My Porsche 356 B had a few minor paint blemishes and a couple of rust marks beginning to show through in places, so several months later I decided to look into repairing this myself due to lack of funds. My first job was to strip out the doors as there was some bubbling of the paint at the bottom of both doors. The driver’s door in particular had serious problems when I had it stripped down, so I went off in search of Harry Olrog at Harper’s Yard to see if by chance he had any spare 356 doors lying around in the workshop?
Harry told me there were a lot of old body panels upstairs and I could take a look around and upon inspection there were masses of Porsche 356 panels stored there in this “Aladdin’s Cave” of old Porsche parts. I found at least seven 356 type doors, some painted and some brand new. I explained my problem to Harry and he told me I could “borrow” a couple of doors whilst I got mine repaired and repainted. The next minute I had both doors off of my 356 B and I was offering up each one of these spare doors to see if they would fit. I found one that fitted the driver’s side very well indeed and proceeded to mount it. I put a catch in the door and it actually opened and closed and locked properly, without any custom fitting which was normally required for a 356. The passenger side was much more difficult but after I got it mounted, but I could not use it and it fouled on the other bodywork when opened. However it sufficed and I taped up the gaps with silver tank tape to make sure it kept the weather out and looked half reasonable.
I then went down to see Ernie Gregory at AFN body shop to get his advice on my original doors. Ernie was all laughs and jokes when I showed up and after a mug of tea he asked me, “What can I do for you” so I explained my problem. Ernie came out to look at my car and he asked what had I done to the doors so I explained. He said it was much easier for him to help me and to drop the original doors off in the back of his workshop. He came and took a look over them a little while later and declared they both needed new skins new bottoms and some other structural work. This gave me a massive fright as I assumed this was either two new doors or a large repair bill, either of which I could not afford. Ernie told me to leave them both with him and he would get Cliff, his son to sort them out for me in his spare time.
Well to cut a long story short, it took months for me to get my doors back, but when I eventually did, they were like new. I asked Ernie about payment and he told me as Cliff had rebuilt them, I needed to see him personally, as he had done all the work in his spare time. I cannot recall what I paid Cliff who I knew well but needless to say it was a fraction of the value of the work done and I left AFN a very grateful young man indeed!
I took the doors to a friend of mine in Southall, Middlesex who prepared and painted them silver metallic for me. I then refitted them to my car the next weekend. The silver did not match properly but I knew I would have to have the whole car repainted at one time to get a good job done, but at least I had the major problem solved and the restoration to Concours condition underway.
Shortly after I continued to knock out a small dent on the lower front wing and fill and prepare the other areas on my Porsche 356B until it was all ready for it’s respray.
The bonnet had a funny mark on it since I had owned the car and then I remembered this was due to a racing number sticker Chris Maltin had attached to it at Silverstone one day whilst racing it. Chris had put his racing sticky number on the bonnet of Mike’s car and later when he removed it after the race some of the paint came with it! I remember this well, as that was my first motor racing event I ever attended when I first worked with Dickie Stoop at Silverstone.
Some months later I took the front and rear screens out and also the doorframes and windows and prepared the car for a respray. I then drove over to my friends paint shop in Southall and stripped out the light units, bumpers etc. The interesting thing for me was the performance of my Porsche 356B without glass in it. It had so much more noticeable performance it was really quite startling. The power to weight ratio had obviously changed considerable and this made the difference. I had sunglasses on to protect my eyes as the wind flowed through the Coupe body from one end to the other and I remember it was very cold indeed.
My friend kept my car for a few days and I went over to collect it when it was ready and it looked a million dollars to me. I re-fitted the lights and got it fairly legal and then I drove it back Harpers to put the glass and trim back in it.
The finished job was really something and overall it had cost me a fraction of the costs of taking it to a specialist body shop like AFN. I had seen this car over a number of years and I must admit it looked like new when I had finished with it, if I don’t say so myself.