The phone rang, it was my old friend Carlos de Quesada. “I’ve just bought a 935 to restore,” he told me. “Great,” I replied, “which one?” “#009 0004,” announced Carlos.
Chassis #009 0004? I had been researching and writing about 935s for twenty years, often in close touch with the factory archivist, but I had never heard this number before. “Where did you find it?” I asked. “I bought it directly from Don Whittington,” announced Carlos proudly. “Well, I’ll be…,” I started.
I told Carlos that I had long known about the bodyshell/chassis units of #009 0001, #0002, #0003 and #0005, all supplied by the Porsche factory to teams such as Kremer and Joest, for them to build up their own versions of the well-known 935 race car. But I had not known that #009 0004 had been built up and used by the Whittington Brothers race team in 1979.
I asked Carlos how he had found out about the existence of this long lost 935 and he told me that Richard Danvers, who he knew through the car collecting world, had put him in touch with Don Whittington about it. Don had shown Richard the old crashed car, in one of Don’s hangers at Fort Lauderdale airport, from where Don ran his airplane business. Richard then put Carlos in touch with Don Whittington and a deal was done.
Briefly, these “009” prefix numbered chassis were built for the 1979 model year, which means that they were built in October/November 1978. They were to be used by customers who either wanted to build their own race cars, or as replacement chassis for 1979 model year Porsche 930 street cars, whose chassis needed replacing, usually after a crash on the road.
I swiftly drove over to Carlos’ shop and there, with its chassis number easily visible in the front compartment, sat the damaged and stripped chassis of #009 0004. I marvelled that such a car still existed, over forty years since it was last used.
I know that the older people amongst us look back with nostalgia and rose tinted glasses, but was there ever a time when GT racing was as spectacular and close as the 1970s and early 1980s? Think about it; Porsche were supplying the backbone of the sport with, first of all, the normally aspirated RSR Carrera from 1973 and then, from 1978 to 1982, the 935, which, with its incredible power, acceleration and flame spitting overrun, was the car to have. I remember saying to Brian Redman once, “I didn’t know that you drove so many 935s,” to which he replied, “Well, if you didn’t race a 935 in those days, you weren’t going to win!”
Indeed, where American IMSA races were concerned, the only almost token opposition to Porsche in this period was the occasional Greenwood Corvette, or the BMW 320i Turbo. In Europe it was much the same, the 935 proving to be utterly dominant, no matter where it ran. In 1979 alone, there were eleven teams running 935s at the Sebring 12 Hours. 935s took the first four places, and Porsches of one variety or another, mainly RSR Carreras, filled the next eight places.
The major teams running 935s in 1979 were the Whittington Brothers, Don and Bill, sometimes joined by another brother Dale. There was also the Brumos team headed up by Peter Gregg, and usually partnered by Hurley Haywood. The Dick Barbour team, with several cars and drivers of the calibre of Dick himself, Brian Redman, Bob Garretson, Bob Bondurant, Rolf Stommelen, Rick Mears plus others, such as Paul Newman who placed second in that year’s Le Mans 24 hours race. Preston Henn ran a 935, Ted Field led a squad of them in the Interscope team, himself and Danny Ongais sharing the driving duties in the long distance races and each having a 935 entered in the shorter races. There were also other entries from such as Ricardo Londoño, Canadian Ludwig Heimrath, Italian Gianpiero Moretti, (of MOMO fame), plus entries also from John Paul with his JLP series of developed 935s. There were also two teams running the uprated 934 1/2s, Bob Hagestad and George Dyer. These cars were almost as fast as the 935s; indeed, their speed was probably down to who was driving at the time that made the real difference. Hal Shaw also ran an updated 934, and Bob Garretson also shared a 934 1/2 with Bob Harmon at some races, as did Cliff Kearns with ‘Desperado’.
The Whittington Brothers, Don and Bill, sometimes joined by their brother Dale, had appeared on the IMSA scene the previous year. Sometimes flying into the races in their own two P51 Mustangs, the brothers ran a fleet of 934s and 935s. In 1978, they had run a 934 converted into a 935 by AIR boss Dan McLaughlin in California, #930 670 0152. They also ran a new factory built twin turbo 935 that year as well, #930 890 0023. In 1979, apart from buying the Road Atlanta racetrack to practice on, they bought three new factory built 935s at the beginning of the season, #930 990 0026 and #0028. They also took delivery of this car, #009 0004, without engine or gearbox, as the team had plenty of spare parts.
To say that the Whittington Brothers appeared on the motor racing scene with a bang in 1978 would be putting it mildly; they exploded onto it. Here came two young guys, flying their WW2 P51 Mustang fighter planes into the local airfield, stepping out and climbing in to their respective Porsche 935s! One observant mechanic remarked, “Almost one for each foot, ain’t it?” Jim Busby, himself from a wealthy background said, “I’ve put in my application to be a Whittington Brother; I understand that if it’s acted upon favourably, you get a WW2 fighter, a Porsche Turbo race car and a racetrack of your own.”
“Notable was the arrival of Don and Bill Whittington and seldom have two new drivers achieved more. Good machinery and car preparation, of course, but still, they never raced automobiles seriously until 1978, and Bill finished runner up to Peter Gregg, (in the Camel GT Championship), while Don was fourth.” (IMSA yearbook, 1979). They HAD, however, been racing their North American P51 Mustangs seriously around the pylons and that must have helped hand-eye coordination enormously.
Don and Bill Whittington were born in Lubbock, Texas, famous for being the birthplace also of Buddy Holly, the Rock ‘n Roll singer/songwriter who died tragically in an airplane crash in February 1958. Don and Bill grew up around machinery, their father, R.D. Whittington being a distributor for R.V.s in Florida. R.D. (Dick) Whittington had raced himself, in midgets and sprint cars, sometimes taking part in the USAC Championship. But airplanes were Don and Bill’s first love and after learning to fly, they bought their P51 Mustangs and went air racing, taking several speed records along the way.
In the winter of 1977, Don and Bill went to Daytona to watch a car race there, probably the IMSA Daytona Finale, and it fired them both up. They joined a motor racing school at West Palm Beach and within another thirty days had ordered a Porsche 934 from the factory.
So Don and Bill started the 1978 IMSA season with one true factory built 935, (#930 890 0023) and one 934 that had been converted by Bobby Graham of AIR in California into a 1978 factory style twin turbo 935, with some mechanical work being done at Alex Job’s shop in West Palm Beach, Florida (#930 670 0152).
At the end of that season, as already written, Bill had placed second and Don fourth in the IMSA Camel GT Championship. What a start! They were up against professional race drivers and Bill was only beaten by Peter Gregg (“Peter Perfect”), of the Brumos Race Team.
For the first race of the 1979 season, the Daytona 24 Hours, the two brothers enlisted Jürgen Barth, then head of Porsche’s Kundensport (Customer Racing), department. Jürgen was no mean driver himself, as his Le Mans victory shows, and he was in charge of supplying cars and parts to customers who went racing during this period. A new, white 1979 customer single turbo 935 was delivered to Daytona a few days before the 24 hour race. This was chassis #930 990 0026 but sadly, turbocharger failures saw the Brothers and Jürgen finish fourth overall in the race itself, just off the podium but they got through between four and seven turbochargers getting there! At Sebring, for the 12 Hours, it got worse, with the Brother’s 935 retiring before half distance after a minor accident.
It was in March 1979 that the team received their third new 935, #009 0004. Officially, the factory built their last 935s in October 1978, a small run of cars (chassis numbers 930 990 0026 to 0032), for the IMSA circuit, most of them fitted with big single turbochargers, instead of the 1978 set up of twin smaller turbochargers, which had given their drivers better throttle response than the cars fitted with a single turbocharger.
The IMSA spec 935s for 1979 were unusual, having these big single turbo engines, instead of the faster responding twin turbo units of the year before. As well, these engines, type number 930/79, were of 3.2-litre capacity (3164 cc), as against the 3.0-litre twin turbo engines being used in European races. So equipped, these 1979 IMSA 935s could weigh 88 pounds less than the equivalent twin turbo 935s but their throttle lag, coupled with the spool that was used instead of a differential, made them understeering monsters and most teams soon reverted to the twin turbo set up, accepting the weight penalty. All except Peter Gregg, that is, he kept the big single turbo set up as his crew chief, Jack Atkinson, had found a way to minimize the throttle lag that these cars suffered from. Gregg duly won the IMSA Driver’s Championship in 1979.
Don Whittington recounted to the author that he had gone to the Porsche factory in November of 1978 and ordered another 935 as a back-up car for the team. “I flew to Stuttgart to order the car, and it was first delivered to us for Road Atlanta on 8 April as number 93.” As Porsche had used up their supply of the more normally numbered chassis, (the ‘930 990’ series), they used an identical replacement chassis that they already had in stock, thus allowing themselves the time to build up this new 935. As it came engine- and gearbox-less, the team was able to swiftly install a 935 engine and gearbox that they already had in stock.
Chassis #009 0004 made its debut at Road Atlanta on 8 April, where it rained and although Don Whittington held the lead for a while, dry tyres in the wet caught him out and he spun, allowing Peter Gregg back into a lead, which he never lost. Don finished third, behind Jim Busby in a BMW 320i, whilst brother Bill finished in thirteenth place in his 1979 935.
Then came success for the team. At the new Los Angeles Times Grand Prix, held at Riverside on 22 April, Don and Bill took their number 94 car, #930 990 0026, to victory. Only John Paul and Al Holbert finished on the same lap, with George Follmer and Derek Bell finishing third, all in 935s. Laguna Seca at the end of April was next and this race saw Don take fourth place with #009 0004 after starting near the back of the pack, whilst Bill was out after a clash with Chris Cord’s Chevrolet Monza.
The Brothers jetted off to France in June, to take part in Les 24 Heures du Mans, where they had rented a 935 K3, chassis #009 0015 from the Kremer Brothers, Erwin and Manfred, who were Porsche dealers from Cologne. The Kremer Brothers Racing Team had had many years of racing Porsches and had developed their own version of the 935, the K3, with air-to-air intercooling of the pressurized fuel mixture and different bodywork made by Ekkehard Zimmermann of DP Plastics, also of Cologne. As well, the Kremer Brothers had incorporated all the little ‘tweaks’ that they had discovered whilst racing 911s and 935s themselves over the years. Don and Bill’s co-driver was to be the Kremer Racing Team’s works driver, Klaus Ludwig, who had already dominated German national races (the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, or DRM for short) in the K3 prototype (#009 0002), in 1979. Of course, this was also the year that Paul Newman shared a Dick Barbour run 935 at Le Mans too, so American, not to say worldwide interest, was very focused on the race this year.
The story goes that 30 minutes before the start, Don and Bill bought the Kremer’s 935 K3 for themselves, as Erwin Kremer wanted Klaus Ludwig to start the race but the brothers wanted Bill to take the start. As it turned out, Bill had a good start and, before Klaus Ludwig had even climbed into the cockpit, the brothers had the K3 up to third place by the fourth hour. By the seventh hour, they were leading, fighting with the GELO team 935 of Manfred Schurti and Hans Heyer.
The GELO 935 was in the lead by the eleventh hour but then a collision with a rabbit, of all things, damaged that car’s oiling system and the Whittingtons and Klaus Ludwig were in a lead they were never to lose. There would be no let up for them however.
By 02h00 Sunday morning the rains were falling, in torrential bursts and now the whole field had not only tiredness but the dark and the wet to contend with as well. By the fifteenth hour, the Paul Newman/Rolf Stommelen/Dick Barbour 935 was up to second place as the two GELO 935s had both had their engines blow within five minutes of one another. However, the chasing red 935 was twelve laps behind.
Daylight bought an easing of the rain and the race carried on but then, disaster! The drive belt to the fuel injection of the K3 that Don Whittington was driving failed in the twenty first hour. He replaced it with a spare kept in the car. But then, on his way back to the pits that failed also. He replaced it with the belt that drove the alternator and made it to the pits where the mechanics went to work. They had lost nearly an hour and a half.
Now there were just three laps separating the Newman/Barbour/Stommelen 935 in second place from the Whittington K3 but the gap stayed steady until the red 935 came in for its final pitstop with two hours to go. It was now the turn of Barbour’s 935 to suffer misfortune as a wheel nut jammed and, by the time that had been remedied, another three laps had been added to the deficit. Although Rolf Stommelen got them back into contention with a ferocious drive, it was too late and the Whittington Brother’s 935 K3 came across the line to take outright victory, with the Dick Barbour 935 in second place and the Kremer Racing team 935 of Ferrier/Trisconi and Servanin third. A 934, incidentally, took fourth place so it was a very good day for Porsche, their fifth victory!
After this tremendous result, returning to America to race at Daytona in the Paul Revere 250/Daytona 3 Hours in the Le Mans winning 935 K3 was almost mundane; the brother’s K3 led most of the race but they retired near the end when Bill hit the wall in turn one. They were still classified in 14th place though. Off to Chuck Gaa’s shop went the Le Mans winner, to have its nose repaired.
The Watkins Glen 6 Hours was next at the beginning of July and again, Don and Bill with Klaus Ludwig won again, this time in the now repaired #009 0015. Bill Whittington also co-drove the number 95 935 (chassis #930 990 0028), with Brian Redman and Johnny Rutherford to finish in eighth place.
Peter Gregg was again riding high by this stage in the 1979 IMSA season; he had won three victories and several top three placings so far, as against the Whittington’s two victories at Riverside and Daytona, plus other top three placings.
The ‘Lumberman’s 500’ was an odd race, held at Mid-Ohio in August, allowing single seater, sports-racing and Can-Am cars. The Can-Am cars all retired, whilst Don and Bill took the number 94 935 K3 (#009 0015), to second place behind, of all things, a Ralt that was driven by Brian Redman and Bobby Rahal. Peter Gregg led to begin with in Bruce Leven’s 935 that he shared with Hurley Haywood but that car’s engine failed before half-distance. Chassis #009 0004 had been used in practice by Bill but the K3 was probably the faster car as #009 0004 was still an essentially stock 1979 Porsche factory built 935, although the team had been gradually modifying it to K3 spec with parts that they had bought from the Kremer Brothers after the Le Mans race, which had arrived in late July. The first major item to be changed, recalled Jim Weber, one of the team’s engineers, was the intercooler. This now changed from the factory air/water type to the Kremer air-to-air intercooler installation, which was both lighter and more efficient than the older system. Next was the panel behind the oil cooler which was swept back to allow more air to go through and exit the cooler and then the aluminium oil cooler mount was fitted too.
September saw Road Atlanta II and Don finished fifth after qualifying second, whilst Bill was 16th in #009 0004. Don actually ran out of fuel whilst leading on the last lap, giving victory once again to Peter Gregg. Dale Whittington, Don and Bill’s younger brother, took part in his first race in a 935 here, chassis #930 990 0028 and came home a creditable ninth, after starting from thirty-third position.
The team now completed the conversion of #009 0004 to K3 spec, mainly with new bodywork and the end of November saw the end of the IMSA season, fittingly enough at Daytona. Don drove the Le Mans winning 935 K3, whilst Bill drove chassis #009 0004, now numbered 94. Don qualified on pole, with Gregg second and Bill third. Sixty seven cars were entered in the 180-mile race. Don led from Peter Gregg until ‘Peter Perfect’ had a coming together with a back marker that put him out of contention with a leaking oil cooler. So now Don led from Bill until the pit stops, after which Bill took the lead until…it started raining.
On lap 48 of 59, three cars spun on the back straight and when Bill and Don arrived, they went into their own spins. Bill Whittington lost it coming through NASCAR 3 at Daytona and his 935 spun like a top. He’d probably been going at some 190 mph through NASCAR 3 and, amazingly, came to a stop on the grass without hitting anything. He got on the radio to Jim Bell, his crew chief, “Whoo-ee! What a ride!” he said. But then along came Honorato Espinosa in a Colombian Botero Racing entered RSR, who had also lost control in the wet. He hit Bill’s 935 hard. Amazingly, both drivers escaped the crash relatively unharmed, even though Honorato suffered a broken heel but both cars were damaged beyond immediate repair at the track. The resulting carnage severely damaged Bill’s 935, although Don drove his car back to the pits. The leading five cars all crashed and the red flag was waved, giving Bill, despite his crash, the victory!
One good result for the Whittington’s was that Don won the World Endurance title, which was richly earned after the Whittington’s great Le Mans result, amongst others.
Upon its return to the Whittington’s race shop in Fort Lauderdale, the car was stripped and the old bodyshell/chassis unit left in a corner of the shop until, in 2018, it was bought by Carlos and was sent to Jim Torres in Burbank, California, to undergo a complete restoration. A lot of restorers would have elected to replace the chassis but knowing the 935’s historical significance, neither Carlos nor Jim wanted to take that route and so, painstakingly, #009 0004 was brought back to life, every panel being repaired to the correct specification, just as it had left the factory in early 1979.
Today, September 2020, she is finished and is entered to run in the ‘Classic Daytona’ HSR event in November. It is truly great to see such an iconic 935 as the Whittington Brothers race car looking so wonderful, and going as well as she looks.
Written by: John Starkey
Images by: John Starkey, Jim Weber, Robert Graham Junior & Bill Martin