The Perfectionist

A rare Copper Metallic 1977 911 Turbo is restored to better-than-new condition.

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August 12, 2021

It should surprise absolutely no one that Porsche’s insistence on creating the best possible consumer products would attract a clientele with the same mindset. When it comes to high-performance automobiles, Porsche’s engineers deliver as close to perfect a vehicle as they can; witness the long list of J.D. Power’s initial quality awards they have earned. Still, though, there are Porsche owners who believe they can make their cars even better. That leads us to the Billingsley brothers.

Dave Billingsley is a manufacturing executive in St. Paul, Minnesota. His older sibling Chet enjoyed a career as a venture capitalist and investor in Silicon Valley before moving to Texas. Chet describes Dave “as an engineer at heart.” Both have been life-long automobile—make that sports car—enthusiasts.

“When Dave talks about his accomplishments,” says Chet, “he is often heard joking, ‘It is my hobby to make mechanical things better.’ When he looks something over, rest assured, he is pondering, ‘How can I give it more power, make it look better, and cause everyone who casts a gaze upon it to become jealous?’ Once Dave starts a project, he becomes obsessed and, leaving no stone unturned, accomplishes amazing feats.”

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That the two brothers would seek ways to improve Porsche’s first supercar, the 930-gen 911 Turbo Carrera, brings us to the subject of this feature.

Dave can recite the 930’s fabled racing-derived history by rote: “Only 1,182 Turbo Carreras were imported to the United States during 1976 and 1977, and the 930 was special to even catch a look at. When compared to the 86,000 Corvettes produced in those two years, the Turbo had 21 percent less weight (2,785 vs. 3,540 lbs), 11 percent more horsepower (234 vs. 210 hp), and an 18 percent higher top end (156 vs. 132 mph) than even the L82.”

The Bowtie’s V8s brought torque to the party, but once the 930’s single turbocharger got up to speed, the embarrassed ’Vettes would usually be left in the dust. Dave was just a teenager in those days, but Chet says the stories stoked the mechanical genius budding in his younger brother’s mind. Chet was the first of the pair to bring a Turbo Carrera home, but it wasn’t his first Porsche—that would have been a silver 1977 911S Targa.  He loved the fact that the removable roof panel top could be quickly unlatched, folded, and stowed at a stoplight to soak up the California sun.

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In 1985, Chet was in a position to find something a bit more potent, something more befitting an investment banker. It was an era of one-upmanship, with IPOs, cigars, wealthy young tech entrepreneurs, and their Porsches, says Dave.

After dozens of visits over more than a year to all of the Northern California Porsche dealerships, in the summer of 1987, he saw for the first time a Copper Metallic 1977 930 Turbo Carrera. The car had been picked up from the factory in Stuttgart by its first owner, a doctor from San Francisco, who placed his order for a tourist delivery through Harmon Motor Company in the summer of 1977. Dave says the doctor piled on a thousand miles through Europe so he could import the 930 as a used car, thus avoiding some taxes and fees.

A dealership in Sunnyvale was offering the car, and it was love at first sight for Chet. It was in perfect condition, showing 28,000 miles, and it was mechanically tight, crisp, and had 100 more horsepower than his 911S. He brought the car home that very day. Chet soon learned that it was the only Copper Metallic 930 in the world made in 1977. It had been delivered with a tan leather interior, European amber signal lenses, and, of course, the feature that made the first-gen Turbo Carrera the poster child of every adolescent Porsche fan, that famous whale-tail rear-deck spoiler.

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Copper Metallic 442 (442-9 on the Reutter plate) is not to be confused with the slightly darker Code 443 Copper Brown Metallic, shown in the Red Book as an extra-cost Special Order for 1977, or 95F/L99K, which are VW codes used on the 914 in 1975 and the 924 in 1977-78. For the 1977 Turbo, this would have been a Paint-to-Sample (PTS) color. PTS, explains Turbo Carrera guru Ryan Snodgrass, “just means that a car was painted a color that was not offered (either as a standard color or one of the more expensive colors) that year for a specific model. So even if the 924 offered a color, but the 911 model range did not get that color, then any 911 painted that color would have been Paint to Sample.” 

Snodgrass’ research reveals that there was also a single Turbo Carrera delivered in 442 Copper Metallic in 1975 and one more in 1976. The Billingsleys say: “The one in 1975 (930 570 0148, completed 4/75) sold in Zurich, Switzerland through AMAG—Automobil und Motoren. The one from 1976 (930 680 0404, completed 3/76) was shipped to and sold in San Francisco through Harmon Motor Company.” After searching DMV records, they believe that 930 no longer exists. PCA’s fascinating “Rennbow” database of Porsche paint colors views 442 Copper Metallic as extremely rare.

With his new-to-him Turbo in hand, Chet began participating in the PCA’s various on-track events, especially autocrossing, which helped him learn more about vehicle dynamics. He progressed to taking laps at Laguna Seca under the eye of experienced drivers. Recalls Dave, an advantage of having the best car on the track is that the best drivers often want to be your instructor or take you out to show you a driving trick or two.

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Because Chet lived close to the mild climate of the Bay Area, there was no need to retain the Turbo Carrera’s standard air-conditioning system, so it was removed to save weight. The Turbo’s forged Fuchs 16-inch alloys were polished, and the upholstery color changed to black to match the exterior trim and accents.

In 1995, Dave moved to California to work with his brother and soon purchased his own 930 Turbo. His mechanical curiosity and skills put him on the path of becoming both a skilled driver but a hands-on Porsche expert. He later returned to Minnesota in 2001.

In 1994, Chet’s success in the business world had allowed him to turn his focus to his family and a desire to relocate to a warmer clime. He moved to the San Diego area and put the Turbo into dry storage, where it remained—other than an occasional emergence at a local car show or weekend outing.

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A few years ago, with his kids now grown and out of the house, Chet called his younger brother to discuss what to do with the Copper 930. Chet’s company had gone public, so he had the ability to indulge himself. They agreed that it was time to turn this perfect car into something more. Chet placed the 930 in a transporter and shipped it up to St. Paul, where Dave began the restoration process. After two full years of work, they created what they consider “the most beautiful Porsche ever.”

“In 2019, the 930 arrived in Minnesota during a typical February snowstorm,” recalls Dave. “This was the first snow that ever touched the 930 during its existence. It was enough to make a grown man wince.” It had been just shy of 20 years since Dave last saw Chet’s 930 in person, so a quick assessment was in order before a detailed list of tasks was created.

Dave says the car was still in great condition at 187,000 miles, albeit showing its age with a few rock chips in the paint and some sun fading on the dashboard, but still looking pretty good. That is certainly a relative term; for those who have a little less obsession with perfection as Dave has, the 930 was sweet. But Dave thought, “This is a great place to start!” Notes in hand, Dave picked up his phone and called his brother with a few questions that should be familiar to anyone who has embarked on this journey.

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“I know when the project is complete, you want the Porsche to be flawless,” said Dave. “So what is your definition of ‘Flawless’? Secondly, how quickly do you want the car back?” Chet didn’t hesitate: “Take your time. I want it perfect! And I know how much of a perfectionist you are, Dave, so whatever it takes.” Given that green light, Dave began by researching vendors in the Porsche community to see which services and products they offered.

Dave chose what he considered the best high-end exotic car body shop in the Twin Cities for the exterior. That led to Raymond Autobody, which signed on to handle the bodywork and paint. Dave says it took almost 300 man-hours to strip the 930 down to the bare metal, surface prep the skin after a bit of minor bodywork, followed by priming and then painting. The good news is that there were no signs of rust or hidden damage. The next challenge was creating a perfect color match.

As we recall, back in the ’70s, Porsche was still using single-stage, oil-based paint, but German environmental regulations had forced an end to that. “Since a spot-on match was imperative,” says Dave, “we spent weeks mixing and matching to find the correct combination for a perfect color chip match.” Raymond Auto Body reached out to PPG Paint, which brought in the painter and his boss from Chicago.

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Dave and the painter convinced a local vocational school to allow them to practice spraying on a few hoods and doors in the school’s body shop. “This paid off,” says Dave. “The two-stage paint job is the best I have ever seen. To match the quality of the paint job, all the rubber seals, lights, and lenses were replaced with new.” The rubber edging of the legendary whale tail had deteriorated over the years, and a new tail was challenging to find. Still, after countless hours of scouring the internet and calling around the world, Dave found one in pristine condition.

Attention next turned to the engine and gearbox. Knowing the 930’s turbo flat-six is wonderfully amenable to modification, Dave wanted it to produce more power yet look stock, other than an aftermarket exhaust. His choice of shops for this task was Auto Edge Ltd., located in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. Auto Edge has lots of experience modifying and racing Porsches, says Dave. They installed Mahle Motorsport 3.3-liter (98 mm) pistons and cylinders, raised the compression a bit, fitted a K27 turbo with a 1.0 bar (14.5 psi) boost spring in the wastegate, 996 grind on the cams, titanium valves, ported and polished heads, and overhauled the entire fuel system. ARP fasteners were used throughout.

A new Sachs Performance clutch package was fitted ahead of the rebuilt but original four-speed transaxle. A performance exhaust from Fabspeed completed the package. The engine went on a chassis dyno in May of 2021 and showed a strong 343 rear-wheel horsepower, nearly the same as the rare 1993 964 Turbo S, which weighs some 200 pounds more.

Of course, lots more power mandates the need for better brakes. Dave knew the stock brakes and rotors were insufficient for a stock 930 Turbo Carrera’s 234 horsepower, let alone the amount of power that would now be underfoot. Dave asked Steve Weiner at Rennsport Systems in Portland, Oregon, to assemble a package of parts that would be up to the task and fit within the 16-inch wheels. The new kit included a quartet of calipers from a 1989 930; the rears needed some machining to fit correctly. The front rotors are two-piece, 320 mm (12.6 in.) in size. The rear rotors are 280 mm (11.0) from a late-’80s Turbo. All were sent out for cryogenic treatment. A non-assisted 23-mm master cylinder was required, and Dave added a brake cooling kit from AJ/USA.

Tackling the interior was next. Years of exposure to California sun rays had taken their toll. Just about everything except the headliner needed replacement. Dave and Chet liked how the black trim contrasted with the paint, so new black leather was purchased from World Upholstery in Santa Paula, California and installed by R&R Restoration in White Bear, Minnesota. New carpeting was sourced from The Sierra Madre Collection in Los Angeles. A new 930S-style steering wheel replaced the original.

Finally, the gauges went out for freshening at North Hollywood Speedometer, with newly painted faces and pad printed numbers, after which the odometer was zeroed. Dave added a five-point racing harness on both the drivers and passenger seats as a special touch to coincide with the heated-up engine.

By any measure, Chet Billingsley’s 1977 Turbo Carrera is a head-turner. Like an old-fashioned camera flash-bulb, a mere glimpse of this Copper Metallic coupe is dazzling and fairly shrieks for your full attention. This is a car and a color that one cannot ignore. “All in all,” says Dave, “every bolt, nut, and widget was considered, and it shows.”

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