Buying My First Porsche and Everything After—Part II

Lyn Woodward

The first night I tucked my new-to-me 1967 Porsche 912 into my garage (read part one of Lyn’s story here), two things happened. First, I pinched myself. It had always seemed that the odds of my getting a car like this settled on the “outlook not so good” answer from a Magic 8-Ball. Second, a wave of anxiety washed over me. This is my first project car, and I had no clue where to start—I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I took a breath, recalling the joys found in my dad’s 356 Speedster. If I was going to make some fresh memories of my own, there was nothing to do but get cracking.

This effort should have been kicked off with a trip to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, but that doesn’t exactly inspire the romance of classic car ownership—it’s more like a grade school visit to the principal’s office, especially given the implications of my 912’s non-operational status. I knew it’d be a while before the 912 would be on the road, so I did what any self-respecting scaredy-cat would do: I procrastinated.

In my defense, the first step in my delay-the-inevitable strategy was critical to the process: I sought out reference material.

I was desperate to know more about my car’s story. The person I’d purchased the 912 from had meant to get it running but never did, and ultimately never put the title in his name. So, I tracked down the guy whose name was on the title. As I left a message on his machine, he picked up. He—I’ll call him Sam—was thrilled to talk with me about the car. He’d bought it from a corrections officer in Santa Rosa who’d started the restoration—that’s where the brand-new floor pan and dashboard, among other things, made their way onto the car, but the project was eventually abandoned. Sam bought the car and a mountain of parts from the officer, but soon realized he wanted something further along in the restoration process. He sold the car and all the parts to a dealer, who then sold just the car to the owner before me. Then, the car languished.

This was a car that everyone, and then no one, wanted. As a result, it had been sitting outside for the better part of five years before making its way to me. It was as if all these previous owners were shepherding it along until I was ready. Serendipity, baby.

Now that I had a bit of my 912’s history, I set about understanding what resources there were within the 912 community. For the first time ever, I joined a discussion forum and even posted. For someone who traditionally doesn’t like asking questions for fear of looking stupid, I put myself out there. I was happy to embarrass myself and admit I had no clue what I was doing and would likely get lots of things wrong, but was excited to learn. I received a lovely welcoming response and even got some great advice about transmission rod boots among the encouragement.

I also picked up a couple of books to have with me in the garage. The 911 & 912 Porsche: A Restorer’s Guide to Authenticity by Dr. B. Johnson came highly recommended, as did the Porsche 912 Workshop Manual and Owner’s Manual. The latter includes some helpful mechanical advice but also imparts the wisdom of taking your car to a well-trained mechanic for detailed jobs.

With literature in hand, I started taking stock of the 912 and what it needed. The more I looked things over, the more I grew confident in my purchase, but there was still plenty of work ahead of me. With each turn of the page, I could see what was correct on my car and what wasn’t.

Somewhere along the line, a previous owner removed the correct 1967 sealed, glass H4 headlights that Ralph Nader deemed unsafe and replaced them with “sugar scoop” units from 1968. I prefer the original look, so I bought a refinished set off eBay before I’d even turned the 912’s key. Even a newbie like me knows that cosmetic fixes aren’t top priority, but I rationalized straightforward projects as a means of getting comfortable with wielding tools and bringing my 912 back to life.

Porsche 912 project car interior steering wheel
Lyn Woodward

Though it had a new dashboard, the rest of the interior was rough. Fortunately, I’d gotten the car around Thanksgiving and online Black Friday sales were in high gear. I went on a spree, purchasing an entire new interior, including carpets, an upholstery kit, and dash trim plate at a massive discount. I’m a sucker for oxblood, and it’s going to look great with the current patinated exterior, not to mention my future paint plans.

Was I getting ahead of myself? Maybe a little, but I wasn’t ignoring the steps to get this little 912 running. I knew the engine turned over manually, but before checking to see if it could run on its own, I needed to do something about the incredibly rusty gas tank. I ordered a new one as well as the requisite plugs, fitments, and sleeves that go with it. The old sending unit was virtually falling apart so I decided to replace that, too.

The new battery went in next, and to my delight every light except for one of the turn signals worked. Even the clock ran properly! No classic car I’ve ever owned had a clock that was accurate more than twice a day. This was the biggest win yet—the prospect of electrical work was not something I was looking forward to.

As my bank balance shrank, I knew I needed to tap the brakes on the purchases, but I’d do that after I bought new rotors (the pads were actually in good shape). And shocks. Okay, now I was done. Almost. There was a spot up front on the driver’s side directly under the battery that was notorious for rusting out. Mine was no different. I’d need a new front suspension pan and someone to do the welding work before it was safe to drive. If indeed the car actually started.

Once again, I took a breath.

Porsche 912 project car disassembly
Lyn Woodward

I considered the progress I’d made in mere weeks. There’s now a mile-long to-do list, but having that list and crossing things off it meant I was headed in the right direction. Emboldened, I decided it was time to sort the title.

I headed to the Auto Association of America, which in California can perform some DMV functions, including vehicle registration. Good fortune rained down. It turns out that Sam, the previous-titled owner, was wise enough to register it as non-operational, too—so there’d be no inspections or convoluted processes to worry about. The lovely woman asked for my $292, and there, without fuss or friction, I’d taken care of the legal paperwork. I was in and out in 15 minutes.

The momentum was building. My priority was to get this thing on the road. I had debated prepping the car for paint work, but a couple things stopped me. Almost every other 912 owner I’d come across suggested I just get out there and enjoy the car as-is. Closer to home, my friend and co-conspirator, Hagerty Driver’s Club editor-at-large Aaron Robinson, recently penned an argument for embracing imperfection in our cars, and that sealed it for me. I decided to press on with the mechanical improvements and enjoy the patina. I’d complete the interior because I wanted the cockpit to be a pleasant experience, but for now, it was time to focus on what was under all the sun-damaged sheet metal.

Not long after, with the new gas tank in and fresh gas coursing through its veins, the moment of truth for my 912 came. Robinson, ever helpful, stood by the engine with his can of starter fluid at the ready as I turned the key.

Porsche 912 project car engine compartment vertical
Lyn Woodward

“More gas…More. Again. It’s starving—more,” he said between cranks. I pumped the throttle and the engine coughed. The exhaust blew out a cartoonish cloud of soot.

“More gas. Again.” Robinson sprayed starter fluid into the carbs and it shuddered to life. That simple four-cylinder settled into rhythm, making the same high-humming and happy sound of my father’s long-gone-but-not-forgotten 356 Speedster.

Let the adventures continue.

 

***

 

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Comments

    Yeah, you don’t need no stinking paint job! Actually, it looks better in the photos than my ’67 911 EVER looked. You are on the road and took some really wise steps in getting there (I liked the reasoning behind the headlight swap – often you need some relatively small wins to get things rolling). I’m really enjoying your and the 912’s story thus far. 👍

    Yea, as much as you can d.i.y starting a car that’s been sitting, having one other person there is a big big help ‘ Don’t try to start her, just crank her for me’ and then when it fires being free to run around like a nut job looking for that catastrophe in the making that you’re sure is going to happen before it happens. Having Robinson there, not a bad deal. So you got this. 10% inspiration 90% perspiration. Love oxblood, although the term is less and less used. But you can still buy a can of Kiwi in that color.

    I’ve never gone for air cooled – because I never owned air cooled and don’t know a lot about them. I do like to get out of my comfort zone, but it is more of a walk around the neighborhood than an expedition into the mountains. It will be interesting to see how you make out with yours

    Once you go air cooled, you never go back. They’re bitchin’. I had three 4 cyls, four 6 cyls (still have one left) and three water cooled (still have one, too) P cars. Water cooled are nice but only ‘meh’ next to an air cooled. I also restored an early (911) car, lot of fun (sadly, lots of money too). Great experience.

    A lot accomplished in such a short period of time. I’ll keep an eye out for future updates. Enjoy as is girl! Good fortune has smiled on you.

    Well done! Soundly reasoned and then presented with all the warts, both your own and those of the car. Honest. Keep it up! And I really liked the article. Now then, I just have to be patient and wait for Spring so I too can return to working on my own project as I don’t have a heated work space up here in the Great White North.

    The previous owners may have neglected it but at least they appear to have stored it well enough. An engine that starts! Huge win. I’m looking forward to Chapter 3!

    Love this article – we’ve all been there as the truly afflicted. Glad you are leaving the patina and hang in there look forward to future installments Lyn. Anyone who has gone down this rabbit hole knows it’s worth it. It will give you plenty of experienced great stories!

    Oh, by the way, I FINALLY bought myself a “hated-by- Porsche-people,” a 2003 Carrera Cabrolet 4. Complete with the well known original IMS bearing. Replaced that piece right away. Otherwise, it’s a relatively low mile gem that I love!

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