Porsche 934: Weissach’s Turbo Chameleon - by John Ficarra
Photos courtesy Zach James Todd and the Canepa Archives

The Porsche 934 was the middle child of the factory 911 racing efforts in the 1970s. On one side was its big brother, the all-conquering Group 5 Porsche 935 silhouette racer. That car’s list of accomplishments was staggering: six overall wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, six overall wins at the 24 hours of Daytona, IMSA championships, FIA championships, and, of course, its amazing overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979 in Kremer K3 form.

On the other side was the little brother that wouldn’t go away, the last of the normally aspirated 911 racecars, the snarling 911 RSR, which also crushed the competition with three overall wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, three overall wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, plus IMSA and FIA championships.

With those two cars around you, it’s not hard to understand why the 934 got lost in the crowded history of Porsche motor racing. To add insult to injury, the only time a 934 was credited with an overall win at one of the Triple Crown Endurance races was in 1983 at the 12 Hours of Sebring, and that was done by a 935 dressed down to fit into the 934 class. Ouch. Thanks big brother!

So where does that leave the overlooked middle kid? The 934, also called the RSR Turbo, was built for Group 4 racing and debuted in 1976 alongside its Group 5 brother, the 935. It was homologated by the sale of the production 930 road car, and was the racecar that bore the closest resemblance with its original headlights, bumpers, door trim, and even electric, glass windows. In fact, aside from the removal of the rear seats, some trim and soundproofing material, and the addition of an aluminum roll cage and front strut X-brace, the 934 could almost pass for a stripped-out road car.  

Gone were the days of the 911 lightweight specials like the RS and RSR. New rules required a rather portly minimum weight of 2470 lb (1120 kg) without fuel. With a fuel tank capacity of 26.4 gallons (120 liters), the 934 was a heavy car, so Porsche set about making it fast.

Racing modifications were spearheaded by Norbert Singer’s protégée, Wolfgang Berger, and comprised a bigger turbo attached to the 930’s 3.0L flat-six engine, larger 16” wheels and tires, additional fender flares and the 934’s distinctive front air dam that housed radiators for two air-to-water intercoolers. Massive, radically vented disc brakes and robustly finned aluminum calipers were borrowed from the all-conquering 917, all of which barely fit inside the new BBS wheels. The suspension remained largely stock 930, but with ball joints and hard nylon bushings replacing rubber. Coil springs were added to the torsion bar suspension, as well as anti-roll bars front and rear.  

Using the 930’s Bosch K-Jetronic injection (the first racecar to use the system), contactless ignition, 6.5:1 compression ratio and boost set at 1.4 bar (20psi), the single turbo 930/71 engine started 1976 with 485hp at 7000rpm, but would eventually rise to over 550hp in 1977.

While the factory run 935s went off to fight in World Championship events, the 934 came out swinging in the GT class wholly represented by privateer teams. The ready-to-race price of admission from Porsche was 108,000 Deutschmarks (about $43000 US). California Porsche dealer, Vasek Polak, would buy five of the original production run of 30 cars.  

In its first year of competition the 934 would take both the Trans-Am championship and the European GT Championship with drivers including George Follmer, Hurley Haywood, Al Holbert, Toine Hezemans, Bob Wollek, Derek Bell, Klaus Ludwig, and Danny Ongais.

The American racing organization, IMSA, was reticent to permit turbocharged cars in 1976, but realized they missed the boat when they saw the popularity of the SCCA Trans-Am series. So, they created a special set of rules in 1977 that would create one of the most unusual and rare 911 racecars. Basically, the 934 was about to put on its big brother’s pants.

Originally it was Porsche’s intention that the Group 4 car could be converted into a respectable Group 5 car with the removal of ballast, swapping of the rear wing, and fitting bigger, wider wheels and tires in their respective fender flares. So, when IMSA allowed bigger rear wheels and a larger rear wing, it wasn’t a difficult task. The K-Jetronic fuel injection system was also replaced with the more robust mechanical Bosch plunger-type fuel injection. The result was a more drivable car with almost 590hp.

The addition of Group 5 parts essentially created a hybrid of the 934 and 935, which would become known as the 934/5, or 934 ½ . Only ten examples were constructed, with nine going to the US and one staying in Europe. Peter Gregg and his Brumos 934/5 would subsequently claim the 1977 Trans-Am championship with eight wins.

As the rules continued to change, many 934 and 934/5 cars would be converted into full 935 spec later in their careers, and so the 934 began to fade from history. With slant noses being added, big wings and twin turbos, the 934 had completely lost its identity by the mid-1980s. Only recently have these brilliant cars been stripped of their borrowed bodywork and restored to their original, unique configurations.

To cap off its period race history, the 934 had some glorious moments at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with class wins in 1977 and 1981. But the highlight was when the all-Swiss Lubrifilm Racing Team took the 1979 Le Mans GT class win, finishing a magnificent fourth overall behind three 935s. Good job little brother, good job.

 

 

Porsche 917 PA: THE CALIFORNIA SPYDER by David Soares
Photos courtesy Autosports Marketing Associates, LTD., Kerry Morse archive images, Gunnar Archives

By the spring of 1969 the Canadian-American Challenge Cup Series had become enormously popular as a spectator sport in the United States. In those heady days of moon landings and Detroit’s V8 horsepower race – before the advent of stadium rock shows – the festival atmosphere of Can-Am races drew tens of thousands of fans to venues from coast-to-coast. Wanting to join the fun, Porsche realized its Group 4 and 5 cars, bred for European racing, wouldn’t be competitive in Can-Am’s ferocious unlimited Group 7 category.

 As Porsche’s North American marketing partner, Volkswagen was attempting to revive the pre-war “Audi” marque at that moment. It was merging German two-stroke specialist DKW with financially strapped NSU. The new Audi 100 sedan would launch in the US as a 1970 model sold through Porsche dealers. West Coast VW/Porsche distributor John von Neumann, who had made his reputation in the 1950s racing Porsches, hit upon the idea of using racing to establish the bona-fides of the Audi marque in America.

Von Neumann and VW’s Jo Hoppen proposed a Can-Am spyder version of the new “big-bore” Porsche 917 Group 5  could raced under the “Porsche+Audi” banner. With funding from Volkswagen, Porsche went to work preparing an open 917 for the 1969 Can-Am series – which was already underway!

As Zuffenhausen was cutting the roof off the 917, von Neumann already had a team in mind to run the car. In mid-1967 Santa Monica-raised Richie Ginther had retired after eight seasons in Formula 1. The pair knew each other because back in 1955, Richie’s first professional drive had been in a 550 Spyder while working as a mechanic for von Neumann. Upon his return to Southern California, Ginther returned to wrenching on Porsches for von Neumann in Culver City.

Ginther’s mechanical sympathy was legendary. In 1960, while testing a Formula 1 Ferrari, he predicted that the engine was “off” and would only last 12 laps. The motor expired exactly 12 laps later (years later he would claim it was “Just a lucky guess.”). Ginther is also credited with adding the first “spoiler” to the rear of the Ferrari 246SP sports racer.  

The task of selecting a driver for the 917 PA (for Porsche+Audi) was even simpler: Factory driver Jo Siffert was always scrounging for additional pay drives. The Can-Am purses were the richest on the planet, and Siffert happily consented to commute from Europe on alternate weekends. 

Conversion of the 1969-configuration 917 into a Can-Am Spyder was a rush job. The initial specification was simply the 580hp 4.5-liter endurance motor with a five-speed Le Mans-spec gearbox. The four-branch “ulcer” side-exit exhaust system was retained. The Spyder was the first 917 to feature an open, cutaway rear frame, with the addition of the X-brace hastily developed for the 908/02 after failures at Sebring. An additional central fuel tank increased the capacity of the saddle tanks by 13 gallons to the 50 gallons that would be needed to complete a Can-Am race distance without stopping. 

Designing a version of the 908 “Flounder” body to fit the wide Goodyear tires was assigned to Anatole “Tony” Lapine in the Porsche styling studio, who would go on to be Porsche’s styling chief. Testing on the Weissach skidpad and at Zeltweg resulted in the addition of two “cheek” vanes used on the endurance cars. The 917 PA weighed about 100 lb less than the coupe, but was still almost 200 lb heavier than the McLaren M8B, while giving up at least 70hp to the McLaren-Chevy V8.

Porsche completed two 917 PA cars. Chassis -027 was retained by the factory for testing, while -028 was flown across the Atlantic for the fifth round of the 1969 Can-Am series at Mid-Ohio. With all of the low racing numbers spoken for, the SCCA allowed the car to be raced with the start-number “0” in honor of it being a manufacturer entry. 

Siffert finished in the top five in every race the 917 PA completed, with just two DNFs. As the season wore on, Ginther’s California shop turned Tony Lapine’s elegant rounded nose into a sharp wedge in the hope of reducing the front-end lift inherent to Piëch-era streamliners. By Riverside, the 917 PA resembled a carpenter’s chisel more than a racing car.   

Ginther’s aerodynamic theories were helping but McLaren’s 430 cubic-inch motor was developing close to 700hp, and on Riverside’s mile-long back straight the orange cars were blowing past the 917 PA at 200mph. Still, with the additional points gained from a 908/02 racer in the Can-Am race at Watkins Glen, Siffert finished a solid fourth in the championship despite failing to contest the first three rounds.

 After the final round, the engines and transaxles were shipped back to Germany and the 917 PA was parked in an obscure garage in Culver City. It was excess inventory as far as Porsche was concerned. Little did anybody know, the saga of 917-028 as “The California Spyder” was just getting started. 

THE CALIFORNIA SPYDER

Vasek Polak had come to America as a refugee from Czechoslovakia where he’d been a motorcycle mechanic before the Nazi and Soviet occupations. The cheapest ticket was to New York City, so he got a job working for Porsche importer Max Hoffman.

Polak and Hoffman, like John von Neumann in California, were refugees from Nazi oppression and had an instant affinity. Polak eventually migrated to Southern California in 1957, where his high-revving four-cam Carrera motors drew the attention of von Neumann. The relationship helped Polak build the first stand-alone Porsche dealership in America, located in Hermosa Beach. Selling Porsches in the South Bay during the Sixties was like printing money, and Polak soon became one of the first collectors of outdated Porsche racing cars. In those days the cars were practically being given away by the racing department. During 1970, a deal was made with Jo Hoppen, allowing Polak to obtain the engine-less 917 PA.  

Helping to care for Polak’s growing Hermosa Beach Porsche collection was a young immigrant with long hair and a sharp wit named Alwin Springer. Springer would later co-found both ANDIAL and Porsche Motorsport North America, based on the relationships he built with the Porsche works while with Polak.

Polak and Springer took notice when Englishman Tony Dean rode Porsche reliability to victory in the 1970 Road Atlanta Can-Am, driving the ex-factory 1969 908/02-011. The same car had won the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch the previous year. They reasoned that if an outdated 908 could win in a Can-Am race, the 917 PA could still have legs! 

Springer set about modifying the very rough -028 to utilize a new 5.0-liter motor with rear-exit exhaust and wider Goodyears. He did so by shortening and stiffening the frame, making the seat more upright, re-profiling the front bodywork, and adding the latest Girling braking system. Springer learned on the job: “We modified a lot of things on the aero and suspension, and in hindsight they were not the best. But at the time we didn’t know better.”

The California-updated 917 PA would be ready to race before Jo Siffert’s 917/10 – a new car being prepared for the 1971 season. 

Polak chose a native Californian as his driver: Milt Minter, “The Man from Sanger.” Springer recalled, “Milt was a very brave man and a talented driver.”

Minter caught the Porsche-bug in the late 1950s when he left the Army. In 1960 he found a well-used 550 Spyder in Fresno. The four-cam was too much for Central Valley mechanics, and by 1962 Minter switched to Bob Rhodes’ Super 90 coupe. He also moved up the California Porsche ranks, where he met Polak. Polak would offer Minter a ride in his C-Production 911 for 1968, but after winning the first race, von Neumann poached him to be Alan Johnson’s “number two” at the Porsche Distributor team, managed by Richie Ginther. 

Minter chafed at “team orders,” and by the 1969 American Road Race of Champions at Daytona he had suffered enough. He informed Ginther he intended to win the race, team-orders be damned!

Minter won in convincing fashion, and was promptly fired during the victory ceremony in the Daytona winner’s circle. Fortunately, Polak was happy to welcome Minter back, and he raced Polak’s 906 and 904 in SCCA competition during 1970, as well as winning the Donnybrook Trans-Am for Roy Woods in a Camaro. It would be the first Trans-Am win for an independent team not affiliated with one of the factories.

The 917 PA looked pretty rough by the end of the season, but with solid top-ten finishes all season, including fifth places at Road Atlanta and Edmonton, plusa sixth at Riverside, Minter used it to place sixth in the final point standings for the 1971 Can-Am Cup.

After his team’s performance, Polak acquired a 917/10 for Minter to drive in the 1972 series. In a Can-Am series dominated by the Penske-prepared L&M-sponsored 917/10 Turbos of George Follmer and Mark Donohue, Minter ended the season tied for second in the championship. 

While Minter drove the new car, Vasek dragged out the evergreen -028 for Sam Posey to compete in the final two races of the 1972 Can-Am. At Riverside, Springer installed a turbo flat-12 in the car, but it proved too much for the transmission and Posy retired. 

For the 1973 Can-Am season, Polak decided to go all-in. He bought a brand-new customer 917/10 twin-turbo and hired future F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter to drive it. With a new car at the sharp end of the grid, Polak and Springer hung the 917/10 bodywork on the old 917 PA chassis and entered the car as a “917/10” for journeyman New Jersey racer Steve Durst. Durst was able to score decent top-ten finishes in the first rounds of the series. Finally, at Road America, the old car gave out in the sprint race and was withdrawn. But that still wasn’t the end of 917-028 in the Can-Am series.

Polak had interviewed former Porsche factory driver Brian Redman for the ride he eventually gave to Scheckter in the 917/10 Turbo. Now “Vasko” contacted Redman and offered him a ride for the last two races in a second car to Scheckter’s.

Redman tells the story in his autobiography, Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks [EVRO Publishing 2016]. He recounts showing up at Willow Springs to test the 917/10s. Two identical-looking cars were lined up in the pit lane, one bearing Scheckter’s number “0” and a second car designated with the number “3.” Redman drove them both but told Polak that Scheckter’s car seemed to feel more solid and could be driven harder. Vasek insisted the two cars were identical, and Redman thought maybe the second car just needed some adjustments. What Redman didn’t know was that Springer had taken molds of the 1972-spec body from Scheckter’s car and installed them, and a spare 5.4-liter twin-turbo motor, in the old 917 PA. 

At Laguna, Redman qualified his Frankenstein 917 fourth for the sprint race/main race format behind Donohue, Scheckter, and Follmer. When Donohue uncharacteristically blew up the all-conquering 917/30 in the sprint, Redman found himself on the outside of the front row for the main event. In the race, Redman blew the engine on lap 30, but would have the consolation that rival Scheckter ruined the clutch of the “real” 917/10 Turbo by lap 11. This was the race that saw the miraculous “all-hands” engine change by the Penske crew, allowing Donohue to start the main event from the back of the pack and carve his way through the entire field to earn the win. 

Polak and Springer rebuilt the engine for the next Can-Am round at the daunting high-speed Riverside track. Redman still didn’t know his car wasn’t a 917/10. During Friday practice, Redman noticed that something “Wasn’t quite right” in the rear of the car as he took the 190mph left kink on the back straight. He pittd the car and the crew found a broken suspension support tube, which was re-welded. In Saturday practice, the same thing happened – a new break in a different part of the right rear suspension. That was welded, but by Sunday morning Redman was feeling nervous. Vasek assured him the car was fine, but that it was up to him if he wanted to race. 

In the qualifying sprint, Redman was the best-placed “917/10,” slotted next to Donohue’s Sunoco-blue Penske 917/30 for the main race. After the green flag, Redman continued as the “best of the rest” in second position behind Donohue. Then on lap 31, going through the same left-hand kink at 200mph, something gave up again in the right rear. “The car swerved sideways, pointing to the outside of the track. When I caught the slide, it demonically switched back and headed towards the cement drag-strip barriers. Sawing vigorously at the wheel, I eventually managed to get the car to face in the right direction, although the rear wheels continued to slew side-to-side in a frightening series of violent fishtails,” Redman recounted.

Redman brought the car back to the pits, where he parked next to Scheckter’s, which had been retired after being run up Riverside’s tire berms. Polak was yelling and screaming at him. The mechanics removed the tail and he saw that one of the Heim joints locating the rear wheel had destroyed itself: an unusual occurrence. Looking over at Scheckter’s car, Redman realized his car wasn’t equipped with the same parallel-link suspension that was characteristic of the 917/10 chassis. His car had the early 1969-spec suspension, which he tested for the factory five years earlier!  

Redman had been driving a chassis developed to take barely half the horsepower and torque generated by the 1973 5.4-liter twin-turbo engine now installed in the 917 PA. Springer recalled, “At the end of 1973 the Can-Am involvement stopped and the car went into storage. Overall, including the ecstasy and agony, the time in my recollection was still very good, and personally I learned a lot!”

Perhaps surprisingly, Redman and Polak remained friends, and Redman was co-executor of Polak’s collection when he passed away 24 years later after crashing a brand-new 930 on the autobahn. 

In early 1975, Randolph Townsend purchased 917-028 from Polak. Townsend was a 28 year-old instructor at the University of Nevada who intended to enter the car in the amateur SCCA A/Sports-Racing category. He had been racing for less than a year when he bought the car, still modified to 917/10 twin-turbo specification.

Townsend had two second-place finishes in the North Pacific Division before he brought the car to Laguna for that year’s June Sprints. He described his experience in the 917 PA to the Reno Evening Gazette: “I get in the car, close my eyes and pray I get around the track.” On the very fast “old course” at Laguna Seca, the prayer went unanswered and Townsend crashed heavily. Providence then intervened as he was not seriously injured. 

The damaged 917 PA was delivered to Springer, who by now had established ANDIAL in Santa Ana, CA. Springer sourced the ex-Willi Kauhsen 917/10-015 from Germany, and the engine and transmission from the wrecked 917 PA were swapped into the new car. Townsend sold the chassis and assorted 917-028 parts to John Bond, Jr – son of Road & Track magazine founders John and Elaine Bond. The idea was to mate the suspension of the 917 PA to a 908 that Bond also owned and install a turbo engine, resulting in a homemade 936.

It was at this time that Kerry Morse, realizing the importance of chassis 917-028, convinced Bond to give it to him. From 1979 to 1983 it sat in Morse’s suburban garage while he chased down original panels and parts to rebuild the car, although this proved too great a task.

Following months of discussions, the project was sold to the Collier Collection in Florida, which had the resources to partner with Kevin Jeannette of Gunnar Racing. They would bring 917 PA full circle, back to the original 1969 specifications when the California saga of 917-028 began.

The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Kerry Morse, Alwin Springer, and Kevin Jeannette, as well as the books and articles of Pete Lyons, Karl Ludvigsen, Hal Thoms, and Brian Redman in researching this article. 

The author had the good fortune to attend the 1971, 1972, and 1973 Laguna Seca Can-Am races, and to have seen and heard the 917 PA driven in anger – experiences he will not soon forget.

 

 

DEAN JEFFRIES – THE ORIGINAL OUTLAW
Photos courtesy of Jack Walter and Jay Wiener

Dean Jeffries was an automotive jack-of-all-trades. He worked as a stuntman, car builder, racecar painter and pinstriper. His distinctive paint jobs and sculpted bodywork drew admirers to his auto shop, including the likes of James Dean, Steve McQueen and AJ Foyt.

Born Edward Dean Jeffries on February 25, 1933, in Osage, Iowa, the family soon moved to the Compton area of Los Angeles where his father was a mechanic. Jeffries served a stint in the US Army during the Korean War and upon returning, like many former soldiers in Southern California, he turned his newly acquired mechanical skills to cars.

Jeffries rented space from the "King of Kustom" George Barris at his shop on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles and later Lynwood, CA. He worked alongside the father of modern pinstriping, Kenneth Howard, better known as Von Dutch. The duo were known as Von Dutch and The Kid.

Jeffries loved the Indianapolis 500 and was hired to paint several cars. In 1952 he was also hired by Mobil 1 to paint their logo on sponsored car. They offered his services free to the teams since it included their logo. By 1953 Jeffries painted 22 of the 33 starters for the Indy 500 and would join AJ Foyt as his paint and body man.

Jeffries would work with most of the legendary car builders in Los Angeles and create many famous vehicles of his own, some of which are explored in a separate story. Among his body of work was painting Carroll Shelby’s first car before it was trailered to Detroit to secure a Ford engine deal. He would also be famous for a raft of Hollywood movie cars such as the Monkeemobile, Black Beauty from The Green Hornet and the Moon Buggy from the James Bond movie Diamonds are Forever. He even designed the original Batmobile and began its fabrication before turning it over to George Barris to meet a tight deadline.

Jeffries’ association with Porsche first came to light through a close friendship with actor James Dean. The pair shared love of cars and Jeffries would paint “Little Bastard” and number “130” on the actor’s 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder.

THE ORIGINAL OUTLAW

For the dizzy heights his career reached, Jeffries credits a Porsche 356A Carrera GS coupe (VIN #56083) as the car that launched his career. It began in 1957 when Jeffries traded a hot rod for a Porsche 356A Carrera GS coupe (VIN #56083). Jeffries wanted to showcase his bodywork and painting ability and knew the best way to do this was to create a show car.

The plan for the Porsche was to streamline it by removing the bumpers and extending the front to accommodate frenched headlights. He added a subtle rear scoop, Mercedes SL-style roof vents and low-profile tail lights were fabricated.

Working out of George Barris’ shop, everybody pitched in to work on the car. Once the bodywork was complete, Jeffries created a unique finish. As one of the pioneers of new painting techniques, he was already using pearls and metalflake. This experience allowed him to paint the Porsche in pearlescent silver with an aircraft clear coat. He also applied silver leaf to the dashboard, built turned aluminum panels for the door jambs and engine compartment, and chromed the sheet metal on the engine.

Some have argued that Jeffries’ Porsche 356 is the first car that would later become known as “Outlaw.” Whatever your view, the car was hugely influential. It would win more than 30 first place trophies at Southern California car shows during the late 1950s and early ’60s, appearing on the cover of Rod & Custom Magazine in October 1959.

FBI’S MOST WANTED

A little later the Carrera was painted gold before it was sold to Albert Nussbaum in early 1962. Nussbaum had completed a string of bank robberies and made it to the FBI Ten Most Wanted list. He apparently drove the car to Fort Lauderdale, FL, where it was spotted on his sister's driveway in 1963, leading to a concentrated search of the area by law enforcement.

The 356 disappeared until 1967, likely housed in a government impound facility, before it was purchased by Randy Toole from Orlando, FL. Toole kept the car about 18 months before trading it for a 912, but had removed the four-cam Carrera engine in the meantime. He replaced it with a simpler Porsche 356 pushrod motor, presumably to simplify maintenance. Toole also painted the car white during his tenure.

The next owner, Sandy Hunter, a mechanic from Atlanta, bought the car while on vacation in Florida. Shortly after, he would sell it to Margaret Daole in 1970, but not before he’d damaged the nose in a collision.

Daole drove the 356A to a family function in the Atlanta suburbs where Jack Walter, a friend of her younger brother, immediately offered to purchase it. He “pestered her” for 18 months before she relented in October 1971 in order to raise finances for a trip to Katmandu.

“My father thought I was nuts,” Walter recounts after the 19 year-old drove the somewhat battered Porsche home, still sporting the damaged nose from the year before. He was thrilled by the purchase but didn’t know exactly what he’d bought until a friend dug up a 1959 copy of Rod & Custom magazine. He spotted the Porsche on the cover and the pieces fell into place.  

By coincidence, Walter also ran into somebody who had grown up in Los Angeles and saw the car being built in the Barris shop in Lynwood. He explained the car had narrowly missed being consumed in a devastating fire at the shop. Aware of his good fortune, Walter was eventually able to acquire another four-cam Carrera engine from Porsche Spyder 550-0022. He would carry out two restorations on the 356A – the first was a somewhat amateur attempt before a second rotisserie restoration in 2007 returned the car to its original glory. Walter then sold it to the Wiener family in 2018, returning it to Hollywood, CA where it’s life began.

Having owned it for 47 years, Walter admits it wasn’t easy for him to let it go because of his “long standing admiration and friendship,” with Dean Jeffries. “He was a personal hero of mine,” Walter explained.

“During the time I owned the car I was able to visit Dean in his shop and talk to him about the Porsche. We even reunited him with the Carrera at the Amelia Island Concours,” Walter continued. “He told me a lot of stories about the car and how much it meant to him. In fact, he constantly asked when he could have it back!

“Unfortunately, Jeffries passed away in 2013 before the ten-year restoration was complete. My goal was to return it to exactly how it rolled out of George Barris' shop on Atlantic Avenue in Lynwood, CA in 1957.”

Jeffries was consulted as Walter started the second restoration. He personally selected the exterior color to match his original paint. The interior, which was originally sewn by Eddie Martinez, was precisely duplicated and all the 1957 hand-made engine-turned panels were cleaned and preserved.

 “Along the way, I had the opportunity to reunite Spyder 550-0022 with its original engine from the 1955 Sebring race. I traded it for the four-cam 1600cc plain-bearing engine from a 1958 Carrera Cabriolet after the original 356A motor was lost to time. The same engine is in the car today.”

JEFFRIES 356 AT LUFT 6

Jay Wiener will show the Dean Jeffries 1956 Porsche 356A Carrera GS coupe at Luftgekühlt 6. By doing so he is bringing the fascinating story full circle. “It's amazing that Luft 6 is at the Universal Studios Backlot,” exclaimed Wiener. “The location is right off Cahuenga Boulevard where Dean's shop was located. Literally around the corner. And Luft 6 will be the first showing of the car in Southern California since the early 1960s, when it was last here.”

Visitors to Luft 6 will be among the first to view the Jeffries creation in its home town since it left in 1962. The car led an incredible life in the 57 years since it left and now all of us can enjoy the sparkling silver pearlescent paint as its creator intended it to be seen under the Californian sun.

Jeffries died on May 5, 2013 at home in Hollywood. He was 80 and had been in declining health. He left an incredible legacy for automotive enthusiasts, as well as an indelible mark on the global Porsche community.

KYOTE DUNE BUGGIES

In 1968, Jeffries designed and built a dune buggy called Mantaray II Kyote. He was at the sharp end of the dune buggy craze and would produce another version, which was launched as the Kyote I. This vehicle went into production in 1969 after the prototype had appeared in the Monkees TV series. It would also be entered in the 1967 Baja 1000, driven by Jeffries and Mike Nesmith from The Monkees. Dean sold approximately 500 Kyotes, including some destined for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

It would be updated to the Kyote II, and approximately 600 were built in his shop on Cahuenga Blvd by a staff of up to 15 people.

An example of a Jeffries 1969 Kyote II dune buggy will be on display at Luft 6 alongside his Porsche 356A as a tribute to the legendary car builder. The buggy belongs to Kevin Jeanette and is coming from Fort Lauderdale, FL thanks to Gunnar Racing. His buggy is Porsche-powered and sits on a set of Fuchs wheels.

 

 

THE HOLLYWOOD CONNECTION

Photos courtesy of Jack Walter and Porsche Cars NA

Hollywood has had a long love affair with Porsche cars. From James Dean’s tragic relationship with his 550 Spyder to Paul Newman’s 935 racecar and Patrick Dempsey’s extensive racing career behind the wheel of the 911, the men and machines are indelibly linked.

Porsche cars are able to perfectly capture perfect moments such a brash ’80s hedge fund analyst in his 930 Turbo, or a carefree spirit in a patina’d 356. Whatever the car, it reflects the driver’s passion and commitment. As such, a Porsche can say more about the man than minutes of dialogue, and in an industry committed to storytelling, Porsche is often cast as a leading character in Hollywood movies.

Everybody has their favorite Porsche movie scene, but which is your favorite? Perhaps it’s the opening scene from Bad Boys where helicopter footage pans across the ocean before settling on the wheel of Will Smith’s 911 Turbo 3.6 as it races across the Miami landscape, shaping our perception of Smith’s slick cop and his stressed partner. The dialogue focuses on the car’s features, and its attempted carjacking quickly allows us to know these cops mean business.

But what about the 928 in Risky Business? Not only did the movie launch the career of Tom Cruise, it also helped establish the front-engined Porsche as a suburban hot rod. The car was cast by the writer/director who wanted to underscore an affluent yet practical family. Based in Chicago, the city was the epicenter for 928 sales and was deemed the perfect fit.

According to legend, Porsche turned down the opportunity to support the movie because it was nervous about the prostitution theme. However, it went on to be a powerful commercial for the 928, of which five were used for the filming. Thankfully, the car sacrificed in the lake was reportedly a stripped shell rather than a valuable sports car but it remains a difficult scene to watch.

The internet has done an efficient job of cataloging all the Porsche appearances, from cameos in Bullitt, where McQueen’s girlfriend drives a 356 Cabrio, to Le Mans, where McQueen drives a 911 S road car while racing a 917. All of these, and so many more, contribute to a comprehensive celluloid collection of memorable Porsche appearances.

THE BUILDERS

Of course, Hollywood doesn’t only want Porsches to define its movies. In many cases, machines are created with the sole intention of taking a starring role. In recent history we can refer to the Fast and the Furious franchise as an outlet for custom built cars, but this trend dates back to the earliest days of the custom car scene.

Hot rod and drag racing developed in Southern California, fueled by returning servicemen who had a lust for life, a fear of nothing and a need for speed. And as the best car builders rose to prominence in this new industry, many were on the doorstep of the Hollywood studios.

Dean Jeffries, for example, was a Korean War veteran whose skills attracted movie legends such as Steve McQueen, James Dean, James Garner and even Elvis Presley to his workshop. Jeffries and builders such as George Barris were soon customizing cars for the stars. Famously, Jeffries painted the number “130” on the front of James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder, and added the script “Little Bastard.” Sadly, the paint had barely dried before Dean was killed at the wheel of the same car a few weeks later.

An ardent Porsche fan, Dean also owned a 356 Speedster and was often photographed with it. Similarly, Dean Jeffries would attribute his successful career to the 356A Carrera GS coupe he built in 1957.

We have detailed Jeffries’ 356A in a separate story to commemorate it being shown in California at Luftgekühlt 6 for the first time in 57 years. Not only did the car launch Jeffries career but it’s often regarded as the original “Outlaw” 356.

While not his attention to create an new genre, Jeffries wanted to showcase his building and painting talents, so used what was available to him. He had taken the Porsche in a trade for a hot rod and decided to create one of the first hot rod Porsches from it.

 As you can read in our dedicated storyline, Jeffries planned to streamline the Porsche by removing the bumpers and extending the front to accommodate frenched headlights. He added a subtle rear scoop as well as Mercedes SL-style roof vents and low-profile tail lights. As one of the pioneers of custom painting techniques, the car also received a revolutionary pearlescent paint job, making it all the more remarkable in 1957.

After being showered with awards at local car shows and receiving media attention with magazine cover stories, the Porsche was sold a few years later and began an epic journey, which comes full circle at Luft 6. By appearing at the Universal Studios Backlot it sits a stone’s throw from the workshop Jeffries would later work from – Dean Jeffries Automotive Styling at 3077 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Los Angeles.

THE MOVIES

While the 356A was modified at the George Barris shop in Lynwood, CA, Jeffries would create many of his Hollywood legends on the door step of the Hollywood studios. The roll of honor includes legends such as The Mantaray, a futuristic creation that won a Best Experimental Car Award at a 1964 show and would appear in the movie, Bikini Beach. He would also build Black Beauty for the 1966 The Green Hornet TV series and transform a pair of Pontiac GTO Convertibles into The Monkeemobile in 1966 for the TV series and promotional duties.

Other movie cars included the Moon Buggy in the 1971 James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. There was the 1977 Landmaster in Damnation Alley, custom fabrication for Convoy in 1978, a trolley in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1988, and many more.

Another legendary Jeffries creation is the original Batmobile built for the 1966 TV series. Having designed and started its fabrication, a tight movie deadline prompted him to hand over the project to former boss, George Barris, who would contract Bill Cushenberry to complete the vehicle.

Spending so much time building cars, socializing with movie stars and delivering vehicles to the Hollywood studios, it wasn’t long before Jeffries was drawn deeper into the movie business. In 1976, for example, he performed his first stunt driving duties in Chesty Anderson US Navy. He would continue to perform stunts up to and including Die Hard: With a Vengance in 1995, also working on The Blues Brothers, Romancing the Stone, The Rookie and The Fugitive.

Other Hollywood roles included stunt coordinator and even appearances in several movies. Jeffries would meet his wife, Rosalee, while working on the Warner Bros lot where she worked as a producer.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS BACKLOT

Universal's rich entertainment legacy can be traced back to German immigrant Carl Laemmle. He opened his first nickelodeon theater in Chicago in 1906 and moved into movie distribution and production in 1909 when he formed the Independent Moving Picture Company of America (IMP) to produce his own films and defy the Motion Picture Patents Company that charged a license fee to all independent theater operators. Laemmle’s first production was Hiawatha in 1909 – a one-reel adaptation of Longfellow’s poem.

In 1912, the Universal Film Manufacturing Company was an alliance between Laemmle’s IMP, the New York Motion Picture Company, Rex Motion Pictures, and Powers Motion Pictures. It was soon joined by Nestor and Champion Films and Laemmle was elected President of the new venture.

Later that year, Universal expanded its operation to the West Coast when it leased a portion of the Providencia Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Less than two years later, Laemmle decided to centralize his West Coast operations and ordered his manager to buy more property. They paid $165,000 in 1914 for a 230-acre ranch located across the road from where Mexican General Andre Pico and US Colonel John Fremont signed the Treaty of Cahuenga in 1847. This site was to become Universal City – “the entertainment center of the world.”

In 1915, Laemmle opened the gates of Universal City as the world’s first self-contained community dedicated to making movies. The new municipality had nearly 500 residents, including 75 Native Americans who lived in tepees on the backlot as well as western riders, movie “soldiers” and workmen.

Film production on the lot had begun in 1914 with Damon and Pythias, co-starring William Worthington and Herbert Rowlinson. As movie production increased, a steady stream of silent films including westerns, comedies and action-adventures became Universal’s trademark.

Laemmle also began inviting visitors to Universal City to observe his movie making process, establishing the long-standing tradition of welcoming guests to enjoy the behind-the-scenes magic. However, the Universal tour was temporarily halted in the late 1920s, when “talkies” became the norm and producers demanded an end to visitor noise.

In 1936, Carl Laemmle retired from the movie industry and sold Universal to the Standard Capital Company. In 1950, Universal acquired 140 acres of land adjoining the southern boundary of the studio, increasing the overall size of Universal City to 400 acres. And in 1958, MCA Inc purchased the Universal City Studio Lot.

The Universal Studios Tour was revived in 1964, and in 1996 MCA Inc was renamed Universal Studios. In 2004, NBCUniversal was formed to own and operate the valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks.

Today, Universal City continues to be one of the largest full-service production facilities. With 30 sound stages and a backlot that can replicate any location in the world, it is not only a filmmaker’s destination, but also the Entertainment Capital of Los Angeles.

For more information visit universalstudioslot.com

 
 

WIN, PLACE, SHOW – THE PORSCHE 936                       
by Kerry Morse
Photos courtesy of Porsche Archives, Jurgen Barth and Kerry Morse

Of all Porsche’s motorsport success, the history of the 936 remains one of the more obscure. Yet it’s difficult to imagine how anybody could forget its lengthy run at Le Mans, from 1976 to 1981, which resulted in three overall victories and, when not on the top step, scored second- and third-place finishes.

The 936 was driven by the big boys of the time: Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Jochen Mass and Brian Redman. It also gave Jurgen Barth and Hurley Haywood their first wins at Les 24 Heures.

Weissach engineers named Singer, Schaffer, Mezger, Flegl, Bott, and Berger all contributed, as well as the main man of the era, Professor Ernst Fuhrmann.

And then there is the 1976 World Championship; a record every other manufacturer would still brag about, and yet all that officially exists on the 936 is one recent book, available only in German.

If you do nothing else at Luft, check out Porsche 936-003, which is making its California debut at the show. History states that five 936 were constructed. The official account is that three were built and campaigned by the factory team, the fourth chassis was made available to Joest in 1980 as a private entry, and Kremer built its own 936 using leftover factory spare parts.

All three factory cars were victorious at Le Mans, with 002 taking the win in 1976, 001 in a dramatic fashion in 1977, and 003 from pole in 1981: three wins in five years of official participation with three cars is an incredible result. The Joest private entry finished second overall in 1980.

In many ways, these results created the Porsche we’ve become accustomed to; a company we expect to win and nothing less. If anything, it shows how such excellence becomes taken for granted.

Porsche 936-003 was built in 1978 specifically for Le Mans. It was intended to compete against the renewed Renault challenge, whose steady progress with its Group 6 A440 turbo prototype series had been Weissach’s main challenger for several years.

The bodywork of the newly constructed 936 had been completely redesigned, with emphasis placed on the tail and rear wing as well as a new four-valve engine.

Chassis 001, the 1977 winner, was also rebuilt to 1978 specifications, with chassis 002 remaining in the 1977 configuration with the original two-valve engine as a back-up.

The 1978 race looked promising for chassis 003 after Jacky Ickx started from pole position. However, the car soon ran into problems, suffering a broken gearbox. After repairs were made, Jochen Mass then had an accident. The two remaining 936 had to “settle” for second and third place against four Renaults, one of which finally took the win.

Porsche had no plans to enter Le Mans in 1979, especially after Renault withdrew from sports prototype racing to focus on Formula 1 with its new RS10 turbo. However, a last-minute sponsorship package from Essex Petroleum saw two hastily prepared 936 – chassis 001 and 003 – start from the front row. But in an atypical Porsche performance, both cars failed to finish, leaving the door open for the famous overall victory by the Kremer 935.

Officially, Porsche left the overall category for 1980 to allow privateers to fight it out. Weissach instead focused its efforts on preparing three 924s for a test run to promote the front-engine/transaxle car and its eventual homologation as a Group 4 racer. Once again, Ickx found himself in a 936 challenging for the win that year in the private Joest car. Unfortunately, while leading comfortably it suffered a gearbox failure and, after repairs, finished in a hard-fought second place.

Big changes were made at Porsche in 1981, starting with the top brass. American Peter W Schutz replaced Professor Fuhrmann as CEO, and one of his early decisions was that any Le Mans campaign must include a car capable of winning. Once more, 936-001 and -003 were removed from storage and evaluated by Norbert Singer to explore what it would cost to make the cars competitive again.

The Type 935/72 2.65-liter flat-six engine developed for the aborted Interscope Indycar project was available for use and required only slight modification. Singer addressed the gearbox failures from 1978 and 1980 by replacing the 917 five-speed with the Type 920 four-speed from the 1000hp 917/30. The repositioning of oil lines and coolers, modification of the rear wing and rebuilding all the usual components came to a total of about $115,000 with parts and labor.

The updated 936/81 was ready for its final performance after a successful run displayed the deterministic brilliance of the small staff of designers and engineers. In theory, the 936 was a parts bin of leftover 908/03 and 917 pieces, tossed together and powered by the 2.1-liter flat-six from the Martini 911 Turbo RSR – not bad for what was regarded as a one-trick pony.

For 936-003 and drivers Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans was the perfect race. Starting from pole and never challenged, along with a minimum of attention during the pit stops, the pair delivered Porsche its sixth triumph at La Sarthe.

The 936 is one of the heavyweights of Porsche competition history, and yet it’s commonly overlooked. Perhaps that’s because it made limited appearances after winning the 1976 World Championship, or that an official appearance of a 936 happened just twice: at the 1976 Porsche Parade in Mosport following a championship round; and in 1982 at the Monterey Historic races celebrating the history of Porsche.

Displaying a cool factor that is carried by so many of the greatest sports racing prototypes, don’t miss 936-003 at Luft 6. It is resplendent in its Jules graphics – a Christian Dior fragrance for men. History has never looked so good.