Once upon a time, Shawny Sander longed for a Porsche to call her own. Growing up with a mechanic father, she had adored the vehicles since childhood – particularly her 911 Turbo G-model Matchbox car. When she finally sat in the driver’s seat of a real Porsche 911, her enthusiasm bubbled over. “It just felt amazing,” she says, “Being in a Porsche can make you feel like you can achieve the impossible.” 

But as she grew from a child into an adult, so did the cost of buying a classic Porsche – she would have to tailor her expectations on what she could purchase. Re-evaluating her options, she decided to find a Porsche in need of some care and attention. Shawny wanted to play an active role in restoring a car. Having previously rebuilt a 1972 Volkswagen 1600 TL when she was 23 – a vehicle that Shawny still drives and enjoys today – this project would be the next big step in her restoration journey.

So, during the summer of 2021, this 28-year-old musician, model and content creator from Berlin bought a classic 1976 Porsche 911 in need of some work. Here is the story of her road to restoration, and how she enlisted the help of Porsche Classic to get her ultimate car in shape and out on the road. 

Shawny Sander’s head resting on folded arms, looking out car window
Shawny says her classic Porsche 911 is a source of inspiration – creativity flows while she’s at the wheel

Sparking the Porsche restoration dream

The technical aspects of a car interests Shawny as much as its design does. That’s why her initial idea to restore a classic Porsche came less with financial considerations to the fore, but more about a desire to truly understand the car. It became a Porsche passion project born out of the desire to celebrate the design of the 911 and what this iconic sports car represents. “I lacked the technical expertise, but I wanted to change that,” says Shawny. “I wanted to learn something new, to get out of my comfort zone and be a role model for when I one day have children; to show that you can do anything if you give yourself enough time and are passionate about it.”

Purchasing a classic Porsche 911

First, of course, Shawny needed the right car. She eventually came across a promising lead while searching for a classic 911 online – something she spent a lot of time doing. The Germany-based importer and Porsche collector only had a few pictures available to view online, but the small print stated that the collector also had another 300 vehicles that could be seen in-person. This sealed the deal for Shawny. She and her husband drove off to inspect the collection almost immediately.

Upon arrival, they were led through a Porsche version of Aladdin’s cave. There were warehouses filled with restored Porsche models, paving their way to the final treasure trove – the so-called ‘restoration objects’ hall, host to a fleet of classic cars. It took Shawny less than five minutes to find the one for her: a Porsche 911 S (G model) from 1976 really stood out. Upon closer inspection, Shawny and her husband discovered that it was in a decent state for restoration, with the body still in good condition.

The car tweaked the emotions in other ways for Shawny. The car’s original California license plates were lying on the seats – something that struck an immediate chord with her. “California is one of my favourite destinations,” Shawny explains, “so it was small sign that this Porsche belonged to me.” Decision made, she bought the car shortly after. At the age of 28, she’d signed a contract to buy her dream car.

View of Porsche 911 S (G-model) from side and rear, parked in garage
Shawny struck gold – or should that be silver? – when she found a 1976 911 S with its body still in great condition

Restoration road – where to start?

Shawny suddenly found herself in a position she had long yearned for – being able to restore her ultimate Porsche from her own home. But where to begin? You can’t get any better expertise than that available from Porsche Classic – especially from their Porsche Classic Partners. Throughout the project Shawny would tap into their decades-worth of experience for those areas where her own knowledge didn’t quite stretch. 

But first, Shawny started with the cleaning of the vehicle – over the years, Californian sand had accumulated in several areas of the 911. “I vacuumed thoroughly, scrubbed the underbody and the wheel arches – every crevice into which the sand had snuck,” says Shawny. Next, the vehicle was disassembled very carefully, making sure not to disassemble too many components at once so as not to lose track of any parts.

I feel absolutely boundless and free – truly without limits. This is exactly what happens for me every time I get into my restored 911 S
Shawny SanderSinger-songwriter, model and classic Porsche owner

The disassembly stage, explains Shawny, gave her a greater understanding of the mechanics behind the 911, and increased her fascination and passion for Porsche: “I found out that the inside of a Porsche is just as impressive as the exterior,” she says. Shawny discovered that a large part of restoration is about repetitive phases – from dismantling and reassembling, repairing to testing. As she systematically worked through the different steps needed to restore the car, this repetition helped speed up her knowledge gathering.

“But there were also problems during the restoration – and I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the help of Porsche Classic, as I only knew the basics of the car’s technical aspects,” reveals Shawny. Through her Porsche Classic Partner, Shawny had a contact person for all requirements during the process, from the selection, advice and procurement of the correct and most important original car parts, right through to general knowledge and expertise. Their help, as well as from her husband, helped her at many a difficult moment during the project “It’s not easy to restore a classic Porsche with little experience,” she says. “Step one was just daring to get started. Step two was relying on the expertise of those with the know-how.” 

Shawny Sander looking over shoulder while exiting silver Porsche 911 S
When hitting a bump on her restoration road, Porsche Classic was there to provide Shawny with the expertise to tackle any challenge

Using genuine Porsche parts

If an existing part of her Porsche could not simply be cleaned or salvaged during the project, it was time to look for replacements. “As is often typical with cars that spent their lives in California, seals can be very brittle, due to so much time spent in the sun,” she says. “I had to replace the windscreen, underbody and flap area seals.”

Wherever possible, Shawny looked to retain the vehicle’s authenticity. “It saves an enormous amount of work, time and your nerves if you use original Porsche parts,” she says. The windscreen was replaced with an original part, complete with windscreen antenna. “Once again, we were glad that we decided to use an original Porsche part,” she says, “Since installing the windscreen was not an easy task to begin with, I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we hadn’t.” Other amends made included replacing the US-spec headlights and rear indicators with European-spec versions.

From start to finish, the epic restoration took nine months in total to complete. Now safely through the other side and able to proudly look back at the fruits of her labours, how does it feel to have fulfilled one of her biggest dreams and actually drive her very own perfect Porsche? “I feel absolutely boundless and free – truly without limits,” says Shawny. “This is exactly how I feel every time I get into my restored 911 S.”

Tips for Porsche owners rebuilding their first car

Along with enlisting expert help from Porsche Classic to ensure your Porsche is placed in the safest hands with the necessary know-how, Shawny recommends some other tips from the wealth of learnings she amassed. “Planning, keeping everything tidy, and time management is the holy trinity of a restoration – that’s the first thing that I learned,” she says. “I can only advise Porsche owners who might be interested in a DIY restoration themselves to have their restoration project supervised by professionals.”

She also stresses that frustrations and slip-ups will arise, and that it’s accepting and learning from these that leads to rewards. “At first it was really tough, as I frequently made mistakes,” says Shawny. “I was nearly pushed to my limits every time I slipped while using a tool.” 

But once she started to notice this progression, Shawny explains, her initial strife was all worth it. “I finally learned the real meaning of the phrase, ‘The journey is the destination’,” she says. “I started to experience joy over tiny successes, as I could see that they all contributed to the bigger picture.”

Shawny Sander lifting bonnet and sitting in Porsche 911 (G model)
With her 911 S restoration complete, Shawny says that her next dream project car would be a Porsche 356 or 964

“I learned a lot, not only in terms of technology, but I got to know myself better too,” Shawny says in reflection. “At the beginning, I was so fixated on finishing it as quickly as possible so I could drive it, but I was brought back down to earth when confronted with the first big challenge. The restoration showed that I have more in me than I thought I did – and that it’s important to believe in yourself and your dreams.”  

Music and driving: putting tunes to the car test

Alongside the restoration, Shawny still had to keep plates spinning elsewhere – not least her music career. Now, with the car completed, the 911 S has become a proving ground for her new material. “For me, there is no better place to listen to music than during a car ride,” says Shawny. “The feeling of freedom is magnified by music. It’s one of the best feelings ever.” 

Before putting a track to the car test, Shawny reveals that she deliberately doesn’t listen to the song for a whole week. “I sit down in my car, play the song and try to slip into the role of a listener who is hearing the song for the first time,” she explains. “That way, I am able to work out if it does or doesn’t evoke particular feelings, and if I still have to work on the song.”

As for her restoration career, Shawny is hopeful that the 911 S won’t be her final Porsche project – tentative plans for the future currently include a 356 or a 911 RS (type 964). But for now, it’s all about enjoying those sweet drives with her dream Porsche. She’s certainly earned every minute of it. 

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