To race another day

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Racecars rarely die of old age. Unlike their workaday commuter car counterparts, which get pushed to the limits of their endurance and then left to rust, racecars are cut apart, transformed, reconfigured and beaten mercilessly. The Kline Porsche 911T/R is a happy exception.

In 1968, Porsche built only 35 911T/R coupes for its race and rally customers. Based on the 911T, rather than the heavier S model, the 911T/R was homologated with parts from the 911R of 1967. The cars were stripped of sound deadening, and a limited slip differential was fitted, along with an oil cooler, oversize fuel tank, roll bar, ventilated disc brakes and Koni shock absorbers. Some were built with the 230-horsepower twin-plug 906 engine. Three of the cars — powered by modified two-liter engines of about 180 horsepower — were equipped to compete in SCCA C Production and Trans-Am B Sedan.

Like other 911 models, Porsche’s purpose-built race cars are generating huge interest among collectors and drawing record prices at auction. In March, a 1974 911 Carrera 3.0 IROC RSR sold for $2.3 million. That car has an impressive history – Jerry Seinfeld ownership and IROC participation – but even less significant 911 racecars can have fascinating stories to tell.

One 911T/R was delivered to Kline VW/Porsche in Indianapolis. Mark Smedley, now a physician in Sacramento, Calif., was there when it arrived.

“I recall the car like it was yesterday,” Smedley said.  “It had a simple roll bar. The interior was stripped and it didn’t have undercoating. In the trunk were a pair of 46 IDA Weber carbs, a special manifold and a Porsche Type R exhaust system.”

Like most automakers in that era, Porsche was cautious about building complete racecars for the U.S. market, but dealer-installed performance parts were OK.

Jim Osborne drove the car for Kline in SCCA competition and won the Central Division C Production championship. At Michigan International Speedway’s Trans-Am event, he finished seventh in class.

After a couple of seasons in Kline livery, the 911 was sold to Gene Dodd and Bill Marsh, who continued running it at SCCA events. But it was losing its competitive edge, with the Datsun 240Z becoming the car to beat. The 911 changed hands a couple more times subsequently and was modified and re-modified for different racing classes. Sadly, the pretty 911 that had arrived at Kline back in ’68 was all but gone, having suffered the same fate as so many racecars.

Enter a hero: Roy Sanders of Marietta, S.C., restored the 911T/R to its original appearance and specification. The judges at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance rewarded his efforts with a blue ribbon in the racecar class.

Another Porsche lover took up the cause. Phil Bagley of Klub Sport Racing, a
company that purchases, restores, repairs and sells classic Porsches, bought the car and prepped it for vintage racing with modern safety equipment and a potent 911S 2-liter engine. With dual-plug ignition, modified cam timing and contemporary rods and pistons, the engine can rev to 8,500 rpm and knocks out around 230 horsepower — enough to make the Porsche fly.

Bagley sold the 911 to Jim Moore, an auto-industry ad executive and Porsche aficionado who campaigned it in Historic Sports Car Racing events. Having had his turn at the wheel, Moore sold the car back to Bagley.

Not content with anything less than perfection, Bagley stripped the car and restored it fully, ensuring it was mechanically and aesthetically pristine. Then he sold it to David MacNeil, chief executive of WeatherTech, who applied for entry in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, vintage races that coincide with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

MacNeil plans to be at the wheel when the Kline 911T/R takes to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s tarmac on August 18. We’ll be watching.

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