Featured: This Ex-Works 911ST TDF Has Been Lovingly Restored By Historika 911

This Ex-Works 911ST TDF Has Been Lovingly Restored By Historika 911

Ted Gushue By Ted Gushue
April 11, 2017
4 comments

Photography by Tom Shaxson

Historical photos courtesy of Historika 911

The 911ST is a Porsche model that was produced in very limited numbers, with no strict build sheet that denotes exactly what an ST is supposed to consist of should someone wish to “get the specs.” Of the limited run that were built, variations and inconsistencies abound between the small group, as the cars were constructed according to both customers’ wishes and at times also for the specific road rally that the car was set to compete in. With such a rare 911 to begin with you’d think that all of the remaining STs would be highly sought after and cherished—and that is no doubt true—but there is one example of what many consider the ultimate 911 that’s a little bit more special than the rest.

Our friends at Historika 911, the father and son team of Kevin and Nick Morfett sat down with us to share the full story of this car’s journey.

Ted Gushue: Can you tell me the story behind this unique 911?

Nick Morfett: The car in question, 911 030 1127, was one of the seven “werks” 911STs for 1970 and was originally painted tangerine. 1127 competed in one major rally in Austria and then it was a service vehicle for Porsche on the Acropolis Rally in Greece. After both of these events, the competition department at Porsche decided to pick one car to prepare for the Tour de France Automobile, and 1127 was the car that they chose. Porsche didn’t want to use a fragile prototype on the bumpy French roads. They believed that the reliability of a bulletproof 911 would outlast the factory-entered Matra prototypes. What they didn’t count on was the French government resurfacing the Tour de France route before the event!

1127 is a 911 at heart but it’s a very special one-off 911—it was the lightest 911 ever built by the factory. Being a works ST, the car was already lighter than other 911s with lots of lightweight parts and panels, but Porsche wasn’t happy with that. They wanted to make the car even lighter. They used a lot of parts and ideas from the 911R, such as doors, windows, light units etc. Then they developed lots of one-off parts for the car and drilled almost everything. The footrest, door hinges, pedal boards, and even jacking points weren’t safe from the drill. Truly mental stuff. Legend has it that Gérard Larrousse went to the factory to see the car and it was 810 kilos. He wasn’t happy with that and promised the mechanics a bottle of champagne for every kilo it was under 800kg. They got it down to 780 kilos—roughly 300 kilos lighter than a typically stripped down 911. They would have gotten even more champagne as they later realized that when they weighed the car it still had around 15 liters of fuel in it!

For power, they built a 2.4 prototype engine that they were developing, so basically in a way it was like the first 2.5 ST. When my father, Kevin Morfett, found the car, we had to prove to Porsche that this car was the actual car that had been set up for the Tour de France. Obviously you can’t just ring them up and ask for that stuff! It was a long process going back and forth with the factory, but we satisfied them and proved that we had the original car. They gave us every single thing: we got the original factory build sheets, tire orders to Dunlop, Porsche service plans, entry information, loads of stuff from the Tour de France. To have those build sheets with the car was the icing on the cake for us.

TG: How did the car do in the TDF?

NM: Interestingly it came in third, even though it technically should have won. The story is that the French government resurfaced the route of the Tour de France because the Matras were running and they wanted the Matras to win. Obviously the prototype Matras are incredibly fragile, so with a perfectly paved roadway they were able to fly.

After that, in 1970, an important South American Porsche customer bought the car. When the car went to South America it went a little quiet, only competing in one race before being sold to a Greek Porsche race driver. The car then went back to the factory and was converted to 2.8RSR specification, but still in its psychedelic livery and with lots of its one-off features still recognizable. We still have the original front wings for the car and you can still see the psychedelic paint, which is a very cool thing to have.

When 1127 came over to the UK, it was run by Sharp Racing. Its first race was at Thruxton, with David Purley driving. The car was towed on a trailer from Stuttgart to Thruxton by one of Sharp Racing’s mechanics, and on route from Dover the trailer got a puncture. He had no choice but to get the car off the trailer and drive the race car straight to Thruxton on slicks and with an open exhaust. He made it to Thruxton like that, but they had missed qualifying so Purley had to start at the back of the grid. In the race, he fought his way up to 2nd overall and set a class lap record in the process. Another very cool story about the car. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet lots of people involved with this car and hear their stories which has been amazing.

After that, the car then did the 1000 kms at Brands Hatch in 1974, driven this time by Touroll, a famous French Porsche racer. The car didn’t finish due to driveshaft failure, but it did race against the driver that made 1127 so famous: Gérard Larrousse. And guess what he was driving? A works Matra prototype! It’s quite funny really because when we met Gérard we showed him the history file and the race results and he had no idea that he raced against 1127 four years after he raced it in the TDF. He found that very funny.

1127 then went to Ireland and was a rally car in Ireland for a time. It did the Circuit of Ireland and Isle of Man as well. It won the Circuit of Ireland and came second driven by the UK rally driver, Brian Nelson. Then the car was sold to another UK rally driver before finally being sold to Cicely Nicholls, whom Kevin bought the car from.

Kevin had heard of a works car that was in Ireland that had become a rally car. It was rumored to be a 911R. He then had to find that car! It’s sort of been his holy grail trying to find it. And all of this was pre-internet and email, so tracking it down involved lots of writing letters and waiting for replies. Eventually he tracked the car down in the Isle of Man, but he’d missed the car by a couple of weeks and again it went quiet. What had happened was a lady—Cicely Nicholls—had bought it from a classified advert for a “Porsche Race Car.” She took it to a Porsche event and showed a couple of Porsche experts. They basically said, “You’ve got a competition car. We don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s got lots of factory parts on it, so it’s got some history.” That scared her a bit as she was driving it on the road at the time. Luckily for Kevin she just put it away in her garage and forgot about it for a while. Then some eight or so years after Kevin missed the car in the Isle of Man, there was an article in the UK Porsche magazine about the car and the woman owning the car. My dad saw it and he just drove straight up there, negotiated a price, and bought it.

TG: When Kevin bought it, was it a car that he wanted to keep forever?

NM: Since he knew of the car’s existence it’s one that he’s always wanted to own. When he found out that it was already in the UK, with all this tremendous race history, he was over the moon. I suppose looking at market prices today, yes it was a very good buy, but he didn’t purchase it to speculate. He wanted to own a piece of Porsche history and in a way the ultimate 911. The owner knew what she had and she wanted it to go to a home that would understand the car and treat it with respect.

It still had its original 100-liter fuel tank, the 2.8 engine that was put in it, competition oil lines, and the RSR oil tank. You can still see where the jacking points have been drilled. It’d been painted red, and underneath all the paint you could still see the psychedelic livery underneath.

It’s a car that we are certainly going to use and ensure that we continue adding to its history. Ensure that Porsche enthusiasts will see and hear it being used as it was built to do, to race in anger! The car will be on tour with us, hopefully at the Le Mans Classic next year. That’s why we want to hold onto it, it’s the perfect car to represent our work around the world.

TG: What were the challenges involved with restoring it?

NM: Mainly having the patience and finding the time to researching all the different avenues required. We were fortunate that we were able to talk to almost every person that was involved in the car at some point. With a car like that, you’re very lucky because it is so well documented in the press and at the factory. We had original film scans that let us zoom in on tiny details. There’s a jack on the sill, where the map light was, etcetera, etcetera. We wanted to get everything as correct as possible. We went to Germany, to the factory. We also went and spoke to retired factory mechanics at their houses. We spoke to lots of people who worked on the car at the time. Each new person led us to another person. It was amazing arranging for them to spend time with us.

After that, sourcing some of the missing parts was a real challenge. It’s got 908 front brake calipers, which we had to find. We were lucky as we had the build sheets from Porsche which was a good thing because we can find out what gear ratios it ran and whatnot. Just obsessive details like that. The journey it took us on is one we could never have imagined, but it was the journey of a lifetime, and it was the little things that made it all so special.

 

 

 

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Ned Morris
Ned Morris

Great piece Ted. Do you think we can get a video profile on such a legendary car?

Ted Gushue
Ted Gushue

Working on it!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Nice one Gushue … the car .. the article .. the photos .. the whole nine yards !

Ahhh … old racing Porsche’s never die . Thank St GearHeaditis !

Ted Gushue
Ted Gushue

Thanks brotha!