Ron Cherry: Undercover Porsche 356
September 24, 2017
For Scott McLaughlin, a love of Porsches came early in life.
It began when he was seven years old and his dad, an agent in the State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, drove up to the house in a shiny, new, red 63 356 SC Porsche.
For Scott, although he’d never seen a Porsche before, he felt it was “something unique and special.”
The Porsche’s previous owner had been caught in a drug deal. From his dad’s description of him, Scott termed him a “hard guy” with “no fear of prosecution or jail.”
However, even hard guys have a soft spot. For the drug dealer, it was his Porsche, which was to be seized by the Sate of California. When he found that he was going to lose his car, “His eyes welled up and he began to tremble.”
But it was too late and the Porsche became an undercover operative for the state.
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Scott said that his dad was not a “car guy,” but a “straight-laced suit” cop who considered cars nothing more than transportation. Since he stood 6’2″ and weighed 220 pounds, the Porsche was a tight fit. But he soon fell in love with it.
“Dad doted over the 356,” Scott said, “kept it cleaned, waxed and covered. Most importantly, he jealously guarded the Porsche from other agents who clamored to use it.”
They claimed such a conservative-looking cop could never pass as a drug dealer and “hipper”-looking agents should get a chance to use it. Eventually, they got their way and it was totaled during a sting that went awry.
That was the end of the story for the 63 Porsche 356 SC and Scott’s dad never drove another Porsche or any other exotic car.
But for Scott, the story had just begun.
He took auto shop in high school. His Porsche passion came back, but he couldn’t afford one.
For a time, he settled for its tamer cousin, the VW. In 1979, he entered a career in the California Highway Patrol, where he saw many Porsches on the freeways he patrolled.
“During the years I worked the road, I’ve often wondered why I issued so few speeding citations to Porsche owners,” Scott said. “Was it me or was it the higher caliber of Porsche drivers? Ah, still a mystery in my mind.”
Corvette owners who have been cited might have a contrary opinion.
Since he was also raising a family, the funds to purchase his own were not available.
Seventeen years later, he was finally able to purchase one. It was a 69 912 that he painstakingly restored over a sixteen year period. Then, in 2005, he purchased an 88 911 Carrera. He owned two great Porsches, but something was missing. He didn’t have a 356.
In the 90s, Scott met Rob, a fellow Porsche enthusiast who owned a 64 356 C, and Max, another Porsche lover who owned “dozens of 356s over many years.”
That rekindled his fire for a 356. Rob owned other garaged Porsches and the 356 was banished to being parked under a car cover where it sat for five or six years.
Scott told him, “You’ve got to get it running or sell it to me.” But it continued to sit. Six months after Scott moved up to the foothills in 2008, Rob called him and said, “If you want it, it’s yours.” Scott did and bought it.
Considering that it had been sitting outside under a car cover for years, the 356 was in good condition.
“Anybody who drives older German cars knows how they are prone to rust,” Scott said. “This one had no rust.”
The engine ran decently, with only about 124,000 miles on the car. But it also came with an extra recently-rebuilt 912 engine which was almost identical to the 356’s.
However, the interior was completely shot, the paint needed to be redone and all the suspension was in need of TLC.
First, Scott said he removed “everything I could unbolt. I then began the tedious task of cleaning and stripping the car down to bare metal using scrapers and aircraft stripper.”
Disassembly is much easier than reassembly, so Scott “spent hundreds of hours meticulously cleaning, documenting and bagging each precious part.”
After exposing every dent and ding, he carefully repaired them. Replacing any needed part, he did a complete rebuild on the suspension.
In 2011, the work had progressed to where he could repaint it. Although the car had originally been Togo Brown, Scott hated it and opted to go non-stock on that one matter.
He chose Bali Blue. It came out perfectly.
Then he trailered it to a Porsche expert to have the interior completely redone in fawn beige, including headliner, carpet, dash, door panels and leather seats.
By 2012, he had it back up here and reassembled it, putting in the spare 912 engine, new wiring, all the restored trim and chrome, as well as all new rubber parts. The 356 was finally finished in 2013.
During restoration, Scott found a log of work done on the Porsche and a Texaco gas receipt in the locked glove box. Using those, he tracked down the original owner from 1964, a rare experience.
Although Scott has not put a lot of mileage on his 356 since it was finished, it is his favorite. There is something about actually realizing a childhood fantasy, owning that first car that enthralled you.
However, there is one thing Scott will never do: allow his Porsche to go on an undercover sting.
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.