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Interview

1961 Porsche Cabriolet

Story and photos by Jerry F. Boone

The 50-year-old engine comes to life with a mechanical clatter that is unmistakably Porsche.

The engine growls and sputters a bit as the air hisses down the throats of twin Solex carburetors, then settles into the classic din of a well-tuned, air-cooled boxer.

Lans Stout backs the vintage Porsche out of his shop, where the bright, morning sun dances over crimson bodywork that could have been shaped by the oceans.

The curves, the flowing lines were created when designers--not wind tunnels--decided what looked “right” and then had craftsmen translate those concepts into steel.

It was, as Yogi Berra might say, “de’ja vu all over again.”

Back in 1970, Stout, fresh out of college, was asked by his cousin to rebuild the engine in her 10-year-old Porsche Cabriolet. Stout jumped at the chance.

“I’d already had a couple of Porsches, so I knew the engines.”

His relationship with the German cars began while he was still at the University of Oregon.

“I came across a Speedster that had been raced, but it didn’t have an engine or transmission. I never gave much thought to what it would be like to drive a racecar on the street. It was awful.”

After selling the Speedster for a whopping $1500 he found a 1961 Cabriolet, which was nearly a twin to his cousin’s car. The mistake with this one was to try to fit up a rare, ultra high-performance four cam version of the Porsche engine.

“I built the engine on the dining room table. The cam timing was a nightmare. I finally had to take it to someone who could set it up for me.”

Eventually, he traded the four-cam for a much more basic engine, plus $400 cash.

“Now those engines go for $100,000” he says. “I could shoot myself.”

Given his history with the Porsche engine, he was a natural to tackle the rebuild on his cousin’s car.

“But I guess I went too far,” he says. “I used a big-bore kit and bumped the compression so high that she couldn’t run regular in it. She didn’t like that, so she eventually took it to a shop for a second rebuild.”

During that rebuild, the shop apparently machined the flywheel, causing it to rotate out of balance and setting up a vibration in the engine. It was driven less than 100 miles with the reconditioned engine, and then it was parked in 1984. Eventually it ended up outside, sitting beneath some trees. His cousin offered to sell him the car in late 1991.

“By the time I got it, it had sunk so far into the earth that we had to use a Cat to haul it out,” he says.

The Porsche came with extensive documentation. The paperwork indicates it was built in November of 1960 and was delivered to the first owner in Munich in January 1961. It was shipped to the United States by its owner in 1962, and ended up in Medford, Oregon.

“That’s when the title was issued,” Stout says. “Back then they issued the title based on when the car was first registered, so the paperwork says it is a ’62.”

The original owner kept it until early in 1970, when it was traded to a dealer and Stout’s cousin purchased the car for $2,200. It had only 65,495 miles on it. Stout’s cousin added only 9,000 miles in the 14 years they drove the car.

The Porsche is a Cabriolet with the Super 90 engine. It is a more elegant, touring class sister to similar 356-series Porsches such as the Speedster, Roadster and Convertible D.

“The Cabriolet is probably the most common of all of them,” he says, “partially because they were produced for the longest period of time.”

Because Stout’s car had a hardtop on it for most of its life, the interior suffered little during its years of al fresco storage.

“It had been repainted three times, and some of the paint was peeling, but areas like the floors and the battery box all looked pretty good.

Click to see restoration photos

It wasn’t until years later--after the restoration was well underway--that Stout discovered what all those layers of paint were hiding.

“Sometime in its past the car had a nose job,” he says. “It had obviously been hit and a new nose had been welded on. It was a pretty typical repair.”

But the repair had been done poorly.

“I never could get the panels to fit right,” he says. “And then we discovered that one side of the car was bulged.”

By this time, Stout had already spent all the effort he was going to spend to get the body right. He tapped a friend he knew from sports car racing to tackle the job.

The chassis went to Scott Olson’s shop in Washington, where Olson tugged on the sheet metal to pull the bulge out and create a proper profile for the grafted nose.

“It is how it should have been done the first time,” Stout says.

He had originally planned to do a quick street restoration on the Porsche, but the deeper he got into the car the more he realized he wanted something more than a daily driver.

He went ahead and had Motorsports International do the engine rebuild and Guy’s Interiors to do the interior and soft top. Both are located in Portland, Oregon and are well known for high quality work, particularly on old cars.

“I still did all the assembly and the parts chasing,” he says. “The nice thing about these cars is that they are valuable enough that all the parts are available. You can find everything you need if you are willing to spend a little time looking.”

And Stout was in no hurry.

“I’d make a bunch of progress on the car, and then I’d set it aside for a while, sometimes a couple of years,” he says. “I wasn’t in a big hurry.”

He says the slow-paced restoration cost a fraction of what it would cost if he had just dropped it off at a shop and picked it up when completed.

“I took my time, I found people who were excited about the car and wanted to be involved in it,” he says. And he did a lot of the work himself.

“But on a car like this, nothing comes cheap.”

And he says it was worth all of the effort.

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” he says. “It’s fun to drive and it looks and feels great. We don’t drive it a lot, but we aren’t afraid to. Sure, it has picked up a few stone chips -and I just hate that -but I restored it to drive.”

It has also picked up a few trophies. The year it was completed it took a third in class at the Concours d’Elegance at Forest Grove, Oregon.

“I figured out what it needed to do better, so in 2008 we took the car back and won the ‘best in class’ trophy,” he says.

Stout says that among the most satisfying elements of owning the vintage Porsche is the memories it brings back.

“You begin tinkering with the engine, doing the tune up or adjusting the carbs, and it all comes back to you, even after all those years.”

Just like Yogi said it would.

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