This river-find Porsche 911 restoration is the definition of project insanity

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If before and after photos of a restoration are a favorite of yours, then gird yourself for a wild transformation. Recently gaining traction on the Porsche specialty forum Rennlist, this river-find 993 project is a particular brand of crazy I just have to respect. You’d have to be a madman to have the sheer ambition to take it on.

Project Limoncella Porsche 993

I mean, look at this thing. Even the most optimistic of my wrenching friends would call this a parts car and nothing more. All signs point to this paint-to-sample beauty living a great life before things took a swift turn for the wet (and muddy). The current owner, Paolo, says that during a storm the car somehow found its way into the Bisenzio River near Italy’s Tuscany region and the driver barely made it out. The car sank and was unrecoverable due to the nearly 17-foot deep water. There it remained for five years.

Project Limoncella engine out cleaning

One day, when the water receded a bit, the car appeared. When the car was retrieved, along with it came a whole bunch of mud and river gunk. The color gave the car away though, as this was a special color that Paolo had seen before. In fact, he new the second owner. Still, something about the car intrigued him, so he picked up the phone.

“I called the second owner to ask him if he could give me the telephone number of the last owner, to get the permission to go and check the car and ask about the location,” Paolo says. “At the visual inspection, a couple of days after that, the car looked worse than in the pictures sitting on the excavator bucket and wow, what a smell!”

Paolo is under no illusions about the absurdity of his project. The process has involved multiple trips to Germany and at this juncture remains far from complete. As he explained in the Rennlist thread, this is not a project about financial gain, but rather something he enjoys just for the love of it.

Project Limoncella cleaned trunk
Beneath all the mud and silt was a surprisingly intact 911. Limoncellaprojekt

What’s flooring me most about this rebuild is how easily everything appears to be disassembling. The old joke of “was that engine a boat anchor?” is more of a real question in this case, yet the cylinder heads came right off, as did the cylinders. Paolo didn’t even break any exhaust studs when removing the manifolds. Maybe the salty Upper Midwest has decimated my expectations of straightforward project car disassembly? The river is fresh water, but I’d imagine it has enough minerals and contamination to be harmful. In this case the sacrificial part was the car’s magnesium cooling fan and shroud that became an anode, withering away so the aluminum engine remained relatively preserved.

Paolo surprised me when he told me removing the seats has been the most challenging step.

“To remove them, normally one must first slide each seat completely forward and unscrew the screws hidden from the guide and then all the way back and do the same operation … but first each seat had to be slid … and the four worm screws, two for each seat, in steel, and the relative moving mechanism, you can imagine in what condition they were, totally rusty and encrusted.”

He managed to remove them without damaging the floor, but it required a great deal of contortion and cutting before the mud-laden seats could be foisted from the floorpan. In the end, just removing the seats took a full week of work.

The exterior sheet metal of the car is pretty mangled, and it’s a bit unclear if that is from the accident that put it in the water or the recovery that brought it out.  Paolo elected to find replacement panels for most of the damaged parts, and he went big by sourcing new-old-stock rear quarter panels in Germany. Then, while heading back home to Italy with his parts, an even more special treasure appeared: The 911 Cup car he is replicating features a unique rear spoiler, and one became available, albeit back in Germany. He reached out to the seller and was able to secure the spoiler, requiring a second trip right back to the Porsche motherland.

limoncelloprojekt rear quarters
Limoncelloprojekt spoiler

The chassis has been confirmed straight despite the superficial damage and Paolo continues to plug away on the massive project. Every time I dive into my own projects thinking I am being ambitious, I will now remember that I am absolutely sane compared to what some enthusiasts are tackling. Follow along as Paolo posts updates to his Instagram account—this is no short-term project, but I can’t wait to see how it progresses. This aquatic 911 deserves a second life!

Limoncelloprojekt 993 Porsche on rack


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