According to a copy of the Porsche Kardex, this early-production, short-wheelbase 911 was completed on March 24, 1966. It was delivered to Carl Steffens of Mountain View, CA, through Porsche Cars Northeast Inc. of Bedford, MA, one of seven U.S. Porsche distributors during the period. Believed to have been retained by a second California owner from 1967 onwards, this unrestored 911 was acquired by Mark Smith circa 2014.
Presented in largely as-found, unrestored condition, Mr. Smith had the mechanical systems serviced early on in his ownership but left the wonderfully patinated exterior and interior substantially untouched. Receipts on file from Another Gear Enterprising Inc. of Lynchburg, VA, dating from 2014 and 2016 detail a sympathetic recommissioning, including rebuilding the engine, cleaning the transaxle, installing a new clutch, overhauling the braking system and replacing perished rubber parts and bushings.
Retaining its matching-numbers engine per a copy of the Porsche Kardex on file, this 911 is offered with a spare, jack and partial toolkit. The sale of this survivor presents its next caretaker with a quandary: Commission a show-quality restoration or continue to preserve this piece of Porsche history?
Please note that this lot, like all vehicles in this auction, has been in long-term static storage and may not be currently operational. It will require mechanical attention prior to any road use.
|Vehicle:||1966 Porsche 911|
|Tune Up Cost:||$700 with valve adjustment|
|Chassis Number Location:||Data plate on forward bulkhead in front compartment|
|Engine Number Location:||Right side of engine case, near fan housing|
|Club Info:||Porsche Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1961–64 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint, 1961–66 Jaguar E-type, 1963–67 Chevrolet Corvette|
This car, Lot 34, sold for $112,000, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Estate of Mark Smith Auction on April 7, 2023.
Introduced in 1963 at the Frankfurt auto show, the 911 was the first “clean sheet” road car Porsche developed. The 356 created the Porsche mystique but was ready to be replaced, as the 1.6-liter pushrod 4-cylinder engine had no further development path. The target was a 2-liter flat-6 as powerful as the 356 Carrera’s rare and troublesome 2-liter, 4-cam engine, yet without its massive cost and complexity. Think about that for a moment. Ferry Porsche wanted more power at less cost with no increase in displacement.
Fresh start, timeless appeal
The double overhead cams of the Carrera engine became single overhead cams in the 911 without much loss in power. The exotic and costly bevel gear-driven 4-cam arrangement was traded for the simplicity of chain-driven cams in the 911. The challenge was to keep those cam chains tight in a cold engine yet not too snug, as the air-cooled engine expanded as it warmed.
Solex carburetors were used initially but proved troublesome in early 911s. Porsche solved this at great expense by adapting twin triple-throat Webers. Today, Solexes are a coveted rarity on 1965 and early 1966 911s, though most owners are content to keep them on the shelf and run Webers. Our subject car was among the first few hundred that came with factory Webers.
Mechanical issues aside, the design was Bauhaus at its finest — even more so than the 356. The exterior was a revolution all by itself. Butzi Porsche and his team kept the joie de vivre of the 356 intact yet produced a shape that was magnetic whether you had ever seen a Porsche or not. The design is so well developed it’s hard to find any line that might have been better drawn.
Back when first seen in the flesh, early 911s appeared as an apparition. Oddly, that is true again today as we regularly get approving stares when driving these old cars in everyday use. Perhaps this is the definition of a timeless design: one that appears exceptionally special when new yet retains that distinction as it fails to age.
For many years 1965–66 911s were left behind as we all chased the 1969–73 long-wheelbase models, many of which had Bosch mechanical fuel injection. Prices dropped dramatically for the first 911s and many were parked indefinitely.
Because early 911s sat undriven for so long, there isn’t much “muscle memory” for how these drove when new. Those who worked diligently to get the early cars running properly surprised themselves with one of the most enjoyable 911s to drive at legal speeds. Yes, the later 911S cars (1967–73) are faster, and 911E models (1969–73) develop wonderfully broad midrange torque. But spot-on 1965–66 911s have a special blend of lightness and liveliness, making them delightfully responsive in everyday use. Most people are shocked when driving a good one and aren’t ready for how quick the cars feel. As the ads said, “We win races so you can have fun driving to work.”
My college roommate had a magical, mystical, memorable Sand Beige 1966 911 when it was just a few years old. We worshipped it, but looking back, it fouled its spark plugs, was difficult to start, and didn’t rev freely or produce much power. In sum: It drove like crap. I used to think they all ran that poorly but would later discover how sweet a proper example felt.
Restore, drive or hold?
This Polo Red Porsche is a way to enter the special club of 1965–66 911 owners. Although its original engine will always add value, this isn’t a good deal if you plan to restore it. Costs will be substantial, even hoping the pans are as good as they appear in the limited photos. If you want to get this one running and are willing to accept it looking “kinda rough,” then this was fair to both buyer and seller. No doubt putting it back on the road would be a special thrill.
On the other hand, if you want to skip all the hassle of a restoration, here’s a freshly restored example on offer by a dealer: “1966 911, sunroof, Metallic Silver, fully rebuilt to a high standard, matching numbers, runs well, in great condition; asking $149k.”
Or you could just keep it. Barn finds are unusual and highly valued across many different marques and markets. Just stash it away somewhere. Immobile cars can bring big money. For now, values are rising.
For me, no way — I’d have to make it a driver. I would wonder if we could uncover that magic blend of lightness and mid-range punch which makes an early 911 such a delight. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)