Faced with more than a little encouragement from Layer, the pair quit their day jobs and opened a shop in southern Orange County. Few know the shop even exists. There is no sign on the door and, curiously, the business doesn’t even have a name. Dirk keeps them busy with his clients’ cars, and word of mouth fills in the rest.
Dirk, Tony and Richard buck tradition in the vintage Porsche scene by being craftsmen who don’t simply restore a car but aim to document and reproduce factory imperfections and assembly processes. Recognizing that these were production cars, this team is motivated not by “shiny” restorations where every bolt is plated, undercoating has sharp cut lines and raw metal is clearcoated. Instead, they replicate how the cars were when they were delivered from the factory, faithfully reproducing textures and finishes and including all the little imperfections. Case in point: the engine compartment jamb mentioned at the top of the story. As delivered from Stuttgart, these jambs were a bit rough, with seam sealer smeared into the top corners (likely by a workman’s thumb) and often haphazardly painted. That’s a detail tough to replicate — emotionally and technically.
When asked about their passion for accuracy, Dirk stated, “There is no such thing as almost correct. It’s either right, or it isn’t. People over-restore these cars and then justify it by saying, ‘Well, that’s how the factory would have done it if they could have.’ I disagree. The factory did things the way they did them. Anything different is revisionist history! It’s just as easy to do these things right as it is to do them wrong.”
This philosophy may not sit well with everyone. Yet in person it comes off as sincere and logical, not arrogant. Yes, the team is proud of its work and eager to point out the little details that in many cases aren’t noticed let alone replicated, but with this enthusiasm comes an admittance there are still things to be learned. No doubt somebody will study these details and clarify or improve on them in some future project. It’s also understood that many couldn’t care less about date codes, inspection marks and 100-percent accuracy — and that is okay. The controversy arises when claims of originality or accuracy don’t match reality. So, for the time being, this 1973 2.7 RS might well be the standard for the especially pedantic among us.
Need an example? Where to start? How about the tiny welds that lock the rear peak of the front fenders to the cowl? After setting the fender gaps, but prior to painting, the factory would tack-weld the fenders to the cowl to hold everything in place. These welds are seen in most early 911s that haven’t had their fenders removed. Another example: Examin-ations of other low-mileage, unrestored 911s showed that where wiring passed through the body, (for example, headlight wire holes in the inner front fenders, bottom of the headlight buckets, etc.), the factory placed carelessly torn bits of masking tape over the holes prior to undercoating. After undercoating, the tape was removed and the chassis was painted, leaving a small, smooth surface around the hole so the rubber wiring sheaths could snap into place without interference from the undercoating. Sometimes, as noted on some of the data point cars, even a corner or chunk of tape remained beneath the paint. Each of these details was replicated on the RS.
The obsession continues into the interior. Noting that the original sound deadening on the floors had a pattern of connecting hexagonal impressions, Tony had a die manufactured that when heated would replicate this exact pattern. When examining an original carpet set, he also noticed the vinyl grommets behind the pedals didn’t wrap around to the back side, leaving a somewhat raw edge of vinyl, jute padding and carpet where the pedal arm passes through. Modern reproductions are finished to a much higher standard, with the cut-outs for the pedals neatly rolled under and sewn. So, when Autobahn Interiors was commissioned to sew a new carpet kit, there was some convincing required before they agreed to perform “inferior” work for the sake of originality.
This obsession for accuracy carried on to locating the correct parts for the RS. Date-stamped hood struts…check! Date-tagged seatbelts with the correct Euro orange tracer woven through the center…check! Lightweight RS-only steering wheel horn butterfly…check! Wait, you ask, what’s special about the RS horn butterfly? Most are unaware that Porsche made exact copies of the normal steel horn butterfly out of lightweight plastic for the RS. These are rarely seen; they had the structural integrity of a rice noodle, and few survived the first frustrated toot of the horn.
So, what is it like to drive a “brand-new” 1973 Carrera RS? Preparing to leave the shop parking lot, a childhood memory came to mind. When I was young, we had a family friend, an elderly widow. A visit to her lovely home was like a trip to children’s prison. The pathways from room to room were delineated by clear plastic runners. Exposed carpeting was light colored, and the nap was raked to military-spec perfection. The furniture was slipcovered as the final defense against dust, lint and rough clothing. Your surroundings were to be looked at but never touched. There would be no play, no fun, no unnecessary moving about.