Owned & Operated: Pete Vlastelica‘s 1972 Porsche 911 S

by Andrew Maness

This story originally appeared in Vol.1 “Winter 2021”

Pete Vlastelica grew up in Arizona loving old cars. As he puts it “I was probably a strange kid in that sense -- I loved old cars, old music, antique shops.” While other kids had posters of Countaches and Testarossas on their walls, Pete had '57 Chevys. His first car was a 1961 Ford Thunderbird that his uncle gave him when he turned 16. The first car he bought was a '70 Ford Bronco that he wrenched on throughout highschool, and the knowledge gained from doing so helped him get an afterschool job selling car parts at AutoZone.

“There was one Porsche in my neighborhood growing up. It was a beat up old 914 that was parked on the street and I used to ride my bike over to check that thing out all the time. It was just so exotic compared to the pickups and muscle cars that made up the majority of my environment as a kid. I fantasized about owning the 914, but I didn't know anyone who knew anything about Porsches, so I doubt I could have done much with it.”

After college, Pete lived in London, New York, and the Bay Area, all areas that contributed to him losing touch with car culture. He then moved to Los Angeles in 2013 where he found it would make sense to own an old car again, so he bought a '72 Bronco and restored it. It wasn't until a friend of his bought a 1973 911E Targa that he really even considered buying a Porsche. After seeing how great that car was, he bought a '92 964 generation 911 C2 Targa and that kicked his passion for Porsche into high gear. “I love to surf and spearfish and the Bronco was the perfect partner for beach adventures, but living near Malibu, we have these great roads in the hills too. With the Targa, I had a car that felt like it was built for those roads.”

“As fun and visceral as the 964 is, I couldn't stop myself from wanting an older 911. There's something special to me about a lot of early ‘70s cars -- those were the last days of an era, when a few manufacturers perfected the blend of power and elegance with the analog mechanical production process. I feel the same way about the music from that era. In about 1975, things really changed, and we got disco, Barry Manilow, big bumpers, and catalytic converters.”

Since living in LA, Pete has been taking his 964 to Marco Gerace from TLG Auto for service. A year ago he let Marco know that he was interested in buying a long hood 911. Gerace had a long-time customer who he thought might be open to selling his car, a '72 911 S hot rod with the desireable distinction of being an original RGRUPPE car that had been looked after by Marco and his dad Tony Gerace for many years.

“What I loved about the car was that the previous owner had collected a bunch of rare, period correct parts in order to put the car together over time. It wasn't a rich-guy build -- it was the passion project of a patient enthusiast with a very good eye. He put so much of himself into this car, and it still showed, even though the car hadn't been on the road for years when I first saw it. He found the seats in a shed in Texas -- god knows how he tracked them down, but they're original factory 911 ST seats, which are super hard to find. He had factory 7" 911R rear wheels -- also relatively unobtainium. The car had a factory replacement 2.7 911/83 RS spec engine rebuilt by Tony and Marco, rebuilt MFI, close ratio gearbox, lightweight flywheel, euro spec headlights, 911R style tail lights and front turn signal delete inserts... he just had all the right parts and all the right work done on this car.”

“By ‘right’ I mean old school. I feel like a lot of the RGRUPPE guys in the early 2000s cared deeply about building these "sports purpose" cars the way Porsche laid it out in the early 70s. When I saw the car, I knew that this was the version of it that I wanted to bring back to life. So the work we did over the past year was more about reviving and preserving the previous owner's vision than restoring it or adding a bunch of my own new ideas. We actually did a ton of work on it -- entirely new interior, lots of bodywork and paint, and Marco rebuilt the 2.7. But when you look at the car, you're not sure if it's new or not. To me, that's what makes it awesome. I wanted it to be new but not look new. I kept the amazing patina-ed racing stripe, I kept the wear patches in the seats, I didn't restore the wheels, I kept the 80s and 90s stickers in the windows. Aesthetically, It's still an old school hot rod, but mechanically, it's a freshly restored car.”

“It's perfect.”

As Pete put it to me while we stared out at the Pacific Ocean from on high in the Malibu Mountains, “This is the kind of car the world needs more of right now.” I couldn’t agree with him more. “The more our world becomes digital and virtual, the more I crave real, visceral, analog experiences. A lot of people are building "vintage-made-modern" cars, or taking modern cars and backdating them to make them look older. That's cool -- some of those cars are amazing. But the early RGRUPPE guys were really on to something, and all of the technology they needed for their builds was available in the early 70s. Back in the early 2000s, they were paying tribute to the sports purpose ethos of the early 70s. Now, 20 years later, it's time to start paying tribute to them.”