French Kiss

Also from Issue 163

  • Rennsport Reunion III
  • Driving the Brumos 914-6 GT at Daytona
  • Wingho’s Wild W3 (964) Three-Seater
  • Tightening Up the 997 Turbo
  • 356 Notchback Revitalized with 911 Power
  • Market Update: 924, 944, and 968
  • 400,000-mile Carrera 3.2 Reborn
  • Project 1951 356 Gläser cabrio
  • Cayenne GTS: The Best Cayenne
  • Base 997 Coupe Short Test
  • Porsche Icon: 908/2 Spyder
  • 911 Master-Cylinder Re-do
  • Gasoline Direct Injection
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1972 911T with panache 1
1972 911T with panache 2
1972 911T with panache 3
1972 911T with panache 4
1972 911T with panache 5
1972 911T with panache 6
1972 911T with panache 7

He began a search for someone in the greater Portland area with a loom and the skill to weave several yards of the Tartan wool! Eventually, a professor in the Hand Weaving Guild was located who could do the job. That’s right, the sample cushion was used as a pattern not only for the design, but also to gauge the correct weight of thread used to weave several yards of new red tartan cloth in exactly the precise scale. As a finishing touch, all of the hardware for the factory sport seats and their seat tracks were sent out to be replated before final assembly.

The eagle-eyed may notice something odd about the dashboard of this 1972 911. Instead of the typical, soft-rubber switches, it appears that earlier, pre-1969 switches have been installed. When asked about this anomaly, Smith says that the rubber switches were a concession to the U.S. Department of Transportation and that 911s delivered to European markets retained the more simple, graceful switches of earlier 911s.

This detail ties in with a secondary theme to Smith’s silver T — it is completely spec’d out to mimic a French-delivery car. Other European-only details are the factory seatbelts with thin orange threading woven through their centers, a Blaupunkt AM/FM/SW/LW radio, and the European gauges. One of the more obvious French-spec items is the pair of amber H1 headlights above the amber-and-white Rest of World front signal lights. At first glance, the rear lamps appear to be the common Euro/RoW lenses, as well. But they are specifically French spec. The difference? The reverse-lamp lenses are a light yellow tone instead of being white.

While on the subject of lighting, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fog-lamps. They may appear to be the expensive but common Hella 118 “through the grill” lamps. Look closer, though. They’re approximately one inch larger in diameter than the optional factory 911 lamps. Smith points to the lamps, explaining; “I prefer the looks of the larger lamps and I like the idea that, when a rock takes out a lens, I can just go down to the dealer and buy another.” Of course, installing the larger lamps was more complicated than simply bolting them in place. To keep the hood from hitting the lamp when opening and closing it, they must be spaced out a bit further. This required Smith to cut his own horn grills to accommodate the spacing. Only one detail is left: where might one find these lamps? Unfortunately, Smith doesn’t like to share all his secrets. All he’ll say is that they come from another popular, late-1960s German luxury car.

The rest of the car’s exterior changes are largely subtle. This T is equipped with the wider bumper deco strips and wide stainless rocker trim usually reserved for 911Ss of the same era. The optional rear window wiper is a nice finishing touch, as is the rare factory stainless muffler shroud that hangs beneath the rear bumper and valance. The rest of the car’s visual pop comes from its stunning silver-over-red color combination — and the luster of the metal-flake paint job that makes up the greater half of that combo.

As the late afternoon sun threatens to dip below the horizon, the quickly disappearing light makes the silver paintwork on this 911’s front fenders glisten like a precious stone. My question of who is responsible for the paint and bodywork prompts a proud smile from Smith. “Back in 1994, after driving the car for a couple years, I decided it was time to start the restoration,” he begins. “A talented paint and body guy named Brian Scribner supervised me as I did all the bodywork and paint on this car. It was my first paint job and it turned out really well!” Not only did the paint turn out well, it has held up well — you’d be hard pressed to identify it as anything but a fresh job.

When it left the factory, Smith’s T coupe came equipped with a 2.4-liter flat six rated at 130 horsepower. Smith, being Smith, wanted more. The T’s tired running gear was removed and a fresh 2.7-liter engine and RS-spec 915 gearbox were installed. The powertrain was built by Gordon Ledbetter, who started with a solid 7R engine case and a goal of building an RS engine accurate in every way other than its serial numbers. Smith sees the setup as nothing fancy — just a solid, proven engine-and-transmission combination.

The suspension and braking systems were completely refreshed, but remain stock with the exception of S brakes. A set of 15×7 911R Fuchs with sticky, low-profile tires would have been the obvious choice for improved performance, but Smith chose a set of 15×5.5 Mahle “gas-burners.” The Mahles bring a dash of style that fits with this 911’s understated theme. Often called bland, these magnesium ten-spokers — the lightest wheels offered on a production Porsche road car — appeal to hard-core enthusiasts who appreciate Teutonic efficiency and exotic materials as an alternative to the usual Fuchs.

Back behind the wheel, with a better understanding of this 911’s dynamics, I’m able to loosen up and drive the car like it was meant to be driven: like a 1972 911T, but one with a lot more power. With the last flicker of sunlight fading behind us, we’re headed back to Portland. The smooth torque of the 2.7 belies the fact that this is a 35-year-old car. It feels like a far more modern incarnation of the 911, requiring few downshifts to negotiate your typical back roads at respectable pace. Listen-ing to the low growl of the 2.7 exhaling through the factory muffler, I’m reminded that you don’t need big tires, flashy paint, and a noisy sport muffler to create a noteworthy early 911 all your own.

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