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Under the hood: Jim Bauer

March 2nd, 2010 by Mike

Pictured: BMX rider/artist Jim Bauer and his 1981 Porsche 911 SC

Jim Bauer is no stranger to Q&A, but his interviews are usually about a crazy BMX gap, or maybe his custom designed T shirts, or even his artistic approach to wedding planning . When it comes to cars, I like Jim’s perspective because he’s not a typical “car guy”. He’s the guy with a million other talents who also happens to have great taste in cars. Like the rest of Jim’s endeavors, his 1981 Porsche 911 SC has achieved what many of us might call perfection.

What is your occupation?
-Art Director/Graphic Designer.

Describe your personal style.
-Freestyle.

How does this car fit your lifestyle? What other cars do you drive?
-To me it fits perfectly. Stands out, but not too wild. It’s purposefully designed and built. Going fast around turns for “affordable” fun. A secondhand ’97 E36 M3 is my daily.

When did you decide on a 911, and what influenced your decision?
-As soon as I moved to LA I started saving for classic car. I always loved Porsche but assumed it was out of my league. I had to drive a friend’s 911 home for him and I was hooked. After some research I found that great examples can be had by working guys like me.

How did acquiring this car come about?
-After deciding that I needed a 3.0 car (arguably the most bulletproof flat six Porsche has ever made), I started looking in all the usual online areas and local dealerships. Local dealerships wanted big money for beat examples and I started to get discouraged. I found mine on eBay, but located a few dozen miles away. I decided what the heck, I’ll give her a look in person. The rest is history.

I don’t think there’s anyone who can deny the 80s flash appeal of one of these cars. But what can you tell us about the practical uses, and its reliability?

-It has only tried to leave me stranded once in 5+ years, and that can probably be attributed to mechanic (me) error. I upgraded some electrics and fried a fuse. My mechanic buddy was with me, and a local racer loaned us some tools so we got it going again. I wasn’t actually stranded ever.

-Practicality has been reduced based on the decisions I made. I was planning on making it a daily driver but soon realized I could afford to keep it and another car for a daily – so I just decided not to drive it everyday. It’s fun, and had AC and Heat and a radio and I can fit my bike in the back, but I wanted to be able drive it hard at the track, and not feel like I had to hold back to get to work on Monday. After that was the dynamic – I started making it less and less practical for the everyday but more performance minded. I removed the steel bumpers, heat, AC, etc. It’s pretty loud too, but I still have a radio. I still contemplate getting a stock version to be the daily based on its excellent track record of reliability.

What are some common misconceptions about older Porsches?

-They are expensive. While anything before 1973 is expensive, anything newer than that can be had for WAY less than a new Civic. You can get fun driver examples from 8-15K all day. Try getting anything interesting off a new dealer lot for that much.

Is it weird being the youngest guy at the Porsche meets, and the only guy without his shirt tucked in, and with no chrome on his car?

-Ha. Sort of. I know so much less that anyone there, but I can enjoy my car when I am young instead of waiting until I have grey hair. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just wanted to have a fun car now, not when I’m over working on cars.

How many miles on yours, and how do you care for it?
-101,000+. I do what I can do myself, but am not scared to take it to the professionals. I get a great feeling of accomplishment from working on my own car, but I get more driving it. So breaking something serious, and having it laid up is not worth it to me. Big jobs go to TRE in North Hollywood.

Talk about the bumpers… backdate, update, what is it?
-In 1974 all cars were damaged forever. All cars had to meet these collision safety requirements so your pretty BMW 2002, Porsche 911, Mercedes, etc. got huge steel bumpers slapped on them in haste. Eventually the designers came around and made better looking bumpers that met the requirements, but the damage was done. Since most designs were similar from 1973-1974 you can “backdate” your “impact bumper” car into Pre impact bumper cars for aesthetics and for performance (lighter weight). Porsche is especially easy to do this to because the underpinnings and a lot of body panels didn’t change much in general, and from 1974-1989 they didn’t really change at all. By changing the bumpers, hood, fenders, rear reflector area, and mirrors, you can make your 74-89 “shorthood” look like the “longhood” from the outside. You also got bigger engines and more modern technology with the drop dead good looks. At the time I couldn’t afford this major of a change, so I opted for the milder 1974 IROC conversion. Fenders/hood/rear reflector remained, but the heavy bumpers got fiberglass replacements, and the heavy and gaudy Turbo tail/lid went to the famous “ducktail”. I also opted for rocker panel deletion and a GT3 style exhaust at the same time.

Explain the wheels and who did them for you. Are they authentic Fuchs?

-They are not authentic, but Rota replicas and in my opinion better in a few ways. They are not 30 years old like my original 6″x16(f) and 7″x16(r) wheels. They are wider at 7.5″(f) and 9″(r) and 17″ tall. I now have modern tire choices since 16’s are going the way of the Dodo when it comes to performance tire options. They will also fit bigger brakes if I ever get to that point. And they look sweet in Black. Black usually makes wheels look smaller, so Black 17’s probably look as period correct as (silver) colored 16’s right?

What other modifications have been done?
-Turbo tie rods, Carrera oil fed tensioners, pop off valve, Bilstein shocks, Turbo valve covers, stainless headers, stainless M&K exhaust, drilled Zimmerman rotors, Porterfield pads, Air ducts and brake coolers, Momo Corsa wheel, harness bar, 4 point harnesses, windshield wiper reversal, rolled fenders, Spacers front and back, longer axle studs and steel lugs, lowered suspension with negative camber in the rear.. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Tell the story behind the graphics.

-I have always liked the Porsche stripes on the early race / sportier versions. The IROC version is huge and black, and I wanted something a little different. “Freestyle” I guess. It is actually a positive stripe with negative script like some 914 models. The outer stripes were common on the older versions, but the contrasting color is something different and personal. I feel like I pushed it enough to make it really personal, yet still classic looking. I get a lot of compliments. Although I’m sure the purists are cringing… If I cared what other people think, would I have all black wheels, and orange and brown stripes on a Signal Yellow car?

Have you gotten pulled over in this car?
Knock on wood.

What other types of positive and negative attention does it attract?
-Usually positive among car enthusiasts. People follow me on the highway, and sometimes people try to race. Most of the time, at gas stations, I get a nice compliment and conversation from someone. One of the weirdest ones was when I pulled up to a bar and the bouncer waved me over to the spot in front of the door. By the time I was out of the car he had his cell phone out and said it was for me. He had called his brother who was a Porsche guy who then made me describe it to him. It was funny that I got compliments from someone who had never seen it.

I’m sure some people around town don’t like how loud it is. Or how yellow it is. If you asked me before my least favorite colors for a car, yellow would have been one of them. This color has a touch of gold and orange. It’s also a 1970’s -80’s color, so it goes with this car. It was in such nice condition, I couldn’t pass it up based on color. It’s grown on me. I’m sure there are people who assume that anyone who drives a Porsche is a douche-bag. What’s the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine? The porcupine has the pricks on the outside. I’m sure it’s true when it comes to any expensive car, but old ones mean the owners genuinely love that car, and are not in it for the show of it.

Compare your 911 to the other cars you have owned.

It doesn’t really compare.  It’s so different in every way. It is designed and built with a sports purpose. My ‘87 Camaro was trying to be sporty, but it was just a bad show. My ‘01 VW GTI was great, reliable, quick, practical, not too bad to look at, but I lost interest. My M3 is probably faster than the 911, but if I had to choose one car to keep over the others, the 911 wins every time. Even to daily drive, if I had to have one only, I’d keep the 911.

When I see your car, I picture trips to the desert with the lady, a stay at Orbitt Inn in Palm Springs, maybe an Intersection Magazine photo shoot out in the sand… some sun bleached Nick Maggio type images. How realistic is that type of thing? Does your wife like taking trips in it? Or will she go deaf and show up grumpy and not smile at the shoot because the ride was too bumpy and the AC blows hot?

-Hmm. Depends. She is a trooper, but I would have to say my wife’s salty level would increase exponentially based on mileage on a trip like that. I revel in the sounds and smells and feel. She likes to sleep in the car. She would probably pick her Jetta wagon for a road trip (she can fall asleep in the 911 though). I see it more as a trip car with car guys who love cars. Maybe to the track, or a windy mountain road. The drive to Palm Springs is too straight for a car like the 911. The AC and heat is gone. It blows the wind that blows in from the windows. If I had left it stock with the OE muffler and AC and heater, it would be a different story. Maybe I have to get another…

Do you go out late at night with no destination, just to drive it? Can you put a price on something like that?

-Yes I do. I will just take it out to the 10 and the PCH, then pick random canyon roads. The only price is the price of gas, but even putting 91 Octane in it, it has never stopped me, or even made me think about it.

How long do you plan on keeping this car?

-I would like to say forever, but I think if another 911 would replace it, I would be fine with it. An early car (Longhood) or a fully backdated car with a bigger engine would be an upgrade. A rally version? 934 style? Narrow body on widened steelies? You never know, but I will probably always have a 911 though. The sports purpose, history, reliability, great looks, great handling, wealth of aftermarket and OEM replacement parts… There is a reason the 911 is one of the most famous, iconic and popular cars in the world.

IMAGES COURTESY OF TIGER TIGER

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