The 911 Sportomatic project is moving along nicely. We purchased it last October from the “for sale” corral at the Hershey swap meet. The path to bringing it back into service has been a convoluted one.

SCM Editor-In-Chief Jeff Sabatini took the car on a 400-mile round trip to Sisters, OR, a few weeks ago. He came back with a short list, the most important item being the addition of an oil cooler.

On a Sportomatic, the engine oil is shared with the torque converter. He found that in stop and go traffic in hot weather, the oil temp gauge needle moved very close to the red zone.

Also, when I drove it last, the front end seemed very stiff and the car was uncomfortable. It reminded me of the 1978 911 SC I owned that had been excessively lowered and rode like a truck. Our ’75, however, is still at the stock ride height.

I posted a query about struts on a several 911-related forums and discovered no shortage of opinions.

After I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Boges, Bilsteins and KYBs, I left it to our 911 whisperer, Al Blanchard at A&P Specialties to make the decision. He determined that the front shocks on the car were frozen green Bilsteins and so will be installing a new set of B6s.

He’s putting in an oil cooler as well. I have also asked him to set the ride height to European spec, just a tad lower than U.S. cars.

He fiddled with the Sportomatic system a bit more and reports that the car is “just about ready for me.”

Jeff liked driving the car very much. It’s a 47k-mile, rust-free, unmolested car with an unusual and attractive cloth interior. The head studs are still an issue, but I’m told that I can drive the car without fear until I hear exhaust leaks.

I look forward to getting on the road it again.

I am reminded that bringing an old car back “into service” is like peeling an onion. Fixing one thing reveals other things that need attention. This is not an inexpensive process, but once you go down the rabbit hole to making a car run and drive like it should, there is no turning back.

And what’s the point of owning a classic car if it isn’t right?



  1. Keith,
    Great to hear that the Sporto is back on the road!

    As you noted, there is never a shortage of peeling to do on the classic car onion, but with each new layer revealed your enjoyment takes another step along the long and winding road.

    Good luck and great idea on the oil cooler, as this will pay multiple dividends in extending the Sporto’s longevity going forward.


  2. Keith, as you know, this is a great example of what happens when buying a “new” car. Have just gone through that process with the Lancia: replacing suspension bushings, hoses (fuel, coolant, oil, brakes, etc.) and am at about my budget, 10% of purchase price. The car drove well before all this work, but now it’s far more reliable, comfier, safer, etc. Still, I do admit to having guilty feelings about throwing out that rock-solid 30-year old Cinturato spare tire.

  3. I’m in a similar adventure with a 1982 911 SC. The last 5% of the work and sorting out seems to take 90% of the time.