The historic race car Porsche won’t restore

Porsche just finished a very careful restoration of its prototype 917 racer, a project that involved recreating original components to restore the car to original condition. However, the Porsche Museum is using the opposite approach for its historic 910/8 Bergspyder hillclimb car (“berg” is German for mountain). Instead of a restoration, the museum is preserving the car in the condition it was in when it last raced. The goal is authenticity and originality, a snapshot in time.

The museum’s 910/8 Bergspyder last ran in 1967 and if the museum has its way, it will never run again. Alexander Klein, head of vehicle management at the museum, explained the difference between restoring and preserving a historic vehicle.

“We do nothing to alter the condition. Any tinkering would destroy its unique originality. We have no intention of returning it to a ready-to-drive state. The Bergspyder has fulfilled its mission—it has already proven that it can drive and win.”

The 910/8 Bergspyder indeed proved that it could win. It had four victories and never finished off of the podium on its way to winning the 1967 European Hill Climb Championships.

Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder headlight detail
Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder body restoration

Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder being worked on

Of the 640 competition cars in the museum’s collection, the 910/8 is one of only three that have been completely unchanged since they last competed. It’s exactly the way it was when it was loaded onto the transporter after its last race, save for being drained of fluids.

When you have a large property and leave a car in a field, it turns into a barn find. When you’re one of the most storied brands in the history of motorsport with a fantastic museum, it’s a different story, and preservation means more than just letting the car sit undisturbed.

To perform the preservation, the museum has turned to  Gundula Tutt, PhD. Her doctorate is from the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design on the finishes used to paint classic cars, having spent two years researching the repair and restoration of nitrocellulose and other vintage coatings.

Her work is being done on the museum floor so visitors can watch the preservation as it is done. The first step was inspecting and cleaning the vehicle. Instead of cleansers or aggressive solvents, Tutt uses a moistened jet of air to dissolve dirt and a soft brush to wipe it away. Inch by inch, the entire car, chassis, body, interior and mechanical components, is being cleaned.

Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder hood
Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder interior

While the goal is preservation, a few small things are being repaired to prevent further deterioration. The process is similar to how fine art paintings are conserved, which focuses mostly on cleaning away years of accumulated grime, but does allow for small repairs with reversible materials.

The 910/8’s preservation is being done according to the procedures laid out in 2012’s Charter of Turin, which has guidelines on how to preserve or restore historic vehicles.

According to the charter, “Conservation includes all acts serving to secure and stabilise the vehicle or object that do not alter the historic substance, parts and materials. Conservation treatment will not put at risk the object’s historical or material documentary value in any way. It serves exclusively to prevent or at least delay continued deterioration.” In other words, treating a museum piece like a proper museum piece, not a vintage toy to play with on the track.

To prevent that deterioration, the guidelines allow for using reversible adhesives to secure tape or trim, as was done to secure the Porsche crest on the hood of the 910/8. Tiny areas of bubbling paint are pressed back into place with a customized soldering iron.

Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder under restoration
Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder engine

Porsche 910/8 Bergspyder profile

Once cleaned and stabilized, mechanical parts are protected with gun oil and the plastic and painted surfaces are waxed, both of which can be removed without damage should preservation standards change in the future. While the current goal is conservation, the process will make any possible future restoration easier.

“Who knows, maybe sometime in the future, someone may want to drive this car again,” Tutt said.

In the meantime, after its first public showing at Stuttgart’s Retro Classics show, museum director  Achim Stejskal says the preserved 910/8 Bergspyder will eventually go on public display in the facility.

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