What Does It Take to Make a 1964 Porsche 901 Roadworthy?

By Eric H. January 16, 2018

In May 2017, Porsche rolled the one-millionth 911 off of the assembly line. A few months later, a fully restored 901 (the original 911) took its' rightful place at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Porsche enthusiasts know about the progression of the 754 from the Porsche 356, onto the 911. You know about the first 911 with the rear-engine, but did you know about the 901?

82 models were produced with the type designation 901, but they were never sold to the public under that title due to a trademark dispute. The return of this rare gem to the Porsche museum began when a German television crew stumbled upon the red collection piece in an old barn. The 901 was identified as #057 after the chassis number was verified; over 50% of the body was missing or damaged beyond repair.

Porsche 901 Restoration

The restoration took dedication, patience, and special attention from the restoration crew at the Porsche training workshop. They were under no strict timeline, and attention to detail was the primary focus. It took three years to restore the 901 to roadworthy (and museum-worthy) condition. The front wings were missing and most of the body was destroyed by rust. The interior was in fragments, but by some small miracle, the chassis number was in good condition, making authentication of this original Porsche an easy task. Easier than the restoration...

The Teardown

Restoration began with a complete teardown. Next up, a chemical bath for rust and paint removal.

Parts Inventory

Crews created a parts list and the team went to work finding matches from the bodyshell of a 911 from 1965. Longitudinal beams and interior and exterior panels were installed, and supply lines were created from scratch. The front wings and front end also came from a later 911 body.

Body Makeover

Molding and welding sheet metal to exact specifications took the body engineers approximately 12 months to complete. Next, precision grinding added the glazing, bumpers, door handles, and other finishing details.

Interior Restoration

Which part of the interior would you guess as the hardest to restore?

The seat covers?

Dashboard trim?


None of the above.

It was the ashtray. The rectangular hole for a cigar had rusted away, and the design was only in existence for one year. A wooden mould was used to tap, press, and roll it into shape.

The Engine

The engine was seized. The pistons were stuck in the cylinders. Rust remover and heat combined with time and patience finally released the crankshaft. One-hundred twenty hours later, with a rebuilt crank mechanism and a brand new camshaft, the six-cylinder engine was finally restored.

The Paint Job

Modern paint and coating methods ensure that Signal Red 6407 has a superior protective finish. Authenticity was second to developing and using an environmentally friendly water-based paint.

The Details

Glass. Roof lining. Screw shapes. The general rule was to retain parts and fragments where possible, but replacements were also part of the process.

The Finish Line

In early 2017, the engine was tested and ready for installation. By Fall, the oldest 911 vehicle in the Porsche Museum took its rightful place on the museum floor. Since then, the debut has been showcased with photos in AutoWeekClassic Cars Journal, and RoadandTrack.com. Number 57 will be on display until early April, 2018.