Together with American Prescott Kelly, a close confidant, Sprenger traveled to Raleigh to inspect the Gmünd — on behalf of Hans-Peter Porsche! After a deal was struck, Sprenger surprised Ingram and Watts by asking to see their restoration shop. After a tour, Sprenger made a phone call from the parking lot and spoke in his native tongue for quite some time. He then informed Ingram and Watts that Mr. Porsche would like them to restore 045!
It was immensely flattering that a member of the Porsche family was insisting their team restore 045 — but they knew what it would mean. From now on, they would put in long, long hours. It was 2009, and the agreed goal was to show the car in two years at the Pebble Beach Concours. The Scholars would have to reconstruct the car from the ground up. It meant 60-hour weeks — two solid years of them.
A little help from friends
Road Scholars had some assets that the old Porsche designers in 1950 would’ve loved to have, among them laser scanning. Before much of anything could be done reconstructing 045’s fourteen discreet body sections, the Scholars had to formalize all of its dimensions and forms.
To do this, 2,000 hours were spent on international travel and research studying other Gmünds. Eight cars were studied, including Tatra-built aluminum-bodied 356s. Two bodies, one of them the Ingrams’ 017 and one Gmünd chassis, were laser-scanned. The process gathered multitudes of data points, from which a steel buck was generated for forming body segments.
One by one, coachbuilder Hans Sahling began to form the complete chassis and aluminum body parts. Meanwhile, Alan Hogan and Tom Wyrick would rebuild the drivetrain and other mechanical systems into perfect running order. Countless hours were spent repairing the original engine’s degraded magnesium cooling fins. All the while, parts manager Brandon Terretti tore his brains out trying to track down obscure lighting fixtures like the correct SWF-brand “frog’s eye” taillight lenses and other such fiddley trinkets no one had seen or suspected in 60 years.
Months passed, 60-hour week by 60- hour week. Assembly advanced.
Building the body took longer than initially anticipated — the Porsche shapes and original construction methods being extremely difficult to replicate. The complete aluminum skin was fully assembled using temporary fasteners twice before finally being gas-welded and metal-finished. There would be no surprises when painter Jason Stoutamire began to apply the correct, single-stage paint.
The original lead-based factory primer was perfectly replicated. The blue that the car had long worn was not correct, but the original red was found in completely unoxidized form underneath the hood hinges and behind the door striker plates, allowing a perfect match. This confirmed factory records for 045.
Three coats of paint were applied without a clear coat. The finish was sanded, then buffed. Further maintaining authenticity, the undercoating was applied with a paint brush. The hammer marks from mating the body to the frame were left undisguised, just as in the original, and the uneven rivet pattern was also replicated. To (sort of) impede electrolysis between the steel chassis and aluminum body, a simple strip of herringbone cotton, exactly replicated from the original material used at Tatra in 1950, was mounted between the two surfaces to separate them.
After a marathon search for the aluminum trim strips for the car’s bumpers, Ingram’s team finally extruded their own pieces. The same solution proved necessary with the part they spent the longest time trying to find, the rear license-plate light. The problem was that they had nothing from which to replicate it. Then Jerry Seinfeld, who owns one of the most original Gmünd coupes, a car once raced by Otto Mathé, loaned them his license-plate light for replication. Given the rarity and preciousness of these hallowed objects, it was an extraordinary act of good faith. Upon receipt, machinist Billy Woodruff created an exact copy. But for patina, the end result is indistinguishable from the original.
In 1950, Gmünds still used cable brakes, and Ingram is the first to say, “they’re scary as hell.” They must be adjusted winter and summer to keep their action calibrated for different expansion and contraction fac- tors. The car had incorrect shock absorbers, but fortunately, correct new old stock early KdF dampers were found fairly easily. As it turns out, Europeans are particularly good about hoarding NOS equipment. Original date-stamped and riveted 1950 VW wheels were also found easily on Craigslist in, of all places, Florida.
Another troublesome matter was the Trafficator. Somewhere along the way, it had been replaced with an incorrect 1960s version. Now a rare, genuine 1940s KdF unit had to be found. Another long slog through the ’Net turned one up.
All the while, Dan Wickett of Hot Rod Construction was cranking out countless custom-made details such as window seals, each of them born perfect. Ingram brought Wickett in halfway through the project, and says that he proved to be indispensable when it came to the finishing touches on 045. That’s little surprise since Wickett is well known in the world of conceptual hot-rods, having won his share of awards at the highest levels of the genre.