Patina Poetics…


For San Diegan John Straub, it’s always been about Porsches. Before he could drive, his dad used to drop him off at local autocrosses to take photos. That’s where young Straub noticed that Porsche Speedsters were faster than all but the most powerful Cobras and Corvettes. Right then, aged 14, he resolved that a Porsche should be his first car…and it was. When he reached driving age, he made a deal on a 1959 1600 Super coupe at Dick Barbour’s Automotion. He paid for the coupe with his own money from working jobs after school and on weekends.

That began a lifetime of Porsche ownership that has included a 356 Roadster, a concours-winning 1965 911, and an almost too-nice-to-track 914-6 GT racecar. But it’s his most recent purchase that has gained the most attention and is perhaps the most fun.


In 2010, a friend called to tell Straub he was selling his Porsches. He gathered up another Porsche-world acquaintance to see what was on offer and paid a visit. Within a few minutes, his riding partner bought both a beautiful 356 and an excellent 911 for a song, leaving Straub speechless and thinking he should have spent more quickly. Finally, the friend says, “Well…I do have this 1967 911 in a shed and it has ‘original paint.'” Excited at the prospect, Straub pulled off the cover to reveal the car in these photos, minus the tender-loving-care it’s had in the last few years. Uh, yeah…original paint. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Straub knew right away the potential value of a well-restored early 911. The friend says, “I’ll give you a good deal on it, but…you have to buy this other car too.” The other car was a totaled 1972 911S Targa. Less than enthusiastic with the double-deal, Straub relented and found a truck to take them both home. Fortunately, he parted out the Targa and made enough to pay for the whole deal.


Eventually, Straub turned his attention to the white car, taking it to friend Grant Parsons, known for restorative and vintage racecar preparation. The plan was to make the car mechanically strong and safe…then somewhere down the road to begin body and paint work for a full restoration.

Parsons recalls doing whatever it took to make it street-able, safe, and reliable. That meant disassembling the motor all the way down to the rod-bearings, cleaning, and/or replacing everything needed to make it run as it would have in 1967. They did the same with the four-speed gearbox; then they pulled the front and rear suspension, replacing dampers and putting in rubber bushings. The brakes were next, replacing the master cylinder, pads, and lines. Straub decided braided brake lines would provide better response, about the only real performance upgrade he succumbed to. They went so far as to check and replace pedal and shift-rod bushings, making the car mechanically perfect. Once back together, they did an alignment and took it out on the road. The car ran strongly and sounded great, as it still does. Straub loves that it drives like a 1967 car.


Though there were temptations to increase engine displacement, go to a five-speed gearbox, install bigger brakes, etc., that was a slippery slope Straub avoided. “I’ve never owned a brand-new Porsche, even though I’ve always wanted to,” he says. “So I decided to keep it the way it was when it was on the showroom floor in 1967.” Aside from the braided brake lines his only other concession to modernity was replacing the 4.5-inch wheels with wider, 7-inch period-correct magnesium Minilites with bigger tires. The remarkably well-preserved interior is original except for the period correct “GT 911” steel racing seat and racing belts that Straub added from his own collection. He recently had the radio rebuilt and it works perfectly.


Next on the list was body repair and repainting, but a funny thing happened along the way. As a life-long lover of hot-rods, Straub took notice of the rat-rod movement that eschewed perfectly finished, multiple layers of lacquer in favor of patina and ornamental rust. While that wasn’t a Porsche-world embraced trend at the time, Straub started to think the white car looked cool just the way it was.

Rather than denying or hiding the car’s shed-period, he decided that he wanted to preserve that part of its story by maintaining and exploiting it, as is. The Riverside sticker had to stay; so did the faded-out, hand painted Mobil horses on each of the fenders. Even the 1967 parking stickers remained from its original owner, a professor at UC-San Diego.


After a couple years of work to get it mechanically sound and to stabilize the paint with gentle hand-washing and careful application of spray-wax, it was time for the car’s public debut. Straub and artist-wife Monique drove the car to the 2012 PCA Porsche Parade in Salt Lake City and – with a wink and a smile – entered it in the preservation class. “We didn’t expect to win anything. We just wanted to participate, have some fun, and show the car,” says Straub. Their efforts met with decidedly mixed results. The vast majority of fellow entrants and visitors got the joke and loved the car, many insisting “You have to leave it that way!” But it did ruffle a few feathers with the PCA concours traditionalists, some of whom took it as an insult to the event. Apparently they couldn’t see a future where collectors would pay large prices at auction for well-patinaed 356s and 911s.


Since then, they’ve shown the car several other times at some very large events, gaining notice at gatherings as diverse as the SoCal Good Guy car show, PCA’s Werks Reunion, and the prestigious Concours-on-the-Avenue in Carmel, the opener of Monterey Car Week. Straub says he sees photos of the car all the time on social media.

Just as a perfect car requires constant care and polishing, their 1967 911 requires a special regimen of care and maintenance to preserve its appearance while not letting the rust eat the car away to a holey hulk. Straub is very careful not to let the car get wet. He cleans it with an assortment of polyfiber cloths, cotton swabs, q-tips, and socks cut to various sizes. He occasionally uses a liquid spray wax to keep the rust from further oxidation, but is careful to avoid any kind of lustrous shine. Some people have suggested clear-coating the car to freeze the patina in place, but so far Straub has resisted the temptation. He prefers to keep it real.


Now he finds himself in the same dilemma as many owners of perfectly restored garage-babies. If someone should run into the car and damage it, he’d feel duty-bound to do a full restoration. That’s OK, but then it would lose its character. Then, there’s that other problem, which is common to owners of 60s era 911s and isn’t such a bad one to have: he’s been offered large sums of money for the car. “So far,” says Straub, “the fun is worth more than the money.” So far…


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