When the Porsche factory finally gave up production of the chunky little 356 series of cars, the new and very changed 900 series was well into production, and since that time variations on the theme have increased both in the road car 911 series and the racing 900 series. The old 356 Porsches were developed from a very basic vehicle designed around Volkswagen parts, and until the mid-fifties much of the Porsche and Volkswagen were interchangeable, but gradually Porsche designed and manufactured everything for the car, until it was only in appearance that the mechanical parts resembled VW. When the new 911 appeared all traces of VW ancestry had gone, apart from air-cooling and rear-mounted engine, and Porsche took on a new lease of life. With their horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine of 2 litres capacity, very sophisticated suspension and steering and completely “new look” body/chassis unit, Porsche set out to establish a new image in the motoring world. It was a difficult task, for the old beetle-like 356 models had been in production for well over ten years and were an accepted and admired shape in the motoring scene.
The introduction of the 911 series was rather like the introduction of the DS19 Citroën in France. Once a manufacturer has a series and basic conception that is respected it is a big step to make a radical change. Citroën made it with great success, and Porsche did the same, which speaks volumes for their designers, engineers, management and public-image staff. Nowadays the 911 series of Porsche cars are respected throughout the world, just as the old 356 series were, although a few die-hards still have a longing for the old beetle-like Porsche. In the racing world the 900 series have not only earned the respect they deserve, but they have also done much to consolidate the production cars. As always, Porsche have followed a rigorous and intelligent racing programme, not plunging blindly into competitions that were beyond them, apart from the abortive Grand Prix attempt in 1962, but aiming their racing spear at something that would bring them returns in engineering, development and sales. The honest solidarity of everything Porsche stems from this overall competition programme, and when I first had a Porsche in 1955 I remember the wonderful feeling of well-being it gave, knowing that the development work had been done by drivers like Frankenberg, Polensky and Herrmann in events such as the Mille Miglia, the Tour of Sicily, the Nurburgring, the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, the Alpine Rally, and so on. Today when you drive a 911 Porsche you can feel that it is honest and solid in its design and construction, because if it was not it would not stand up to the rallies, races and hill-climbs to which it is subjected by Elford, Rindt, Neerspasch, Mitter and the rest. You do not finish the Targa Florio, the 84-hours Marathon at Nurburgring, the 24-hours at Le Mans and the 24-hours at. Daytona on luck alone.
All the Porsche production models available today are based on the same steel body/chassis unit, the variations being mechanical and detail. The 912 is a genteel version that still uses the old type of 1600 c.c. 4-cylinder Porsche engine that was developed from the Volkswagen, and you can have it with 4-speed or 5-speed gearbox. The 911T has the 2-litre flat 6-cylinder engine with cast-iron cylinder barrels and a fairly touring engine specification, with only 125 S.A.E. horsepower (110 DIN), this coming from an 8.6 to 1 compression ratio. Then comes the 911L, which is in effect the original 911 series that started it all, and this has the same basic 6-cylinder engine, with alloy barrels with cast-iron liners and 9:1 compression and develops 148 S.A.E. horsepower (130 D1N), and after this comes, the 911S, with a similar flat-six engine, but with the compression ratio raised to 9.8 to 1 and the power output to 180 S.A.E. horsepower (160 DIN), and this model is recognisable by its forged light-alloy wheels.
With all these variations the speed goes up as you progress and the fuel consumption increases, which is only natural, but the weight stays pretty constant, for all Porsches are very lavishly and completely equipped, no matter what the mechanical specification. It is interesting that Porsche quote a weight of 2,384 lb. for the 911L and when I weighed a recent test-car it came out at 2,366 lb., which gives you a very healthy respect for Porsche facts and figure, unlike some manufacturers. All the 911 models can be fitted with the Porsche “Sportomatic” gearbox/transmission as an optional extra, while to special order there is the 911R model, which is an out-and-out competition model with great many parts in glassfibre instead of steel and its 6-cylinder engine to the racing Carrera Six specification, but this is out of the run of normal production. All the foregoing are built around the 911 coupé body and have right-hand drive for this country, but in left-hand drive only is the Targa model, which has an ingenious open-car folding top, yet retains the effect of a closed car from the wind point of view, and it has a body section behind the front seats like a roll-over bar. As always, Porsche provide a car for almost every taste and you can select a specification to suit your requirements and your pocket, but outwardly they are all Porsche.
The competition scene has an equally imposing range of models, mostly for the factory team, but some available to order. The racing series are all designed around a layout that has the engine in front of the rear axle, whereas the 911 series has it behind the axle, in the interests of space for the passenger compartment. Heading the list is the very light left-hand drive open two-seater 910/Berg or hillclimb car, this having a tubular space-frame, glassfibre body and 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed air-cooled 8-cylinder engine, each bank of four cylinders having two overhead camshafts. The 8-cylinder Porsche engine is derived from the 1½-litre Grand Prix single-seater and has only ever been used in competition cars. Next comes the 907, a right-hand drive two-seater coupé, similar in layout to the 910, but with a 2.2-litre version of the 8-cylinder engine, followed by the 907/Langheck or long-tail, this having right-hand drive like the 907 but, as the name suggests, it has the very long tailed coupé body, as raced at Le Mans, and this car is powered by a flat 6-cylinder 2.0-litre engine. There are two long-distance racing versions of the 910, the 910/8 and the 910/6, the first the first with 2.2-litre 8-cylinder engine and the second with 2-litre 6-cylinder engine, and both have left-hand drive. Finally there is the 911R which, as already explained, is a competition version of the 911 series.
Summing up, the Porsche team have models for practically everything, the 910/8 Berg for hill-climbs, the right-hand steering 907 in 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder form as well as long and short tailed bodywork, and the left-hand steering 910 in 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder form, any of these four being suitable for serious long-distance racing. The general feeling in racing circles is that with the enforced retirement of Ford, Ferrari and Chaparral from long-distance racing, by reason of the 3-litre limit, 1968 should be a Porsche year. The works drivers are Elford, Neerpasch, Scarfiotti, Herrmann, Mitter, Siffert and Stommelen, and with the equipment available to them, and with Huschke von Hanstein directing operations, it is difficult to see how 1968 can fail to be the Porsche year.
Concessionaires for Porsche in Britain are: Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd., Falcon Works, London Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, and Porsche prices are as follows:
912 Coupé .. £2,676 7s. 9d.
911T Coupé .. £3,105 7s. 4d.
911L Coupé .. £3,449 10s. 7d.
911S Coupé .. £3,964 11s. 0d.
Including Purchase Tax and all import duties.
Sportomatic transmission for all 911 models .. £154 17s. 6d.
911R to special order only.