Once Upon a Coupe

Also from Issue 216

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Once Upon a Coupe 1
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Once Upon a Coupe 8
Once Upon a Coupe 9
Once Upon a Coupe 10

Mechanically, everything was replaced or rebuilt. Unfastening the pair of Carrera RS-style rubber hold-downs on the rear lid, we find a very neat engine compartment. The motor, which was taken from Sike’s old 356 vintage race car, is based on a 912 case, carrying a balanced “C” crank with Carrillo connecting rods, a fairly bullet-proof combination. The engine was massaged by Alan Klinger at The Stable, a well-known Porsche prep shop in San Francisco. There, it received a “de-tuning” to run on pump gas, as Sikes describes it, although Klinger prefers to say, “It was built to a certain specification.”

The race motor was the class-legal 1600cc, relates Sikes, and produced about 125 horsepower on Klinger’s dyno. “The motor’s 12.5:1 compression was fine for track use but too hot for the street, so we installed a 1720cc big-bore kit with lower compression J & E pistons and a milder Elgin cam that we got from Vic Skirmants at 356 Enterprises. That gave us the about the same power in a much more useable range.”

Klinger added the usual internal mods to ensure longevity, such as piston squirters to help keep the moving innards cool. He mounted a pair of 40mm Dell’Orto twin-choke downdraft carbs, which he prefers to Webers for street use. The cylinder heads received some improvement, including 40mm Super 90 intake valves. The new drivetrain includes a lightened flywheel and stock 200mm SC clutch package ahead of a rebuilt 741 gearbox. Klinger says the racing clutch that came out of the car was fine for the track but was simply too grabby to make street driving a pleasant experience.

There’s a large external oil cooler mounted in the nose, plus additional filtering. Sikes lent a hand with some of the engine detailing, fabricating a pair of rain shields to keep water out of the carburetor stacks. Pegasus Racing supplied the neat racing oil breather and catch container. A custom fuel cell from FuelSafe lives inside the stock 356 gas tank. “They cut the old tank in half,” says Sikes, “cleaned it and powder coated it, then mounted the new cell inside and closed it up—a really neat set-up!” The exhaust system, relates Sikes, is a Swiss-made stainless-steel replica of the factory’s four-into-two-into-one racing extractor usually seen on 550s and Carreras.

Underneath the elegantly formed nose with its race-car towing eye, we find a late 356 C front suspension with reinforced trailing arms. Farmer installed new Koni Classic shock absorbers all around. There’s a Weltmeister 19mm sway bar in front, but he decided against a transverse camber spring at the other end. “We cut the transaxle hoop about 1.5 inches, allowing us to lower the rear (raise the engine) and keep the axles level with about two degrees of negative camber. With that no camber compensator is needed. Brakes are stock 356 C calipers and discs at all four corners. A wrecking yard supplied the 6 × 15 spare tire rims that used to live beneath the rear trunk carpet of 944s. Sikes had them anodized silver and mounted them with longer studs and 205/55 tires, plenty of rubber for a car this size and weight.

With the fabric top, bows, and side curtains stored somewhere safe (Hey, this is sunny California; nobody puts up a Speedster top here!), it should be simple to just open the driver’s-side door and slip into the deep bucket seats…but your six-foot-plus author finds it a bit of a challenge, due to the limited clearance between the high edge of the bucket and bottom of the handsome modern Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel. Once seated, though, it’s well worth the effort; everything feels second nature and very comfy. The bucket easily adjusts fore and aft to allow a comfortable reach to the wheel, and the pedal cluster is just the right distance away.

After latching the competition lap belt (there’s also a set of shoulder harnesses, but we didn’t use them), I twist the ignition key at the far left edge of the instrument panel, and with a quick stab at the gas pedal, the engine roars to life. There’s nothing subtle about this puppy. The racing extractor’s expansion chambers may help mitigate the raspy exhaust note by a few decibels, but I’m thinking that a set of earplugs might be in order if I was planning a higher-speed cross-country jaunt.

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