After nearly 50 years, a rare Porsche 911 L SCCA race car comes home

In the early 1970s, Bob Bailey walked away from racing Porsches and switched to a competition where just one horsepower sufficed. That is, he played polo for 22 years, describing it as “a much more dangerous sport than motor racing.” Bailey hadn’t planned to go back to the track, but then a 2009 phone call from TV producer and director Michael Scott changed his mind.

Scott, who races vintage sports cars, had in 2004 purchased the 1968 Porsche 911 L Lightweight factory racer that Bailey campaigned in the SCCA Trans-Am series in 1968 and ’69. It was one of just six built. So many years after Bailey had sold this rare factory racer, and after it had been through multiple owners and various racing ventures, there wasn’t much left of the car but its authenticity. The years were not kind to it.

Scott had commissioned a total rebuild of the Porsche, and Bailey provided information, memories, and photos to support the effort.

“Like most old race cars, my 911 became bastardized as years went on, with body modifications, damage, and different engines,” Bailey says. “I didn’t have the courage to take on the restoration that Michael Scott undertook.”

Opportunity knocks

Bailey at Mitty 2012
Bailey at Mitty 2012 Courtesy of Bob Bailey

Bailey started racing Porsches when he was 18. “I was racing a Super 90 in Canada for three years, because you had to be 21 to race in the U.S.,” he recalls.

In the mid-1960s, he worked with racing legend John Fitch, whose distinguished career had included racing Porsches.

“We had invited him to come to one of our Porsche club meetings up in Albany,” Bailey says. “That’s when he was developing the Corvair Sprint. He left some literature with me. I worked with him for three years, selling the parts to Chevy dealers to convert Corvairs.”

In 1968, Bailey grabbed a surprise opportunity to race a Porsche 911 in the Trans-Am. Bert Everett, one of his co-drivers in the 1968 Daytona 24 Hours, decided not to buy the special 911 L Lightweight he had ordered. The car had been flown to the U.S. from Germany and shipped to Bob Holbert Porsche in Warrington, Pennsylvania, and Bailey was able to buy it.

The 1968 911 L (“luxus”) essentially put the “normal” 130-horsepower 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine in the 911 S, a model not available in the U.S. that year. To reduce weight, Porsche built the six race cars without undercoating or sound insulation and installed Plexiglas windows. Fitted with dual Weber carburetors, the engine made 160 horsepower. The transmission was a close-ratio five-speed, and factory-installed racing parts included a limited-slip differential and a megaphone-style exhaust system.

Bumper cars

Bailey Daytona 24 1969
Bailey Daytona 24 1969 Courtesy of Bob Bailey

The Trans-Am combined under-2.0-liter and over-2.0-liter classes, putting small, 2000-pound imported coupes and sedans in the same arena with brutish American pony cars that raced with 5.0-liter V-8s.

“We took delivery of the car three weeks before the first Trans-Am race at Lime Rock in 1968,” Bailey says, referring to himself and co-driver Jim Locke. “All we did was install a full roll cage, a fuel cell and Minilite wheels and then go racing. We came in second in the under-2.0-liter class and fifth overall. That was against people like Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney driving the pony cars.”

Bailey’s own racing supply company, B&B Motors, was a sponsor. The other was the Barnsider Sirloin Pit and Tavern in Colonie Center, New York. It’s still around.

The Trans-Am’s grid provided exciting racing for drivers and fans alike, but racing between the two classes could get dicey.

911 at Sebring 1969 in Porsche of America colors
911 at Sebring 1969 in Porsche of America colors Courtesy of Bob Bailey

“You spent most of your time looking in the rear-view mirror,” Bailey recalls about driving in that environment. “At the Mid Ohio Trans-Am race in ’69, I was right on the line, coming into the apex of the turn, and Parnelli Jones in a Mustang comes up behind me, knocks me right off the track. I guess he figured I should just get out of the way in the middle of the turn.”

That season, Bailey raced as part of the Porsche of America team, covering his 911’s original burgundy paint with white to match the factory cars. “We raced in pretty much all the Trans-Am races, plus the Daytona 24 and Sebring 12 Hours,” he says.

Porsche 911s won the Trans-Am’s under-2.0-liter class championship in 1967, ’68, and ’69. Donohue, who proved unstoppable in his Camaro, and later AMC Javelin, became Bailey’s partner in Racemark, a company that sold racing equipment. Still owned by Bailey, Racemark today supplies floor mats and other accessories to luxury car brands, including Porsche.

Coming home

Baily and new 911L 1968
Baily and new 911L 1968 Courtesy of Bob Bailey

After selling his 911 L Lightweight in 1970, Bailey moved into a 2.4-liter 911 for IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) racing. Over the years, he had turned down several chances to buy back the ’68 car, knowing its dilapidated condition.

He could not, however, refuse when Scott offered to sell the fully restored car. Bailey knew the work that went into bringing it back. The 911’s restoration, by Alberto Ferroni’s Ital Meccanica in Huntington Beach, California, spanned five years, consumed two parts cars, and involved laborious international parts hunting. An NOS one-piece floorpan came from Porsche.

With his son, Cannon, Bailey vintage-raced the Porsche 911 L Lightweight for several years, along with a factory-built 914 GT. They ran in 4–5 events per year, most run by the Legends of Motorsports series at tracks including Mont Tremblant in Canada and Sebring.

Porsche invited Bailey to bring the car to its Rennsport Reunion IV event in July 2011. “Of the 500 Porsche race cars at the Reunion, our 911 was one of 65 selected for the family portrait,” he says.

Bailey 911 tub
Bailey 911 tub Courtesy of Bob Bailey
Bailey 911 taking shape
Bailey 911 taking shape Courtesy of Bob Bailey

Bailey has also displayed the car at the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance.

“The car has become so valuable the last few years, which is why I decided to stop racing it.”

Bailey still drives the 911 L Lightweight, however. He keeps it at his Florida home, where it’s registered for the street. He’s an active member of the Sarasota Café Racers, an informal club whose members gather for biweekly lunches and other activities. The sound of his 911’s crackling exhaust has ripped through the air at many of those events, which is exactly what a great Porsche race car should be—driven.

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