Rust Never Sleeps

Also from Issue 196

  • 2012 Panamera S Hybrid
  • Tuned Cayman: Manthey M315
  • Interview: Michael Keyser
  • New 2012 911 Carrera!
  • Cayman R vs. Boxster Spyder
  • Carrera GTS vs. Cayman R
  • "The Fastest Speedster in the World."
  • 1970 911T: Gray Wolf
  • 997 GT3 RS at Sebring
  • Smart Buy: 1992-1995 928 GTS
  • Buyers Guide: 914, 986, 987
  • Tech Forum: M96 Savior?
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The "Drive Safely" Mobil Pegasus, while not OEM, almost could be considered original equipment. Owner John Straub chose to keep relics from the car's past.
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Stored in a barn for decades, the 911's interior is still in good condition. The driver's seat was replaced with an unrestored, vintage bucket seat that is similar to what the factory used in 356 race cars and Speedsters.
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A set of original 15 x 7-inch magnesium Minilite wheels were fitted to the rusty 911. Tires are sized 195/60-15.
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All wear parts and rubber were inspected and then replaced or rebuilt, hence the engine bay's cleanliness.

The carbureted flat six fires up eagerly with a twist of the key and a prod on the gas pedal. Unlike a five-speed 901, first gear is found by moving the stick forward. The clutch pedal is light, and away we go. As we make our way along a winding country road near Alpine, California, second gear is grabbed in a lazy arc.

Time slows down to meet us.

The shocks are perfectly in tune with the soft suspension. With its stock front anti-roll bar and small torsion bars, this ’67 911 sways on modern rubber through tight corners. However, it swallows every dip of the bumpy rural lane with ease and makes all the right noises along the way. The exhaust burbles contentedly behind our ears and is louder than stock, but not too loud. The Webers’ intake noise fills in the rest of the soundtrack, and forward progress is achieved with little effort.

“Simple” is the best way to describe the controls and gauges. Everything you need to know is there, nothing more. Select third gear and you’re transported back to 1967. The steering is a bit vague and full-throttle acceleration is somewhat lazy, but we’re in no rush. It’s actually something of a relief knowing that this innocuous looking, slab-sided 911 is not about to be accused of speeding too fast with its tarnished white paint and spoilerless shape.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because being in a hurry behind the wheel of this stock four-speed “normal” is never going to make sense. Best just to relax and enjoy the ride. But dark clouds are threatening to open a rainstorm overhead, so we head back to “the barn” to find cover. Wouldn’t want to add any more rust to a body that’s achieved such a perfectly balanced distribution of corrosion, I suppose…

It’s easy to poke fun at a car that goes against everything we take for granted, like concours paint jobs and high-dollar restorations. Yet original cars like this have a unique story to tell, a story that only evolves over time. Every spot, chip, and dent recalls an earlier trip, a miscalculated parking maneuver, a run-in with a stray stone, too many days put away wet.

You simply can’t make up a car like this. Its exterior shows the scars of an earlier life well lived, not something that’s been manufactured to create interest. Fortunately, Straub had the foresight to recognize this in his short-wheelbase 911.

Traditionally, nothing short of perfection will do for the Porsche faithful. Maybe some of them, like Straub, are becoming more comfortable with adopting cars that fit outside of this norm. Perhaps they enjoy pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable. Or perhaps they’re simply gaining a better appreciation for the few remaining qualities that defy age — things like individualism, character, and authenticity — things not easily acquired.

“Owning one full-concours car is plen­ty,” contends Straub. “I find it amazing that, wherever I take this car, it receives so much attention. People either love it the way it is or ask, ‘When are you gonna paint it?’ My answer has become ‘I’m not. Why screw up all that juicy patina?’”

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