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Porsche 911

Published: 19th Sep 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Porsche 911

Then & Now

Back in those ‘real Porsche’ days you went club racing or rallying by throwing out the wife and dog, putting tape over the headlights, and painting numbers on the doors with a stick of tennis shoe whitener. Porsche made cars that could be raced or rallied by private entrants with minimal modifi cations. Sonauto and Almeras in France, and Prodrive in the UK, were the top motorsport teams that got the nod from Stuttgart, but almost nobody modifi ed cars for street use – except in Germany, where Kremer and Ruf are probably the best known. Now it’s different, and the list of goodies for modern Porsches is endless. The air-cooled cars (our interest here) are also well catered for. Tuthill Porsche (, Gantspeed (, and XS Racing (www. are top guys to build you a complete race or rally car, whilst you’re never far from an independent Porsche specialist who knows how to restore, fettle and fi x, the 911. Jaz (www., Autofarm (http://www.autofarm., and Ninemeister (http://www.ninemeister. com) are three of the best – check the specialist publications or Porsche Club GB (http://www.porscheclubgb. com) for more details.

Porsche 911
Porsche 911
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Which classics still have the potential to get up and go? Paul Davies remembers the cars, the tuners and the tweaks and tells why they’re still hot!

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. When the 911 made its debut, as the Porsche 901 at the 1963 Frankfurt motor show, an icon was born. Consistently for the following 25 years the same basic car was the most useable supercar on the planet. Even now its successors are amongst the most desired, and best performing, sports cars you can buy. Conceived by ‘Ferry’ Porsche, with design by ‘Butzi’ Porsche, respectively the son and grandson of the creator of the Volkswagen Beetle and father of the 356, the new model was a logical, but radical, development of Prof. Ferdinand Porsche’s fi rst sports car. The engine stayed at the rear, but this time it was a 130bhp, two-litre, overhead camshaft, fl at six, (air-cooled, of course), with a four speed gearbox (fi ve gears an option), torsion bar independent suspension all round, disc brakes front and rear, and rack-and-pinion steering. The body was aerodynamic, and a shape that still looks in-time today. Look at a brand new one and the shape is still familiar yet doesn’t smack of retro.

Actually, after that fi rst appearance, production didn’t get going until late 1964, and soon afterwards a spat with Peugeot over the ‘0’ in the middle had renamed the car the 911. From then on it was onwards and upwards. But the 911 was more expensive than the 356 it replaced, so for the first few years of production the 912 – essentially a 911 with a four-cylinder 356 power unit – outsold the six. Rapidly, though, the 911 gained respect, and it was not long before it became the sports car of choice for many – on road and on track. After all, where else in the mid sixties could you buy a sweet handling, 130mph, car that would run rings round the opposition, straight out of the box? Through the life of the 911 – and even now – Porsche built its reputation on success in motor sport. Factory drivers and privateers took to the car straight away, and it was soon grabbing silverware in club, national, and international events worldwide. Vic Elford won the European Rally Championship in 1967 (the same year Sobieslav Zasada was Touring Car champion in a 912) and Pauli Toivonen repeated the triumph in 1968. Elford and Toivonen took fi rst and second places in 911s on the ’68 Monte Carlo, and Bjorn Waldegard was winner in a 911 the following year, repeating the victory in ’70 to complete a 911 hat trick. On race tracks, Gijs van Lennep, Toine Hezemans, Gerrard Larrousse and Peter Gregg, were early names, from Le Mans, Spa, and Nurburgring to Daytona. As the 911 evolved, and engine size grew, Porsche developed more and more potent offspring, with various R, S/T, RS and RSR models that ducked in under the motor sport lawmakers radar. Turbocharging (the ‘930) added a new dimension, and the awesome 935 of the late ‘70’s with 600bhp-plus must be the ultimate development of the original 911.

The fi nal fl ing came with the 911SC RS, just 20 cars homologated into Group B. It couldn’t compete with purpose built World Rally cars, but proved successful elsewhere. Henri (son of Pauli) Toivonen’s second in the European Rally Championship was the highlight. The 911SC RS was possible because it marked the run out of a production model; the Carrera 3.2 that followed in ’84 was the fi nal incarnation of the original concept of 1964. When production ended in 1989 the replacement Carrera, type number 964 in Porsche terms, had a heavily revised engine, coil spring suspension, power steering, and a plethora of electronics.

Hotting One Up

Porker engines rarely gave out their quoted bhp

The air-cooled 911 engine is just like that in a VW Beetle, in concept if not in fact. There’s a two-piece crankcase (aluminium or magnesium), carrying the crankshaft, with separate cylinder barrels (three per side in this case) each with separate cylinder heads. Whereas the VW engine design has a single camshaft running in the crankcase operating valves via pushrods, the Porsche has an intermediate shaft, that powers a chain, which drives a single overhead camshaft above each bank of cylinder heads. Earliest 911 engines ran on a pair of triple choke carburettors (Solex, Zenith, or Weber on the S version), then it was Bosch mechanical fuel injection (1969), then mechanically sensed K-Jetronic, until in 1984 the electronic Bosch Motronic management system was introduced, along with LE-Jetronic injection on the Carrera 3.2. During the same period, power outputs steadily increased – along with engine size – from 130bhp to 230bhp. Porsche ‘evolution’ always seems to have involved an increase in engine capacity – in fact the same policy has continued with the air-cooled successors. Here’s a little list: On the transmission side of things, early cars only had fi ve speed boxes as an option (early Turbos were also four speed) before fi ve became the norm. The fi rst transmission was Type Number ‘901’ with dog-leg change (fi rst out on it’s own opposite reverse) then came the ‘915’ (from ’72), then the ‘G50’ (Getrag) box (‘87). The ‘901’ change is a bit loose and fl oppy, the ‘915’ generally stiff, and the ‘G50’ just about right – partially because it was the first with hydraulic actuation. Servo brakes, incidentally, fi rst appeared on the 911SC.

So, how do you make a 911 hot? The fi rst thing is to make sure the engine is delivering all it should – often the number on the spec sheet is a bit optimistic. For example, 231bhp Carrera 3.2’s rarely give much more (!) than 200bhp, unless you’re lucky enough to get hold of one of the rare Club Sport ‘blueprinted’ versions. A session with a rolling road is best: Bob Watson ( is the dyno guru. It’s pretty obvious you can update Porsche motors in just the way the factory did. Engine capacities can grow with the correct crankshaft, barrels and pistons, but be warned detail differences make this difficult and dangerous. It’s easier to swap a complete engine, as (assuming the chassis is the post ’68 long wheelbase) the bodies are all the same. Transmission changes - ditto as long as you change the forward mounts. The motor responds to all the usual tuning tweaks, gas-flowing the heads, bigger valves (depending upon the engine) and cam changes – although few have bettered the profi le of the original 911S cams. The location of the engine in the tail makes improving the exhaust system a bit of a nightmare. Best systems are the SSI free-fl ow with equal length manifolding, but the best power producers dispense with the heat exchangers – hence you get cold! Early carbs will most likely need re-furbishing to give all the power they should, whilst although there’s very little you can do to the Jetronic injection system, it is possible to ‘chip’ the Motronic management system (along with a change of the air fl ow meter) of the Carrera 3.2. Something new that looks promising is to replace the Motronic ‘black box’ with the DRH control unit marketed by Power Marques ( which can not only up power but makes the system accessible by computer for trouble shooting.

You can get really clever with the motor, such as smoothing out the crankcase webs to relieve gas pressure and fi tting ‘shuffl e pins’ to fi rmly locate the crankcase halves, and modifying the heads to take two spark plugs each. Porsche race engines usually threw away Jetronic injection and went for a mechanical system with long trumpets. Then there’s back-dating. The current craze is to take a tired SC or Carrera 3.2, tear off the front and rear panels, and luggage lid, add a few bits, and make yourself a ’73 Carrera RS or ’69 911 S/T replica. Yep, it’s a fake, and it doesn’t go any better, but look at current prices of the genuine article and you’ll know why people do it. But, why bother? Modify, or change, an original early-911 (by which we mean pre-’74 impact bumper bodystyle) and you’ll put a big dent in market value. Even the oft-maligned SC is a nice drive if it’s been sorted (and rust-bugged), and a good, bog-standard, Carrera 3.2 is the last drive-by-the-seat-of-your- pants Porsche you can get. The beauty of these cars is just how good they really were in-period

How Did It Drive?

The answer is easy. Drive a good air-cooled Porsche 911 now and it’ll perform just as it did 25, 35 or even 40 years ago! Back then the 911 was a memorable driving experience and it still is. The steering is always pin-sharp, the four-wheel discs do their job (better on later cars, we must add), the torsion bar suspension ensures accurate handling (don’t be fazed by the ‘tail-happy’ stories), and the engine delivers power all the way. Accompanied, of course, by that distinctive rattle, which a friend of mine once described as ‘a man pushing over a pile of dustbins’. Old 911s are one of the few classics that really can keep up with modern traffi c with ease.

Handling The Power...

For many a good well set up 911 is quick enough and they’re not wrong. That said pre-1984 cars will certainly benefi t from the larger vented brake discs fi tted to the 930 Turbo (the Carrera 3.2 less so), whilst Turbo bottom arms will give a bit of welcome negative camber to the front end. On the handling front, most 911s suffer from tired shock absorbers – Bilstein replacements (used on some production models) are the favourite swap although we reckon equivalent units from Koni, Spax, Gaz will be equally good plus many can be fi ne tuned. Even when the 911 went onto the international motorsport stage, the factory-prepared cars had only a change of gear ratios, limited slip differential, heavy-duty clutch, and perhaps sharper cams. Suspension was raised or lowered (easy with torsion bars) and shock absorbers uprated. Competition cars like the SC RS, and the various RSR models, often had ‘helper’ coil springs around the shock absorbers but that’s about it. Speak to a good specilaist fi rst for advice and start with good quality tyres and geometry check.

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