This 911 wasn't one of the good ones. It was purchased, along with a 1966 912 donor car-and a speedboat-for $1,000
Sometimes precious things have rather inauspicious beginnings. As you admire Porsches at various events, never forget that they can represent much more than just someone "writing the check." There are often stories of great intrigue or astounding luck involved with special cars. At times, lots of hard and often miserable work is also a part of the cars we all admire.
One of the more emotional early 911 models is the 1967 911S. Because it is the first 911S, for many it remains a top target for the "Someday, I gotta have one of those" promises we often quietly make to ourselves.
But they didn't all start out as never-rusted California cars. When you see McKeel Hagerty's pretty Polo Red '67 911S Coupe at various events, realize there is much more to this car than meets the eye. Not only did it start out as a non-running rust bucket, but it was restored by him before he could even drive, with countless hours of scraping, sanding, cleaning, a few dozen hand-made metal patch panels, pop-rivets, a little Bondo here and there, and plenty of "do-overs" along the way.
This wasn't one of the good ones when Hagerty got it. It was purchased, along with a 1966 912 donor car, for all of $1,000-and the seller threw in an old, partially water-logged Century speedboat as well. These were located within a few miles from home, parked outside in Northern Michigan's brutal weather, and the deal came together after about a year's negotiation with an unmotivated seller. The engines were out of the cars, stored outside, with paper stuffed down the intakes. Both engines were locked solid. Both cars were full of rust. The delivery, completed in the darkest days of winter in January, entailed digging the motors out of piles of snow.
Lots of quality garage time with the kids
Hagerty senior had a clever system going. Each of the three kids got a nasty old car to restore, alongside their Dad's current restoration project. This allowed Dad to spend loads of quality garage time with both cars and kids. One of the girls got a Corvair Lakewood station wagon, the other a 356B Roadster. McKeel was influenced in his choice by two magazines always available around the household: Road & Track and Porsche Panorama.
The original Polo Red hue had long since phase-shifted to pink, the rear torsion bar torque tube was missing, and there was essentially no interior left. This was the classic abandoned project. The idea of a rotisserie hadn't yet found its way to Northern Michigan, so Hagerty went under the car for months to scrape away old undercoat to get the chassis ready for repairs.
As any of you who have done this know, it is not work, but rather a bizarre form of punishment, akin to a penance paid in homage to your dream that someday, perhaps the disfigured hulk will emerge again as a shiny car. And not only is it filthy, miserable work done a few inches away from a constant stream of odd bits of debris cascading everywhere-into clothes, hair, and eyes-it is also reasonably dangerous due to the potentially toxic nature of the stuff with which you are dealing.
Once the chassis was underway, the engine was pried apart. Water had entered through open valves and made a complete mess inside. The block was salvageable, as was the crank, but most everything else was written off.
Feeling that red just wasn't quite right, Hagerty chose black for the car that was to be his first. And when he got it working, imagine his feelings of accomplishment. After all, how many of us drove a Porsche to high school? And even better, a Porsche we brought back from the dead?
It was apparently great fun to use the car as a daily driver, once the various small details were tended to, such as frequently fouled spark plugs and blown valve-cover gaskets, the latter being particularly messy when on a date. Hagerty got very good at replacing them, but he soon discovered his crankcase ventilation system wasn't hooked up correctly, and solved the problem.
Heavily involved with collector cars
When Hagerty went away to college, the car became primarily a summer runner. It then slowly fell in to disuse, doing more sitting than running. As the demands of work and family grew, time for the high school love affair waned, and the car ended up in the back of the family barn, covered with dust.
As the owner of Hagerty Insurance, Hagerty is heavily involved with collector cars. The first question he's usually asked is: "So what cars do you own?" He knew the best possible answer was his 1967 911S, but he also knew it needed to be restored. He also wanted it done this time to a better-than-amateur standard. So he pulled together a group of craftsmen and supervised the various aspects of the process as a knowledgeable owner can. Along the way, much of his handiwork and Bondo sculptures were discarded in favor of more long-lasting repairs.
Today, the car is back to Polo Red and runs better than ever. In addition to renewed summer use, Hagerty recently drove it on the Colorado Grand.
You'll note the detailed restoration costs add up to a budget-busting $152,007. When asked why he spent so much, Hagerty's response was that money wasn't an issue. "How much is it worth to put a big smile on your face every time you drive a car?" he said. Although he knows every 1967 911S is a special Porsche, this one is more than a car to him. It represents a part of his adolescence he can touch, use, and enjoy.
Old cars represent the same thing to many of us. At times we can get caught up with the dollars and cents of current market trends and forget why we came here. But every once in awhile, we hear a story like McKeel Hagerty's and are reminded how powerful a magnet an old car can be.