Home » Watch This ’80s 911 Go From Pink And Pretty To Rally-Ready Racer

Watch This ’80s 911 Go From Pink And Pretty To Rally-Ready Racer

Project Porsche Rally Ts
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Motorsport is integral to the Porsche brand, which has been winning races since the Targa Fiorio in 1956. The idea that you can buy a Porsche at the dealer, drive to the track, and compete at a high level is a key part of the Porsche mystique. While many are familiar with the brand’s storied history on track, Porsche’s racing exploits don’t stop where the pavement ends. They’ve torn up dirt, sand, and snow at famous rallies all over the world. The 959, Porsche’s 80’s super car, had the model name “Gruppe B” and was their first vehicle with all-wheel drive. The 959 would eventually win 1st and 2nd at the Paris-Dakar rally.

These days, Porsche doesn’t seem to be touting their rallying history as much, and it’s easy to see why. Modern Porsches are expensive, low slung missiles that can warp time and space. Older Porsches on the other hand have skyrocketed in value. It’s gotten to the point where few can purchase one, and those that do are wary about sliding their “investment” around in the dirt or snow.

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Thankfully, we have people like my friend Paul Eddleston, who not only built up his vintage 911 for rally racing, he documented the entire process and all the muddy, slidey fun that resulted on DIYauto.com. Paul is a great guy, a distributor for Braid wheels in the US and the founder of the Detroit SCCA RallyCross. He also founded and runs Quattro Squad, a team that teaches the youths about wrenching and racing, something we can all get behind.

Steve I started DIYauto.com to collect, organize, and preserve important DIY automobile project stories and build threads. I’m grateful to Paul for sharing his story with DIYauto so I can share it with you today. If you’ve written DIY or build threads, I encourage you to share them with DIYauto. Your project will be in good company! And now, back to the build …

The Beginning

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The Beginning

Paul started off with a 1984 911 Carrera with just under 100k miles. It was supposedly mechanically sound with a few cosmetic blemishes, no problem for a future rally car. The plan was to prep it enough to run in an event a few weeks away in the “Prepared Class”. Strangely enough, adding an AC compressor is necessary to fit in the rules of that class. Here is Paul explaining the plan:

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The plan is to campaign the car in Detroit SCCA Rallycross program while slowly developing it into a dirt monster. The Detroit program runs year-round so this car is going to see plenty of snow and ice as well as dirt. To help with development we’ll also throw the car at some local autocrosses and track days but the main focus is RallyCross. We have been competing with our Subaru Ouback since the program began some six years ago so it’s time for a new challenge.

Here’s the old Subaru the 911 is replacing, it should be quite the upgrade!

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Outback with the old, in with the new!

Three miles into the test drive after delivery, there was a loud bang and the suspension collapsed – not the most auspicious start for a rally car. Would this old Porsche be able to hang with the competition come race time? Onto the lift it went.

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Not the stance you want

The problem turned out to be a broken torsion bar. Paul bought a set of used torsion bars and lifted the rear about 3 inches. The front spoiler was pulled before it had the chance to be torn off on a snowbank. He also got these the beautiful wheels below in the mail along with some spacers. Working for Braid has its benefits.

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Proper Wheels

Proper Yokohama A034 snow rally tires were installed just in time for the first race, and the Porsche was given an additional boost in ride height to make it rally-ready.

The First Races

How did a basically bone stock, 30+ year old 911 with some new wheels and tires do in its first rally? Here’s Paul:

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So the car performed flawlessly. Better than that it won it’s class! Proof of concept-check.

The weather really was appalling, cold and wet. The two things I left England because of. I think it worked in our favor though as some of the other rear wheel drive cars couldn’t even get off the line without a push. The rear engine in our 911 was just the ticket though the steering was a bit light in some of the soupy bits. Speaking of which I didn’t notice any of the understeer people had warned me about. Once moving the car would only really over steer, throtle on and throttle off. Kind of fun. As always in these conditions slow is fast so I just took my time, especially as I had no idea what the car was going to do as I’ve only really driven it up a down a main road a few times. Got my first ever cone-free event too. This car is going to be great.

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How many Porsche owners would let their car get this dirty?

It’s quite cool to see a “vintage” 911 tearing it up in the dirt. The fact that it won its class basically bone stock shows how capable this platform is. With the shakedown run completed, Paul made some small improvements before the next race, adding longer wheel studs and spacers, and fixing the broken windshield-washer bottle (a critical part when driving in the muck). He rolled the Carrera onto a set of scales, which showed 2745 pounds in race trim with a 38.5% front/61.5 % rear weight distribution. The rear bias helps with putting power down, but you have to watch out for snap oversteer, which became an issue in the next race.

This car is proving to be an ideal weapon in the world of SCCA RallyCross as yesterday, driven by guest driver Scott Harvey and owner Paul Eddleston it achieved first and second place in the Detroit Region Season Opener held in Crystal, Michigan.

Conditions were frigid for the morning session and competitors were presented with a frozen solid dirt surface with litlle snow coverage, even the portions of course inside the dirt ovel track. The Carrera, on it’s Winterforce tires once again had an advantage in traction over the other Prepared RWD who’s engines were all in the “wrong” place for such conditions. The course started out wide and open and gave some wonderful arse-out drifting opportunities but one had to reign it in for the last third as it got much tighter and slippier as it entered and traversed the oval to the finish, albeit by a circuitous route.

The afternoon session was a different story. The course was run backwards and with temperatures climbing into the 30s a sloppy goop had formed on top of frozen dirt, churned up by the AWD classes before us. Still, once we picked our way carefully through the oval track section we could open up the car, with a little care than we both used, to set some really quick times. One or two of our runs came to grief however as we both had instances of instananeuos oversteer in some of the faster sections, resulting in a few spins and multiple cone penalties between us. Still, the other competitors suffered similar fates and we came out on top again.

It was good to finally drive the car fast on the loose and I was amazed how competant it is. It just bites you in the bum surprisingly quickly if you overstep with no way of rescuing it. Lot to learn with this one. The car ran flawlessly agaiin despite the beating. Only issue was a burnt out blower motor for outside air but as the outside air was freezing we didn’t miss it much. Might do next time. Easy fix?

The 911 posted the fastest time at that RallyCross, but Paul wasn’t going to rest on his laurels. The next mods were skid plates and underbody protection, a new oil cooler system, and a harness bar installed by Thompson Racing Fabrication. Skid plates are pretty common modifications for pickup trucks and Jeeps, no so much for Porsches.

Skid Plate
Skid Plate
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Harness Bar
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Oil Cooler Protection

Paul installed a Momo wheel along with racing seats and harnesses so his butt (or arse as he’d say) isn’t sliding around as much as the car. He raced in the Detroit Rallycross and came in first again, beating a few 944s. Here’s an action shot:

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Kicking up dirt
Kicking up dirt

Paul continued winning races and fixing the broken heating system, clock, and speedometer. He got his hands on a “whale tail” spoiler which looks perfect on this body style. Paul also deleted the stock muffler with a Fabspeed pipe, saving 21 pounds and allowing the flat six to really sing. To keep his slushy shoes from sliding around, pedal covers were added, dressing up the interior.

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My Kind of Whale Tail
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No muffler, no problem.

A New Look

The Porsche was proving to be a capable race car, but needed to look the part. Paul took the car to Ice Nine Group to take care of business. He wanted to replicate the Rothmans livery of the SC/RS with some tweaks to advertise his wheel business. Rothmans was a cigarette business that sponsored several legendary racing Porsches, including a 956 that one 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place at Le Mans. The modified photo below is a 1984 911 SC RS that competed in the European Rally Championship.

Rothmans
Modified Rothmans Livery

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Paul did more maintenance to prep for the next race, fixing that speedometer, a dying alternator, and re-adjusting the suspension height. He also replaced the battery with a much lighter PC680, saving 30 pounds. It’s looking pretty sharp!

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A binnacle for the all important rally lights was installed in the hood. That’s a proper view out of the windshield.

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Seeing the Light

Paul had a busy week with the Porsche, its first auto cross, first track day, and first RallyCross on non slippery dirt! The car won first and second place at the Detroit RallyCross! Here’s Paul:

As usual I shared the car with Scott Harvey Jr. based on the adage “If you can’t beat them at least let them beat you in your car”. Scott’s dad was a national level professional driver back in the day. My dad was a carpenter so all things considered I think I doo pretty well just to keep up. After 4 frantic runs in the morning and four more controlled efforts in the afternoon we finished just 5 seconds apart with Scott and his genes in first place and me in seconds. Five seconds is just two and half of the four cone penalties I accrued during my runs. Just have to be more precise with the car I guess.

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Getting Dirty

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The Carrera popped out of second gear a few times during the rallycross, so they investigated the transmission mounts but found new Club Sport mounts already installed. Paul installed new shifter bushings and ordered some stainless steel brake lines for good measure.

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The car developed a high idle condition so they cleaned the idle air control valve and repaired a broken vacuum hose which fixed the problem in time for the Porsche Parade. Paul was an instructor at the Street Survival course and ran in the autocross where they won second place. The final event was the high-performance diving education event at Grattan Raceway. The car ran great on this challenging course. Feedback from the instructor was that the car leans too much during corners, which might explain this:

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After the Porsche Parade they wrapped up the livery. It’s really looking like a proper racing car now! Paul also worked on a weeping oil cooler line, which necessitated removing the cooler and installing new mounts.

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It a Wrap!

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The Carrera looks particularly good getting sideways across the dirt.

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Unfortunately Paul found a large puddle of oil on his trailer after the race coming from the main seal, so it was time to pull the engine.

Heart Surgery

Paul pulled the engine and transmission, finding a bad crank seal as the source of the leak. While the engine was out, he replaced the crankcase breather, oil cooler, and crankshaft seals.

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Heart Surgery

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Paul replaced the clutch disk, distributor cap, rotor arm, and plugs, then adjusted the valves. With the engine maintenance done, it was time to put this Porsche’s heart back in place. He also installed new Bilstein shocks while the car was on the hoist.

I drove it to soccer last night and then home. Car is a lot quieter from the valves now and smoother too. Can’t say if it’s any quicker. New Bilsteins feel more connected to the road. Did have a slight oil leak from the oil tank area last night. Will check that out today.

Very happy and will not hesitate to drop this again.

Racing Again

After fixing the leak, Paul’s 911 was back to winning 1st and 2nd place at local rallycross events. Along the way, the car reached an important milestone and turned over 100,000 miles while it was on the track.

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A nighttime race was looming, which gave Paul an excuse to add a set of Hella 2000s to the light pod.

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It even got a feature on Winding Road’s YouTube Channel. Sounds pretty great!

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Losing Weight

Paul got the 911 certified for the Prepared RWD class, which gave him freedom to strip some weight out of the car. First on the docket were the heavy bumper over-riders, saving 17 lbs. Stripping out some interior bits saved an additional 25 lbs.

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He pulled an additional 30 pounds worth of insulation and carpet, leaving a mess of glue – nothing an angle grinder with a wire brush attachment and powerful chemicals can’t fix.

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After some minor rust repair and a few coats of Rustoleum, it looked much better.

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So fresh and so clean!

The new weight was 2632, saving 70 lbs from the previous weight of 2705. One year after purchasing the car Paul reflects on his progress:

Twelve months ago to the day we took delivery of this fine 84 Carrera with a view to turning into a Rothmans 911 SC/RS tribute and to RallyCross the wheels off it.

We still intend developing it further as a RallyCross monster but as far as the initial goals of the project go, we have reached them. The car has been a joy to both drive and work on and there has been some work to do. You may remember the torsion bar breaking after just a couple of miles of ownership. Then the alternator failed and there was that oil leak necessitating the removal of the engine. But the highs have more than made up for the lows and, to be honest, fixing these issues was part of the fun.

Just a week after replacing the torsion bars the car scored its first RallyCross victory in essentially stock form. It went on the win every RallyCross it ran in and the Detroit SCCA RallyCross Championship. A co-driver took it to second place in almost as many events and the championship as well. What a car! It’s also showed its prowess in ice racing and autocross and has proven no end of fun on two or three track days as well. Last week it completed its first TSD rally without missing a beat.

Rally America

Paul took the 911 to the subzero temperatures of Lewiston Michigan for Round 1 of the Rally America series. The 911 made a huge splash, even surrounded by much pricier machinery. He was a volunteer for the event and didn’t get to race, but his friend Paul did and had this to report:

Kerry & I had some Real Wheel Drive fun of our own at S-D. Worked out a deal with Paul Eddleston to use his ’84 Porsche 911 for the weekend to get him some BRAID exposure throughout the weekend both on and off the stages. Expected to be running as 000, but was assigned Green Light instead.

I imagine that the 911, in the old Dakar-Rothmanns colors, was one of the most photographed cars in Northern MI over the weekend. EVERYWHERE we went, people were stopping to take pictures of the car. Kerry & I felt like celebrities being followed by the paparazzi.

Paul continued stripping weight out of the car and making little upgrades here and there, all while winning races in the dirt, snow, and tarmac. Here he upgrades the pedal plates and replaces worn tie rods with one from a 911 Turbo.

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Unfortunately, during a test run the car stopped shifting into first and 5th, which necessitated pulling the engine and gearbox. He ordered new synchro rings, dog teeth, and other parts to get this thing shifting properly.

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With the new parts pressed in, it was time to start putting it back together with new fluid and a new clutch.

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With the transmission fixed, the 911 was driving great. It raced in another rally and took second and fifth place. The next modification was a battery relocation kit, moving it from behind the front headlight to the old A/C blower location in the trunk. This helped with weight distribution and access when the car needs a jump start. A roll cage was also ordered which will allow the Porsche to run in more races, including the Empire Hill Climb. It took some finagling but Paul eventually got it installed.

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To complete the race-car look, the stock door cards were removed and replaced with a set from Rennline.

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Show and Go

The Porsche’s popularity has Paul contemplating a new role for his 911:

Spring is finally here and it appears our little 911 has decided what it’s new role in life will be: as a show car!. I know, I know, they should be driven and it’s a race car but to be honest sales are keeping us busy and it is over 30 years old now. Perhaps retirement is appropriate. Having said that we do have two defenses to mount: one, it keeps getting invited to shows and two, we have entered the next Detroit Region RallyCross so it’s not all show and no go.

So what prompted this you may ask? Well we did rather enjoy showing the car off at last year’s Northern Worthersee show in Frankenmuth, you may recall it won best Porsche or something. And the UR quattro of our friend Tim Maskus also won Best Of Show so these cars are very popular and get a lot of exposure.

The car is also very popular at local car and coffee gatherings as you can imagine. Which may have contributed it being invited to this year’s Eyes On Design show. which is a HUGE honor. So then we thought it would be good exposure to once again attend the Motorstadt show in June but this time as a vendor, again with the car of course. This one is a similar crowd as Wurthersee and they have always appreciated the older German stuff.

But then we also got invited to The Concours d’Elegance of America along with a bunch of other rally oriented cars. It can’t get any better.

However, despite all this attention we are not detailing the car. It’s still a race car after all.

Paul ended up winning the Designer’s Choice award at Eyes on Design which is a huge honor, as it’s one of the most prestigious car shows in the Detroit Area. It also sat among some impressive cars at the Concours d’Elegance.

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Despite the car’s new role as a show-car, gracing the manicured lawns at some of the most prestigious car shows in the country, Paul’s Porsche continued racing at several events including the Empire Hill Climb and the Lake Superior Performance Rally where it was in good company.

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Photo Credit: Mario Sanchez
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Photo Credit: Mario Sanchez
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Photo Credit: Alaina Kerstin

I love builds like this. Not many of us have the time, resources, or skills to race a legendary car like the 911. Through Paul’s build we see Porsche’s racing pedigree in action, beating much newer and technologically advanced cars in its first race with just a wheel and tire swap. We also get to experience all the highs and lows of racing, winning trophies and fixing things when they break (and there’s a lot more from Paul’s build that I couldn’t fit in this article, take a look). I’m thankful to Paul for sharing his story with us and being a great car guy. If you are in the Michigan area you may see his 911 at the local car shows, or winning races on the pavement, mud, or snow – just as Porsche intended.

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Lardo
Lardo
3 months ago

Nice article. But 911 Dakar is the hottest model. Have you heard of Kelly Moss? This is written in a vacuum. Might have given some back ground. Or should I?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

The shot of the muddy exhaust
It turned over 100k miles during a race
’…despite all this attention we are not detailing this car.’

it doesn’t get much better than this

Last edited 3 months ago by TOSSABL
Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
3 months ago

UGGH. He couldn’t have started with an already-boring-colored white, black, or gray car? Had to do this to an uber-rare pink car?!?

Last edited 3 months ago by Widgetsltd
CuppaJoe
CuppaJoe
3 months ago

This is the best Autopian article ever.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
3 months ago

I’ve been following this build since it was first posted on the Xceedspeed forum when he first bought it, Paul’s got an impressive stable of cars, and even his tow rig gets lots of love, I’ve seen him running around a few times and hope you guys do a post on his UrQuattro build sometime too.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

Do I love that he’s out there pounding on vintage iron? Yes.
Do I wish he had started with a slightly crappier version? Also, yes.

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