As I descend over what I imagine are a bunch of palm trees, and just before my electronic device needs to be turned off, I go through my emails to look at the car that motivated me to fly south in the first place. It’s a beauty. In the email from January, the car’s owner mentioned that I should leave the frozen north of Minnesota and check out his 911 in Florida. At the time, my entire world was covered in snow, ice, gray clouds and a general sense of morose. The opportunity to head south to check out an early 911 for a few days sounded perfect. Besides, I hadn’t been to the Sunshine State since I went to Disney World 25 years ago.
With only the clothes on my back and a bag full of camera gear, I make my way out of the airport terminal, call the Porsche’s owner, Dr. Noah Weisberg, and stand outside to wait for my ride. Unknowing people glued to their phones, awaiting pickup in Camrys or Tahoes, surround me. Despite their automotive ignorance, I watch their eyes shift up and their heads move in tandem from left to right as a Tangerine 911 burbles in and comes to a halt at my feet.
I grab the precisely made door handle, squeeze, pull, hop in and shut the door. I turn to my left and meet my driver. We pull away smoothly, as the group of inspired gawkers unknowingly memorialize our exit in the back of their minds to be used as a “remember when” years from now.
there is no substitute
On the ride from the airport to find a photo location, Weisberg talks about his history with cars as the Florida scenery whizzes past. Like many of us, this 911 owner got a lot of his inspiration from car magazines. He grew up in a very blue-collar section of Long Island, New York where most of the inhabitants were police officers or firemen who commuted to Manhattan for work. The nicest car he remembers from his childhood was a 928S owned by a doctor. Without much beyond that to inspire him on the roads, he turned to print.
“I could probably quote any magazine stat for cars made between the years of 1982 to 1988,” Weisberg said in a raised voice to overcome the wind.
His first car was a 1988 Acura Integra. With 118 hp and minimal torque, it was enough to satisfy his desire for a sporty car. Weisberg drove it through 10 years of college and med school. During his residency, he sold it—one-hundred hour work weeks and Manhattan just weren’t conducive to motoring. Still, the enthusiast in him never went away. After finishing his fellowship and moving to Florida, he started looking at cars again. Having owned the Integra for so long, it was only natural that he ended up with a Honda S2000.
“It was a very special car between 6,000 and 9,000 rpm,” he remembers. “But you can’t really drive a car that likes to rev to 9,000 rpm on the street. People will look at you like you’re an idiot.” Adding to the restlessness was the constraint of rain. “I got to Florida on July 1st,” he continued, “and that summer, for two months after I got that convertible, it rained every day.” He needed something else. The train of cars started.
Weisberg ended up with an Infiniti FX45 that was ultimately too large and unwieldy. An Infiniti M45 came after. A BMW 335i convertible followed. Then came a BMW E92 M3 that Weisberg took to the race track. Once in the motorsports world, he noticed most of the cars on track with him were Porsches. He respected that they came track ready without so much as removing the window sticker.
Ready to move on from his M3, Weisberg bought a 991 that he tracked at Sebring, Homestead, Palm Beach and other venues. As time went on, though, his tastes continued to evolve and, after a few conversations with his friend Keith at the race track, the hunt for a classic Porsche began.
As a discerning and calculated man, Weisberg didn’t just dive straight in. He did research. Nights were long as he lay in bed with his iPad digesting information. In the beginning, he sought a 356. After driving one, though, he decided they weren’t quite what he was looking for. He then changed his focus to the early 911.
Weisberg drove a stock short-wheelbase 1967 911, and said, “The stock car didn’t really do it for me—I loved it, it was neat, but it just didn’t have the go, braking and cornering I was looking for.” He then drove a slightly modified 1972 911 and made up his mind: he wanted a long-wheelbase 911. As he searched for one, though, he saw the prices for them rising.
But he wasn’t looking for a pristine numbers matching car—he was going to modify it anyway. There was a vision in his head of what he wanted his 911 to look like, sound like, drive like and feel like. Then, his friend Keith called and said: “A car popped up—an original-paint Tangerine ’73. It’s hot-rodded with a 3.0-liter engine with 40 Webers and SC brakes. And it’s a no-rust California car that’s all straight. Do you want to see it?” No, Weisberg didn’t want to see it. He wanted to buy it. So he did.
Weisberg’s new-to-him 1973 911T hadn’t been driven in a while. Once the fuel lines were cleaned out, though, the engine fired right up. Next, he sent the car to Klub Sport in Riviera Beach, Florida to have the engine tuned and a center-fill gas tank installed. Weisberg knew there would be paint damage from the center-fill installation, so he decided to have the hood repainted and some stripes added.
The color choice for the stripes was a bit of a challenge, though. A multitude of period-correct grays and early 911 ivory were tried, but none of the hues were just right. Coincidentally, Klub Sport happened to have an Ivory-colored 356 that had just been restored in for work. As soon as Weisberg saw the classic machine, he knew the color was perfect for his 911’s stripes.
Along with the paint and body work, Klub Sport also exchanged the trombone oil cooler for a finned unit, cut out the battery box, slotted and repainted the front bumper and corner balanced the car. Being plenty of fun to drive as it was, Weisberg left his 911 like that for a year, driving it around and even bringing it to Daytona. He knew he had done right by the car when people in the Porsche corral started asking for its racing history and if it had once raced at Daytona long ago.
Weisberg was impassioned. All the cars that came before had finally led to here. Like many others before him, the romance of owning an early 911 sparked a fire. New cars only kept his interest for a few years, but his Tangerine 911 never got boring. He decided that he would own this car for decades and, since he wanted to keep his 911 for the long haul, he decided to have some more work done.
When I asked Weisberg why he built the car as it appears today, he replied: “For me…visually I didn’t want a clone. I don’t want an RSR, I don’t want an RS—I wanted my own thing.” He was happy with how the car was aesthetically, so he turned to the way it drove. He started sourcing parts for the engine he wanted and Klub Sport took on the job of building his dream engine.
The 3.0-liter flat-six engine that came with the car was built into a short stroke 3.2-liter naturally aspirated powerplant. Helping a set of 46 PMO carburetors breathe is a set of Web camshafts set atop fully ported, twin-plug cylinder heads. The upgraded engine is good for a respectable 300 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
The power is put down to the ground through a rebuilt gearbox with Guard gears and a limited-slip differential. The weight of the car is managed by Rebel Racing’s suspension kit. Weisberg then had a set of Zuffenhaus’s RSR brakes fitted to bring speeds back to legal as quickly as possible.
more fun than a rollercoaster
The hunt to find a place to photograph the car proves to be more difficult than I initially expected. A spot that looked promising to us won’t work due to the time of day, so we continue on…and on. Weisberg and I chat about the car as the scenery flies by and the Florida rain continues to test my patience.
Weisberg steps hard on the throttle for me and I am reminded why older Porsches were so good. It isn’t because they’re better cars, because they aren’t. When compared side by side as tools, there is almost nothing an early 911 does better than a brand-new 991. When compared side by side as amusement rides, though, the early car is the one you buy the unlimited wristband for.
As a passenger, my view is unobstructed. There are no airbags on the A-pillars to save me or—more importantly in this case—to block my view. On one of the lonelier roads I see an unassuming building on my left. Overgrown. Abandoned. Gray. I ignore it and we hurry on. At the last moment I sit up in the racing seat and turn around to see the building from the other side. It’s an old citrus grove! The connection between what is written on the building, what they used to do there, and where in the country I am shooting this Tangerine car demanded a test of the Zuffenhaus RSR brakes. They definitely work!
I take it as a considerable compliment that car owners trust me with something they’ve built with their heart, and traded their time at the office to buy. With the shoot behind us, I’m handed the 917 key that Weisberg had specially cut for his dream machine. The ST-style Scheel based seats are comfortable, and the racing harnesses and their hardware have a vintage feel. The car springs to life with a little hesitation—a typical trait of carbureted engines. The updated-yet-familiar gauges jump to life with the engine as the PMOs idle away behind me.
Never wanting to embarrass myself, I always take some time to learn the ropes on a car before giving it the shoe. Though this 911 is initially menial to me in its mannerism, I sense its urgency lurking below. At the end of the 120-mile journey to find a photo location and to learn more about the car, I give this 911 what it has been asking for. In response, I receive an unexpectedly firm handshake—like the one you get from your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend: firm, startling and leaving you like you wish you could do it over again to show you can handle it. Unlike meeting a person, though, I pick up on what the car is giving me and enjoy it.
With a rev limit of 7,600 rpm, the PMOs talk mostly about how great they are and the tach sweeps up in direct correlation with the amount of fun I’m having. Rowing through the gears is engaging, as expected, with the Wevo gated shifter. The true wonder of driving this car, however, is the grin factors: the custom-ratio gearbox, the induction noise and how effortlessly the 3.2-liter engine pushes the chassis around. The sound snapping back from oncoming traffic, signs, buildings and nature is glorious!
After my drive, it’s tough to get out, hand over the key and know that the next thing I’m going to be driving is my salt-ridden 911-saving winter beater back home in Minnesota.
After growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood, obsessing over car magazines, spending years in medical school and thousands of hours in medical practice, Weisberg has certainly earned his Porsche. It’s a car that will carry him through the rest of his life as other cars come and go. It’s the living reality of a car he once dreamed of owning. To that end, it is perfect.