Mild Mod

One man's quieter, more comfortable, and home-built take on the early 911 hot rod proves to be awfully alluring.

April 15, 2011

Also from Issue 192

  • Interview: Matthias Müller
  • 2012 Cayman R
  • Huschke von Hanstein
  • 1998 911 Carrera S Cabriolet
  • 1962 356B cabriolet
  • 1979 914-6
  • 1987 944
  • Buyers Guide: 356 and 912
  • 2011 Cayenne
  • Tech Forum
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Huge tires, swollen fender flares, and an exhaust that sets off every car alarm aren’t for everyone. Nor do they necessarily make a car the fastest — or the most fun — thing on four wheels. Sometimes, it’s the sleeper you want.

Consider this Signal Orange 1971 911T. With modest 15×6-inch Fuchs wheels, 205 tires, narrow bodywork, and plentiful brightwork, it hardly shouts “street racer.” But there’s a lot more to this 911 than its pretty, period-correct face. A long list of carefully chosen modifications are hidden under its skin. And while the pristine coupe looks like it was painstakingly built by one of the big-name Porsche shops, it was built in a cozy Los Angeles, California garage by a determined gearhead.

Welles Hackett is that gearhead. Somehow, this busy freelance cinematographer found time between music video and television advertising projects — as well as the arrival of a new baby — to build his take on what a classic longhood 911 can be. Maybe his wife, Liz, sums it up best when she tells her husband, “You have a very productive obsessive compulsive disorder.”

Indeed. Talking to Welles, you get the sense he’s a guy with an excess of restless energy that has to be directed somewhere. “As long as I can remember, I was the kid who took everything apart and was constantly making model cars and airplanes,” he says. “In addition to working on cars, I also do woodwork, metalwork, and love to cook. And I have always loved the styling of the early 911s. I had a Corgi 911 toy car as a kid and never stopped wanting one.”

Eventually, he acquired a real 911 from a friend in 1998. He explains that the deal involved a little cash, his vintage BMW R90/6 motorcycle, and “maybe a bottle of Scotch.” Sounds like a more than fair deal for a solid, corrosion- and collision-free early 911 in a desirable color. “I believe he thought I would tire of the car and sell it back to him in a few years,” smiles Welles. “No such luck for him.”

Welles was living in New York at the time, and the 911 served as a fun weekend driver when he wasn’t using his Volvo 240 wagon. He eventually relocated to L.A., where he continued to use the 911 when he needed a therapeutic break from life. A turning point came in 2007, when Welles took the car to a shop for a tune-up after he had rebuilt the carburetors.

“It was looking more and more like it was going to need an engine rebuild,” he says. “There were also a few body issues I wanted to deal with, a laundry list of nags.” He had just finished restoring his Laurel Canyon home and, as he puts it, “needed something to occupy all that spare time.” He had also noticed the supply of parts for early 911s was diminishing and what was out there was getting more expensive.

“The idea was to build a sort of ‘boy racer’ dream car,” explains Welles. While performance was going to be ramped up, he also wanted to modernize his 911’s amenities: “I have always loved things that look old and function like new. I wanted the car to look stock and have all the bells and whistles beneath the skin.”

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