Back to Life: Little Boy Makes it Through!

The Targa Story continued …

In the hands of its first owner – aka Mr. David Brzezinski, the man from Pennsylvania, who, back in spring of 1970 had shipped his newly acquired lemon-yellow Porsche 911 Targa S from Europe to the US – the car out of Zuffenhausen (later affectionately nicknamed Little Boy by Marie Carmen Brzezinski, spouse of Mr. Brzezinski) unexpectedly experienced a knockout – or more precisely, a pretty bad burnout.

But luckily Little Boy survived the blow. And hazardous times are since long over. Thanks to the guys from the Klassik Garage. Pressing every button and pulling out all of the stops, the team left no stone unturned to revive what was left of the Targa. And now its comeback is imminent!

To recall: it was January 2015, when the container ship carrying the sad Porsche 911 S Targa arrived from the US. Its condition did not give much hope for a speedy recovery. But there was an undeniable tension amongst our team of the Klassik Garage – a situation similar to Christmas: You already know what you’re going to get, but you still enjoy the thrill of unpacking the parcel! And for all they knew, there could’ve been a Sleeping Beauty waiting to be awakened by a kiss!

The illusion of Sleeping Beauty dissolves into rusty particles as the container is opened …

When the big box was finally opened, the illusion of a Sleeping Beauty crumbled to pieces – just like Little Boy, whose crispy shell was falling apart as streams of rust trickled from its body. Indeed, the real-feel impression, the lemon-yellow Targa made, actually equaled the bleak photos Rick – our scout in the US – had sent earlier.

It quickly became clear that this edition of the 911 was certainly not what would otherwise be considered a viable start for a successful restoration…

The Porsche 911 S Targa, aka Little Boy, had been leading a sorry existence before its restoration.

Absolute deadlock! The engine failure and decades of downtime put the Boxer out of service for good…

On the other hand, there was no point in banishing this barn find into oblivion once again. The objective was clearly defined: this boxer was to be brought back to life! For such a first-hand Targa built in 1970 was hardly ever to emerge again that fast – and Little Boy was – in the end – a stroke of luck after all.

Let’s briefly recap the fate of this Porsche, which came off the line in April 1970, with the chassis number 9110310479: For a good ten years, David Brzezinski – the first owner – maintained his boxer in the ring, achieving the 70,674 miles which we discovered on the odometer in 2015. Then – in the early eighties – a premature engine failure knocked out Little Boy.

Premature knockout in the US: Little Boy spends about 30 years in a state of hibernation

Oil leaking out from the overheated engine in the rear compartment had ignited and set the car ablaze. The fire caused severe injuries. The mortally wounded Targa – by then called Little Boy by Marie Carmen – was left to reside in the driveway. For about 20 years (!). Only to be moved to another resting point for some years to come in a remote barn somewhere in Pennsylvania – where it was then discovered as an alleged barn find.

Mit den original Alu-Felgen kommt der Porsche 911S Targa alias "Little Boy" langsam wieder auf Touren.

Authentic only with the Deep Six: The original Fuchs alloy rims run amazingly smooth – and will soon be used again…

But let’s go back to good old Germany and down to some stock taking: Viewed more relentlessly, the actual substance of the knocked-out boxer provided for – at most – a faint glimpse of hope. Without a glimmer that is.

Okay, the interior was still there, the desirable 15-inch Fuchs rims were still mounted, and the Deep Six – as they are named by insiders referring to the format of the rims – still seemed to be useable. And the Becker Grand Prix audio equipment too was still installed – a gadget which had to be ordered as an extra to the basic price of 30,000 German marks (equivalent to 10,000 dollars at the time).

The body, on the other hand, left no questions as to which parts were not gnawed on or fully destroyed by wretched rust: almost none. Floor panels, doors, fenders, side panels, seat recesses, sills, and end plates – the body was virtually devastated from top to bottom by the despicable culprit. Save for the front part and the cowl. They still made the best impression – together with the window frame and the typical Targa wing.

First impression: predominantly rusty. But at least everything was still in place.

And the impressions did not get much better with regard to the technical appliances. Although everything was still in place, the predominantly rusty impression was confirmed in many components below the sheet metal: Of course the brakes were affected and many parts of the chassis were covered with nasty spots of rust. And where, for example, the rear axle blades should have had a solid hold, there was nothing left to provide the latter.

Die Radhäuser des Porsche 911S Targa "Little Boy" vor und nach der Restauration.

Restoration as if straight from a picture book. Need evidence? Here you go: The battered wheel housings and…

All in all, Little Boy revealed a lot of bad details. And the actual engine had not been scrutinized yet – that is, what was reckoned to be the engine and which our restoration team hauled out of the Porsche’s rear: a lump of light metal. And after dismantling the first parts of the six-cylinder boxer engine, the true extent of damage the motor suffered decades ago was revealed in dramatic clarity: Apparently the connecting rod of the fourth piston had abruptly – and with considerable velocity – left its original position on the crankshaft.

An incident which explained the inevitable chain reaction the crushed cast engine part triggered as it worked its way  through the cylinder wall and on through the magnesium housing of the engine block! No wonder that the oil drops – which spilled over the sizzling manifold – subsequently ignited and provided for a small bonfire. One which coked and melted together almost all of the plastic parts…

A violent blow for the Boxer: A connecting rod suddenly abandoned its position

Was it careless lubrication or a material defect? The real reason for the connecting rod’s sudden takeoff is difficult to prove and ultimately remains speculation. But fact was, that the bad-dressed boxer needed more than a thorough remake after that inferno; a task that clearly would exceed the technical capacities of the Klassik Garage.

Die Rückseite des Porsche 911S Targa "Little Boy" vor und nach der Restauration.

… the nicely rust-gnawed rear before and after interventions in bodywork and technology.

Therefore the engine was given to a specialist company with a comprehensive machine park and a savvy understanding of such hardship cases. And thus, after complete dismantling of the technical appliances, the interior and all the body parts, that is all that was left of Little Boy, actually went straight there. As the deranged structure required a straightening jig for all the extensive and intensive restoration work, only an experienced coachbuilder with a lot of know-how and especially the necessary equipment was able to fulfill the task.

Restoration was substantial – but Little Boy kept his soul…

In the meantime, of course, all of the dismantled parts at the Klassik Garage were submitted to a live cell therapy like treatment. Of course not all parts were treated simultaneously due to time and capacity restrictions. But the supreme objective – under all circumstances – was to save as much of the original substance as possible so that the Targa would retain its soul – figuratively speaking.

In this respect, everything that was reasonably worth saving was, if possible, to be returned to its place.

With regard to glazing, for example, only the windscreen was sorted out and exchanged, many parts of the interior on the other hand, were actually reused (yes, even the good old Becker radio!).

An experienced saddler took care of refurbishing the seats in the original trim as well as other fittings. Although some of the axle parts showed a superficial layer of rust, substantial losses were avoided due to a lot of meticulous and dedicated work. The axle swords, for example, were handed over to a powder coating company, and after they were tested for their (near to perfect) concentricity, the original Fuchs wheels are soon to be presented as new.

But before Little Boy is back on his own Deep Six, there still remained a lot of painstaking preparation. Especially with regard to the thoroughly refurbished and repainted body in fresh lemon-yellow, which was due to arrive back at the Klassik Garage in autumn of 2017 – together with the front and rear hoods and the two doors.

In the months following, the restoration team put together the pieces of the puzzle that had been meticulously prepared for installation. Components such as the wiring harness are still patchwork –since with the aid of the existing pattern, a completely new strand had to be fabricated.

They never come back? Our Boxer will be back in the ring soon!

Thus, for good reasons, the wedding of parts is a bit delayed for now. The groom – in shape of the recovered boxer – is however ready: the six-cylinder engine had reported itself back again – perfectly healthy – just a few months prior to the arrival of its bride – the body. The fact that vital parts of the engine such as the pistons, bushes and parts of the camshaft had to be renewed during the heart surgery is self-evident – especially in the light of the fatal blow the engine had to cope with. Thanks to a number of overhauled original parts, the 2.2-liter engine is now able to take deep breaths again. Best example: the machine processed and finely balanced crank shaft, with its perfect rotation! As a result, almost everything is prepared for the comeback of the brave Boxer – shortly to reenter the ring…