Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Plan

While the car was on the boat I'd had plenty of time to figure out what sort of 911 I wanted to end up with. I wanted the focus to be on creating a car that was very usable on UK roads, with the emphasis on driving, not looks, one which took the lightweight, simple characteristics of the early 911s, and combined it with the best that 40-odd years of 911 development could provide. 

And I didn't have a huge budget.

I was looking for a specialist and technical partner that understood what I was trying to achieve. There are a number of specialists in the UK who have good reputations for building competition cars and road-going hot-rod 911s.  That was important, I didn't want to be responsible for expensive prototyping, and would far rather benefit from proven solutions using good quality components. I also felt that working with a reputable specialist wouldn't hurt with the re-sale - if it ever came to it.

After meeting several and exchanging emails, I decided to ask Tuthill's in Banbury to take on the task. As well as being responsible for what seemed like every historic rally winning 911 for the last decade, Richard Tuthill really seemed to 'get' what I was aiming for. 

Here's the email I sent him:

"I'm not into massive speed, so don't really exceed three figures on the open road, yet want to be able to cruise quietly through the 30/40's.  I don't want a stripped out road-racer either, so will want to retain sound deadening and fit some sort of sound system.

I like the S/T look, but with a bit of a rat-look spin. A superb paint job and leather/alcantara interior would be lovely, but I don't have the budget for a full restoration. I'll keep the yellow matt paint for now, and might do a quick job with a black rattle can on the boot and bonnet.

So my objectives for a hotrod project are:

- safety; it'll need seatbelts, and ensuring that the fuel, wiring, lighting and brake systems etc. are serviceable

- reliability and efficiency; 25mpg is going to be a lot more acceptable than 15!
- suspension that combines compliance, handling balance with excellent body-control
 - steering that gives feel and feedback without kickback
 - usable rear seats (with belts)

 - resilience; I want to be able to use it in the wet, so door/window/roof seals etc. should be fresh, and it might need some protection underneath.

- brakes with good feel and a solid pedal set up for heel & toing
- great driving position; I like to sit low with the wheel reasonably close. In my Cayman the seat was as low as it would go, a couple o notches back from the max, and with the steering column as extended as it would go and set quite high.
 - Seats & steering wheel; I'd like a 'low-back' period-style seat with head restraint, it needs to be supportive but I much prefer fabric upholstery. I had big Recaros in my 968ClubSport; loved the position (once I'd taken the cushion out) and support, but getting in and out was a pain. I need rear access via at least the passenger side. So far I've not seen a lot that works better in an old 911 than a Momo Prototipo, even if it is a bit of a cliche. The car's current seats and wheel are horrible!

- Good gearchange. I've some experience of the 915 'box, mostly bad! I'd like at least to have confidence that I'm going to get the gear that I want. The best 'change I've experienced was in a Honda S2000, but my Caterham's 4 speed rocket was up there.

- Decent performance; I reckon 225 - 250bhp is going to be all I need, especially in a 1100kg car. I want an engine that has low inertia, is responsive, performs without fuss at low speed but has a 4500rpm kick. I don't need an 8000rpm screamer. It also has to be able to deal with everyday use, not need attention every few thousand miles and be reasonable economical. 

So within a couple of hours of me taking possession, the car was on its way to Banbury for an appointment with Tuthill's technicians.

Meanwhile, I spent the next few days on the phone waiting for the bad news.


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