Story and Photos by Zach Mayne
“It’s in the spirit of the early privateer competition 911s- tough and fast,” says Alex Motola of his incredible 911 ST homage. “It was built to be a great all-rounder, and that’s how I intend to use it.” It doesn’t take much digging to find the qualities that make it such a great all rounder, either. From the 3.4-liter, air-cooled flat-6 that uses Haltech fuel injection to the unusual wheel choice and even the elegant, Alcantara-clad interior, it’s plain to see the amount of passion that was poured into the build.
Like a lot of us, Alex’s enthusiasm for 911s began when he was a high school student. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area he was exposed to an active car culture. He credits trips to the Monterey Historics, watching Speed Racer episodes and constant exposure to ‘cool’ cars as some of the influences that made him the gearhead he is. He started with a $3,200 356 as his first sportscar, and though the car only had 60-horsepower and had an uncooperative gearbox, it made him into a devout Porschephile. “It was a great car,” he says. “I went from being indifferent to Porsches to a true believer.”
The affliction hasn’t gone away over the years. In addition to the ST-styled 911 featured here, Alex also owns a ’71 911T Targa, a ’74 Euro Carrera, a ’67 short 911 racecar, a ’71 911T and a 2008 997 GT3. “The appeal to me is just about everything,” he says of Porsche’s timeless, rear engine wonder. “Porsche makes phenomenal dual purpose sports cars- most of their products are streetable and trackable.”
Alex's ST replica was built from a car that he found for sale in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives. “I actually found the car in the Santa Fe New Mexican, our local paper,” he says. “I rarely read it, and was actually pretty shocked to find an early 911 just five miles from my office.” In person, the 911 left a lot to be desired, as far as its general condition. It's factory Albert Blue paint had been covered in badly executed white paintjob at some point and perched on the rear end was a whale tail from a later-year 911. “It had discotastic, shaggy blue seat covers over the original low back seats,” he adds. On the plus side, it had some rare and valuable parts on it including a pair of 7R rear Fuchs wheels and “Deep Six” front Fuchs wheels, as well as a “Deep Six” spare, all of which are like gold to early 911 fanatics.
“I really didn’t know at first what I was going to do with the car,” admits Alex. “Once I figured out it would take me years to get it on my the road myself, I decided to outsource.” Rather than restoring the Porsche to it's original specs, he elected to build an R-Gruppe style car, an approach that borrows heavily from Porsche's own sports purpose and competition approach it used in building such legends as the 911R, RSR and ST, the latter of which had the most influence on Alex's car.
Alex delivered the 911 to the capable hands of TRE Motorsports, a well-known shop in Los Angeles owned by Dave Bouzaglou that is known for building some impressive hot-rodded Porsches. The target was a loose rendition of the ’70 and ‘71 911 STs made by the factory. In addition to numerous racing modifications, these special 911s boasted wider front and rear fender flares to accommodate wider wheels and tires. The ST did not use a rear spoiler, giving it a distinctively squat and aggressive appearance. TRE began the project by stripping the tub to bare metal. Next up was extensive rust repair, a pretty normal issue that has to be dealt with on early 911 restorations. Alex wanted to have power brakes in the 911, so an entire trunk area from a 1985 911 Carrera replaced the original one. The new trunk came with the necessary brackets for the power brake conversion. The chassis was extensively seam welded and reinforced it in multiple areas, among them the shock mounts, foot wells, skid area under the car, the inner rockers and the mounting points for the roll bar. Bouzaglou thinks the chassis is now as rigid as a 996-generation GT3 chassis.
A craftsman highly skilled in the black art of shaping metal with an English wheel was enlisted to hand form the wide ST-style fender flares. “I dislike the visible transitions between fiberglass and metal that can occur when paint ages, so we kept everything metal except the bumpers,” says Alex. The gas filler door was removed from the left front fender and the hole filled in. The gas tank is now filled through a fuel filler door located in the center of the front hood. The fender mounted battery boxes were cut out and the battery relocated to the smuggler’s box in the center of the front trunk area. An oil filler door was added to the right rear quarter panel, beneath which is the oil tank.
Front and rear ST fiberglass bumpers were installed before the car was painted in the distinctive shade of Fraise that was chosen for the car by Alex's then 7-year old daughter Kate. Originally, she wanted to Porsche to be pink. “Well, pink wasn’t exactly going to cut it,” laughs Alex. “Certainly not the “bubble gum pink” variety favored by seven year old girls.” The two managed to pick a color out of the vintage Porsche color palette that they could agree upon and which happens to be a little pink. Fraise, which is French for Strawberry, is a rarely seen color. “It’s relatively unique,” says Alex. “And although it is a shade of pink, it’s a darker, richer color. I love the early Porsche color palette and this is one of the many great colors on it."
There are also H4 headlights, European lenses and a Talbot mirror. “In New Mexico there are lots of bumps and elevation changes,” says Alex of the large skid plate that was fabricated for the front of the car. “Plus, I really like the look- it’s functional and attractive.” Handmade mesh grills inspired by the original STs are used on the front bumper and rear decklid. There are also drilled door handles as well as drilled hood and trunk hinges.
With the exterior looking far more aggressive than it did when it left Stuttgart many years ago, the visually transformed Porsche was ready for a proper powerplant. TRE rebuilt an ex-race 911 Carrera 3.2-liter flat-6 into a rip-snorting 3.4-liter. The larger displacement was arrived at with larger Mahle pistons and cylinders that produce a compression ratio of 10.5:1. Cams are 911S DC40s that were reground to work with the planned fuel injection. Twin oil coolers, one in each front fender keep the engine cool and are fed by a GT3 oil pump. The exhaust comprises 993 heat exchangers that provide heat for the interior. Aft of the heat exchangers is a custom fabricated by TRE.
A modern, electronic fuel injection setup was chosen to make the car more suitable for the frequent use that Alex had in mind. 46 mm PMO individual throttle bodies deliver fuel and air to the engine. A Haltech engine management system controls the fuel injection. Russ Kelso at Performance Motor Car Investments in Corrales, New Mexico set the car up once the car was back in the state to compensate for the higher altitude. A 915 gearbox was rebuilt with shorter first through fourth gears and a taller fifth gear. On the driver's side of the equation is a WEVO shift gate that eliminate excess play in the shift action. A lightened flywheel frees up revs and power.
The torsion bars are sized relatively conservative at 19 mm front and 26 mm rear bars, a decision made to keep the car more suitable for driving on public roads.. A 22 mm front sway bar, 911 Turbo tie rods and Bilstein sport shocks keep the front tires planted and predictable, while. a strut brace sharpens up steering response. The rear uses a 22 mm sway bar, WEVO sway bar mounts, adjustable spring plates and Bilstein sport shocks. “The chassis is so stiff that the soft torsion bars and vintage high sidewall tires give some compliance,” notes Alex. Carrera front brakes and Boxster rear brakes are a big improvement over the original brakes, particularly when combined with the addition of power assist.
One of the standout visual touches on the car are the unusual American Racing Torque Thrust D wheels. When it comes to builds like this, the more common approach is a set of OEM Fuchs alloys or maybe even some Minilite-style wheels. Alex was inspired to use the Torque Thrusts by their use on U.S. muscle cars and early competition 911s “It’s a great look with the color, where Fuchs wouldn’t really have worked,” says Alex. Naturally, the wheels are a one-off set and use American Racing centers welded to the correct width and offset outer barrels. The 8x15-inches up front and 9.5x15 rear wheels are wrapped with Michelin TB5 tires that measure 18/60x15 up front and 23/62x15 at the rear. The tire profile and wheel choice just about couldn't get any better.
When Alex generously lets us climb inside to how his creation drives, we find an interior liberally swathed in Alcantara, which adds a large dose of luxury and modernity. The suede-like stuff was used on the dash, the door panels, door tops, seat centers and even the headliner. A suede (of course) deep-dish MOMO wheel feels great to the touch hands nicely frames the tachometer, which does without a redline and simply reads to a 10,000-rpm. Other less obvious changes rabfe from LED gauges to electric window switches disguised as manual window cranks. At idle the 3.4-liter is surprisingly quiet, growling deeply but not obnoxiously through the muffler.
280 crank horsepower combined with the light weight early 911 chassis makes the 911 very quick in a straight line. The engine revs quickly and easily, producing an ever-deepening rumble, transforming into a deep wail in the midrange and finally culminating in a rip-saw shriek as the tach needle passes 4,800-rpm on its charge to over 7,000-rpm on the unmarked tach. The electronic fuel injection ensures that the engine revs smoothly and produces a flat powerband free of any flat spots you might encounter with a carbed car. The Wevo shift gate is precise and quick as we row up and down through the gears. Not only is the fore and aft shift throw shortened, but the side to side movement as well.
The ride is firm and jiggly over bumps and surface undulations, and the tires feel completely keyed into the road. Mechanical grip is tremendous around corners, the suspension displaying no body roll. The stitch welded and reinforced chassis feels very rigid, certainly for more so than any stock early 911 I’ve driven. Overall, there is really nothing to complain about in this one-off creation. The interior is a great place to spend time and the performance is on a par with far more modern Porsches. “It’s in the spirit of the early privateer competition 911s- tough and fast,” says Alex. “It was built to be a great all-rounder, and that’s how I intend to use it.”