A boyhood passion for curvaceous Porsches has seen Barry Jones work restoration magic on his 1960 356B, plus an equally elegant VW Karmann Ghia.
Backed out into the sunshine, the curves of two of the most beautiful car designs ever penned are on glorious display. Both rear-engined, both from 1960, and each superbly restored from near basket-cases into gleaming masterpieces. Barry Jones, the saviour of these cars, has every right to feel proud. The 72-year-old has true old-school
work values to go with engineering talents, and that shines through when looking over not just his work on the cars, but his beautifully kept backyard workshop too. “I love to drive them,” he says of his Porsche 356B and Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, “but it’s the building side of things that turns me on. It’s the engineering: how did the factory do that, and why did they do that? It’s because I’m a production engineer at heart.”
Born and bred in Melbourne, Barry was an apprentice toolmaker, doing fitting and turning during the day then production engineering at night school. He progressed to become a design draughtsman, then production engineer, plant engineer and ultimately engineering manager. “You could travel the ladder if you were good enough,” he says, “and there were lots of manufacturing jobs around back then.”
The automotive sector was always close to him. His toolmaking skills saw him make automotive componentry such as light assemblies, while he did draughting at a company manufacturing car seat belts. With three kids, a mortgage, and his own home business – he designed and made metal mesh insect screens for the front of 4WDs – he wasn’t able to indulge his personal car passion until he turned 50.
“I Saw The Porsche 356b At The Melbourne Motor Show When I Was About 16, And The Shape Totally Won Me.”
“I said we’d get a present,” he explains. “My wife Liz got the diamond she’d always wanted, and I got this rust bucket,” pointing to the now dazzling Porsche. “I saw the Porsche 356B at the Melbourne Motor Show when I was about 16, and the shape totally won me. I’d gravitate towards the Porsche stand as they were beautifully made cars. Engineering-wise they fascinated me because they were rear-engine, air-cooled and transaxle, which I though was brilliant. I love the VWs because of that as well.”
Promising himself he’d one day own one of these iconic Porsches, in 1997 he paid $19,000 for this 1960 356B, advertised as “complete, but needs work.” That was an understatement. It had suffered a botched right-hand-drive conversion and the rust, as so common of these early Porsches, was substantial. “We’d have a hard road of building and restoring, but it didn’t trouble me,” Barry says. “I’d not done car restoration before, but it was going to be a hobby. I was told whatever time, money and complications your budget for, multiply that by five for a Porsche. I agree now it’s finished.”
The total build took 11 years, but Barry knows it’s perfectly engineered. “These 356s are not easy to work on,” he says. “They were built as panels, raw steel, spotted together and tar painted underneath the raw panel, not undercoat. Then the top got undercoated and painted. They’re so prone to rust. The longitudinals were so bad it was ready to snap in half.”
Barry built ten jacks and jacked the Porsche level, got the door gaps right and then cut the longitudinals. He made his own replacements and Mig welded them back in. “On your back with a welding gun above you, the sparks always go down your shirt or sleeve,” he says. “It was one hell of a job, but needed doing to make it strong enough to put on a rotisserie.”
Rust permeated the rear sections of the engine bay, torsion bar setup, front inner guards, under the fuel tank, the boot and the car’s floor. Barry used sheet metal to create replacements, had a metal body expert hand-shape rusted-through repaired doors and finally got the car in primer. “There were some nights when I’d I’d finish and curse that ‘bloody car’, but in the morning I’d see its beautiful shape and that’s what got me through,” he says.
Gloss black and then a base green were sprayed on in Barry’s workshop, before the final, gorgeous Irish green Porsche colour was applied at a spray booth. And despite no vast car mechanic experience, the 356’s oily bits didn’t phase Barry. “As a plant engineer, cars are pretty simple to me,” he explains. “If you follow the manuals, take your time and use the right equipment, none of it was difficult.”
The engine, gearbox and differential were all pulled apart, Barry re-setting everything with new bearings and new gearbox synchros. He refurbished the brakes, the suspension seemed fine, but he rebuilt the right-hand-drive conversion kit. In went Connolly leather for the seats, Mercedes German square weave carpeting, and proper head rests and seatbelt mounts.
“I’d never even driven a Porsche 356 before, so when it was finished it was thankfully a lovely, beautiful experience,” says Barry. The Porsche is typically used for local club runs, but this year he and Liz did a 3500km round trip to Jindabyne, testing the reliability of his 1960 classic.
His second restoration – the Karmann Ghia – was no less daunting, but his experience meant the process was much faster. The VW had been sitting for 15 years, had grass growing through it, and its coastal lifestyle ensured horrendous rust. It was worth saving though – it had just 51,000 miles showing and was one of four Mango green examples used as demonstrators. “It was a shocker, but we took it back to bare metal and did lots of metal fabrication and fitted a more powerful 1600cc Superbug engine and Porsche 356 steel wheels,” Barry says.
Barry says it’s the satisfaction of rescuing a car from oblivion he finds most rewarding. And advising others considering similar resto jobs, he draws from his experience as a toolmaker all those years ago. “Cleanliness is key,” he explains. “Whatever you do, clean up afterwards. All the spanners and hammers go back in their place, and you’ll start clean the next day.” His incredible pair of 1960 beauties shows this dedication can reap rewards.