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Porsche restores dilapidated 901 from 1964

It is now the oldest 911 model in the Porsche Museum

This is the corroded badge on the Porsche 901 Number 57 barn find. PHOTO FROM PORSCHE

You may not know this unless you’re a hardcore Porsche fan, but the brand’s iconic sports car was actually meant to be named “901,” not “911.” Only a trademark dispute prevented the German carmaker from proceeding with its planned nomenclature back in the 1960s. Legend has it that it was French auto company Peugeot that challenged the 901 name, as its model designations also consisted of three digits with the number ‘0’ in the middle.

Prior to this legal conflict, several dozen 901 cars had already been produced, before Porsche officially changed the car’s name to 911. This makes any unit belonging to the 901 batch extremely valuable and sacred to enthusiasts. Alas, the cars were so rare that the Porsche Museum itself couldn’t find one.

Until August 2014, that is, when the museum’s manager of Classic Car Collection, Alexander Klein, received a telephone tip from a TV station about a really old Porsche sitting on a farm, with chassis number 300057. This turned out to be Number 57 in the short-lived 901 series, manufactured in 1964.

The car was in a state of utter disrepair, with many parts completely gutted. But since it was certified to be the real thing, Porsche had no choice but to offer €107,000 for it. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be €109,000 this year (or P6,485,000).

Here’s what Porsche got for that money.

The chassis number that confirmed the value of this decrepit treasure. PHOTOS FROM PORSCHE

According to Kuno Werner, head of the museum workshop: “Many of the features only included in the very first models have been preserved in the car.” That included the leather sleeve wrapped around the shift lever.

The inventory 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 the 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.

And so the restoration work began, with every component having to be taken apart. Unfortunately, no photos of the early stages of the process have been provided, only those taken at a much advanced juncture in the rebuild.

Nothing was spared in this project. Number 57 is that special. PHOTOS FROM PORSCHE

The bodyshell alone reportedly took a full year to be restored, with a 1965 911 even serving as a donor vehicle. The six-cylinder engine also required painstaking effort to reconstruct, taking a total of 120 working hours to be finished. The body color, identified as Signal Red 6407, had to be modified to include environment-friendly water-based paints. Of course, the interior also proved very challenging to replicate.

In the end, the resulting product is worth all the labor and all the resources.

How much would you be willing to pay for this restored classic? PHOTOS FROM PORSCHE

The Porsche 901 Number 57 is now faithfully back to its former glory. And collectors and fans alike may check it out in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Want to see snippets of the restoration? Watch this video.

Finally, Number 57 is alive and well

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 26 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.