March 2010 www.911porscheworld.com


Driving the

ultra rare 924

GTS Club Sport

Only 15 were built,

we find 3…


£4.50 US$8.99 CANADA $12.95

No.204 www.911porscheworld.com











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When Sorjo Ranta saw the original 901 at the 1964

Earls Court Show he was so smitten he bought the car

off the stand. Remarkably, he still owns it, 47 years on

and, what’s more, it’s just been restored by Ruf

Words: Johnny Tipler

Photography: Antony Fraser



Far sighted? Sorjo Ranta was positively

visionary – he bought the very first 911 in the

UK, direct from the Porsche stand at the 1964

Earls Court Show. It wasn’t even called the 911

yet – it was known as the 901. Let’s put that in

some sort of risk context: you go to the Motor Show,

you see a new model from an emerging sportscar

maker – because don’t forget that in ’64 Porsche was

so far a class winner but still six years away from its

first Le Mans victory – and you splash your cash there

and then. Hey presto, you’ve backed a winner! Almost

50 years on, the car you purchased is still available as a

new model in the shape of the 997. That’s some

achievement. Thing is, Sorjo still owns that ’64 show

car, 901 chassis 24, and he’s just had it restored by

none other than Alois Ruf at Pfaffenhausen. Now in

their 80s, Sorjo and his wife Aira were visiting Ruf’s

workshops to check out their 901’s progress, and it

was there that Sorjo talked us through the car’s

history; Finnish, but resident in Canada for most of his

life, the accent is North American rather than


Sorjo came to England in 1964 to do an aeronautical

engineering course at Cranfield College, and was on the

point of ordering a 356C when he went to the ’64 Earls

Court Show. ‘My idea was to buy a new Porsche, own it

for six months in England and then take it back to

Canada, duty-free. Then the 901 showed up, and this

new design and all its new technology really hit me,’ he

said. So besotted was he that he decided there and then

to have one. ‘I told them that if I they could supply a 901

for a maximum of $6,000, I would buy it.’ Porsche GB said

they’d see what they could do, and meanwhile he and

Aira flew to Finland. On their return they were greeted by

a message from concessionaire John Aldington saying

the show car could be theirs, but with a twist – the 901

had been brought into the UK expressly as a show car,

and in order for Sorjo to be able to buy it, it had to be

taken out of the country and re-imported. Simple: ‘the

car was loaded into a Bristol Freighter at Southend-on-

Sea and air freighted to Le Touquet on the French coast

where it was offloaded onto the tarmac. We had lunch in

the airport restaurant, the car was reloaded and we flew

back to England. There was a slight tussle between the

customs guys saying, “what are you trying to pull?” and

the Porsche sales guy says, “I’ve done this many times

before, let’s just do the paperwork,” but a week later I

came down from Preston to pick the car up.’ For the first

year of Sorjo’s ownership the 901 was in England, since

he’d landed a job with BAE Systems at Wharton,

Lancashire, and he clocked up 14,000 miles, including a

trip to Monaco. ‘It was our honeymoon,’ he revealed, ‘and

there also happened to be an F1 race there... but I didn’t

tell her that!’


Sorjo Ranta at the wheel of

his 901, a car that he’s had

from new in 1964 and

bought straight from

Porsche’s London Motor

Show stand at Earls Court.

It was in fact the first

901/911 in the UK

Travelling on backroads, the route north from Monte

Carlo took them to Stuttgart where, coincidentally, staff

from Porsche GB were visiting the factory. ‘We got there

just as the reception started. The men were all in suits

and the ladies were in long gowns and we were in grungy

clothes, having been driving the scenic route. Who should

come along but Huschke von Hanstein and his wife. We

told him, “we can’t go in there,” but he said, “oh no, leave it

to me.” He went ahead with Aira on his arm and I went in

with his wife, and he very loudly announced, “Mr and Mrs

Ranta are here!” That man had style.’

The Porsche Competitions Manager knew who they

were because of the car. ‘It was an “open sesame” to all

kinds of interesting people in England through the

Porsche Club,’ recalled Sorjo. ‘Jim Parker in Westmoreland

started doing the servicing because he was only about an

hour away, but before that I used to have to drive to

London from Preston. Actually that wasn’t a big problem

because there weren’t any speed limits so I could cover

100 miles in an hour, no sweat, and not much traffic. I

could drive by a police Jaguar saloon going hell for leather

and they didn’t pay any attention to me, which was nice!’

Not everyone was so impressed, though. They arrived

back in Southampton docks after their

Monaco/Stuttgart adventure to be greeted by a

customs officer nursing a hangover who refused them

entry. ‘He told us, “you can’t bring the car into the

country, your time is up with it.” We’d heard that you

could get a six-month extension so we made our case on

that basis. Then a guy came in with a yacht who’d been

to a regatta in France and they discovered 30 cases of

wine hidden in his hull, so they were now dealing with

two difficult cases. Eventually they said, “right, we will

give you six months but no more.’’ ’

Temporary repatriation for the 901 was on the cards.

Aira landed a job in Bremen, north Germany, so the car

would leave the UK in any case. En route to Dover they

planned to attend a race meeting at Brands Hatch.

‘Before we got to the circuit I started having trouble

getting the car out of gear. Ok, I thought, the clutch

cable is stretching. We pulled into a lay-by and I jacked

the car up and got underneath. I had the original toolkit,

of course, so I adjusted the clutch cable and we were

back on the road, but at the first gearchange the same

Better than new? Possibly!

Sorjo’s 901 has undergone a

painstaking restoration by

Ruf. This is chassis no 24

and is one of 82 cars to

feature a 901 chassis tag

before Peugeot intervened



thing happened all over again.’ Brands Hatch was

abandoned – they needed to get to the ferry terminal

because they already had tickets and there was no

refund. ‘We got to a pub, had a meal and then just kipped

in the car until it was dark,’ he remembered. ‘I’d parked

the car on a slope so I bump-started it and we drove 30

miles to the port in first gear at about 30mph, and just

waved by anyone that came up behind us.’ The car was

pushed on and off the ferry, then towed to the local

dealer in Bremen where the diagnosis was that the

clutch withdrawal lever was too thin and it had started to

bend. It turned out to be an early design fault, remedied

by the factory fitting all 911s with a part twice as thick.

days in the city it would get coked up,’ he recalled, ‘so I

would have to take it out and really thrash it, get it hot

and burn all the carbon off and then it would run smooth

again. But that was always fun to do, and for the next

5,000 miles the car never missed a beat.’ After a trip to

Finland in 1967, Sorjo drove to Stuttgart for some

upgrades. ‘By this time the 911S had come out, and they

had a rear stabiliser bar and I wanted to get one of those

fitted, plus a set of Koni shocks.’ It wasn’t that simple.

The factory identified an engine problem with a failing

woodruff key on the intermediate shaft that drives the

chain. Sorjo argued in vain that the metal was too soft so

it was a part failure and, with less than 30,000 miles on

Then the 901 showed up, and this new design

and all its new technology really hit me

The Bremen mechanic revealed another issue: on early

exhaust manifolds all three pipes in each set came into

the head at a sharp angle which was inevitably prone to

crack, with consequent power loss, noise and smell.

Chassis 901-24 was no exception, so the garage fitted

the latest individual tuned lengths. Sorjo frowned, ‘I don’t

think they were profiting much from the early cars,

because they were making little changes like this as they

went along.’ Another on-the-hoof modification was made

by AFN when Sorjo took the car in for a routine service.

‘They told me they’d be fitting a reinforcing kit which the

factory had sent for the top of the front shock turrets.

They found that on severe bumps several 911s’ shocks

had torn right through, so they had to weld those

plates in.’

Teething troubles were one thing, everyday running

traits another. When the car ran rough he took it to the

Porsche agent in Bremen for new sparkplugs and to have

the idle on the carburettors reset. ‘If I drove it for a few

the clock, he shouldn’t have to pay for a replacement.

‘They fixed it, but I said to them, “while you’ve got the

engine apart you might as well put in new bearings and

piston rings,” so those things were on the bill too.’

After that the 901 found its way to Toronto, Canada,

where the Rantas made their home. Having collected it

from Bayonne, New Jersey, the port he was obliged to

use because of anomalies in the Canadian importation

programme, Sorjo elected to have an oil change in view

of the car’s recent engine rebuild. ‘The guy put the car on

a hoist and told me the factory had had a recall on the

original heater boxes because they’d finally realised they

were dangerous. He said, “I will get you some new ones,”

and these were the tuned header ones for the 911S,

which were much better performance-wise. I waited

another four months for those, but when they came they

were free, and he fitted them for $15 labour.’ Sorjo has an

interesting take on the effect the new heater boxes had

on acceleration: ‘once you got the revs up to about

Short wheelbase, narrow

body, chrome and pre-

Fuchs, this is the 911 at its

most pure and the white

paintwork sets it off






The 2-litre flat six wasn’t

without its early issues.

Sorjo’s car used to coke up

after a few days of city

driving, but ran well after a

good thrashing!

4000rpm, then the pipes would kick in, the tacho would

go twang and in no time at all we’d be up to about

6500rpm. The early engines had pretty wild cams in

them, and coupled with the tuned exhaust, they would

just go. It was like a turbo kicked in, and you’d have to be

prepared to back off before you bounced the limiter.’

The same heater boxes are still on the car today

because subsequently it languished for a long time in

mothballs when Sorjo and his boys took up karting. ‘The

Porsche took a back seat and it sat in the garage in dry

storage,’ he said, ‘though we took a look at it sometimes.

It was one of the family, really; I was never interested in

any other car. It was laid up for 20 years.’ Aira was equally

faithful: ‘Absolutely. When it left our place to come here I

took so many pictures, and the last time I saw it heading

demanding Porsche delete the zero in the middle of its

model numbers – and hence the subsequent 911

designation. To be crystal clear, the 901 isn’t a prototype,

it is a pukka production car.

Meanwhile, Ruf had acquired 901 chassis 27 in Los

Angeles, and was keen to see the original interior of

Sorjo’s car since it was so close in date to his own. ‘While

Alois was restoring his car he picked our name out of Bob

Fleming’s list of early 911s and asked if he could take

some pictures of the interior, door hinges and the petrol

filler flap, nitty-gritty things like that.’ The first 2- to 300

cars were assembled on a hand-to-mouth basis and

there are plenty of minor detail differences, which

intrigued Alois all the more. Said Sorjo, ‘the following year

Alois came over to look at our car because he wanted to

Peugeot demanded Porsche delete the zero in

the middle of its model numbers, hence 911

off round the corner I really had tears in my eyes. I had

tears in my eyes again when I saw it in Ruf’s workshop.’

Though his reputation as a top quality restorer of

classic Porsches is growing apace, Alois Ruf is best know

for his steroidal treatment of modern Zuffenhausen

products. But if proof were needed of his commitment to

the 911’s legacy he also owns two 901s, chassis 27 and

37. Nevertheless, it’s a long way from Canada to Bavaria,

so how did Sorjo’s 901 find its way there? Long story

short. Back in the late ’80s Sorjo advertised the car for

sale in the Porsche Club of America magazine, but ‘it ran

for a couple of months and nobody wanted to know,’ he

said. ‘Everybody wanted the newest model, more

performance, wider tyres.’ However, Early 911 registrar

Bob Fleming spotted the ad and asked Sorjo for relevant

details. Wisconsin-based Fleming runs a register listing

232 of the early cars, along with owners’ credentials, and

needed to bone up on 901 chassis 24. It was one of 82

units that left the factory in ’64/’65 with a 901 chassis

tag before Peugeot threw its toys out of the pram,

check up on more things for his own 901, and he said,

“well, we have to get your car to Germany to restore it!”’

Alois was as good as his word. When preparing to ship

another 911 from North America, he offered to share its

container with Sorjo’s 901. There was no timeline on the

restoration of chassis 24, which suited both parties. It

was fitted in around other more pressing jobs and, three

years later, here is the pristine result.

Taking the pragmatic view, Sorjo and Aira plan to leave

their 901 at Pfaffenhausen and simply use it as their

European vacation car. Times change, and it’s

questionable they’ll be doing the kinds of speeds they

clocked in the ’60s: ‘It must have averaged close to

100mph for the first 29,000 miles of its life because there

just weren’t any speed limits, and you could drive it the

way it was meant to be driven, so it was great fun.’

Great fun to drive, and just as appealing to look at in

its gleaming white coachwork; a delight for Porsche

purists and historians alike. A canny trend spotter back in

’64, Sorjo’s still one lucky guy. PW


RUF Automobile GmbH

Mindelheimer Straße 21

D-87772 Pfaffenhausen


Tel: 0049 (0)82 65 911 911

Email: info@ruf-automobile.de



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