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Australian road trip in a 50-year-old 911 S!

Peter Wielk is a member of the Porsche Club New South Wales, Australia. He took his 911 S from Sydney to Bruny Island Tasmania and back again – on a fantastic and beautiful road trip.

I had never intended to drive our 50-year-old 911 S from Sydney to Tasmania and back. However, the prevailing circumstances in June 2021 meant that was exactly what happened.

Looking back, I’m so glad we did it. The wretched virus had virtually closed down Tasmanian tourism, and there were no hire cars to be had in Tasmania, a place we had visited often and fallen in love with. As it was, we had to drive through a locked-down Victoria, only stopping for petrol, before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania ferry at Port Melbourne for Devonport.

But first, the history: I’ve owned “Snouterella” for over 30 years, bringing her over from the UK when we finally emigrated here about 18 years ago. I say finally, as I had oscillated between London and Sydney for many years before this. Then, in 2003, my wife was working far too hard in London, so a decision was made to try out the Ozzie lifestyle. Unfortunately, while we first moved to Sydney and were deciding where we should live in the long term, the car was left behind in England and sat at a friend’s place, uncovered and outside in the elements, and sadly deteriorated as a result.

Fast forward a few years, and Snouty was finally shipped to Sydney in a container. The most excellent guys at Zag Automotive Sydney completely restored her bodywork, while I set about restoring the rest – a top-end engine rebuild, total brakes overhaul, electrics overhaul, seats recovered – you get the picture. However, this is where it gets interesting, and the reason I was reluctant to take her interstate: we live in fairly compact inner-city terraced house, with a tiny garden and no rear lane access, and at that time I didn’t have a garage. Consequently, after hauling the engine and gearbox through the house, I rebuilt the engine in our back garden, to the considerable amusement of my long-suffering wife.

I have subsequently looked at 911 engine rebuilds on the internet, where the protagonists invariably wear surgical gloves, possess gleaming stainless-steel workbenches, perfect overhead lighting, and all the correct tools and gauges. In contrast, I worked on the ground, making the required gauges as I went along (especially for cam timing), usually with wrench in one hand and beer in the other. And no gloves.

Amazingly, and with only a small amount of help from Autohaus Hamilton in Sydney (a minor issue of my distributor timing being 180 degrees out!), the engine fired up perfectly and has been rock solid ever since. Having replaced the piston rings, valve guides and all seals, the compression figures were great, consistent, and the engine no longer created blue smoke on starting.

For our epic journey to Tasmania, I was (and still am) reluctant to wind the revs up too much. As you may know, these early mechanically injected 2.2-litre engines develop most of their power around 5,000 revs, and whenever I get near this, I’m always concerned I might have forgotten something, to my (and the car’s) detriment.

Having said that, the car behaved superbly, and the only issue during the entire journey was that the driver’s side windscreen washer hose came off, which unfortunately meant cleaning the screen resulted in a slightly wet leg! No real problem, as I was able to fix this at our final destination, a friend’s beach shack at Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, with a couple of cable ties.

It’s now a few thousand kilometres on from the rebuild, and my confidence is increasing. If I ever have access to a good garage, I’ll check my handiwork. However, as the car has carried us, our luggage and considerable food and drink to Bruny Island and back, I’m pretty happy – we had a fabulous holiday, and virtually everyone we came across wanted to stop for a friendly chat about the car …

Maybe a final postscript as to how we first met (myself and the car, I mean). Like many, I’d always wanted to own what I consider to be the pinnacle in automotive engineering – an early 911, but I wasn’t really in a position to make this a reality, because I’ve always had a small business in music technology, and to describe my income stream as “mercurial” would be an understatement!

However, one day in London, I bought second-hand a piece of kit for my recording studio and noticed a lovely 912 outside. It transpired that the owner was selling it for GBP 2,000, which coincidentally was exactly the amount I’d just earned from a recent job. As I then at last owned a Porsche, I became a member of Porsche Club Great Britain. One day, while reading through the classified ads at the back of the monthly magazine I saw something that caught my eye – an advert along the lines of “911 S for sale, must sell immediately as relocating to Far East for work. GBP 5,000”. On calling the listed phone number, I was greeted by a torrent of abuse from what was obviously the wrong number – the poor guy had received a lot of calls! Undeterred, I called the PCGB magazine, who apologised for listing the wrong number, and gave me the correct one. Amazingly, no other prospective purchasers had thought to do this! This meant that, within days, I was the proud owner of an all original 1971 911 S with factory fitted Recaro seats … the lovely Snouterella. This is now my “forever” car, and I only half-jokingly say that, when I die, they’ll have to dig a very large hole to put us both in – (although my wife might have other ideas) …