1971 Porsche 911 S 2.2
Vic Cohen’s five-decade journey exploring weird and wonderful air-cooled 911s has culminated in the restoration of a stunning 1971 Porsche 911 2.2 S in partnership with one of the UK’s most trusted marque specialists… Words Dan Furr. Photography Dan Sherwood.
A beautifully restored 1971 911 S.
Taking a deep breath, Vic Cohen begins to consider all the air-cooled Porsches he’s owned over the years. “The first was a 2.2-litre 911 S I bought from AFN in 1971,” he recalls. “It was a great car, very fast.” Perhaps a tad too fast? “I lost my driving license. Consequently, enforced absence from the public highway encouraged me to take up in employment in Southeast Asia for three years. When import taxes were taken into consideration, a new 911 in Singapore was double the cost of buying one in Britain, which is why I waited until returning to Blighty in 1975 until getting back behind the wheel of a Porsche product.” The car he bought was a Targa-topped 911 E loaded with a 2.4-litre engine and painted in dazzling silver, a suitable finish considering the reputation of the car’s previous owner. “It belonged to Justin de Villeneuve,” Vic exclaims. Born Nigel Davies and something of a renaissance man, de Villeneuve is most famous for ‘discovering’ Leslie Hornby, known globally as Twiggy, the world’s first supermodel. Before becoming Twiggy’s agent, as well as her personal photographer and husband, de Villeneuve spent time working as an entry-level hairdresser for Vidal Sassoon and even catered the legendary stylist’s first wedding.
More than a decade later, in the early 1970s, Twiggy was an international superstar and de Villeneuve was living the high life, working his way through an astonishing two-dozen sports cars a year. Vic’s semi-open-top silver machine was one of them. “It was offered to me for £3,750 and had only covered fifteen thousand miles. In every way possible, it was mint!” he beams.
Eighteen months later, his eye was caught by a preloved Carrera RS 2.7 being offered through Charles Ivey Specialist Cars. “I’m not afraid to put miles on my Porsches,” he points out. “I spent most of my working life in the City of London and drove my 911s in and out of the capital every day.” One snowy morning, however, the RS registered complaint. “I was closing in on Stirling Corner, the bottom of the Barnet bypass stretch of the A1,” he remembers. “The ground was super-cold and the 911 lost traction, flying into a lamppost. I was dressed in a white Carrera-branded top, but I split my head open in the accident and covered my bright white clothing in blood. It was a gruesome scene. I was okay, but the car didn’t fare as well — it ended up being dissected for parts. In fact, the engine went to John Greasley, a well-known Porsche personality and founder of G-Force, once one of the UK’s largest and most successful Porsche motorsport and tuning specialists. He used the RS’s flat-six in a rallycross build.”
Another Carrera RS 2.7 replaced the ill-fated example, but was eventually bought by “a Chinese accountant who I accompanied on a terrifying test drive not far from where I came unstuck on the A1.” The buyer was studying in the UK and took the car back to China with him, but not before replacing his new Porsche’s Blood Orange paintwork with white. “In all my years on the road, that test drive was the only time I’ve asked a driver to pull over and let me take the controls,” Vic says, a grave look spread across his face. For a man who has always driven his Porsches hard in all environments, including regular track days, we sense he must have felt in real danger to take such drastic action. Perhaps he was right to exercise caution? After all, his early Porsche history wasn’t exactly without its problems, a theme reinforced by the orange RS’s successor. “I soon owned a black 911 E 2.4. It was in a dreadful state by the time my name appeared on its logbook, but I was carefully working my way through the car when it was on the receiving end of a whack during the commute to work,” he sighs.
At this point, with such a run of bad luck, many would have been tempted to shift their allegiance to another marque. Vic admits he did flirt with the idea of Ferrari ownership, but he persevered with Porsche, working his way through a Carrera 3.0 (transmission problems) and then headfirst into the Turbo era, buying one of the final three-litre right-hand drive 930s and piling on an impressive 213k miles (“all on the same engine and, surprisingly, all without even the top end being rebuilt”) until, early one morning, one of the force-fed flat-six’s connecting rods made a dash for freedom through the unsuspecting engine case.
By the mid-1990s, if you’d have cut Vic down the middle, you would have found the Porsche crest running through him, which is one of the reasons a friend invited our man to Porsche Centre Reading to evaluate the then new 993. “I was totally smitten,” Vic gasps. “I was never much taken with the 964, but after experiencing time at the wheel of a 993, I knew I had to own one.” His now fixed 930 was subsequently traded in for a Midnight Blue 993 Carrera (“the only new Porsche I’ve owned”), which he kept for eighteen months before selling up in order to obtain a left-hand drive 1974 Carrera RS 3.0, arguably the perfect air-cooled 911 for a man who takes great pride in “really driving these cars” and spent as much time as he could participating in open track days.
For most Porschephiles, this string of 911s alone represents a dream motoring history, yet many more air-cooled gems have been and gone from Chez Cohen over the years — Vic has owned a 993 Carrera RS, GT2-badged variants of the final air-cooled 911, a 356 Speedster and even an oh-so-eighties flat-nosed 930, to name just a few of his standout rides. He is, however, keen to highlight how most of his Porsches were bought and sold long before the values of air-cooled classics skyrocketed. “I guess you could say I’m the guy who was lucky enough to own these cars when it was relatively affordable to do so!” he chuckles. All of this begs a simple question: why Porsche? “Put simply, it all comes down to the enormous satisfaction you get driving an air-cooled 911, not least at the race circuit. These cars are quite unlike any other, they’re massively capable sports cars and, even though I’m no mechanic, I love how welcoming the engineering of an old Porsche is to even the most inexperienced of enthusiasts,” he replies. Not that he needs to worry about finding anyone to take care of his 911s — Vic has always had a great relationship with Steve Winter, proprietor of St Albans-based JAZ Porsche, established in the early 1990s with the sole purpose of making Zuffenhausen’s output continue to perform as it should. Thirty years later, nothing has changed, except for the fact JAZ now enjoys a hardearned reputation for exceptional attention to detail, whether working on the oldest or newest of Stuttgart’s finest. Needless to say, Vic had no hesitation in partnering with Steve in co-ownership of the beautiful blue 911 S pictured across these pages.
Bought in 2012 as a rolling shell and boxes of accompanying parts, the 2.2-litre restoration-in-wating had been owned by its seller for three decades, during which time he’d enjoyed plenty of track time in his pride and joy. “It was a sorry state,” Vic tell us. “The bodywork was horrendous. The car wasn’t even rolling on wheels — we had to put it on a dolly. Worse still, the engine, gearbox and all ancillaries were in a shed at the bottom of the seller’s mother’s garden! As you’d expect, we made a full inventory of everything acquired. Naturally, we were relieved to find most basic parts were present and correct, but many items were unusable, such as the dash top and oil cooler, which were useless.”
YOU’RE THE EXPERT
Steve is a time-served Porsche specialist more than capable of taking care of work needed to transform a car in questionable mechanical condition from tired ride to factory fresh. So it proved with the 911 S across a two year period, when he juggled the restoration around the demands of JAZ customer work. During this time, the mechanical fuel injection pump was sent to Germany for refurbishment and “whatever needed renewing was replaced with new parts, with the build remaining true to the original car, even down to the writing on the heads of suspension bolts.”
The body was blasted to reveal its true state, after which it made its way to Shoeburyness, the home of award-winning automotive body and paint specialist, Sportwagen, where company director, Bruce Cooper, placed the 911’s shell on a jig and worked his way through every panel, sorting corrosion as he went. Understandably, the process wasn’t rushed, even though Vic’s infectious enthusiasm was getting the better of him. “The biggest challenge faced with this project was simply the length of time it took to hit the road in the finished Porsche,” he smiles. His patience would be rewarded in spades after Bruce finished the bodywork and Steve was done equipping the car with its rebuilt flat-six, transmission and suspension.
The engine itself follows standard specification, save for a slightly modified cam profile and electronic ignition, making the car, frankly, more usable in modern traffic. A thicker anti-roll bar and new front wishbones feature, though the original Koni dampers have been refurbished. Carrera 3.2 calipers sit where the earlier anchors once lived, while the factory steering rack has been restored and reinstated, as have the electrics and the fuel tank.
A Dansk silencer and new stainless heat exchangers reside at the rear. “The custom cam profile has made a significant improvement to driveability,” Vic says, keen to impress upon us how relatively minor changes have mad a big difference to the way this car behaves. “There’s not much going on below 2,500rpm, but thereafter, this 911 feels jet-propelled all the way up to the 7,300rpm redline.”
It’s a comfortable car, too, thanks to an interior featuring figure-hugging seats trimmed in perforated soft leather methodically prepared by Garry Hall at Porsche trim shop, Classic FX, and carrying Vic for twelve-thousand trouble-free miles since completion of the restoration. What’s next? “That’s a good question,” he muses. “This beautiful 911 is performing brilliantly and I really can’t think what I’d like to replace it with. I’m an older driver now, meaning I’m not looking to take this particular Porsche to a track. Besides, I’ve downsized my home and my new garage is unable to accommodate a bigger 911, such as the 997 GT3 RS I owned a short while ago.” He concludes by telling us he removes the wheels of his cars at least twice a year, specifically for the purpose of cleaning the inner arches, thereby ensuring the underside and other hidden areas of bodywork remain as perfectly presented as the gleaming panels on show.
“This 911 really is as clean underneath as it is everywhere else,” he says, exactly fifty years on from his first Porsche purchase. We don’t doubt you, Vic. Keep up the good work!
Above Extra poke in the higher rev range comes from a slightly modified cam profile. Above and below Everything appointed during the rebuild is either fully refurbished or totally new, resulting in a factory fresh finish. Above “Kor” is the expression we used when we first saw this stunning Porsche, too!
THE PROCESS WASN’T RUSHED, EVEN THOUGH VIC’S INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM WAS GETTING THE BETTER OF HIM
Above Man and machine in perfect harmony following the Porsche’s extensive restoration, with all mechanical work taken care of by Steve Winter at JAZ Below Engine, gearbox and ancillaries were being stored in a garden shed. Above 2.2-litre S joins a long list of amazing air-cooled 911s Vic has owned over the course of five decades.