Porsche’s 911L, factory-built nearly half a century ago in limited quantities, has always been a rare breed. After all, only 16 of these factory-lightened, rally-kitted Porsches made it to America. Rarer still is the destiny that an original buyer of one might own that same car now. Rarest of all is the likelihood that today’s owner could be that very person who first raced this Porsche brand new and, 47 years on, currently road rallies it.
Further, if not altogether too hard to swallow, the car is a former SCCA entry presently liveried exactly the same as when it was the runner-up in 1968’s Trans-Am Series Under 2-liter category championship. Really? Absolutely! Which is why we’ve dug deep into this Porsche’s far-reaching, energetic narrative—rife with provenance and theater—gratifyingly mustered from its first owner, interim custodians and restorers, and now bookended with the original title-holder of serial number 11810482, Bob Bailey.
I call Bailey’s cell, the new iPhone6 he’s been taking pictures with while he and son, Cannon, drive the 1968 911L in 2015’s 25th Anniversary Copperstate 1000. Bob answers on speakerphone somewhere in Arizona.
“It’s a great group of people and cars going through parts of the country where we’ve never been before,” Bailey says. “There are about 80 of us and not a cloud in the sky.”
“It’s been a nice transition for the Porsche,” adds Cannon, his voice fresh and quick. “It likes high rpms. With the big fuel cell, 26 gallons, it can run almost all day. It’s not nearly as loud inside as it is on a track when there’s no firewall back where the engine is and with race pipes.” The Baileys are at rest stop; it’s oddly quiet right now.
“We’ve been talking about how many miles we have under our belts,” Bob’s son says, “after driving on all the different race tracks for the past few years. Now we’re getting to put a lot of miles on the road.”
Jason Hiler, who’s been chasing the Baileys on the Copperstate in Heritage Motorcar Restoration/Research’s (HMR) big Dodge pickup, has only had to lean out the Porsche’s carbs in higher altitudes, and raise its McPherson strut/torsion bar front suspension a bit for sections with rougher roads. Rear suspension—torsion bar/semi trailing arms—remains pre-rally set. I am assured this ex-Trans-Am racing Porsche, sporting beefy-beyond-standard anti-roll bars fore and aft, along with double-effect shocks on all four corners, really digs the Copperstate’s roads.
“We’re mostly going 75 mph,” Cannon replies when asked about speed. “In remote stretches, where it’s straight as far as you can see, we open it up more. We can drive this car five hours straight with no problems.”
Jason Hiler and Jason Lee of HMR in St, Petersburg, Florida readied Bailey’s 911L for the 1,000-mile road rally and, before that, “re-restored” the Porsche from its vintage race car go-faster state to strictly how it came to Bailey when first delivered. The old L hadn’t looked so good, nor run so well, for some time, and the sight and sound of it on the Copperstate’s Arizona and Utah highways begged questions about the car’s history at every stop.
Bob Bailey, with occasional co-drivers Jim Locke and Bruce Jennings, had raced serial number 11810482 with considerable success in the ’68 and ’69 Trans-Am seasons. Bailey came to the game a hot SCCA driver back then. One Porsche Club of America (PCA) regional piece dubbed Bailey “a cool, calculating tiger, with a real head for racing.”
Before Trans-Am, Bailey, eager but under-age, raced a Super 90 roadster in Canada for three years and then bought a used 356 Carrera GT for SCCA’s C Production division, winning his class with co-driver John Kelly at Sebring in 1967. Utterly inspired, Bailey took delivery of this new factory 911L from Bob Holbert Porsche in Warrington, Pennsylvania in April of 1968. Trans-Am hot-shoe Bert Everett originally ordered the car, but, at the last minute, he decided to keep his current 911 instead.
The Lightweight took Bailey to Trans-Am Under-2-liter combat with the tested pluck of guys like Everett, Tony Adamowicz, Fred Baker and Peter Gregg, while scrapping with 5-liter traffic headed by Detroit iron masters such as Mark Donohue, Parnelli Jones, George Follmer and Peter Revson. Bailey capped his ’68 Trans-Am season second overall in the Under 2-liter championship as runner-up to Adamowicz’s 911.
Bailey raced his 911L in 1969 under the Porsche of America Racing Team (P.A.R.T.) banner. Although Bailey did not finish in the 24 Hours of Daytona, he and co-driver Bruce Jennings finished second in class at the 12 Hours of Sebring a few weeks later. In 1969’s T/A series, Bailey netted a pair of class fifths and, teamed with Jim Netterstrom, second place in the Under 2-liter class at Watkins Glen.