My Journey from Water to Air or How I Became Old School

by David Derr, former Redwood Region Member

With apologies to Charles Darwin, this is a story of my evolution in Porsche ownership. As most of us know, Darwin gave us the theory of evolution, which has the first, simple organisms living in the ocean and gradually making their way onto land. The development of these relatively simple life forms in water that eventually became much more complex on land is one of the stories of evolution.

Porsche's evolution is opposite that natural progression, with the first cars being cooled by the air, followed by those using water. The transition from air to water has allowed higher horsepower, lower emissions, and cars of a sophistication that could only be dreamed of in the air-cooled era. Porsche has set their own evolutionary path.

My evolution in Porsche ownership is just opposite of the Porsche factory. I have gone from water to air, just as Darwin suggested is the path to higher intelligence. Many have labeled this progression "digital to analog", but I prefer my evolution theory.

My first Porsche was 944 Turbo, which I would say is one of the best cars ever built. I should never have sold it, which I did to buy a 1997 Boxster, the first to be delivered in the Washington, DC metro area to a private owner. The very first was apparently delivered to a tuner. The Boxster was a great-looking car, but the first edition was woefully underpowered, certainly compared to my Turbo. I sold that car within two years and purchased a '99 C2 that I owned for just over 10 years. Great car.

My evolutionary story starts with a serendipitous event...actually two events. I had volunteered to help the Monterey Bay Region of PCA park cars at the 2009 Historic Races in Laguna Seca, with Porsche the featured marque. My task was to direct parking for the 911 corral, where we were expecting upwards of 1500 911's on Saturday. Somewhat early that morning, a '72 911 RS clone pulled in: black with red livery, red-centered Fuchs, sitting just right. I was really taken with the idea of that car: its simplicity and sense of purpose. I will admit to having been bitten by this particular bug a bit earlier. At a previous Laguna Seca event, there was a real RS, or so the license plate said, white with blue livery, looking oh, so pristine. The black RS clone really got my attention that day.

The group of us tasked with the 911 corral had things well under control, instructing folks where to park so we could maximize the space and make sure everyone had room, when the R Gruppe guys showed en masse. They did not take direction well, deciding to ignore the whole organization thing and park where they pleased. What can you do? I went over to talk to those guys and found a bunch of hot rod apostates from the traditional Porsche community. They were great fun and truly dedicated to their idea of what a Porsche should be.

Those two events started a relatively long process of introspection on what I really wanted from my Porsche. As I said, my cars always carried water and, with the exception of the first edition Boxster, really spoke to me. They were comfortable, fast, and mostly without trouble. Before I moved to San Francisco from the Washington, DC Metro Area, where I was active with the Potomac Region, I got involved with the Club DE program, eventually acting as Chief Steward for Potomac DE events at Summit Point and VIR. I was really a stand-in for Fred Smartt, but that is another story.

During my Chief Steward days, I got to see lots of cars from start/finish and got to ride in many. I won't go into the details of the why of that. Suffice to say that some red and black group drivers disagreed with my assessment of the driving that took place and wanted me to see for myself, close up and personal, what they were dealing with on the track. I had rides in lots of cars, but the standout was a black early 911, stripped down to no weight, with a driver that knew what he had. What fun.

As I talked with the R Gruppe guys at Laguna and looked at that black RS clone, I made my decision to move from my water-filled ride to an air cooled, old school car. Like a lot of us, I started with many Internet searches: eBay, Pelican Parts, Excellence, 911 World, etc. In my work, I travel a bit internationally so picking up the European and Asian 911 magazines got to be an obsession. Clearly a part of this was needing to find just the right person to buy my '99. It had only 63,000 miles, no marks, and was well-cared for. It also had 4 rear main seals, with the last one fixing that particular problem.

One weekend I just decided to start my journey even though I had not found the car I wanted to buy. I detailed the '99, took it down to an area in Mill Valley, CA where I was living, and took the photos that I would use to sell it. While that did not work, I found Cars Dawydiak ( in San Francisco, who ended up selling it for me and getting the cash I needed. That meant in July of 2010 I was without a Porsche for the first time since 1988. Withdrawal....

Now my search started in earnest. I found lots of potentials, from total basket cases to rolling chassis, to fully-sorted cars. Once you start a journey like this, all sorts of new connections happen..or some of you might say I set foot on the long, slippery slope. I found a pristine '70 that started life as a 911E and had been converted to full-on RS specs with a 2.7 with all of the trimmings. The owner had sourced all sorts of RS parts and the car was spotless, top and bottom. But at $80K, it seemed over the top. I found another early car on eBay that had been converted to RSR spces and from the photos had a complete rotisserie restoration, but that one got away. At over $60K, that seemed a bit out of the budget as well. I went to Southern California on a business trip and visited Euromasters, who take galvanized bodies and convert them to early bumpered cars, in effect creating a new car from an old one. This is a great idea for around $35K, but for some reason, they seemed to lack the soul I was seeking.

Then I saw a Pelican Parts ad for a car that started life as a '69 912 and had been converted to RS style with the flares, front, and rear valances, and an '86 3.2L. The car was nearby where I was living in Northern California at a shop in Petaluma, Jay Jarvis Autosports ( Jay and his son John had built this car for a client who owned Alfas. He wanted a car to drive in the California Mille, but ended up deciding his passion really lay with Alfa Romeo. When I saw the car, it was dirty, having just returned from that event, and the interior was full of dog fur. Not the greatest first impression. But once I drove it, I knew that it was the car for me. It had soul.

An extensive pre-purchase inspection was done by Deven at Hi Tec in San Rafael, CA. We poked and prodded, trying to find the rust and other maladies that might affect a car of this age. With the exception of some rust showing on the "C" pillars, it checked out as a great car. The motor had been sourced from LA Dismantlers and was from an '86 Carrera with around 40,0000 miles, and before Jay put it in the car, he had verified its quality. Deven concurred. We did detect some other issues, but all were solvable. I made my deal with the owner using basically the cash I received for my '99. By the way, if you are in the area, a stop by Deven's shop would be worthwhile. He's a great guy with great cars. He was working on four-cam motors and a 906 when I was there. Meeting him was one of those unexpected Porsche connections that resulted from my quest.

Once I bought the car, Jay and his son agreed to do some work on it for me. We pulled the transmission, rebuilding where necessary, although for the most part it was fine. We put on a rear sway bar and built cool GT3-style exhaust outlets, plus turbo tie rods and Smart Racing mounts. We added a Porsche Motorsports clutch and installed a limited slip. The car came with blue-centered 15" Fuchs. I decided to change them to 16" with an RSR finish. I sourced them in Florida: 7's for front 8's for the rear. The tire supplier from Sears Point Raceway provided the Toyo rubber. Now I have my hot rod Porsche. It is, of course, a matter of taste, but I think my white clone is just cool. I would highly recommend Jay and his son; they are dedicated to their craft, and I found out Jay is one of the key guys at The Racers Group. All of these connections from one simple search.

So here is where the story takes a full turn. My second outing in the "new" car was to Rennsport Reunion IV, held at Laguna Seca in October (its first being the Historics Week in Carmel). I did not get my corral parking pass early enough, finding myself in the green lot. On Friday, as I parked my car, I saw the black RS clone that started my journey. The owner was there, so I introduced myself and told him of his inspiration for my new car. After a bit of conversation, we discovered that my car was once owned by his brother-in-law! Go figure: two degrees of separation or less. It was clearly meant to be.

I am now back in Virginia and have found the Porsche guys from Richmond's "Cars and Coffee", and I am hoping to reconnect with my friends in the Potomac Region. The car has been a big hit with these guys, and I am really looking forward to getting the car to VIR or Summit Point and re-learning how to drive fast, because it is clear to me that this car requires substantially more attention to drive quickly than my other Porsches. My evolution for the time being is complete. But I did see the 991 at the Rennsport Reunion. Hmmm....

Oh, sorry about that higher intelligence crack earlier in this article. I got a little carried away with my metaphors. 

This black RS clone inspired another 911 hot rod
(photo by David Derr)

1969 912 turned 911 RS clone
 (photo by David Derr)