with modern parts and didn’t give much thought to aesthetics. Owners simply wanted us to fit whatever was practical and cheap. For instance, a fire extinguisher would be shoved into the passenger footwell, but with no attempt to install it discretely. In contrast, for this 911, we’ve hidden the fire extinguisher under a cover, avoiding visibility of an unsightly red cylinder.” The neighbouring Brantz trip meter is tucked below the dashboard top, along with an ignition cut-off switch. Considered positioning means the parts aren’t slap-bang in front of the navigator’s face.


“The chequerboard footplate was finished in bare aluminium. We painted it black,” Angus highlights. “We had to paint the roll-cage in situ because it’s welded in place. It was quite a tricky job. The roll cage also caused us grief when fitting the headlining, which is a hard enough task at the best of times, let alone when you’re having to work around scaffolding. It’s like wallpapering your hallway through a letterbox!” The front end was tidied with minor body repairs, new paint and a pair of Pallas spotlights — only four forward beams are permitted in historic rallying. The Greatworth Classics team used wedge spacers to keep the lights focused high and to maintain adjustment.

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

In addition to the Group 4 Wheels, which are a modern take on the classic Porsche steelie, there’s a spare set of original Fuchs, which have been wrapped in Vredestein Quatrac rubber for road events. The classic five-leaves are finished in bare aluminium. Angus intends to “leave them lying around for a while, to ensure they pick up a bit of patina. Minor corrosion will give them a distressed look, in keeping with the nature of this 911.”

The brakes were serviced as a matter of course, as were the Solex carburettors, which now benefit from overhauled linkages, eradicating a prominent flat-spot. Greatworth Classics also installed a five-foot-long alloy under-shield running beneath the silencers and exhaust pipes, a means of protecting the engine and gearbox from the potentially catastrophic impact of a stray rock or similarly destructive object on a rally stage.

We took the car for a short test around Oxfordshire’s muddy lanes. The drive was very entertaining. The car changed direction nicely and, as Angus reckons, is supercompliant, primarily thanks to the renewed suspension.

Those Max Sport tyres have got plenty of grip to them, too. “This classic Porsche inspired me to build a shortwheelbase 911 of my own,” he says. “I’m halfway through the project. The blue car is a lovely thing to drive, even on the road, but with the suspension configured as is, it would be just as suited to forest rallies. The tyres are relatively narrow, which helps in this regard. This 911 offers a pure driving experience. It’s a basic car, but it’s lively.” In summing up, he describes it as “nippy” and “very responsive”.

Where does his expertise in such matters stem from? Greatworth Classics was founded in 2005 as a specialist in the repair and restoration of vintage Volkswagens. The company moved to its present expansive site in 2011, after Angus identified it offered sufficient room to service Porsches alongside Wolfsburg metal. He became a transatlantic traveller, buying Westfalia camper vans and air-cooled Porsches in the USA, going on to sell them in the UK. “Those were the days when you could buy a sorted air-cooled 911 for ten grand,” he reminisces. “The period’s exchange rate was almost two dollars to the pound, which helped, as did the fact you could buy a classic 911 for about the same price as a split-screen camper van”. As well as being a lucrative exercise, importing 911s created a solid Porsche customer base — when values of air-cooled classics multiplied (as much as tenfold in some instances), Angus had no shortage of owners asking him to treat their Stuttgart-crested sports cars to heightened levels of care and attention.

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star

The kind of capital needed to buy and sell classic 911s in the current climate sees serious cash tied up in cars while they’re between owners. For this reason, Greatworth Classics no longer buys and sells, but has established enough of a reputation as a marque expert for owners to continually bring projects through the company’s workshop doors. The blue 911 on these pages is a prime example of what we’re talking about.

“When it comes to custom builds, we started off by working on Targas,” Angus says. “Back then, nobody really wanted a semi-open-top Porsche, making them a low-cost entry point to classic 911 ownership. With the arrival of the 991 Targa and its reintroduction of the classic-style Targa rollover hoop, which disappeared with the 993 Targa, everything changed. Classic Targas were suddenly in fashion — I was getting calls from people desperate to buy them! There was also renewed interest in the 914, which, of course, is Targa-bodied. I view this model as the natural bridge between classic Volkswagen and Porsche output.”

Speaking of which, the Greatworth Classics story has gone full circle: with Porsche work now accounting for the majority of the company’s activities, Angus is presently setting up a separate workshop dedicated to Volkswagen maintenance and restoration. “Considering almost twenty-two million Beetles were built, you’d think there could be no such thing as a rare one, but we now find ourselves being asked to work on really early examples, such as split-screen oval rear-window models. There’s a thriving new audience for these cars.”

Back to the blue 911. Neil Bainbridge rebuilt the engine and highlights its suitability as a contender for the 2.0L Cup. The car’s current owner could indeed alter the specification of this 911 for the competition if he was so minded. The series has been going since its inaugural race at Spa-Francorchamps in 2018. Five qualifying events have so far been scheduled for 2024, with races of ninety minutes each and usually two drivers per car, with a mandatory pitstop between the thirty-five- and fifty-five-minute marks. The owner of each entered 911 is obliged to drive for at least half the race distance, and thereby hangs a cornerstone of the championship — Peter Auto, which also operates the Le Mans Classic, Tour Auto and Spa Classic, has introduced so-called Elite and Gentleman Driver categories in recognition of the fact modern historic racing attracts experienced privateers who might otherwise be tempted to let the pros do the heavy lifting.

In terms of rallying, which is what this car is now ready for, there are a number of routes to be explored. The treetopping FIA European Rally Championship embraces touring cars and GTs from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as Group 1, 2, 3 and 4 cars from the 1970s. Oh, and anything from Groups A, B and N from the 1980s, with a cut-off at 1984.

There are nine historic events on the 2024 calendar, but the year kicks off with the AC de Monaco’s Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, held at the end of January. We’ve followed the event several times over the years — regular readers will recall our shadowing of the Border Reivers 356 for 2023’s bash. It’s a thrilling, albeit exhausting outing for competitors and hangers-on alike.

Like all such events, you dip your toe and test the water, taking it easy as you play yourself in and find your place in the hierarchy. To give it ten-tenths from the get-go is to court trouble, probably in the shape of a wreck or blown engine. When competing in La Carrera Panamericana in a 914, I decided to push at only seventy percent of what the car was capable of, just to ensure I could get to the finish. Two thousand miles up the spine of Mexico, six days on the road. Hotheads literally tore their cars apart on day one. I had no first gear throughout, and by the last day, the car’s clutch was toast, but there’s nothing to say a Greatworthprepped 911 like our blue star car couldn’t handle such a challenge. The short-wheelbase 911 is in a class of its own. The world, so to speak, is its oyster. Little wonder it has a cult following.

Competition car unleashed 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 SWB Rally Star


Above Destined for events hosted by the ever popular Historic Rally Car Register.

Above Although configured for rallying, this 911’s specification could easily be altered for racing, enabling entry into the 2.0L Cup Facing page Two-litre engine was fully rebuilt by Neil Bainbridge at BS Motorsport.

Above and below Following time spent in storage at Tuthill Porsche, the team at Greatworth Classics have worked their way through the car, including replacing tired seats with new BF Torinos


Above Supplied new in Sweden, this bright blue 911 has spent time kicking up dirt in North America and the UK, and was once configured with hand throttle functionality.

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