Saturday, 24 August 2013

911 Killers

It's forty years ago, and Hans is busy in Porsche's Stuttgart factory working on a silver 911T, one of several thousand he has already helped build that year and one of the last of the original shaped cars to roll off the lines. It is nearly the end of July and Hans is looking forward to next month when the factory closes down and he and his workmates will take their three week annual holiday while the toolmakers and production engineers stay on to re-fit the production lines for the new 1974 models - the ones with ugly bumpers and what would turn out to be fragile 2.7litre engines.

As usual, Hans was just putting the finishing touches to the headlining and rear parcel shelf area before starting on the carpets and trim. There's a hollow section running along the bottom of the rear window and before he fits the rear shelf Hans stuffs a fistful of cotton wadding up both of the open ends - all the better to prevent any foreign objects getting in and causing annoying rattles.

Cotton wadding; perfect for destroying Porsches
The car was finished, signed off, and shipped to California where its happy new owner collected it from the dealer and drove off into the sunset.

Over the following few years, the car was cherished, but inevitably the harsh Californian sun worked on the car's rubber and plastic, causing the seals around the windows to harden and shrink. 

In most parts of the world, the car's death warrant had been signed. Rain creeps in under the perished window seals and settles on the steel underneath. In particular, Han's cotton wadding forms a permanently damp compress, keeping the moisture nice and tight against the bare metal and producing a perfect rust nurturing environment. The first thing any owner normally knows about it is when bubbles appear in the metal under the rear window, but most of the damage is hidden under carpets and sound proofing. Left untreated, the whole rear bulkhead can disappear and eventually structural metal around the rear suspension mounts gets eaten away. Before early 911 prices hit the stratosphere that meant another old Porsche for the scrap heap.

The silver 911T Hans worked on in July 1973 was lucky. The dry Californian climate and the owner's habit of garaging the car meant little rain got past the seals and the vulnerable metal stayed rust free.  Over the following decades the car stayed in California before being taken off the road  and becoming someone's RS replica project.   Eventually the car ended up being sold by a dealer in Florida and shipped across the Atlantic back to Europe. After a year of being used for sunny weekend drives, the car was stripped back to the bare body shell.

Last week I pulled the wadding out of the channel and stuffed half a can of Dinotrol Cavity Wax up there instead.
The other fist full


No comments: