Sitting behind the wheel, inhaling deeply, serves up a uniquely revealing measure of Pfaff Porsche Classic Partner’s achievement in the restoration of
Horst Kroll’s 47-year-old 911T.
It smells like new.
Old cars almost always are haunted by stink. Overripe bananas – Horst’s go-to snack -permeated this one in the 1980s and 1990s into the present century. Mmmm, ripeness of discarded peels overlaying the typical vintage Porsche bouquet of hot oil from the heater/defroster and steel percolating into iron oxide.
Of course every sense, not just smell, comes into play in the course of examining a spectacular restoration like this one: Sight as the eye focuses on correct details; Touch as you sweep your hand over perfect contours; Sound the instant after ignition; Even Taste, salivating over a classic automobile. In the end, though, the nose may know best.
Replacing a rusty floor pan, even reupholstering the interior, will not exorcise the odour of a Porsche in decay. Nor will Meguiar’s do the trick with its Whole Air Refresher Odor Eliminator Mist – New Car Scent (two ounces for $25.19 on Amazon as this was written).
Only a complete renewal will suffice. Pfaff began this restoration in early 2016 and ran beyond projections into late 2018, when the 911T appeared on its website for $179,000. A 1972 911T Targa was offered for $89,000, a low-mileage 1978 911 SC for $149,000. In all likelihood, they wouldn’t have smelled as fresh.
Horst Kroll passed away in October of 2017 so he never saw his finished car. But I can hear my old friend’s reaction to the $179,000 price loud and clear. “Are you serious?” he’d say, utterly baffled. “Are they serious?”
Well, yes. Sports Car Market magazine documented the sale of a 1971 911S at Bonham’s Goodwood Revival auction in September for $204,978 USD. “Are results for long-hood 911s back on the rise?” the magazine’s headline asked. “This result hints at a yes.”
Horst couldn’t sell his 911T for $10,000 in 1984. But that was then. Social historians will record that in the early 21st century, outstanding cars of the 20th century became prized, even as ride sharing and autonomous vehicles were thought to threaten the auto industry. Collectors celebrated air-cooled 911s and their peers as the essence of their makers’ creativity, as high-water points in marque history, so their values soared.
Ferrari Classiche began mining this gold in 2006. Porsche already catered to owners of older models with documents of authenticity and constantly expanding parts availability, but stepped up further with the Porsche Classic Partner program that designated dealers qualified to maintain and restore models more than 10 years old.
Pfaff became Canada’s second Porsche Classic Partner in June, 2017, the seventh in North America and 56th worldwide. Porsche Centre Victoria, had earned the designation only a year earlier.
Other manufacturers climbed on board. In 2017 Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works opened a 14,000-square-metre facility at Coventry, England, with 54 work bays. They’ll sell you a restored Jaguar E-Type for $400,000 USD, according to a Road & Track report heralding the new operation; Classic Range Rovers start at $193,000.
Polo Storico Lamborghini launched in 2018. Fiat Chrysler even introduced Lancia Classiche to cash in on Lancia’s remarkable history – despite having diminished the brand to a single model, the Ypsilon city car sold by Fiat dealers.
Kroll couldn’t have imagined any of the above driving the 911T home from California in 1984. He’d win the Can-Am championship in 1986, but the once-great series hadn’t paid decent prize money for many years, so he’d add to his income by buying used Porsches after California races for resale at his West Hill shop in east-end Scarborough.
He’d trained as a mechanic at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen headquarters, raced a Kelly Porsche to the 1968 Canadian championship. Selling Porsches, however, was not his long suit. When he retired in 2006 he was stuck not only with the 911T but a 1977 911S Targa he’d taken in on trade on a truck.
“They’re both good solid cars,” remained his mantra as they languished in his condo building’s sub-basement. “A little fresh gasoline and boost the battery, they’re good to go.”
They’d been there nine years when mutual friend Rick Bye (a former Rothmans Porsche Turbo Cup race winner) and I offered to try selling them. We’d move them to Rick’s shop in Mississauga, clean them up, put the word out.
November 28, 2015, proved memorable for the 911S’s tow hook pulling out of the rusty substructure, to Horst’s dismay, in the course of the long haul up the ramps to daylight. Nov. 29 produced a repeat performance with the 911T’s tow hook also a victim of rust and frozen brakes.
Then PCA UCR appraisals chair Bruce Farrow inspected the 911T and determined it was restorable. Not only that, but a reasonable buyer and a reasonable seller might agree on a price of $20,000. By New Year’s we had two offers for the two cars: Pfaff Porsche stepped up first with $32,000.
“The stars lined up for us in that the car came to us as Classic (dealership designation) was in the works,” John Pera, says Pfaff’s pre-owned manager who quarterbacked the project. “Digging into it, the 911T was a very rare car. We discovered it wasn’t really white, it was Metallic Green, a special order colour (the Bonham’s 911S also was Metallic Green).
“The outside oil filler only appeared on that one year’s production. The Sportomatic (clutchless transmission) also added to the rarity.”
Focused entirely on the 911T, Pfaff sold the ’77 911S to a customer planning his own restoration. The keeper was trucked to Boot Hill Automotive Resurrection in Erin, Ont., following the removal of most of its mechanical componentry, for plastic media blasting of its body panels and aluminium oxide blasting underneath.
The thing about old car stink, it disappears along with old car rot. So apprentices Jordan Singer and Glendon Co put in 100 hours scraping away the remaining muck to clean bare metal after the 911T’s return from Boot Hill. The pair would perform much of the work returning the body to as-new integrity, under the supervision of Bob Gargaro, a Porsche certified body technician. They’d gain an intimate insight into 911 DNA, Pfaff reasoned, valuable for future classic assignments.
Earlier Provinz stories described the restoration in considerable detail. Summing up, Pfaff recorded 720 hours of labour involving body and paint, 1,070 hours mechanical. Parts totaled $19,000 including more than $16,000 in returning the 2.4-litre motor to perfect operation.
Even when it was done it wasn’t done. Driveability issues in test drives last summer sentenced the car to static display. Its mechanical fuel injection pump had checked out originally, but needed expert attention at a California specialist. As well, wind noise attributed to the fit of the windshield at the passenger side A-pillar was deemed unacceptable and required additional metal work.
The project both took longer than anticipated and cost more. Pfaff’s accounting practices required the project be billed according to the rates Classic customers pay. In round figures, body shop labour at $75 hourly totaled $54,000, mechanical at $110 counted $115,000. With $59,000 for parts on top of $20,000 for the car’s purchase, excluding supplies and sales tax, Pfaff invested $248,000 in its first ground-up restoration.
“This was a big, big project because the car was in such bad shape,” John Pera reasons. “It goes to show that when you have the resources we possess, any car can be salvaged.”
It begs the question: given this experience, does Pfaff Porsche Classic Partner still welcome complete restorations? “Yes, for the right customer,” Pera responds. “There’d definitely be guidelines. Number One, you have to expect it’s not going to be done in a day. Think two years, think $200,000.”
What can I tell you about driving the finished 911T on a hot sunny day last October? Not only did it smell like new, it drove like new as well.
The steering was 911 perfection because absolutely everything – ball joints, tie rod ends, bushings, bearings – had been replaced. Same with the brakes: new pistons and seals, calipers replated, rubber lines replaced.
The 2.4-litre boxer revved like no tomorrow. As for the Sportomatic transmission; I didn’t like its torque converter’s numbing effect in a 1977 test drive (Sportomatic was a $470 option contributing to a total price of $26,105) and it still wouldn’t be my choice. Most auto journalists condemned it.
But Horst Kroll said the Sportomatic made the 911T his favorite Porsche. He happily conceded a little acceleration for getting rid of the clutch pedal. Endurance racing legend Hurley Haywood surprised me in a long-ago conversation saying he felt the same way.
You shift among four gears – an electronic sensor initiates the clutch action when you touch the shifter – or just pop it in Drive3 and the world’s your oyster. Imagining Horst doing just that, while cruising back to Pfaff Porsche at 70 miles per hour and 3,400 rpm, I mused whether he’d pay $179,000 for the privilege – and decided yes he would, in a heartbeat, for my old friend took his pleasures seriously.
(Provinz: February 2019)