AS IS well-known, the road-going Porsche GT car comprises one basic model with a number of variations, unlike the Porsche sports/racing cars which comprise a number of very different models. These were enumerated in MOTOR SPORT in September 1969 and they range from the 904 to the 917. In the middle of all these type numbers lies the 911 series, and this is the Porsche shape that is so familiar on both road, track, rallies and even autocross. The 911 has its flat sixcylinder engine, air-cooled like all Porsches, mounted behind the rear-axle line, and the coupe bodywork has accommodation for two and two-halves people, there being small but practical seats behind the driver and passenger. Output of the variations on the 911 theme has risen as high as 86 cars per day, which gives a good idea of the following that the firm Porsche has. Last autumn the 911 engine was enlarged from 2-litres to 2.2-litres and it can be had in three stages of development, 125 DIN-h.p., 155 DIN-h.p. and 180 DIN-h.p., these figures being power outputs in the car and not American SAE test-bed figures. The three model designations, respectively, are 911T, 911E and 911S, the E and the S having Porsche fuel injection in place of carburetters. The increase in engine size has been achieved by enlarging the bore from 80 mm. to 84 mm., keeping the stroke at the original 66 mm., and looking at the stroke/bore ratio it is easy to see why the S model gives its maximum power at 6,500 r.p.m., with a safe upper limit of 7,400 r.p.m.
In MOTOR SPORT for February 1966 I wrote a very full report on a week with a 911 Porsche and rated it one of the great cars of the day, by all standards. Since then the basic conception of the model has not changed, but there has been continuous development and improvement in almost every part of the car, the most radical being a lengthening of the wheelbase from 87.0 in. to 89.3 in. Brakes, springing, shock-absorbers, wheel rims, tyres, and so on have all been improved since 1966, mostly as a result of competition motoring, for if ever there was a car that proves the saying that “racing improves the breed” it is the Porsche. To the casual glance the latest 911S looks the same as the normal 911 that I had in 1966, almost four years ago to the day, and its manner of going is the same, but better, if that makes sense! All the praise that I bestowed on the 911 four years ago, for its superb steering, roadholding, suspension, cornering power and so on, still applies but more so, as Porsche have not been standing still for four years. The competition successes of the various 911 models in almost any form of motoring sport fill a small booklet every year, and the technical and design departments in Stuttgart learn and improve all the time.
Last month our Production Manager wrote of his experiences with his 1966 Porsche 911 during 50,000 miles, and in his lead-in he blamed me for his Porsche enthusiasm, and having read what he said I could not help wondering why I have spent the last four years motoring about in a 4.2-litre E-type Jaguar instead of a Porsche 911, although I did touch on one reason in my earlier story, namely the power and torque of the E-type engine, and enlarged further in an article in MOTOR SPORT, April 1968, page 276. To try and convince me that I have been wrong for four years, Porsche Cars Great Britain, of Isleworth, Middlesex, offered to lend me the best 911 that is listed, namely the 911S, and they were very honest when they said that to get the best from it you should point it out into the open country, not into a city. The S engine is as flat as a kipper under 2,000 r.p.m., after which it goes about as well as a Ford with a speed-stripe, until the tachometer reaches 5,200 r.p.m., and then it all happens and the needle is up around 7,000 r.p.m. and a change of gear is called for.
With the splendid Porsche 5-speed gearbox it is possible to keep the engine “up on the step” and then the car really covers the ground, although it does become tiring trying to imitate Vic Elford all the while, especially as such imitation does not come naturally at the sort of speeds involved, and requires a lot of concentration and work with the left hand and left foot. While the 911S is incredibly quick from A to B it does not have the “seven-league-boots” of a car like the E-type. It is said that power corrupts, and I must say that having learned to live with the sheer power and surge of 4.2-litres the continual stirring about on the gear-lever of the Porsche and keeping one eye on the tachometer all the time began to lose its point as far as fast road motoring is concerned.
Over one of my favourite sweeping, undulating roads where it is possible to cover nine miles in seven minutes, the 911S matched up well, but involved numerous gear-changes and a beady eye on the instruments to make sure the engine speed did not drop below 5,200. The E-type does it all in one gear with never a need to look at an instrument, for it has all the power and speed you need at 1,000 r.p.m. below its maximum output. Over this short distance the different techniques of achieving the same result are not important, but if the distance had been 900 miles across Europe it would have been another matter. If you are in competition and 2.2-litres is your class then that is different, but for road motoring, especially where we are taxed at a flat rate, and not on capacity or horsepower, my feeling is, why have 2.2-litres when you can have 4.2-litres, especially when the frontal area and drag are about the same?
If all this is true then you might wonder why I still rate the Porsche as a great motor car. It is its manner of doing things that makes it great. The steering is light from a stand-still up to its maximum speed, whether you are reversing into a parking space or doing 140 m.p.h. it feels the same, and at all times has just the right amount of “feed-back” from the front tyres; the suspension feels that you can never embarrass it, no matter what the road surface is, and you know you can cross unmade bits of road without any qualms, and with a lot of Motorway construction going on, there are plenty of opportunities for crossing bits of unmade road; at all times the Porsche gives you a feeling that it has its feet planted well and truly on the ground, and what is more it has its feet spread well apart. You can drive a Porsche as hard as you like and you will not run out of roadholding or stability; in fact you can drive it as hard as it will go without any qualms for it not only feels stable at all times, but is stable. If you drive a 4.2-litre E-type as hard as it will go you will have a very big accident.
I did once drive my E-type in a typical Porsche manner on the Targa Florio course, from Collesano down to Campofelice, using 5,000 r.p.m. all the time, stirring about on the gearbox to keep the revs there and using all the brakes it had got. I managed to cover ten kilometres without having an accident, but it was mostly luck, and I gave up after that for two reasons. One, I was physically worn out, and two, I knew I would “lose it” and hit something if I carried on like that. With a 911 you can drive it like that all the time without a qualm, and the performances of 911 Porsches in the Targa Florio or round the Nürburgring are ample proof of this. The ratio of power to roadholding is a difficult thing to define on paper or in figures, like trying to comprehend electronics, but once you have experienced the two extremes it becomes a simple thing to understand. This is one of the problems with the Porsche 917, that racing drivers are finding rather exciting to drive; for it must be the first Porsche that has had more power than roadholding, like an E-type Jaguar, or, to go to extremes, like a Ford Mustang. For high-speed touring over long distances the car with excess power is adequate and can be a comfortable, effortless, yet sufficiently fast way of covering the ground. The opposite type of car, like the 911S, will do the same job at the same speed but with a lot more fuss, but if you want to step your pace up from high-speed touring to a flat-out blind, then the second type of car comes into its own. When both types of car use the same amount of fuel doing the same job you find it hard to justify the smaller engine.
The 911S that I borrowed was equipped with every possible extra, from electrically-operated sliding roof to a Voxson radio/stereo tape player, and with a full tank of petrol (approx. 13 3/4 gallons) it weighed 22 1/2/ c.w.t. (2,520 lb.), and the fuel consumption varied depending on your mood and the road conditions. It could be as economical as 22 1/2 m.p.g. or as thirsty as 18 m.p.g. In nearly 1,000 miles of Porsche motoring I had every type of road condition except dry roads, for it was in the middle of an ice-age spell, running on to thaw and rain. The remarkable thing was that I seldom had to make any allowance for wet roads, for the Michelin tyres fitted to the car, together with Porsche roadholding, gave the car uncanny cornering ability. At one time tyres were just Michelin “X”, and they were excellent, but with progress into “George Orwell land” the latest Michelins, as fitted to the 911S, are 185/70-VR-15X Radial, and they were as impressive as the Voxson stereo. It has been said that they are noisy tyres, but with a Porsche six-cylinder engine humming round at 6,000 r.p.m. behind your head you would not know about tyre noise. At over 100 m.p.h. there was a lot of wind noise around the windscreen edges; in fact, more than I would have thought Porsche engineers would have tolerated, or have I been spoilt by Jaguar aerodynamics! The Porsche fuel-injection has improved fuel consumption over the Solex or Weber carburetters previously fitted, and all the way up the rev, range the carburation is clean and untroubled, but it calls for different operating techniques, though not different driving techniques. When starting from cold first thing in the morning, you pull up a little lever mounted between the seats and on no account touch the accelerator pedal. You turn the key starter and crank the engine over briefly, like “whirr, whirr, whirr”; you stop, turn the key starter again and the engine is running instantly, but very slowly. The tacho meter is indicating about 1,000 r.p.m. and everything seems very flat, but you wait patiently for a few seconds and then without you touching anything the engine suddenly speeds up to 3,500 r.p.m., as all the electric controls and thermostats on the injection system come into play.
As the engine warms up the r.p.m. will increase to 4,500 but you can then use the little central lever as a hand-throttle to give you 2,000 or 2,500 r.p.m. for warming up while you clean the windscreen or stow luggage. It is not an engine for driving off flat-out from stone cold with the choke out, like a lot of non-mechanical people do; it is an engine for those who appreciate motoring. Before leaving the operating technique I would give Porsche Engineering absolutely full marks for their ignition key. Like a few cars (the E-type among them, need I say) there is one key and one key only, which locks both doors, the glove box and operates the ignition, but Porsche have gone one better, for their key is symmetrical on both edges so that it has no right or wrong way up, you just put the key into the slot and that is it. Murphy’s well-known law will guarantee that if there is a right and a wrong way up to the key before it will go into the keyhole you will have it the wrong way up when you try to do it in the dark. This is only a small point, but when you live with a car day in and day out it is these small points that make a car livable with.
When I am loaned a car with a bunch of keys, one for the door, one for the boot and one for the ignition, I scream in despair, especially when someone says “borrow my car” and it is dark. Pedantic? Yes, maybe, but I feel that life does not need to be so difficult, and obviously the Porsche Engineers agree. (Note here from my Vintage friends about Bosch ignition keys that can be put in the combination switch from any direction as they are made from circular bar and it is the notches on the end that operate the switch tumblers.) I think it is justifiable to say that all that is Porsche is good, and as pointed out earlier, this stems from their active racing programme, coupled to the fact that the roots of Porsche Engineering is engineering as distinct from automobile engineering, and they certainly do not come into the category of automobile-assemblers, like a lot of firms I could instance. An interesting sidelight on this development through racing is the fact that they now offer, as an optional extra, the collapsed spare tyre with an air bottle for inflation that was developed for the works cars in the Targa Florio. This is in connection with an optional 24-gallon fuel tank, which takes up most of the nose space, so the deflated spare gives you some extra room. This tyre was developed originally to dodge the Group 6 regulations, for the works eight cylinder cars had very sloping noses and would not accept a normal inflated spare tyre. It is nice to see that it can now be used by sporting motorists on the road.
Nothing is ever perfect in this life, and during the snow, frost and mud era I had a miserable day’s motoring in the 911S because someone had not put enough anti-freezing additive in the windscreen washer reservoir. This is now a plastic container sunk into the nose of the car, whereas it used to be a rubber bag inside the luggage compartment in the front of the car. As the air temperature was below zero when I got up and stayed below zero all that day, the windscreen wiper liquid was frozen solid, and once I had set off on my trip it had no hope of unfreezing, being mounted right up front in the airstream. Having become used to washer bottles in the engine compartment, where the heat keeps the liquid almost on the boil, I was baffled. Knowing what winter is like in Germany, and knowing German mentality, I knew something was wrong somewhere, so I opened the Owner’s Manual to see if I could find the answer. This Manual, which comes with every Porsche, is a magnificent production, covering every possible detail of the car, and is an object lesson to any aspiring manufacturer.
On page 23 there was a delightful paragraph which read “During the cold season, please note our instructions for cold weather operation of the wiper/washer mechanism on page 37”. I hurriedly turned to page 37, where it said “Fill the reservoir with a solution of three parts water to one part alcohol”. It did not specify the brand of alcohol, but a friend who knew about these things suggested methylated spirits, but the water in the plastic pipes did not thaw out until next day, and it was no fun trying to drive fast when the outside world seemed to be covered by a grey/brown fog. Spoilt my day that did.
On previous Porsches I have never had occasion to complain about the pedal layout, but on this 911S the angle of the clutch pedal seemed odd, and it gave me an uncomfortable ache across the arch of my left ankle. As I was continually changing gear and using the clutch this became aggravating, but as Porsche say they have not altered the pedal position I can only assume I have gout coming on or something, but I still think it is significant that the pain went away when I gave the car back! Not being 6 ft. 4 in. tall, I found that the windscreen wipers got in my vision when they were parked, for they do not disappear down below the bottom of the screen. When I mentioned this Porsche pointed out that they used to be parked on the passenger’s side of the screen, but it was found that the air flow caused rivulets of water to run up the screen after the wipers were switched off. Parking them on the driver’s side prevents this happening. Oddly enough this was a problem I found on the Lotus Europa; when the rain stopped and you switched off the wipers little rivulets would creep up the screen from the surplus water lying on the scuttle. I wonder if the 1970s are the time for someone to devise a scheme to replace the archaic wiper arm and blade? But the test car at least had a wiper for its back window.
A lot of professionally-trained journalists will tell you that you should be like a politician, and not read what you wrote a year or two ago. I cannot do that, and thoroughly enjoyed re-reading my story on the original 911 Porsche in the February 1966 issue. All that I said still holds good and it proved interesting to note various small changes that had been made to the same basic car. Whereas the door locks inside were push-buttons in the arm-rests, they are now flush-fitting levers; the outside push-buttons have been replaced by nice little levers hidden behind the solid door handle and they can be operated by the index finger as you grasp the handle. The warning light that tells you the handbrake is on is now red, instead of the original white, and the heater controls have become all centralised on the instrument panel, though the master control is still between the seats. For some unknown reason the stalks on each side of the steering column have been reversed, the lamps and indicators being on the left and the 3-speed wipers on the right. The wipers have been improved in that they now have a position where they wipe the screen every five seconds, as well as the normal slow and fast action. It is interesting that I considered the wind noise at 100 m.p.h. to be too much on the 911S for I find I made the same criticism of the 911 in 1966.
In its standard form in 1966 the 911 cost £3,438 1s., 3d. all on, which is one reason I had a 4.2-litre E-type Jaguar. Today the 911 in standard form costs a total of £3,670 18s. 1d., which is not a desperate increase when you compare the prices of some things over the past four years. The 911S, which is what I call Porsche’s “all singing and all dancing model”, for they don’t come any more expensive or better than the S-model, costs a total today of £5,211 9s. 2d., but it is important to realise that the Government take £1,221 9s. 2d. of that figure in purchase tax. When I mentioned the price of the 911S to a friend his reply was “That’s two E-type Jaguars!” Later on someone was talking about a Lamborghini Miura and I could not help remarking “That’s the price of two 911S Porsches”. It is all a question of keeping a sense of proportion.-D.S.J.