By the time you read this, I should have test-driven my 1975 Porsche 911 S for the first time.
It’s been seven months since I bought it. Bringing old cars back to life takes time. The cars determine the rhythm of restoration, not you.
I first learned about this car, a 2.7-L Sportomatic (s/n 9115201489, engine 6459078) via a text from an SCMer on Thursday, Oct 6, 2022. The car had just arrived at the Car Corral at the Hershey Swap meet in Pennsylvania.
Asking price was $47,900 and the seller was also an SCMer. I called him and he told me he had owned the car for a decade, used it rarely, and had documents showing its original 47,187 miles. He had driven it 60 miles to Hershey.
It had originally been sold by Al Holbert Porsche in Warrington, PA. We made a deal at $46k, subject to a walk-around inspection by SCM Contributor Lowell Paddock, who was at the swap meet.
Lowell liked the car. I wired the funds on Friday (the money from the sale of my Citroën DS 21 had just arrived, so I was temporarily flush). That Sunday, after the RM Sotheby’s auction, the 911 (now my 911!) was loaded on to a Reliable Carrier truck for the long-haul to Portland.
In the meantime, Bonhams’ Rupert Banner and RM Sotheby’s Brad Phillips walked by the car. They both commented on how straight it looked and liked the original and unusual cloth interior.
If only they had a magic device that detected broken head studs from a distance…
In mid-November the Sporto arrived at Matt Crandall’s Avant-Garde Collection for dry-ice cleaning.
I’ve had Matt clean all my cars that way, starting with the ones that are filthy and going in for service. The appreciation I get from my technicians for having a clean car to work on more than offsets the cost.
Then the Sporto moved on to a familiar shop in Portland, A & P Specialties, owned by Al Blanchard. Al has been taking care of my Porsches for nearly 40 years, including my 911 L, SC, Boxster S, 996 Carrera and 996 Twin Turbo.
Air-cooled mid-year Porsches are no mystery to him and his team.
He found the car to be delightfully free of rust and very original.
He knows my goal is to have a reliable car I can take on the SCM 1000.
As with most mid-year cars, it has some broken head studs. However, the leakdown and compression were excellent. In Al’s opinion and that of SCM Contributor Jim Schrager, if I drive the car in relaxed “Sportomatic fashion” it might last thousands of miles. Both said that if I started hearing a “pop-pop-pop” sound, that indicates the head gaskets were starting to leak and it would be time to rethink my situation.
This is not a casual decision. To split the cases to put in “case-hardener” inserts costs almost as much as a rebuild, circa $25k. It’s the old “while you are in there” syndrome.
I also had the OEM A/C compressor removed, along with the not-necessary-in-Oregon smog pump. Yes, I have carefully stored them away, for no good reason but out of habit. If I ever wanted to upgrade the a/c to a modern system, that’s another $10k.
With the latest round of repairs, I am now in the car for $60k. From sitting so long, the car had a host of issues that had to be addressed, from replacing the airbox to installing a new brake master cylinder to rebuilding wheel cylinders to replacing the vacuum hoses going to the Sporto servo to finding a used gas gauge to replace the defective one in the car. It also needed new tires.
I haven’t yet driven it, so I can’t tell you if I like it. For those of us with particular tastes in our motoring experiences, seat time is the only thing that will answer our questions. I wasn’t fond of our 928, it was too dark and heavy, so away it went. The Volvo 122S just didn’t have enough power with the autobox. The Citroën DS 21 was a delight, but after a year and 1,500 miles the bloom was off, and I was restless.
Possibly, I could have a delightful mid-year for $60k and look forward to miles of air-cooled joy.
Some of my Porsche friends have said I made a serious mistake by buying a mid-year in the first place, with their known and expensive issues. They counseled I should have waited for a better Sporto and paid more.
However, I have only seen two Sportos for sale in five years. When will the next one come along, and will it be as rust-free and original as this one? I do not want a Tiptronic or PDK, so please don’t suggest that. I’ve had both and they don’t interest me.
If things go the wrong way and I have to do a motor and upgrade the A/C, I’ll be in the car nearly $100k. I think that’s stretching the market for a 2.7-L Sporto. I will have to like it a lot to go down that path.
With the beauty of hindsight, what is my most prudent course of action now? Drive it and hope for the best? Do the motor and A/C? Or just sell it as-is with full disclosure?
I look forward to your comments. Please post them below.