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Dreams Aren't Perfect: A neglected 1972 Porsche 911T resurrected with RSR parts [w/video]

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Article and photos by Kris Clewell
Video by Kris Clewell and Alex Nelson

The roar of Road America only a few miles away has faded. It’s quiet and, despite the sun being lower, still miserably hot. Heat radiates off the pavement of a back road somewhere in eastern Wisconsin, the twisting black tarmac contrasting starkly with ubiquitous bleach-white streaks wiped across the surface. Electrical wires hang overhead, tracing the curves and branching off down a gravel driveway toward a farm, while the roadside is met by tall grass girding a swath of corn and mailboxes mounted to pipes that lean in towards the road, their foundations having given way over decades. Not a single car has driven by in the past hour. It’s the perfect example of a back road. 

A blue 911 crests the hill just past a telephone pole that marks the farm’s driveway. The throttle opens with a crack on each downshift, snarling loudly on the overrun, a crass juxtaposition in the sparsely populated countryside. The sudden noise, without anything to echo against, comes and goes in an instant. It’s highly suspect, and clearly not what a stock 1972 Porsche 911 should sound like. The tires are fat, too big for six-inch-wide Fuchs, and there’s a Gulf Oil sticker on the hood, a genuine relic from the past. The Porsche comes to a stop before owner Adam Stone opens the door and steps out of the Arrow Blue 911, placing one hand atop the doorframe, a Tag Heuer watch on his wrist. The brilliant blue paint, normally found on 911 SCs, hides the original light blue metallic.

Stone didn’t start out with Porsches, he grew up around motorcycles and now has a collection of his own. “My father collected vintage BMW motorcycles. I had a German influence as a kid, and then, in high school, I had a VW Bug and a Karmann Ghia,” he says. “I've had some buses over the years and kind of stuck with Volkswagens for quite a long time, even into the water-cooled [era].“ As with many VW kids, however, he grew up into a Porsche adult. “One day I was driving, I saw a yellow 911 for sale on the side of the road. I pulled over and looked at it.” The car had issues. Stalling at a stoplight led to a 25-minute wait for the flooded engine to dry out. Despite the issues he experienced during his first drive in a 911, Stone was hooked on Porsche.

The ‘72 wasn’t quite as easy to deal with. Finding your dream car seems romantic, but the realities are often quite different. “When I found it, it wasn't running. The motor was tight. It was in a field, actually, and it was brought to a shop and [the owner] didn't want to spend the money to fix it,” Stone explains. “The paint was like chalk and the whole interior was a mouse house, and, to this day, it still smells like it. That's why you don't see much carpet in it.” The rockers are pretty rusty, the speaker deck is Swiss cheese, and one side of the car isn’t exactly symmetrical to the other. Stone bought the car for $3,000 and was able to pull it out of the field. A healthy 2.5-liter flat-six was swapped in for awhile, but, on the side, he had started collecting bits that would turn the veritable parts car into a monster.

“Has rust. Numbers don’t match” emblazons the plate frame on the back of the car. Just above it, the decklid is propped open, revealing not a 2.5-liter engine, but a 2.8. Below, a factory RSR muffler pokes out from the bumper.

High butterfly velocity stacks tower above a well-aged fiberglass engine shroud, and a factory RSR Magneti Marelli distributor lay just off the fan. The M019 injection pump is from a 2.7-liter ‘73 RS. The pump and the distributor were both purchased off an auction site. “[They were] in New Orleans and it looked like a scam because there was a European license plate in the background for those items. The price was too cheap, and then the auction got relisted again. I called my friend who lives in New Orleans. He checked it out. It was legit,” Stone recalls.

Aaron Hatz, owner of Flat Six, Inc. in Minnesota then started putting things together — the 2.8-liter 911 ST heads, the DC-80 camshafts, the high butterfly MFI (mechanical fuel injection), the distributor — and the result was a unique, characterful motor. “It was crazy because it was this long, drawn-out process. It took years to get all the parts together, we weren’t really trying to build something specific.”

Through the windshield, the road stretches out past the corn, past the trees, and past the farmhouse. Sitting behind the steering wheel of Stone’s 911 gives the feeling of anticipation mixed with fear, even before switching on the left-hand ignition. Break the silence by turning the key, and the engine fires on command with urgency. The sounds, smells, and vibrations are overwhelming, and the throttle response is violent, evoking the flight or fight instinct. There’s no room for anything but mental focus. The tachometer, if it worked, would rotate lustfully across the numbers circling the dial. The RSR lightweight flywheel and racing clutch coupled with the instant throttle response make the anticipated transition from Joe Regular to Mark Donohue difficult when pulling away.

Once on the road, the engine sound climbs as the gas pedal is squeezed, dropping down almost instantly off throttle with the clutch disengaged for a gear change. The car responds best to unapologetically quick and aggressive shifts, and because there’s no rev limiter and the tach doesn’t work, performing the action instills trepidation. Mettle drops off before the power does, so somebody unfamiliar with the car is bound to short shift prior to pistons colliding with valves. The car demands commitment — once you're in, you’ve got to be all in.

“For a car enthusiast to drive that car, you have to learn. It's very difficult to start out. The clutch is on or off. It's a raw, brutal drive. That's why I like it,” Stone explains. “I know where all the quirks of the car are, but to drive it, you feel every bump, every corner. The way the car tracks with the power… The car will literally pull you through the turn. The sound of the engine, the way the steering wheel feels, the smell of the car, it's weird. It just has this — it's an experience… It's pretty brutal yet it's easy to drive once you learn it. Everything comes together. The steering, the visuals, the smell. All your senses are just cranking.”

Stone knows the car is a purist’s nightmare. Some of the parts on the engine are highly sought after by collectors. “Nothing is ‘right’ on it, and it's what makes it right. The speedometer doesn't work, nothing quite works. It's a mess, but I love it for that. It should have big flares, or it should have an RSR look to it, or an ST look to it, and that's why I like it.”

It’s tough to say where the car goes from here. Besides some rust repair and a rebuild on an engine usually measured in hours instead of miles, Stone won’t change much. “I like that it's a slab-side with six-inch wheels on it. The tires are too big for the rims. It's low to the ground. It rides like a cement mixer. I think it's going to just stay the way it is.”

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