Porsche 911 901 Number 57 Restoration – Video
The Porsche 901 is a legend. That’s because it was the forerunner of the 911. In the autumn of 1963, Porsche presented the 901 as a show car at the IAA.
One year later, Porsche unveiled a production-ready vehicle – but within just a few weeks, the coupé had to be renamed as a result of a trademark dispute. From then on, it was known as the 911. All of the customer vehicles produced up to that point were manufactured as 901 vehicles, but sold as 911 vehicles. For 50 years, the Porsche factory collection had lacked one of these rarities – until August 5, 2014, when a single phone call changed everything.
It was on this day that Alexander Klein, Manager Classic Car Collection at the Porsche Museum, received an enquiry from German television station RTL2. He was told that a couple of “barn finds” had been uncovered in the form of two old 911 vehicles. A team filming a docu-soap had found them while salvaging a long-abandoned collection. When they mentioned the number 300 057 in their description of the vehicle, “the penny dropped”, says Alexander Klein. This is the chassis number of one of the first 911 vehicles ever produced, built in autumn 1964 as a Porsche 901.
Eleven days later, two experts from the Porsche Museum went to a former farm in Brandenburg to inspect the two vehicles. They first encountered a gold-coloured 911 L from 1968 in a very poor state of repair. At the very back of the barn, for the most part still covered by a thick layer of dust, the two visitors from Zuffenhausen found the remains of a red 911. Both of its front wings were missing and large sections of the vehicle had already been eaten away by rust. Save for the instrument panel, most of the interior consisted of mere fragments. The brakes were seized, and so was the engine. But the chassis number was pristine, and it proved beyond all doubt that the vehicle was an original. One of the museum team’s long-cherished dreams was finally within reach: To have in its collection a 911 from 1964.
Time was running out – the car needed to be sold as soon as possible. In order to make the right offer, it was agreed that a detailed inspection should be carried out in Zuffenhausen. Two valuation reports provided by external experts delivered the same verdict, and it was far beyond the seller’s expectations. Porsche paid EUR 107,000 for the red original 911, and EUR 14,500 for the golden 911 L. The latter will remain in exactly the same condition: as an unwashed, living history.
The inventory carried out by the two experts revealed that a great deal of work needed to be done to the historically significant 911, henceforth known by the nickname “Number 57”. The engine and transmission were not the original units installed but were of an identical type. Many components were very heavily corroded and unusable. Other parts – such as the inner and outer sills on the right-hand side, as well as the front bumper and its mountings – were missing completely. Things didn’t look much better in the chassis area. All the axle and axle guide mountings on the front and rear axles had been severely affected by pitting corrosion. The two longitudinal beams in the area of the rear axle cross tube had rusted away completely. And these were just a few examples.
Nevertheless, the classic vehicle contained a number of details that delighted Kuno Werner, Head of Museum Workshop: “Many of the features only included in the very first models have been preserved in the car”. One example is the leather sleeve around the shift lever, which was only installed in this form during the 901 era. The experienced museum experts were also presented with a number of puzzles during their investigations. For instance, it was only after extensive research that the two square pipes under the seat adjustment system could be identified as a seat raising mechanism that was available from the factory on request.
The seats themselves have a history of their own. The Number 57 and the 911 L arrived in Zuffenhausen together with two pallet cages full of parts. In amongst this mish-mash of things were two 911 seats. It had been assumed that they belonged to the Number 57, but the backrests had five “pipes”, which was the name given to the vertically stitched subdivisions of the seat cushion. The first 911 vehicles had seats with six pipes. And the museum experts were surprised to find that the six-pipe seats were fitted in the gold-coloured model from 1968, which Porsche had bought at the same time in Brandenburg.