We all recognize the title of this post to be the last line in the song "America the Beautiful". Wonderful song.
This post is actually a twist of that phrase to: From C2 Shining C.
So, what is this about? A Porsche 356 Carrera 2 wood VDM steering wheel of course! It is about my restoration of a C2 wheel and putting it on my shinny C.
Here's my story, and I am sticking to it.
I had a very nice original plastic rim steering wheel for my C coupe, but I always liked the wood wheel that Bruce Crawford made for my last 356. His work is awesome! I thought about getting another one, but Miss April is full of original parts, so a reproduction part just seemed inappropriate. What to do?
I saw a wood steering wheel on Ebay that really did not look good. Way to much polyurethane on the wood; so much that it looked all one very dark color. Looked more like plastic than wood. But, upon close inspection of the photos, I could see the tell tale segments of the wood. The seller had a receipt for the steering wheel from European Collectibles where they paid a whopping $2400 for the wheel back in 2012. Back then that was about the going rate for an original C2 VDM wood wheel. After much discussion with the seller, I bought the wheel for much much less than that amount, thinking it to be a reproduction.
The wheel arrived and it looked as described by the seller, poor work around the spokes and so much polyurethane you could barely see the wood. Someone had apparently attempted a "restoration" of the steering wheel. I took photos in bright sunlight and contacted Mike Lempert and Bruce Crawford. Both said it was not their work and likely not the work of Jack Arct either.
I set out to try and make the steering wheel better. About 15 hours of gentle sanding and I was only about 1/2 done. To speed things up I decided to use a blade from a utility knife to scoop out the poly from the finger grooves, all the while carefully making sure to stop short of touching the wood.
While doing all this work, I started talking with Mike Wilson about original C2 wood wheels. Mike was kind enough to send me an article from the 356 Registry written by Roy Lock. Roy went into very fine details of the original wheels. I had talked to Roy many years ago when he was writing the article, and he told me he could tell an original from a reproduction by looking at the hub. Now I understand how! Roy's article, linked HERE, shows on page 62 that the C2 wood steering wheels were quite unique. They used a T5 hub combined with T6 shaped spokes. No other wheel does this. T5 hub measures 98 mm and that is due to a different camphor on the hub. There are a lot of T5 steering wheels out there, but they have T5 spokes. Only the C2 wood wheels have the T5 hub and the T6 spoke shape.
So, I started looking at the steering wheel more carefully and here is what I found:
After taking it down to bare wood, I decided to use a coating that would be period correct. Not polyurethane, not on this steering wheel. I chose Shellac, and hand applied two coats.
The result is a steering wheel that is restored to the best of my ability. It is not perfect, as the delamination can be seen in a few spots, but I attribute that to "patina". The front spokes are quite shinny and present themselves well, and I will be painting the black paint in the recess to give a full original look- apparently the previous "restorer" removed the paint. Lastly I'll add my original horn button and that is what will be permanently installed on Miss April
Photo slide show below for current status. When the steering wheel is installed with the completed dash, I will post more photos.
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