The latest from Stuttgart 2.7 Porsche

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EVER SINCE the 911 Porsche series began in 1964 I have felt that the car was too big for the engine. The end of the old Beetle 356 Porsche series left a standard of performance with the 2-litre Carrera, with its 4-camshaft flat-four engine. In competition form, with lightweight panels and minimum of trim, it had a pretty terrific performance for the time, which was the early nineteen-sixties. When the new generation of Porsche cars began with the 911, the performance was adequate but not memorable. The 911 series was a much larger car and though the engine was now a flat-six, with more power than the old flat-four, everything was bigger and heavier and 2-litres did not seem big enough for the overall size and weight of the car. At the time I was disappointed with the new Porsche for I was expecting everything to carry on where the 356 series had left off, and although the 911 series went on ahead in ride, steering, road-holding and braking, it lagged on sheer performance, and other cars set the performance standards for the mid-nineteen-sixties. This standard was a sum total of acceleration, maximum speed, normal cruising speed, high cruising speed, and the usability of the combination of all these things plus the quantities of each that one always had in reserve during the course of a normal day’s motoring.

At the time of the beginning of the new Porsche era there was a very interesting and satisfying offshoot in the form of the 904 coupé, which must have been the last racing Porsche that could be used as a road-car. This had the new generation thinking in its chassis and suspension but used the old our-camshaft four-cylinder Carrera 2-litre engine, but even so it had all the performance desirable in a fast road-car. Unfortunately it was not developed in road form and the racing version soon gave way to the new Zuffenhausen thinking in the form of the Carrera Six, a racing coupé using the new series 911 engine, and this thinking went ahead in leaps and bounds, through the 910, the 907, the 908 and on up to the fabulous and never-to-be-forgotten 917, and this thinking is still going on in the turbo-charged 917/10 Can-Am Porsche. The pace of the development on the racing side of Porsche has been one of the highlights in recent motor-racing history, and not surprisingly production development could not keep pace.

The sales of Porsches had been climbing as rapidly as the successes of the racing department and the engineering improvements in the production cars have been very extensive, as anyone involved in Porsche 911 maintenance and overhaul will tell you. All the time the performance aspect has been increasing but, to my mind, not rapidly enough, and over the years Porsche Cars (Great Britain) Ltd. have been lending me better and better 911 Porsches and every time I have returned them, saying, “A super car, splendid in handling, steering, road-holding and cornering, but it lacks steam”. They could all be wound up and made to go very fast, and they could all be made to record impressive figures, but in everyday use they lacked sheer performance. Over the years the engine has grown, first to 2.2-litres, then to 2.4-litres, and all the while the power and performance has grown as well. The race-prepared versions never lacked anything, as the race results all over the world have shown, and as a long-distance GT car the 911 series have always been among the best. If you were prepared to “do a Vic Elford” and keep the rev.-counter needle between 6,500 and 7,000, using the 5-speed gearbox to do so, the 911 Porsche was uncatchable. To do this for fun was terrific, but to do it as a way of living, day in and day out, is not possible for ordinary people. If it was, you would be Vic Elford. I remember discussing this with Brian Redman when we had been running in company to the Österreichring, and he agreed that if you took your eye off the rev.-counter or relaxed on the gear-lever for a moment, all the BMW 2002s that you had wafted past, caught you up again. This was when the Porsche engine was 2.2-litres.

Last summer the Porsche racing department appeared at the Austrian 1,000 kilometres race with an experimental 911 coupé with a 2.7-litre engine in it, and with aerodynamic aids to speed and stability in the form of an air-dam under the front bumper to prevent the wind getting under the nose and creating an upward force, and a spoiler across the tail to create down-thrust on the rear wheels. Before the end of the year this car was announced as a new production model called the Carrera RS, available in “touring” form, with radio, carpets, full trim everywhere and all mod. con., or in “competition” form ready for the 1973 season of GT racing. A run of 500 of these cars is being made and the order books were filled instantly. In the first week in January the British Concessionaires received their first 2.7-litre Carrera RS, in white with blue details, and kindly offered it for appraisal, saying that they felt this one would satisfy my performance standards.

During the first part of the loan it was a matter of getting some miles on the car, in the form of “running-in”, which is a relative term, for they said “don’t go over 5,000 r.p.m. to start with”. As 5,000 r.p.m. is around 110 m.p.h. this was no hardship and the mileage soon built up to the point where we could use another 500 r.p.m., and then another, and then another, with 1,000 r.p.m. still to come when the engine is fully run-in. The performance of this 2.7-litre Porsche is more than adequate, even for 1973.

The power and torque of the engine, and the wide rev.-band, really do make this latest Porsche a shattering performer, without the necessity of “doing a Vic Elford”. If you do take your jacket off and roll your sleeves up it becomes staggering, and all the while the road-holding, steering, cornering and braking are more than able to cope with it all. In normal road motoring the acceleration in 2nd and 3rd gears are a standard for all to aim at, even with a self-imposed 6,000-r.p.m. limit, and 5,000 in 4th gets you on your way as they say, with another gear to come. A fully run-in Carrera RS is red-lined between 7,200 and 7,400 r.p.m. and even my mind boggles slightly at the thought of peak revs in 2nd, 3rd or 4th. The 2,687-c.c. flat-sixcylinder air-cooled engine develops 210 DIN horsepower with fuel injection. This is honest-to-goodness b.h.p. which is all available, and it gives this at 6,300 r.p.m., with maximum torque at 5,100 r.p.m., so that when you accelerate violently and change gear at 6,500-7,000 r.p.m. you come in on the next gear on full power and torque, which is what gives a car “steam” as compared to “poke”. This means that the Carrera RS gets up and goes at 100 m.p.h. without the necessity to change down a gear. If your habitual cruising speed is around the 100-m.p.h. mark you need “steam” for many things; for keeping up your cruising speed on long Autobahn inclines, such as you get on the Frankfurt/Nürnberg route; for instant acceleration to 115-120 to get past an impending movement in the slower traffic, thus avoiding unnecessary heavy braking; for getting clear of impending trouble amongst 100-m.p.h. Opels that are flat-out, and so on. Previous Porsches would do all this providing you snicked down into 4th and took the r.p.m. up to the red line, but there was not always time to do this. If you stayed in 5th gear and flattened the throttle all that happened was a change of engine note and nothing dramatic on the rev.counter. The 2.7-litre has changed all that and at 110 m.p.h. in 5th gear it gets up and goes, with 130 m.p.h. coming up very quickly indeed.

If there is time to change down into 4th gear, then it all happens that much quicker, but here is where the Achilles heel of the RS lies, for the gear-change is nothing to write home about. At one time Porsche had a super gear layout of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in H-form, with 1st “round the corner to the left”. Once on the move in true Porsche fashion you only need 3rd, 4th and 5th, and on the old layout you could snick from 4th to 5th or back again with ease, and back across the gate to 3rd when required. Now 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th are in the H-pattern, and 5th is “over and up to the right”, which calls for some deliberation and even more from 5th back to 4th, whereas it should be instantaneous and not requiring any thought. Unfortunately some strange people buy Porsches these days and the factory received complaints that too many drivers were changing up from 1st into 4th, instead of into 2nd. When you are building and selling as many cars as Porsche do you have to compromise, but it is a pity when changes are made that are backward rather than forward.

The Carrera RS was running on Pirelli Cinturato tyres of 185/70VR 15 front and 215/60VR 15 rear dimensions, and even on damp roads the car is capable of generating some pretty impressive cornering forces and, once again, as with the Citroen SM and the Dino Ferrari, the problem of passenger seating arose. For the driver there is no problem, but an identical seat for the passenger is no longer valid on cars with such high cornering potential and the time has come to design two different seats for these types of car. The driver is braced between the seat, the pedals and the steering wheel and he does not have to anticipate G-forces because he is in control of generating them, but on a similar seat the passenger rolls about uncontrollably. There are only two answers at the moment, both of them negative; one is for the driver to drive slower, and this spoils his fun, the other is to strap the passenger in with a six-point seat harness, and that isn’t very popular. The time has come for specially designed passenger seats that hold the occupants comfortably in position under high G-forces, and, more important, under high directional changes of G-forces. The Carrera RS is high on the list for this improvement, for its cornering powers are very high, beautifully balanced and neutral under normal circumstances, with a tendency to under-steer on 100-m.p.h. motorway curves. The suspension is on the harsh side, transmitting quite a lot of bumping and banging noises from the road, and you are conscious that the suspension is dealing with every ripple and bump in the road, and not skipping a few now and then, so that you know the Carrera has got its feet well and truly on the ground. The joy of such suspension is that you can ignore road surfaces, undulations, irregularities and so on, and put all your driving concentration into speed judgement and direction, and it is no wonder that Porsches excel in the Targa Florio or round the Nürburgring. Nothing that is desirable comes easily or cheaply and the Carrera RS is no exception, costing £6,255 all on in England, but without question it is one of the great cars of the nineteen-seventies, not as sophisticated as a Citroen SM, not as smooth and elegant as a V12 Jaguar, not as fascinating as a Dino Ferrari, but the personification of GT motoring and race-breeding and my instant reaction was “what an incredibly honest motor car”, and to me honesty is coupled with integrity and in all walks of life they are desirable qualities. D.S.J.

Footnote: It is an open secret that the CSI are looking for a new formula for sports-car racing, to try and return the end-product back to something useful and reasonable. The present trend is a rather unhealthy offshoot of Formula One racing that is heading into oblivion. An equal secret is that Porsche and Ford are trying to sway the trend towards cars with some basic resemblance to a usable endproduct, and the competition version of the Carrera RS, with its 170-m.p.h. maximum, and the competition version of the Capri with its 380-b.h.p. 4-valve V6 engine developed by Cosworth, is the way they want to go for long-distance endurance racing, otherwise the sports-car scene will degenerate into two-hour sprint races, with too much time left over for arguing and wrangling. In this pressurising of officialdom they have my support. D.S.J.