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Porsche - Number 57 lives

Number 57 lives

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Silhouette:Classic 911 lines in their original form. They have set the tone for seven model generations to date.

After half a century, the 57th Porsche 911 ever built returns home. We present a fabulous story of a neglected car that will soon become a museum piece. A fairy tale in three chapters.

Prologue: Once upon a time there was a man who loved being a mechanic. His name was Bernd Ibold, and he lived in the town of Bardenitz, near Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. In order to have something to work on during retirement, he stockpiled nineteen cars, plus masses of automotive components and even more tools. But health problems threw a wrench into the works. His dream of restoring cars was dashed; he wept. Because he didn’t have enough money, he would now have to clear out his yard and sheds, which were full of the automotive things of life. At the age of seventy, he possessed a lot, but had nothing. He couldn’t find the strength to let go of the past and sell everything he had accumulated. Finally, his daughter, who was also at a loss, came up with the idea of getting help. And help came.

Chapter One

Otto Schulte is a clever man. For years he has played the car expert in the documentary soap opera Der Trödeltrupp – Das Geld liegt im Keller (“The Junk Troop: There’s Money in the Cellar”). Broadcast on the German television network RTL II, it shows the activities of three men who are commissioned to help people clear out their homes, cellars, sheds, and yards and sell what is still usable at places like flea markets. The money involved is usually on the order of 1,000 euros, or occasionally as much as 4,000 euros.

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Sign of the times: The sports car’s steering wheel features the Porsche coat of arms, just like it did half a century ago.

When Schulte visits Bernd Ibold for the first time, you can see the shock on his face. There is junk wherever he looks. The yard is full of cars lying around, most of them ten to twenty years old, many exposed to the wind and weather. Hardly any can be driven; the ignition works in only a few.

At the back of a shed he discovers two wrecks that look like they will never move again—and they appear to be Porsche 911s. However, there’s no fairy tale without a dark side: rust has consumed nearly all of the sills and the side panels, and chewed holes elsewhere in the old metal. The fenders are missing, as are the doors and seats. The two sports cars are covered in a thick layer of dust—leaving only a hint that the one in front was once red and the one in back was gold.

Schulte knows that car freaks pay good money even for wrecks—you just have to find them. So he calculates around 10,000 euros for the two Porsche ruins, in part because Ibold claims to have saved some missing pieces of the cars somewhere. Ibold mentions in passing that he tried to get cheaper replacement parts from Porsche once, because he has one of the very old sports cars with the number 57. But it didn’t work out …

Schulte gulps.

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Insight: The splendor of old times still shines through the layers of dust.

Chapter Two

Alexander Klein, who is in charge of vehicle management at Porsche Museum, frequently gets calls of this type. This time there’s a woman from RTL II on the phone. Would he be interested in buying an old Porsche … What kind? Red. What type? A sports car. (Sigh.) What do the car papers say? A Porsche. Anything else? Six-cylinder boxer engine, 300057, 130 hp at 6,100 rpm …

Suddenly Klein is all ears. 300057? That could be the 57th Porsche 911, built in the year 1964, when it was still called the 901. Last year he gave up searching for a 901. He had wanted to fill a gap in the collection, because the oldest available 911 was the number 302503. But he couldn’t find a car that hadn’t been restored—which is what he needed to find because the specialists wanted to know precisely which parts were original in order to rebuild the car using their own materials and to meet their own standards.

And now this: according to the sales records, Ibold’s car, which he had purchased used in 1971 and put out of service in 1975, had been delivered to the city of Krefeld on November 27, 1964. There is no further trace of the dream in Signal Red (6407 B/P) with its black Pepita seats. Ibold is at least the fifth owner. And then the TV lady requests that Porsche should bring cash. And how much that might be?

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Infotainment back then: The car’s radio is set in high-grade wood.

Chapter Three

Dieter Landenberger, director of the Porsche Archive, sets off for Bardenitz with Kuno Werner, the head of the Porsche Museum workshop. The cameras are waiting for them. Schulte, ever the professional TV moderator, wants to hear a figure immediately, and for the deal to be confirmed with a handshake in front of the cameras. But the two representatives from Porsche are also professionals. No deal without an inspection. They ship both cars to Zuffenhausen and have two independent specialists look them over.

The result: Number 57 lives. A true original. That is confirmed by various numbers on the car body and dashboard, and by the chalk writing on the backs of the door panels. The car is in miserable shape, but it’s not hopeless. Porsche decides to purchase it. Current value: 107,000 euros.

It doesn’t happen very often that Otto Schulte is at a loss for words. Porsche has also appraised the gold car, built in 1967—a good source of parts—at another 14,500 euros. Bernd Ibold can hardly believe his ears. His cares have disappeared into thin air. And soon he will be able to visit “his” 901 at the Porsche Museum any time he likes. Once again he has tears in his eyes. This time, however, they are tears of happiness.

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Back to the roots: After being restored, the 901 will look like it did on the day it was delivered.

Epilogue

Kuno Werner has an enormous task: around 20 percent of Number 57 is missing. Initial estimates suggest that only around 35 percent of the car body is serviceable, which means that about half of Number 57 can be used. Right now the car has been completely dismantled. The engine and the transmission—neither of which belong to Number 57 but are both from an early 901—have been overhauled. The entire car body is being chemically stripped of its paint and then carefully rebuilt—using contemporary metal. The original roof, the front section with the vehicle identification number, the dashboard, the knee guard, and possibly the child-seat hollow and the rear shelf are to remain.

The wiring harness will be reinstalled later on, with the old plugs and connectors. The instruments, steering wheel, door panels, seats, and windows are being carefully reworked, and then reinstalled, patina included. The bodywork and paintwork cannot be done in the museum’s own workshop, but everything else is being done on the premises in cooperation with Porsche Classic. It will cost an estimated 250,000 euros and take about two years to meet Porsche’s standards in restoring the car. The Porsche 911 Number 57 will then be expected to return to the roads for certain events and rallies—like all other cars in the Porsche Museum.

And they all lived even more happily ever after …

By Roland Löwisch
Photos by Rafael Krötz


Porsche 901

Build year: 1964
Engine: Six-cylinder boxer
Displacement: 1,991 cc
Power: 96 kW (130 hp) at 6,100 rpm
Maximum torque: 174 Nm at 4,200 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed, manual
0–100 km/h: 9.1 sec.
Top track speed: 210 km/h (130 mph)

About that zero in the middle

The successor to the 356 was actually supposed to be called the Porsche 901. But during the start-up phase of production, Peugeot registered a written protest because the French had secured a claim to model names with a zero in the middle. That is the origin of the persistent legend that 82 of the 901s were built before the car was named the 911.

“But there’s no proof of that,” says Alexander Klein. “No one really knows how many 901s were built. There’s a production log in which someone made a handwritten entry for each car. One page ends at production number 82 with 901, and the next page starts at production number 83 with 911. But that doesn’t mean that this change marks precisely when the protest from Peugeot arrived in the mail.” And there’s no fundamental difference between the 901 and the 911.

But there is in the details. Klein surmises that of the first approximately one hundred 901/911s, no car is exactly like any of the others. “Each one was unique—because it was only later that the model was actually ready for series production.” So the first customers served, in effect, as test-drivers. If they complained about water getting in, the next car got another type of seal. If the locking mechanism didn’t work correctly, the next one got a different spring rate. If the door handle stuck, the next one was shaped slightly differently. In 1964, the first year of production, 232 of the 901/911s were built.