The note escaping the unique three-tip exhaust is gruff, thick, and deep. As I ease from a stop and stand on the gas, the powerplant gasps for air, and its low-end grunt catches me by surprise. A couple Webers sit atop the flat six, but the motor’s mechanicals are unchanged. After the initial shove in the lower back, power delivery is smooth through the rev range, though, I have no intention of approaching the “10” on the tach. I move to grab second, but a Wevo short-shift kit is notchy and takes hometown knowledge to manage deftly; third and fourth come more easily. I downshift and turn into a tight left-hander. The front end dances lightly for a moment before settling. It feels featherweight up there, but the grip seems trustworthy. The rear, by comparison, is epoxied to the pavement. Another squeeze of the throttle, and the tri-tip howls.
Strolling around Mark Morrissey’s 911 reveals many late ’60s and early ’70s influences. But nothing about the car’s aesthetics indicates its true provenance.
“You’d never guess 1978 SC. You’d probably guess just about anything else,” opines Rich Goncalves, co-owner of ROCS Auto, the company that backdated Morrissey’s 911. “Most people who look at the car think it’s a legitimate longnose car, a car with some (deeper) history.” He’s right; it looks like something that could have come straight from the Rallye Monte Carlo, circa 1970, a gritty track patina built right into its finish.
When Morrissey started itching for a 911 in 2003 or 2004, he wanted something older than the 3.0 generation. “I joined the Early 911 S Registry, and started talking to a couple people who had early cars for sale,” he explains, starting his tale. “I didn’t have a lot of cash on hand at the time, and I had my eyes on a ’67 S, but it needed quite a bit of work. I decided that wasn’t going to be a good idea,” he continues, noting that prices for good S examples were already elevating beyond a mortal’s reach. ROCS—which had done work on some Morrissey cars in the past—had a ’78 available, and Goncalves suggested the car. “It was not anything spectacular; a good driver with some fresh paint,” Morrissey continues. “The engine had been rebuilt really well. It had great leakdown numbers, and that was the selling point; it just ran great.”
Morrissey admits that while his initial intentions didn’t include backdating his newly purchased Porsche, the allure of sport-purposed, longnose-era cars took control during the months that followed, “I became enamored with the cars I’d been seeing on the Early S Registry and the R Gruppe Forum. I would go to the websites, read, look at photos…I really started to fall in love with the hot-rods there.”
A year later, the ’78 sported an IROC front bumper and RS rear bumper, but the blunt-nose look wasn’t to Morrissey’s liking, “It evolved a bit,” he says of his plan to modify the SC. “When I saw the IROC bumper, it just didn’t do it for me. It was crazy; I bought it, I had it put on, and almost immediately I knew I was going to sell it.” He laughs at his initial missteps, but such impetuousness is the curse of many a 911 project.
One thing was for sure, though: As was the case with Porsche’s sporting efforts in the late ’60s and early ’70s, lightness would rule. Among the factory hot-rods, it was the R that intrigued Morrissey most: “I started to think about how cool the concept was, to take a car and make it as light as possible rather than adding a bunch of horsepower,” he says of Porsche’s early 911 racer. That car was a meticulous exercise in weight savings, a car that tipped the scales at barely 1,800 lb after a significant amount of sheetmetal was substituted by fiberglass, and after seemingly insignificant details—such as side mirrors and taillight lenses—were minimized.