History Matters. But So Does Proof! – 1971 911T Targa
Sometimes, dealing with collector cars is like archeology: You have to work with what is left.
This inquiry began with a plea on an enthusiast message board: “Why doesn’t anyone care about the finest Porsche my Uncle Leopold Schmidt built?” Nearly everyone in the car hobby loves a good mystery and this one struck the right notes. Who was this guy and what was this car?
According to the writer who signed his name Lasz, “Ferdinand told him not to tell anyone how much Faster/Lighter/Less rear end washout this car has because it is better than the upcoming RSR 2.7 models.” He continued: “I need some help!!! There must be someone that can confirm my claims at least on an Automotive Engineering and/or Physics level. Math does not Lie!!!”
The question got just three replies. One respondent asked for the VIN number. Twice. The other suggested “Lasz” contact www.pca.org or visit other Porsche forums. It appeared that Lasz had claims but no evidence. And nearly everybody in the car hobby knows in the case of rare and significant cars, you are buying documentation and the VIN. In the bargain you also get a car. But who was Uncle Leopold?
To those who have driven very early Porsche Gmünd and Pre-A 356 cars and then have driven B- and C-series models, Leopold Schmid’s name (without the final “t”) should ring a bell in their mind every time they shift gears. Schmid, who was Ferry Porsche’s chassis, engine, and transmission manager in those days, invented the synchronizer system for Porsche gearboxes. There were patents for those things. Then what was this special car he did?
That was Laszlo Schmidt’s dilemma: while he had a VIN – though he didn’t release it back then – he only had a legend. There is no documentation. There is a car, a 1971 911 T Targa, assembled for the home market with appropriate metric instrumentation. As with all 1970 and 1971 911T models, the standard 2195cc flat six came with twin Weber model 40 IDT 3C carburetors. According to Lasz, this car was his uncle’s “company car,” on which he made numerous improvements including installing a 2,341cc engine while retaining the Webers. Laszlo obtained a COA (Certificate of Authenticity) through P.C.N.A. stating Porsche delivered the car in Signal Orange (1410) and Black Leatherette interior (12) with optional “Light Metal Wheels, Stabilizer Bars, Comfort Package, Front Bumper without Pads.” The COA also reported a serial number consistent with 1971 T Targa and a 125-horsepower 2.2-liter Typ 911/03 engine with a number from the same period.
There were other glitches with the story that likely resulted from Laszlo Schmidt’s unfamiliarity with Porsche history in detail – and the fact that the invitation to chase this car first came to him 40 years ago. Leopold Schmid (without the “t”) was the transmission engineer who developed the Typ 519 and Typ 644 synchromesh gearboxes. He played a significant role in designing the chassis of the Typ 550A racer. But he quit Porsche in May 1961, shortly after Ferry hired another man into a job Leopold felt he had earned.
More likely his uncle was Lars Schmidt who was head of sales in Germany and involved in marketing in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Schmidt also was a huge promoter of the lighter weight 911T platform for racing instead of the stouter S. Schmidt had a hand in creating the legendary 911ST models that used the 160- and 180-horsepower S engines in a platform weighing 114 pounds less than the S before the real weight-trimming began. With other suspension improvements for international rallies and endurance events, their overall performance probably bettered the coming RS 2.7. It is likely Ferry could have advised Lars to not promote the ST for road going customers.
Schmidt took that warning to heart. In his bulletin to his sales staff for the 1971 T rally-kit cars, he concluded, “Cars with rally equipment are intended only for competition and are not recommended for normal use, owing to the reduced comfort (noisier, for example). Moreover, owing to the lack of undercoating the corrosion protection of these cars isn’t up to our production standards.”
Laszlo’s frustration is understandable, because none of this proves what his car may have been. Instead, it makes brilliantly clear the necessity for written records, for verification especially in the cases of special Porsches as this car may have been. It is well known that Porsche engineers and managers did things to their cars – or got friends in other departments to do them. Sometimes – because some of these guys were engineers – they kept detailed records so as to identify and quantify the changes. Successful innovations occasionally led to specification changes in subsequent model years. But Lars was in sales and marketing; most likely his notes revealed who had and who had not yet ordered cars.
Sometimes, but very rarely, cars escaped the system with all their unofficial upgrades released to the unsuspecting public. The reason any manufacturer tries to avoid this is when customers bought a 1971 T Targa from Porsche, for example, they anticipated one level of performance. If the car out accelerated and out cornered a 1973 RS 2.7 Lightweight, that may be more than a casual T-driver expected or could handle.
Perhaps Lars Schmidt’s diaries are lurking in an as-yet unexamined binder in Zuffenhausen Archives. Perhaps they talk about suspension upgrades and body lightening, about tire tests on the Fuch’s wheels, about acceleration tests analyzing the existing Weber 40mm downdrafts on the T versus Bosch mechanical fuel injection standard on S models at the time.
Perhaps they hint that Lars’s car – with its huge scar on the passenger side behind the door – was even a prototype for relocating the 1972 oil tank and external filler. Perhaps this was a kind of development mule on which Lars played some role in developing the STs for international competition. Or on which he got to savor the handiwork of his engineering colleagues. With that information, Laszlo or a new buyer could justify an expensive restoration with unusual parts and turn what is a very tired, heavily rusted, crudely repaired, badly-repainted, non-running backyard-find into a significant historical document. With that documentation, the car owner would replace the 1974 G-series 5-mile-per-hour rear impact bumpers, and the G-series outside mirrors that Laszlo says the U.S. Department of Transportation demanded before allowing it into the States.
On the other hand, with no available written history of Lars Schmidt’s modifications and little information on the COA, the car becomes a blank canvas on which a creative R-Gruppe-type can apply everything and anything imaginable to create a car that might have provoked Ferry Porsche to issue a stern warning to his sales manager.
Car collectors enjoy stories. But most of them are less an archeologist or a historian than someone wanting to display a trophy. Without any records, what is left here is a used car with all of those negatives. Provenance without documentation is just another story.
More from this months RS Magazine