Racers After 5:00

Also from Issue 214

  • You'll never miss the third pedal
  • A ’78 911 in name only
  • A "modern" 356 and Ruf's own 911
  • Hail to Porsche's Design Chief
  • Jeff Zwart's "hybrid" run to the top
  • IROC: Penske's grand idea
  • Part 1: Bits in the oil of the 993's engine
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The Aases raced the car for parts of four seasons before Dennis moved on to a BMW M1, racing in the IMSA GTO class. Randall recalls, “The Mazdas had pretty much taken over and left us in their wake.”

The GTU car, having been sold off to an amateur racer by the name of Chad Siva, surfaced a couple times at Southern California tracks and then faded into oblivion. Yet, this was a car that hadn’t been totally forgotten by those who had seen it race…and for good reason. The Aase brothers were known for building tidy and attractive race cars, and they had pulled out all the stops when it came time to build this one.

Rennsport Reunions have had the feeling of an old class reunion, and there are cars that you expect to see at every event: Gulf 917s, Rothman 956s, Martini 935s…the automotive equivalent of the prom queen and the star quarterback. Everyone loves the elite championship cars, and it wouldn’t be a Rennsport Reunion without them. Yet, there are other cars, too, all of them special in their own way. Occasionally you turn the corner and lay eyes upon a car that hadn’t crossed your mind in a long time, a car that may have rocked your world long ago but had drifted away into obscurity.

This is exactly what happened in 2011, when people stepped into one of the paddock aisles at Laguna Seca and saw the freshly restored Aase Brothers IMSA GTU car pitted near the end. The comments consistently expressed excitement and surprise: “Oh wow, I haven’t seen that car in decades. I had forgotten all about it!” And, “I saw that car race at Riverside; it was one of my favorites.” Even, “I helped work on that car when it was being built. I never expected to see it here.”

Even Dennis Aase got in on the action, remarking that even though he knew the car was being restored, he hadn’t expected to see it at Rennsport and had been completely surprised when he rounded the corner and saw it for the first time.

Two years earlier, Ron Thomas was killing an evening sipping a cocktail and trolling around on the various Porsche-based internet message boards when he stumbled upon an old race car for sale. The car looked vaguely familiar but didn’t really excite him too much. What did excite him was the price tag, which was significantly less than the factory slide-valve throttle bodies and special Bosch injection pump were worth. As quickly as possible, he reached out to the owner and made a deal for the car, which ended up including several sets of wheels, extra bodywork and a pile of other vintage racing bits.

Through the entire buying process, Ron was just concerned with the fuel-injection parts. His intent: remove the engine and set it aside for some future project. The rolling chassis could then be sold off in order to recoup some of the investment. After all, it was just a tired old race car that had been haphazardly updated with slant-nose-style fenders, chunky boxed rockers scabbed onto the sides, and an oversized whale-tail hanging off the back. Most of the fiberglass panels were cracked, and underneath things were not much better. The floor pan was wrinkled and twisted like an old candy wrapper, having been skipped and skidded across every race-track berm from coast to coast. Sweetening the deal even more was the mummified rat carcass wrapped around the pedal cluster.

Looking closer, the quality workmanship and fabrication hidden beneath the age and wear became more evident. Now, describing Ron as a “fan” of Porsches is like saying that Liberace admired sequins or that Charlie Sheen enjoys…well, never mind that. Ron really likes Porsches! For some time he had wanted to add a car with period racing history to his already impressive collection. The workmanship and his growing understanding of the provenance of his newly purchased gem made him step back and rethink the plan. One of the final shoves in the right direction came when Ron noticed that the Aase GTU car was still featured heavily in AIR Fiberglass advertising, and that the company still had the original molds for all of the panels used first by the Aase Brothers on this very car.

And so the project began. While there was the typical restoration elbow grease needed (new floors, painting, plating), there wasn’t a tremendous amount of detective work and parts hunting required. Remarkably, the car as-found still wore the same paint on the main tub that had been applied in 1977, making that part of the project simple to replicate. The roll cage, suspension and even the steering wheel and most of the gauges were just as the Aase Brothers had installed back in the ’70s.

Interestingly, Ron had already developed a good business relationship with the third Aase brother, Dave, who had been the “parts” guy of the family and who still maintained a healthy internet Porsche parts business. Dave encouraged Ron to reach out to Dennis to get more history on the car and vet the details. Ron printed off a stack of photographs of the details of the car and mailed them to Dennis, who generously scribbled notes identifying what was original and what wasn’t before mailing them back to Ohio.

The restoration was completed in 2010 and the car was shaken down a few times at Mid-Ohio Raceway, dialing in the handling and gear ratios. In 2011, Ron’s application for the Rennsport Reunion was approved…the Aase Brothers GTU was going back to Laguna Seca! The Reunion was a spectacular success. Not only was the car reunited with its original driver, but Ron was able to hustle it around the fabled California track at a very respectable pace. Lumped in with much more powerful 934s and 935s, the little 2.5 liter GTU car was one of the highest qualifying normally aspirated cars in the class, this despite the rest of the N.A. cars being larger than 3.0 liters! Making this even more impressive was that Ron had never seen Laguna Seca, let alone driven it.

The story continues to evolve. In September 2011, Dave Aase suddenly and tragically passed away at his shop in North Carolina. Unable to deal with thousands of Porsche parts on the opposite side of the country, his family reached out to Ron and negotiated with him to purchase the parts stock as well as a couple of Dave’s personal cars. The parts business now operates out of Columbus Ohio as “Aase Sales,” and Ron continues to grow it, specializing in NOS and hard-to-find parts. Dennis and Randall Aase are still in Southern California and still heavily involved in building and racing Porsches. Without a doubt, the Aase name will continue to be woven throughout Porsche history for many years to come.

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