After a couple of months of indecision, Al Blanchard at A&P Specialties here in Portland has decided on a path forward for our 1975 Porsche 911S Sportomatic.

We’ve known from the start that its 2.7-liter engine had some broken studs. However, the compression was excellent and we were advised to just drive it as is. We added a high-capacity oil cooler for extra insurance.

During a 400-mile round-trip to Bend, OR, the Sportomatic trans began acting up. It eventually locked in top gear.

As Al was going to drop the drivetrain to fix that, we were deciding whether to have helicoils put into the block along with new studs. Could we avoid splitting the case and a $25k rebuild?

After consulting with some race shops that have experience with this, the consensus was “no.”

“This is already a 50-year-old car and what you are doing is a patch job,” said one machine shop. “Just fix the Sporto, drive it like it is and decide sometime down the road if you want to rebuild your engine.”

So, that’s the path we’ve chosen.

Unless I fall in love with a car, I don’t tend to keep it very long. I know that when I go to sell the car, the broken studs will be a value knock. On the other hand, this is a 47k-mile car that has no rust and has never been hit, which has its own appeal. With old cars there is never a guaranteed right decision.

At the moment, I’m not prepared to spend an additional $25k on a car I haven’t driven enough to know how much I enjoy it.

What would you do in this situation?


  1. Almost all car collectors slide from being young and cash-strapped to being older and a little more flush. This is good, in that you don’t get stuck waiting to figure out how to pay for an expensive repair, but sometimes it leads to a situation where your attention is divided. A 25 or 30 year old would probably not be in the position of wondering how much he liked a car that cost this much. He’d either be all in or he’d be priced out. But here is the mixed blessing of middle age. Without trying, without really noticing, you go from having one fun car to having a handful- and one of them is going to be needy and yet still unfamiliar. If you’re not careful, you wind up buying and selling a car without ever really getting to know it- or in my stupid case, buying one project and then buying another before the first one really gets started. As the great philosopher Bud Fox asked Gordon Gecko, “How many boats can you ski behind at one time?”

    Plenty of questions, but no helpful answers from here.

  2. What would I do in this situation? The best answer after reading your columns about this car for a while, is to avoid the situation entirely. This Porsche has been a real case study in why I tend to stay away from old cars. Much like needy women adrift, they have a certain initial charm, that usually leads to nothing more than a lot of heartache and lost funds. Undoubtedly, it’s a tired analogy, but oh so true too.

  3. Just drive it! If/when it does break down, then make a financial decision whether or not it is worth repairing and to what extent. Otherwise just perform normal, routine maintenance to ensure it is safe to drive.

  4. Keith,
    SCM is my “go-to” for enjoyable reading and thoughtful insights concerning our cars. Well done!
    My thoughts on rebuilding the Porsche (since you asked!):
    1) The professional opinion is “no.” Why solicit these opinions if you’re not going to follow them?
    2) What does the car tell you?
    3) If you have a spare $25k laying around, how about a loan to finish my Duetto?
    Good luck on balancing the logical and irrational!
    And be well.
    James Romeo, AROC Phoenix and San Diego

  5. We were in love with our 1976 911S with manual five speed. Bought it when I was 26 and as Bob said, I was all in. But over 15 years of ownership it proved to be a very unreliable and maintenance intensive relationship. Here are just a few of our experiences:
    Full repaint required because the original black paint was lifting all over the body. Upon stripping the whole car, there was no prior damage and no evidence of prior paint or body work. Just as it came from the factory. We thought it was due to the fairly new practice of how to paint the fully galvanized body and the paint just did not stick. Hmm.
    The air conditioning never worked very well despite various upgrades.
    The CIS air box blew up twice. First time I glued it back together and it ran well for another ten ears, second time I invested in a new airbox and installed a pop off valve that all of these cars should have.
    It always leaked oil. Then it started to burn oil. Out came the drive train for a full rebuild, but because it was low miles, we did not replace the pistons and cylinders. This vintage of 911 had the less expensive alusil cylinders, which did not take well to a new set of rings. After the whole thing was put together, it all came apart again for a new nickasil piston and cylinder set.
    The engine case was sent to the best machine shop in California for line boring and installation of timeserts and shuffle pins. The rebuild used those special head bolts with better thermal expansion properties. Ran quite well after the second rebuild but still leaked oil.
    Oh, and the transmission always crunched on second gear. Still did after rebuild with new syncros.
    The final blow was not being able to turn off the heat on a hot summer day. That was easily fixed but why did it have to be fixed?
    I could go on.
    So, I think you are doing the right thing. And if you like it after a while, buy a 993. I did and it’s a joy.

  6. I’d do what you were advised to do. Fix the transmission, drive it, and if you like it, continue to drive it. It may go for a long time with a few broken head studs- or it may grenade. If you’re chary of keeping it and driving it, fix the transmission and put it up on BaT and move on to the next car.

  7. We have known for decades the weakness of the 2.7 magnesium case engines,I have owned many 911’s starting in 69 thru my last 993 my pick for lower price is the 911SC -bullet proof aluminum cace 3.0

  8. Sell it and get a ’95 – ’98 993 Tiptronic. It’s the only older I wished I had never let go.

  9. It’s not as if you’re stressing the engine a lot, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  10. I always enjoy your articles and thoughtful commentary Keith. Thanks for all you do and have done for the hobby!

  11. Good for you! Keeping on the road and driving them is the way to go. Last oddball Brit car I had was a 1986 TVR 280i. Hand laid Fiberglas body, ladder frame like a Lotus, Jag independent rear end with inboard brakes, German Ford mechanical fuel injection V6. Drove it many miles and kept it on the road with bailing wire and duct tape.

    Conversely, there is the really sad $300K Jag E-type advertised here. 2010 full restoration and driven 400 miles since them, hauled to concourse in enclosed trailer. Pathetic! Car like that should be driven — thousands of miles a year. Sitting like that, seal are dried out, things you can’t see have rusted and good luck putting it back on the road where it belongs.

    I went through two E-Types back when I could afford them. Both later Series II with open headlights. Did all the work myself, up to cylinder head rebuild on one, and put many miles on them. Great road cars meant to be driven, not housed in air conditioned splendor for the few high rollers to bid on.

  12. Dave Hedderly-Smith

    Put off the engine for now. Dropping it later will be an easy task compared to the rebuild. I’ve done both.

  13. Hi Keith- I’ve been a long time subscriber and am familiar with your situation. I have fixed up over 40 old and not so old Porsches. Along the way I also did two ’46 Ford Woodies, a wagon and a Sportsman.
    I enjoyed my 356 Speedsters, Roadsters, Cabs., short wheelbase 911s (including a much loved Sporto) G-series cars (you can see them on You Tube…”Carrera Ranch Porsche” with my friend Nathan Merz doing the talking…almost 300,000 views) 964s and 993s etc.

    After injuring my back and spending only a few days in a wheel chair I came to the conclusion I was not immortal when it came to enjoying old cars. And…frankly I was getting tired of how long it was taking me to get mechanic work done plus the expense. At least on a newer car while riding the depreciation wave down you still get to drive it!

    My 2 cents is fix the Sporto trans.
    Save your $25,000 and when you find a 993 Tip (I enjoyed mine) sell the “75 combine the funds enjoy your air cooled Porsche, 30 years old so you can have classic insurance.

    Of course for about the same money you could buy a 997 PDK that everything works well on and lots of shops can work on it when needed.

    I’m looking forward to reading where your journey takes you.

  14. Fix the trans and…SHIP IT!!

    This thing is more grief than it is worth. Cut your losses while you can.

    “Never love anything that can’t love you back”

  15. Depending on how much you paid it(I missed the history)
    The first? paint and rust free is a plus
    The 2.7 us 165 Hp and sporto probably the worst set up you can have in the 911 line up

    -fix the sporto and Drive it as much as possible
    -Don’t drive it and just watch the classic iconic line and the 911 prices creeping up yearly
    -Convert to ev
    -Install manual clutch
    Install a tweaked vw engine and trans
    – sell it to a European who thinks he has good advice

    Kurt Belgium
    78 sc targa ex USA
    87 swiss coupe
    Honda s800 coupe