We have seen many Outlaw-style Porsches that break the rules of what most people think a Porsche should be through the years. Some of these cars feature insane levels of power, enormous wings and fender flares, and over-the-top loud paint. Some are bare-bones, stripped of all unnecessary weight and creature comforts. Some are trashed and have excessive “patina.” Anything goes, and it is all fun to see. I thought I’d seen everything until I saw this 1977 911S with a chopped roof. Yes, a chopped roof. There must be others, but this one is unique.
The person who originally pulled the trigger on this project must have had some guts. People don’t usually chop a Porsche’s top. Picking up a Sawzall and slowly lowering it down on one of the greatest automotive designs of the 20th century takes confidence, skill, and cojones. It’s like when an Acapulco cliff diver leaps off the top of a rock and descends into the abyss below—if the wind is good, the ocean swell is large enough, and their timing is right, they should be able to hit the water at the right angle and not get killed!
The person who cut the roof must have thought: The car’s proportions should look good, the roof should flow into the quarter panels, and I should be able to get the window frames to line up. In this case, the deep dive was a success.
I saw the car on eBay,” explains the car’s current owner, John McNamee. He and his two brothers have played with Porsches for over 45 years and are passionate about the brand. John bought his first Porsche in 1975 and has been hooked ever since. His brother Mike bought his first Porsche a year later, followed by his other brother Ed. Collectively, they have owned over 30 Porsches.
John loves sports cars, and his six-car garage shows it. A Ferrari 458, a 2014 911 (991.1) Turbo S, a Bimmer, and one very wild De Tomaso Pantera share space with “The Outlaw,” as he has named it, along with a large number of tools and automotive memorabilia gathered over the past few decades—a fantastic place to hang out and tinker with cars.
“We had just finished a 1973 RSR clone, and I was looking for another air-cooled 911,” recalls John. “I was checking websites and saw a 1977 911 for sale on eBay. The Porsche looked a little different. I wasn’t sure exactly what made it look different until I looked closely at the photos. The roof had been cut! I got ahold of the seller to ask about the car. As the story goes, an old-school custom car builder had done all the body and paint work. The car had been sitting for many years in a warehouse. He had too many unfinished projects, so this 911 had to go.”
The car was located in Southern California, where both John’s brothers live, so they checked it out. John says, “I find project cars, and my brothers do the restorations.” After some close inspection, it was clear that this one had received some high-quality bodywork and was done right. A deal was made, and soon the chopped 911 was on a trailer headed to Mike’s home shop. “As usual, my brothers questioned my sanity after seeing the chopped 911.”
The car was in pieces and was definitely a project. However, the body and paint had been completed years ago and were still in good shape. The engine was just a long block, and there were numerous boxes of engine and interior parts.
Putting together a project car that someone else took apart years ago is always a challenge, especially if it has been modified. When restoring a car to factory specifications, the specifications actually exist, as do replacement parts or some reproduction items. In this case, many things were modified by someone not available to be questioned for tips and advice. As a result, more thought, creativity, engineering, and patience were required to bring this car back to life. Fortunately, Mike was up to the task.
Chopping a roof on any car is not easy, but chopping any car with a fastback shape is extremely difficult, and that’s why they are rarely seen. Laying down the back part of the fastback roof presents a host of complications. How the roof meets the quarter panels and trunk area are major considerations. The work requires cutting and sectioning the sail panel area, the upper section of the quarter panels, the quarter glass opening, and more. All these surfaces need to flow logically and smoothly into the design of the car. A miscalculation could result in something proportionally out of sync with the rest of the car. One can only imagine the hours it took to get it right!
The Porsche 911 has side windows and frames that taper in from bottom to top, making things even more complicated. The frames and side windows on this car were partially finished like the body was, so they needed to be fitted correctly. Mike estimates he has at least 80 hours invested in making the window frames look good and function properly. The frames had to be recut, reshaped, and welded to match the body. The quarter glass frames are rounded toward the back and were very difficult to get right. After the frames were finished, they were metal finished and powder-coated.
The side windows are made of lightweight Lexan and were custom crafted and carefully fitted into the window frames. The weatherstripping was cut down to match as well. The door windows now roll up and down smoothly, and the quarter windows pop out at the rear just as the originals did. Other resto work to the body included repairing the sunroof, which required fixing rusted cables to make it operate smoothly again.
In addition to a 3.0-inch chop to the roof line, the car has metal 930-gen 911 Turbo flares added to the front and back fenders. Another interesting feature is the recessed or ‘Frenched’ headlights, which have been shaped in metal. In fact, all the body modifications on this car are done in metal, with no evidence of Bondo or plastic filler used anywhere. A close look at the body reveals that the seams between the cowl and the top of the fender have been filled in and smoothed out. A real craftsman must have created this car’s custom features.
Other body changes include a fiberglass Carrera-style tail and fiberglass front and rear bumpers. John and Mike decided to run the exhaust tips through the rear bumper facia to achieve an even more Outlaw look. The windshield is OE glass from a 1988 911 Speedster—again seamlessly integrated into the car.
John reached out recently to the person he acquired the car from in an attempt to find out who may have done the extensive body alterations to the car with limited success. The only crumb of information he could extract from the seller was that he thought Dink Farmer might have designed and built the body.
Even though Northern California Porsche hot rod builder and fabricator Dink Farmer is suspected to be the builder of this chopped 911, the car’s early history is unknown. However, Farmer is known to be responsible for a few high-quality chopped 356 Porsches. The quality and craftsmanship of the body on this car would certainly make for a compelling case to name Dink Farmer as the one that gave birth to this wild child.
Moving on to the mechanical aspects of the car, the first thing Mike tackled was the engine. This 911 left that factory with a 2.7-liter flat-six; however, it was discovered that a 3.2-liter unit was with the car now. The engine was removed and put on a stand to assess its condition. Its cylinder heads were removed and reconditioned. The pistons and internals had been replaced, so things were good on the bottom end. Fuel injection rails, nuts, clips, wiring, and lines were all purchased to complete the 3.2 engine. The car came with polished intakes that just needed to be cleaned up.
Next, the transmission was split and inspected, revealing that two synchros needed replacement. In addition, the car did not have a clutch, clutch plate, or flywheel, so they were sourced and installed.
The front spoiler had an oil cooler grille but no cooler or plumbing. After searching for some time, oil cooling lines were located and acquired in Los Angeles. Mike cut the opening for it and installed the sheet metal behind the cooler sourced from TRE Motorsports. The previous owner had fabricated a decorative cover to conceal items under the cowl when the front hood was open.
A brand-new upgraded suspension system came with the car and was retained. John and Mike added an anti-roll bar. A set of brake calipers off a 996-gen 911 Turbo were sourced and fitted. The front brake calipers fit well. However, they required adapters to fit the aftermarket drilled rear rotors. The last thing on the mechanical list was the mufflers.
“I have always said that a Porsche has to sound the way it looks,” says John. “There is nothing conventional about the car, so I decided to do something crazy. Mike suggested that we put the exhaust right through the bumper. I liked the idea, so the stock 1985 single exhaust was replaced with an early 911 two-inlet muffler. The headers were installed, the stock side exhaust was welded up, and 2.5-inch pipes were put through the bumper. It looks and sounds perfect on the Outlaw.”
The 20-year-old gray paint was polished and is complemented by 917 mirrors that the brothers added. Pops of red add contrast here and there: the oil cooler screen, cowl vent, engine components, brake calipers, and the thin accent stripes flanking the wide black stripe running across the top of the car.
John’s brother Ed is an expert on Porsche rims and the owner of Fuchs Wheel Restoration Service, so naturally, the bright-green 18-inch Fiske wheels that came with the car were sent to him for restoration. The wheels came back beautifully finished in satin black with red anodized bolts. The 911 now had the right look with darker wheels, says John.
Moving to the interior, John and Mike decided to go with an early 911-style low backseat and houndstooth seat inserts with a touch of red that ties into the outside stripe. The gauges were cleaned, and new RSR door panels, carpeting, a Momo Prototipo steering wheel, and red seat belts were installed. Bright red pull straps are used to open the doors from the inside. The dash that came with the car is from a 1978 911 3.0 SC. Interestingly, the previous owner drilled a series of small holes in the metal pieces near the bottom of the windshield that the defroster blows through. John added a pair of vintage rally timers to the dash. There is no radio in the car—John prefers to listen to the glorious sound of the engine.
Walking up on this Porsche, it is not immediately noticeable that the 911 has been chopped. If one is unfamiliar with these cars, it looks like a factory design—that’s how clever the modifications have been to this machine. The car’s 20-year-old paint is starting to show its age, with a bit of lacquer checking here and there. It is not a showpiece and has a soft patina that only adds to the mystique of this most unusual Porsche.
Entering this car with its lowered roofline is easy—certainly easier than it is to gain entry to some newer Italian sports cars. Once seated, my 5-foot, 10-inch frame fits well. However, I could feel some of my hair touching the headliner. The 3.2 engine currently produces an estimated 300 horsepower and presses me back into the seat with authority when unleashed. Despite the extensive body modifications, the car is tight, solid, and rattle-free.
As expected from a 911 with upgraded performance parts, the suspension is firm. The exhaust note is aggressive but not so loud to be too abusive to the senses. The car is a blast to drive and ride in. Somehow the builder achieved the right balance. But, of course, Porsche purists may disagree.
As I mentioned earlier, the 911 is widely considered one of the greatest automotive designs of the 20th century. How can you improve on such an iconic design? The answer is you can’t. This car is not for everyone, but neither is a 100 percent bone-stock original car. This is an “Outlaw” in every way. It is non-conformist, controversial, wild, has a mysterious past, and is guaranteed to piss off a few people. And that’s what makes it cool.