An Afternoon With Two Vintage Porsche 911s Re-Imagined by LA’s Workshop 5001
Marlon Goldberg builds the cars of his clients’ dreams
Marlon Goldberg has worn many hats in his 30-some years as a lover of cars. He grew up in New York and spent younger years hanging out at racetracks, spent some time training as a Ferrari tech, and then moved to sunny Southern California, selling new Porsches for a spell. He went on to become Singer's operations director, ultimately leaving and making a return to Porsche sales. And now, Workshop 5001, Goldberg's fledgling Porsche restoration business.
Based in an unglamorous industrial section of Los Angeles, California, the shop itself is nearly surgically clean and has been completely renovated by Goldberg. The restoration of this space, with its pitched roof and beautiful exposed wooden beams, was a labor of love, and indicative of the passion he pours into his air-cooled creations.
Take the car known simply as Number 1, sitting roadside on Latigo Canyon Drive, far west of the shop and resplendent in its understated Nardo Grey paintwork. Number 2, a hardcore-spec 1974 911 in vivid blue paint, also came out to play, but it's still a work in progress. Number 3, a Porsche 356 B Roadster undergoing heavy metalwork, is still back at the shop. But we and the first two creations are ready to play in the Malibu hills, taking advantage of these winding roads, thankfully empty on a midweek afternoon.
Number 1 began life as a 1973 Porsche 911T — a car purchased on Bring-a-Trailer by its owner, who commissioned the Workshop 5001 project at the urging of friend and factory Porsche driver (and Luftgekühlt co-founder) Patrick Long. The car itself was taken down to bare metal, then fitted with a hot-rod 3.4-liter engine with twin-plug heads, modern Motec engine management, custom pistons, rods and much more for a total of around 305 hp. That's roughly 50 percent more grunt than the donor 3.2-liter engine made and nearly three times what the car's original 2.4-liter engine would have produced.
The chassis has been stich-welded for the benefit of torsional rigidity, just like a race car, and KW coilovers replace the car's original torsion bars. A carbon fiber roof replaced the donor car's steel sunroof-type original and the brakes have been uprated to remain consistent with the car's newfound power. Perfect little details are everywhere and represent a combination of input from both Goldberg and the car's owner: tartan-pattern seats, a mil-spec wiring harness, painted steel wheels, and an ever-appropriate Momo Prototipo steering wheel, recovered to match other interior stitching elements. Even essentials like the mounts for the car's three oil coolers are finished to an astounding level of quality. There's nary a system on the car that hasn't received the Workshop 5001 touch in some unique way.
"We don't want to create an assembly line of cookie-cutter hot-rod 911s," Marlon says. "You know, pick your colors, pick which kind of carpet you want, pick your stickers, and we'll call you when it's done. Our process is a lot more personalized, and clients are involved in many more steps of the build. It's a much more creative process."
On the road, Number 1 is a thrill to drive - that classic "long-hood" profile cutting its way through the air as we charge through the hills. Throws are short, heavy, and utterly positive from the long-levered 915 transmission and the steering is gleefully active and alive, just as a vintage 911's should be, writhing in my hands as it telegraphs details of Latigo's road surface. Despite the chassis' hard-core stitch welding and coilover suspension, the car is composed — even comfortable on these imperfect canyon roads. The vintage-style sport bucket seats are also easy to live with, though not quite as supportive as a racier option.
Meanwhile, the 3.4 churns out a soundtrack of air-cooled cacophony and suddenly I'm Vic Elford, slicing my way through the Sicilian hills in the Targa Florio. Except that I'm not, and this half-million-dollar, heirloom-quality re-think of what a 911 can be needs to be delivered back to its owner without a scratch.
Later, I catch a ride with Goldberg in the blue Number 2. This car is built on a '74 G-series 911 Carrera (originally with a Sportomatic transmission!) and to an even wilder spec than Number 1, for a client with an autocross and track focus. The seats are narrow race buckets with five-point harnesses, while the interior is largely stripped of any creature comforts. The engine is a 3.6-liter mill from a 964, bored out to 3.8-liters with RSR-spec pistons and plenty of other tricks including Motec engine management. Ohlins coilovers are found underneath and the highly adjustable (for wheelbase and track) front end is essentially of Porsche 935 race car-type. A roll cage and stitch welding keeps the chassis tight.
There's a world of difference between Grey and Blue; this racier build feels like it's 90-percent race car and just 10 percent road machine. The flared fenders hide ultra-wide Pirelli Trofeo R tires and grip is no doubt massive. Goldberg is driving at maybe 7/10ths and the speed is already huge. The sensation is multiplied by the car's lack of sound deadening. You hear this Porsche working hard, from the rocks and gravel that bounce off the car's underside, to the flat-six's banshee wail ricocheting off the canyon walls. It looks like it requires some work to drive, as you could argue a vintage 911 racer should. With the challenge and the risk, comes the reward.
The reward, of course, makes it all worthwhile, as Marlon Goldberg will attest.