paul celentano

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00007 tail and driver's side
“He who hesitates is lost” the old proverb goes….and if you’ve played in this car game long enough, like I have, you should have learned how true that old saying is by now. 

Sometimes, though, it takes getting smacked in the head to remind yourself to go with your gut, do not pass go, do not collect $250 and just “buy” that little space that luck and fate landed you on.   So was the case with Chassis number 000007, possibly the oldest known 924 Turbo that I stumbled upon by accident in search of a parts car for the restoration of chassis #99. If you are looking for a happy ending here…stop reading now; otherwise, settle back and join in the frustration.
It all began with a call from my restorer, an extremely talented fellow that reluctantly gave in to my “stalking” and pleading to undertake the body and cosmetic restoration of chassis number #99.  

“I think we should pick up a parts car for some of the sheet metal pieces we need,” he said.

“and I found this ’80 turbo that I think would be a good candidate…here’s the link and let me know what you think.” 

I am always hesitant about buying a parts car for no reason other than findng 1001 reasons why the car is too good to part out and feel bad about chopping it up.  That’s what happened with the “first” parts car I bought which sits happily in storage now knowing it will not see the blade of a  saws-all.

"...this car can’t be a US spec ’80 and if it is, it must be a dog gone early car."

The Craigslist ad opens like most other 924 turbo ads — a defunct, kaput, sad looking hulk of a car.  This one, for example, had been picked clean of its engine, front suspension and front sheet metal.  Its once brilliant Alpine Weiss paint splotched with bumps, bruises and primer.  Like chassis number 99, the once ambitious owner had big plans of squeezing a small block Chevy between the strut towers. Perusing the photos…something jumps out at me…an outside gas filler; this car can’t be a US spec ’80 and if it is, it must be a dog gone early car.  So I ask my restorer to get the chassis number from the seller.

What comes back comes back is 9249500007. 
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00007 nose
Hmmm?  Checking the books (Barth’s The Porsche Book) reveals a US spec 1979 924 turbo and not a 1980.  Interestingly, Herr Barth’s book makes no indication of exactly how many were built.  But, in a recent discussion I started on the 924 board regarding the oldest 924 turbo, the word is that 9 were built. Knowing that the official US introduction of the 924 Turbo was October of 1979 and that these cars were tagged as model year 1980,  my Porsche radar started beeping rapidly…Houston, I mean Stuttgart, we may have something here.

“You want to save it?” I said to my restorer.

”I don’t know…you need the sheet metal for your car” he replied. 

“Yeah, but this is a very, very early car…even earlier than mine…maybe we should dig deeper into this.”  

“It’s a three hour drive…one way…and it has no front suspension” he retorts.  

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My '79, chassis #00099, stripped in my yard before going off to the restorer.
We both need another car like a hole in the head. I am wallet deep into the restoration of #99 so the last thing I need is another project; but like a moth to a flame, we are both drawn in.  

“Let me reach out to Porsche Classic and see if they have any info on it before we just write it off.” I tell him. 

As fate would have it, my contact in Stuttgart was on vacation for three weeks. My restorer and I spend that time waffling back and forth on the car.

“what do you think…no, what do you think???”

“I don’t want it but YOU should save it....you can take the engine from the ‘80 I have.” Back and forth we go.
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#00099 loaded up and heading off for a complete makeover.
Then, nearly three weeks to the day, my contact at the factory gets back to me…Chassis numbers 9249500001-09 was built for “factory use.” Number 00007 was built in Alpine Weiss with a brown Fishbone interior and an invoice date of September 1978 — September 1978!  This is a year before the first official US cars were delivered and clearly shows that the factory developed the European and US spec turbos side by side. What exactly that “factory use” was is not clear, what was ,though, was that this preproduction car ought to be saved.  But the Porsche-gods wouldn’t have it. 

A call to the owner brings the sad news; he scrapped the car just two weeks ago.  My restorer dropped the news to him that he had scrapped what was probably the oldest known 924 turbo (not counting the first Barth Rally test cars) and he gladly passes along the telephone number of the scrap yard.  Earlier excitement then transcends into a frantic call to the scrap yard.  A polite lady tells my restorer that yes indeed they did have the car but “you’ll have to call back in the morning to see where it is.”

Back and forth emails and calls between the restorer and myself lead to a night feeling like a kid waiting for Santa to arrive…nervous anxiety.  Will Santa bring the Aurora Jacky Stewart AFX set or not?  Is it morning yet?
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And here's how #00099, my "Carrera GT prototype," looked in the Craigslist ad.
Morning arrives and we are now like Henry Hill and Jimmy Conway awaiting the news that our friend was about to be “made.” Then the call comes in, “its been crushed!” My brain flashes to Goodfellas again…“we did everything we could…he’s gone...that’s that…and there was nuttin’ we could do.” Real “grease monkey” shit!   I sort of loosely translate that line to my mid-western restorer friend who it is a little lost on and who I now envision smashing the handset of his phone crying.  While he wasn’t smashing his handset he is almost crying.   The oldest know 924 turbo, one that was used by the factory and somehow wound up in the middle of America had just slipped through our hands and we had no one to blame but ourselves. While this isn’t a happily after ever story it does end by proving the old proverb right once again.  Now who the hell said that? I want to smack them in the head with a WUR! (warm up regulator for all you non CIS types).


Paul Celentano
 


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