Workshop5001’s Custom 911 Build Is An OCD Tribute To Porsche Perfection
Photography by Ted Gushue
Marlon Goldberg’s been on our radar for a little while now. The Ex-Singer employee struck out on his own recently and opened up shop in Los Angeles under the name Workshop5001. They do some pretty exceptional work in the maintenance department (I take my 911 there, for example), but what really caught my eye at his shop was this Nardo Grey 911 that he kept calling the Battleship. I kept nagging him about it ’til eventually Marlon and I took it up to Malibu for a dawn shoot. Afterwards he walked me through the whole build.
Ted: Marlon, how did this Nardo Grey 911 start it’s life?
Marlon: A client had actually bought it from Bring a Trailer. It was already a little bit of a hot rod. It had a 3.2 motor from an ’86 in a ’73 chassis. The thing was too tatty for the client, and originally it was a “Well maybe we just do some new seats and a steering wheel,” kind of scenario.
Ted: Tatty meaning it was worn out.
Marlon: Yeah and it was a little bit of a hodgepodge in the way it was put together. It was rough around the edges. At first the goal was to just kind of sort it out and make it a nice cruiser, and then when we started really check-listing what the car needed. It was clear that it could benefit from a full restoration. So that’s what we decided to do.
Ted: I think every vintage car could “benefit” from full restoration but you went over the top with this one.
Marlon: Right, we went pretty big. We made it a proper hot rod.
Ted: What did you first do?
Marlon: Bare tub, media blaster. We always start with an absolutely bare tub. I didn’t want to be wasteful. I wanted to utilize as much as what we had there as possible. Things that were serviceable were addressed and we only replaced what was needed to build what was essentially a brand new car.
So for instance we stripped the engine down to a bare case and cleaned it. I mean doing one of those motors I usually spend a week cleaning parts. Same deal with the 915 gearbox. Just got it perfect, arguably better than new.
Ted: The car doesn’t seem to be on steroids, except it is kind of on steroids. Is that a fair description?
Marlon: I think that’s fair. At the end of the day you’re still talking about an air cooled 911 here. Driving around town I think a lot of these cars feel very similar. It’s when you get on it hardcore in a canyon that you start to see the pack separate. This car has over 300 horsepower, which is a lot for this chassis, but a lot has been done to make the car live up to the power plant. The engine was dynoed before it went in the chassis. It was 304.9 horse power at 7,300 RPM in an 83 degree dyno cell. It’s a strong motor. Which meant that we had to give it strong brakes to compensate.
Ted: How much did the car weigh?
Marlon: The car weighs, with a full tank of gas, 2,366 pounds.
Ted: Why did you keep it narrow bodied? So many builds of this quality and attention err towards the flared out RS fender style. Somewhere between an RSR replica and a Singer, where of course you spent some time. What made this build different?
Marlon: I think part of it is just my personal taste and it’s sort of aligned with the client’s taste. I think at first he wanted stickers all over the car and some version of a Magnus Walker build, you know, some of the things that are normally visually associated with a hot rod. I understand that aspect of the culture, but I’m really understated. I like stealth power. So we really aligned on that and built our dialog with the customer around that philosophy, which of course shaped the outcome of the final build. Some of the big fenders start to look cartoonish to me. These cars were so perfectly designed off the line that to mess with that doesn’t feel right in some cases.
That also expresses itself in the drive of a narrow body that’s done properly like this one. It’s like comparing a ballerina to a linebacker – both effective instruments, one is just much more precise than the other.
Ted: When you’re building a car like this, how similar is the relationship with the client to a patron/artist relationship?
Marlon: I think there’s definitely an element of that. We sort of joke that we facilitate insanity at our workshop. At some point it becomes a gray area with who is facilitating who’s insanity. Great client builds are always a symbiotic process. A lot of that comes from me having worked many years at a dealer. You get on the same level as the client, the same wavelength. It makes for a much better end result.
On this particular build the motor was the biggest work of art in the project. It was such a labor of love between Bobby Singh and I. We worked on it here at the shop in L.A. and then dynoed it at Randy Aase’s. It’s all Mil-spec wiring. Anything that was a rare item that we were replacing was replaced with the best of the best. All said and done we had a 3.4L engine with Mahle Motorsport cylinders, CP pistons, custom cams, GT3 oil pump, twin plug heads, coil on plug, Carillo rods, and Motec injection paired to Jenvey individual throttle bodies.
Ted: Explain Mil-Spec wiring to me. Surely there are less serious options out there that get the job done?
Marlon: It’s all made custom to our needs. Lightweight, strong, sealed properly. If you look at a lot of modern car harnesses they barely even cover up the wires or they have a little bit of mesh or only certain sections are covered. We do them with the full raychem sleeve. It’s the same way you would do an offshore race boat or a rally car that’s semi-submergeable. It’s going above and beyond in quality of what the factory ever did for normal production cars. Plus with the old cars it’s very difficult to get an original harness.
Ted: What about the interior?
Marlon: For the interior we re-used some of the trim pieces and covered them in leather like the original dash, the tops of the doors, the rear side panels and with some modifications for the roll bar that we made. We used skinny back hides throughout and then we found a company in Scotland that did a custom tartan for us. We picked out the colors and the frequency of the colors. That was pretty cool, a little hot rod touch.
Ted: Anything else we should know about the car?
Marlon: One of the biggest things that we do all in-house is the metal work. After the car has been media blasted, it comes back and it goes on our celette bench. We don’t just use the celette for normal structural repairs like corrosion or if the car had been hit and is slightly bent or tweaked. We also utilize it for sport purpose modifications like stitch welding, making roll cages, and so on. We have the car fixtured on the bench to get it straight and true, then we can do all our metal work. I think there are very, very few shops around the world doing that. That’s a major focus of their restoration and to me it’s the first and most important step of the build process.
Ted: How many of these a year can you build with your capacity?
Marlon: Right now we’re a small crew. There’s about 4 of us in the company and we have a new guy starting right around the New Year, graduating from a restoration college. Our capacity is probably a couple cars a year, but we can add people as the demand increases or we would maybe stop doing some of the service work and medium and small size projects that we also are doing right now.
Ted: What are the next builds you are working on?
Marlon: We have a ’74 911 that is going to have a 3.8. That car is Mexico blue with Can Can Red, it’s sort of a street racer. It’s for a husband and wife. They go auto-crossing together, but also want something that’s not like a typical track rat. They want something that’s a just a little bit over the top, not a track rat. Then we have a 914 that just left for paint and we have a 356B CAB that we’re putting a polo motor into. We’re building that properly. It’s just come back from the media blaster.