In a freezing Minnesotan suburb snow piles high on the sidewalks beneath shoveled drives. The door of a single storey garage rolls up to reveal a shivering figure in a short-sleeved t-shirt. This is Kris Clewell, a 35-year-old father of two and exactly the Tribe’s sort of guy.
“You should have come by in summer, then we could have gone on a real drive,” says Kris, stepping back to reveal a dirty and slightly disheveled 1972 911 T. He slowly wheels the car out of the garage onto crisp, packed snow. Kris starts the engine, which clatters into life despite the cold, its sound soon deep and rhythmic as it warms through. Kris revs the engine and that distinctive boxer thrum echoes across the empty street.
“My childhood dream was always to own an air-cooled 911,” he chimes in between blips of throttle. In the summer of 2011 he realised that dream in the shape of a white 1983 911 SC, nearly 1,000 miles from home, in the south of Arkansas.
Together with friend and mechanic Aaron Hatz from Flat Six Inc., a workshop specialising in Porsche, Kris painstakingly restored the SC. “But when it was finished I suddenly found that I didn’t like it any more. When I saw the car in front of me, I was genuinely scared of damaging this pure white representation of everything I had dreamt of.”
Too good to drive, he put the car up for sale and started his search again.
Eventually he plumped for a ropey 1972 911 T languishing in Virginia in dire need of an overhaul. “It looked awful,” says Kris. “But for $22,000 I decided to just go for it, without seeing the car in the flesh. I just knew that one day, I’d manage to get this car looking great.”
The 911 T had been through a few owners and had endured numerous cosmetic howlers including a slapdash paintjob, incorrect spoiler and various mods with a mind to fudging it into a Carrera RS.
Kris began hunting out the bits and bobs that would allow him to undo the damage, pouring over the classifieds to find various essentials, including a new tailgate without the aftermarket spoiler.
Later, brave but disastrous attempts to repaint it would result in a textbook five-yard finish, with original paint, filler and bare steel showing through failing black topcoat, now neatly offset by a correct, but bright red tailgate.
Undeterred and determined to get out and drive, Kris dispensed with the cosmetics and began taking the car out for lengthy blasts, receiving unexpected enthusiasm every time he did.
Petrol station attendants, fellow enthusiasts and total strangers all flocked to the car’s raw imperfection, what Kris describes as his “way of saying ‘screw you’ to all the Porsche purists.”
And this was a philosophy that would soon run deeper than the mere cosmetic. After a catastrophic engine failure at high revs demanded a full engine rebuild, Kris not only took it in his usual stride, but took it on himself. With a little help and a lot of patience he stripped, repaired and improved at will, putting his flat-six back together in a significantly higher-performance trim – another non-standard element to his beloved vintage bitza.
“I just wanted to do my own thing, and above all else, I wanted to use the car. And I now drive it a lot.” In fact, over this last summer alone, he drove nearly 5,000 miles in his 911, taking it out almost every day.
“I’m not interested in keeping the car looking nice. I don’t wash it very often. If lots of other people like that, then that’s great. I think that owners of old Porsches should actually drive them a lot more often.”
You can’t argue with that.