Great Escape

A ’66 911 that has survived against the odds

May 15, 2014

Also from Issue 220

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If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t make this stuff up.

It was the 1940s when William D. Arnett first served in the U.S. Army’s Pacific military campaign during World War II. The skills he learned led him to become an aeronautical engineer at Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, California missile factory fifteen years later. Being somewhat worldly and a methodical perfectionist, Arnett was already a fan of the “excellence was expected” Porsche marque.

Arnett’s first Porsche was a 1959 356 Cabriolet. Then, in 1963, he and his wife took delivery of a new Slate Gray/Red 356B Super Coupe in Germany as part of a Porsche Club of America Treffen (meet). Two years later, Arnett was looking to order a 911 in the same color scheme. He began corresponding regularly with a sales manager in Germany named Jochen Peiper. Peiper seemed the perfect gentleman and wrote over eight letters to Arnett. In one of them, dated January 18th, 1966, he stated, “If you want me to do the [test] driving, I’ll gladly render you the service. It’s no labor, though, as driving a 911 is always a pleasure, at least for me.”

Porsche 911 #303744 was custom built for Arnett in February ’66. After test driving the coupe, Peiper warned him that the radio antennae had been installed on the opposite side from where Arnett had ordered it, but this was not a big concern for the engineer. He flew with his wife to Germany, where they took delivery from Peiper. After driving the 911 around Europe for a few weeks, they had it shipped home.

When #303744 showed up on the docks of San Francisco that May, Arnett noted that it had received some salt damage during its overseas journey, even though he had specified that the car be plastic-wrapped to ward off corrosion. This was just a small setback for Arnett, who cleaned off his new ’66 911 and began driving it on a daily basis.

For decades, Arnett traveled back and forth the ten miles between his home in Saratoga and the Lockheed plant. Along the way, he added some unique electrical components to the cabin, including a Bullittline “Beam Eye” automatic headlight dimmer, CB radio, tube amp, Realistic speakers, and Clarion radio.

Everything was mounted without disturbing the interior panels. The complicated electrical alterations were Arnett’s own design, accompanied by his hand-drawn detailed diagrams and schematics. Just like he did in his Slate Gray 356, he fitted the 911 with intermittent windshield wipers.

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