Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Porsche 911T Project - Interior

As bought, the interior of the 911 was a real mess. The original steering wheel and seats had been replaced by cheap aftermarket items, and there was a nasty radio cassette unit jammed into the dash. 
Horrible wheel, overspray, gash stereo,
rusty rings, u/s clock.........

Further investigation revealed big holes in the door cards where speakers had been 'fitted', a cheap US made replacement carpet set (hanging off in a number of places), yellow overspray on the dash, bodged fixings for a number of switches, corrosion on the instrument rings, and one door top was from a later model (complete with the hole for the electric window switches). 

Holy door cards.
I also noticed that the dash top doesn't fit at all well, the rear parcel shelf trim hasn't been done correctly, the stuffing in rear seats is coming out, the alloy sill trim is only present on one side, and the door bins are very tatty.

Like I said, a real mess.

On the upside, the headlining looks to be in good condition, and...., well that's the upside.

Things were improved once Tuthills had fitted the Momo wheel and Recaro seats, I spent a weekend giving it all a damn good clean and I found some rubber mats to use, but there was a whole shopping list of stuff still needed. 

So I started shopping.

The UK's best known Porsche trim shop, Southbound, are not far away, and better still they're at the other end of one of the best driving roads in the south of England. I popped in, and ordered new door cards in their classic RS pattern with a leather pull strap, Fiat interior handle, an early 911 style pocket, all finished in the slightly earlier basket weave vinyl. After some consideration I also ordered a matching strip to re-cover the dash, and the whole lot  arrived a couple of weeks later. I also found a correct driver's side door top from those lovely DDK people, along with a working clock.

On my 'want' list was some music. Chris Harris' green 911 hotrod had a beautiful Becker Mexico head unit installed, patterned on a late 60's unit, but packed with modern electronics, including sat nav. 

Retro Becker Mexico - better than money in the bank
It is expensive, but looked like the perfect solution.

Sadly it turns out to have be another boat that has sailed; from what I understand, Becker retired hurt from the aftermarket, and production of the Mexicos ceased a year or two ago. As a result, a unit in good condition now sells for two or three times the original sale price. There are some cheaper retro-styled units around, but are nothing like as convincing. 

Regrouping, I decided to try and find an original unit, and rapidly discovered this was another thriving little petrol head market. All those Blaupunkt, Pioneer, Becker, Radiomobile and Phillips car stereos you remember from your childhood? They're still around, the good ones commanding serious money from collectors, dealers and restorers. 

Sometime later a poorly described Becker unit appeared on ebay. A lot of the older radios do not have FM, but this one did, and crucially it also had the DIN socket that would let me plug in an iPod. It was bagged.

Now I like my sons to have a project for the summer holidays. Mine was to sort out the doors and dash. As I was fast discovering, old 911s generally unbolt, and the same was true of  the interior. A couple of hours one afternoon had the doors stripped, and the following week I'd fitted the new cards. 

Bare door
It really only took a week because I also dismantled, cleaned, and re-greased the locking mechanisms and window regulators. In addition, I fitted the thick clear plastic waterproof membranes needed to protect the new cards from rain water flowing down into the door - £50 a pair from your local Official Porsche Centre. It was clear that I wasn't the first person to tear into the doors of the poor old 911, judging by the number of original nuts, bolts and fasteners I found that had been replaced with an assortment of 'close enough' replacements.

The end result was a big improvement, and lifted the interior. As is often the way, it also highlighted the other areas that could do with improvement.

Completed door with RS style 'basket weave' panels 
The dash trim was a considerably bigger challenge, as it involves removing all the switches and controls on the lower dash, including the heater levers, as well as the steering wheel (to get to the sections under the column trim). There's also inevitably quite a bit of blind scrabbling around under the dash trying to undo hidden fixings.  The brake bias adjuster Tuthills had fitted was another stumbling block. I'm not sure if pop-rivetting it to the dash is exactly rally-inspired engineering, and while drilling these out was straightforward, it took me a couple of phone calls before I figured out how to release it from the dash - by undoing a plastic collar. With sad inevitability I cross threaded the wretched thing putting it back. A further call to Tuthills revealed the the small plastic collar could not be bought without coughing up £100 for the whole adjuster mechanism. There's nothing like a financial incentive to trigger a bit of lateral thinking, and I managed to clean up the thread using a suitable sized metal nut. 

What was I thinking? The interior in pieces
I wasn't the first person under the dash either, Porsche's little plastic collar to keep the light switch fixed to the dash was now a knurled ring jammed onto the threads, and the section of metal plate where the radio hole is had been cut out and discarded by a bodging Previous Owner (PO). "*Sigh*" How difficult is it to do these things properly?

Not very difficult at all really, the OPC got me the plastic light switch collar, and some suitable plastic coat card replaced the missing lower dash trim plate. The old trim was persuaded off the plate, and using this as a pattern I cut the basket weave with the holes needed for switches etc.  and glued the new trim on. 

Using the old trim (bottom) as a pattern I cut out the
 holes for switches, heater and radio.
Fitting the radio had me stumped. While there's a DIN sized hole in the dash, there was no obvious way to mount the Becker. I'll admit I did take the whole shebang along to my friendly local ICE  emporium, where they revealed that the radio should be attached by two small vertical bars hidden behind the radio's fascia, fixed behind the dash panel and tensioned by screws. They also tidied up the rat's nest of wiring the PO had installed. As soon as I got home the radio came out again to let me finish off the re-trim, but once the basket weave was on, I stuck it back in, hiding the cable for the iPod in the glove locker next to it. 

Radio in and dash trim in place
I have to say, the music quality is also a bit period; thin and tinny and not loud. Partly that's because I didn't fit speakers in the doors so it relies on two in the rear compartment, where they project a mono signal to your ankles. There's more to be done in this department, but it's an improvement.
In fact, the 'new' interior was a big improvement all-round, not only did it look better, but wind noise from leading edge of the door had been noticeably reduced, and making the car a more relaxing place to spend time.

Detail showing the basket weave finish (and blimmin' yellow
overspray on the lower dash roll)
There's still much to be done, but sorting out the mysterious non-fitting dash, the bodged parcel shelf and the thin tatty carpet is going to mean a campaign on a much larger scale. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Porsche 911T Project - Fuch off (or Wheels and Tyres)

The car arrived from Florida on what looked like a set of 15" diameter Fuchs (or 'Fox' in German) wheels in the classic early 911 two tone style. What was even better was that they were a nice wide rim that filled out the 2.7RS-style wheel arches - 7" wide at the front and 8" at the back. As an(other) aside, the RS was the first Porsche to be sold with different sized front and rear wheels, 6" and 7" in that case, although I remember them in the 80's racing on 7s and 8s. 

Sadly, a closer examination revealed that they might be all they first seemed; the finish was suspiciously shiny (not a factory style as far as I know), and the tell-tale edges of the 'spokes' were not smooth. Pulling them off revealed the truth, not only did the casting marks show they were US copies, but they each weighed a tonne! Unlike most alloy wheels, the Fuchs used on Porsches are forged, not cast. This produces a regular grain in the metal, giving material that is very strong for its weight. That's why Porsche are able to use their standard production rims in high stress competition applications - even rallying, and why the Fuchs are amongst the lightest wheels for their size. 

Now when it comes to wheels and tyres, lighter is better. I'm no chassis engineer, but even I can see that springs and dampers are going to find it difficult to control a big heavy object flapping around at the end of the suspension, and that less weight will give them an easier time. All things being equal, reducing this unsprung mass gives ride, traction and handling benefits - and for a driver the car just feels nicer to drive.  I can remember a back to back session I enjoyed with Caterham a few years ago, comparing one car on fashionable larger rims and low profile tyres with one on the traditional 13"s. All who tried it preferred the car on the smaller (and lighter) wheels. However, cosmetics are important to all of us, and a set of skinny wheels would look lost in the RS arches on the car, so I started to look into the possibility of replacing the replicas with the real thing.

It rapidly became clear that for the last few years the smart money has been investing in gold, African diamond mines and old Porsche bits.  Some of the prices for genuine Fuchs wheels, especially in the rarer and wider sizes made my eyes water - had I decided to go for a 11" wide RSR wheel I'd have needed to find several thousand pounds - for each one.

Hmmm, these or Rio Tinto Zinc shares?
Eventually, ebay turned up a suitable set in the US. I made an offer, and the money I saved over the advertised 'Buy-it-now' price paid for shipping to the UK, and the customs gouge. On arrival they proved to be a good buy, little used, and not suffering from 'refurbishment', which often involves taking metal off the rims. They're a later date from 1983 (the build date is stamped on the back of real Fuchs wheels) and the centres are all-black, but they were very noticeably lighter that the reps currently on the car. 
Looking good at a trial fit

It didn't take long for me to fit them onto the car - a quick mock-up showed the all-black rims worked well with the various black bits now appearing - and a spin around the block revealed that a noticeable edge had been taken off the low speed ride, and the steering had lightened up a bit.

A quick word on tyres. Finding suitable fat 15" rubber for an old 911 hotrod is not getting any easier - blame the increasing use of gigantic wheels on anything more sporty than a bog-standard shopping hatchback. It is possible to get sticky track-day tyres, but finding something that is period sympathetic is more difficult. The original RS used 185/70 and 215/60 on its 6" and 7" rims, while the early turbo's fitted with the same 8" and 9" rims I'm using had 205/50 and 225/50 - sizes no longer available from the same manufacturer - not 'V' rated anyway. 
 Ur-Fuchs fitted!

After much discussion with Tuthills, we decided to go up a size, and I've had 205/60s and 225/60s fitted, both ContiPremiumContacts from Continental. They were designed for heavy saloons, not the 400kg front of a 911, so we'll see how we do. At least I'm able to take advantage of the 40 years development in tyres that have taken place since the car was built. 
The Fuchs Reps went on ebay......

So far, I'm pleased to report, the limitations of the car's speed is still the driver.

That's pretty much it for the cosmetics - interior next!