Remember the formerly Elvis-owned (and thoroughly trashed) 507 that BMW lovingly restored to showroom status? Porsche has done a similar thing, hunting down an example of the 1964 901 – technically the first 911, a car that amazingly has been absent from Porsche’s collection until now – and taking it from rusted hulk to concourse-spec.
Don’t know about the 901? Here’s a short history lesson. In late 1963 Porsche unveiled its successor to the 356 as the 901. However the French carmaker Peugeot objected to Porsche’s use of the numeral-zero-numeral nomenclature, a format it had been using for some time, with Porsche eventually acquiescing and changing the name of its new sports car to 911 – a three-digit moniker that has since become iconic.
Only 82 901s were built before the name change, but in the intervening years those cars have trickled out to private owners. Given their rarity and status as the 911’s genesis, genuine 901s are ludicrously hard to find – let alone buy.
But back in 2014 staff at the Porsche Museum were tipped off about a 901 lying dormant in a German barn. After verifying its chassis number 300.057 as being that of a genuine, unrestored and thoroughly dilapidated 901, the museum bought it (along with a structurally identical 1968 911) and shipped it to their restoration facility.
Three years later, after acid-dipping the 901’s rust-ravaged shell, welding in replacement panels from a donor 911 and repairing or replacing the engine, gearbox, interior and wiring harness using period correct parts and techniques (but using water-based paint and modern rustproofing processes), the 901 has been completely restored.
A huge task considering the front quarter panels were missing entirely, the interior had rotted away, engine and brakes seized solid and huge chunks of bodywork consumed by rust. The engine wasn’t a numbers-matching example either, but was nevertheless of the same type. Other 901-specific features were discovered, though, such as a leather shift gaiter, height-adjustable seats and five-pipe upholstery.
The bodyshell took a full year to restore; the engine took 120 hours of labour. Keen on seeing the result? It’ll be on display at the Porsche Museum until April 8, 2018, which gives you just over four months to scrounge up an airfare.