It is not often these days that you come across something new that truly takes your breath away. Martin Wiesner’s exquisite Porsche model engine is precisely that.
Words and pictures: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
It all started when a Porsche and fellow motoring enthusiast 'phoned me and said I should meet a gentleman who "will be of interest to me". Fast forward 72 hours and Martin Wiesner and I are having a cup of coffee at the Weltevreden Estate outside Stellenbosch.
Martin started out by studying law and worked in the corporate legal environment for a number of years. However, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, he became involved in a specialist workshop at Zwartkops Raceway where his passion for Porsches and engines was further developed.
A few years ago he decided to teach himself how to use CAD (computer-aided design) and 3D printing. One thing led to another and today he produces several parts for classic Porsches and also supplies some significant clients.
However, that only laid the foundation for one of the prettiest pieces of art I was about to see, but first the story behind it all.
“Because I’ve scanned so many real engine parts over the course of a few years, I started to print small engine parts, for example a connecting rod, to calibrate my printers. I also have 3D resin printers, which can print in very fine detail.
“The result was that you could even see the part number on the specific, tiny parts. Some of my friends found the details so interesting, they asked if they could have them, as I was going to be throwing them away anyway.
“Later on friends started to ask me if I could make them more parts and they offered to pay for them. Then I started thinking, what if I could scan and print all the parts over time – I wonder what the result would be? Quickly I realised the more parts I added, the prettier the scale model engine was.
“The main reason why this started to fascinate me, was that I had built many real 911 engines in my life. Every time when I completed an engine rebuilt, I would stand back and think that this was simply one of the prettiest objects in life. But, it was such a tragedy that this engine must then go back into an engine bay for the next 30 years!
“I realised that my project was heading towards a point where I could possibly hold such a model engine in my hands or be able to put it on a plinth and admire it from all sides. I then asked myself the question; What is the closest I can get to making an engine that looks identical to the original?
“I actively started to find and scan the missing parts I still needed to complete the engine. Some of these parts are very rare, but thankfully I had access to an original 901 engine, the very first 911 engines. It was actually the perfect engine for a project like this to kick off.
Although the final scanning took several months, that was not the most difficult part of the project.
“To put this engine together was by far the most challenging part. As this is not a real engine, you need to find other, more practical ways, of putting it all together. I had to develop a modular system by myself for building this engine. The result was that I did it over and over again until it was finally correct. To build this engine so that it looks like an original on the outside, but is put together in a totally different way on the inside, was by far the most difficult aspect of this project. This took me close to four years to figure out.
“I would finish an engine, only to then realise that if I did this differently or if that part was made in a different way, then it would simplify the entire process. However, that meant redesigning many of the parts. That takes another three months. This happened a number of times.
“Then people started showing interest in these engines and I started selling some of my prototypes. Some buyers even asked me to number the prototypes, as they are interested in collecting further models that I may produce. This made me realise that automotive and art enthusiasts appreciated my work. In the process I started to meet a number of interesting people, many of them seeing this engine as a serious piece of art.
“In my eyes the 901 engine is almost done. This means I am happy to sign it off and acknowledge that this is the best I can currently do, and that I’m now ready to start the next project. That is also why I’m in South Africa, as I’m busy scanning components for the next engine, which is the 2,0 S.”
Those are not the only plans Martin have in the pipeline though, as there are also talks of building a scale model of the special engine from the 911 R.
Once he unpacked his scale model engine, I could not keep my eyes off it. Secondly, the box in which the engine is transported is almost worth another article on its own!
R70 000 might seem like an exorbitant amount of money for a non-functional scale model engine, but as a piece of beautiful art and when taking into account the countless hours he has spent on this object, that amount seems completely justifiable.