The Porsche 911 is, just like the headline; simple and limited to its needs, yet so powerful. This paragon from Porsche is been a measurement for the whole sports car industry ever since it was introduced. It might just be the most successful sports car to date. My brother and I had to find out why the Porsche 911 was, and still is, so popular. For a few days, we both left the convenience of our daily drivers home and went back to the 1970’s with this 50 years old 911s 2.2.
Porsche, a story to success
The longtime story of Porsche started in the early 40’s when Ferry Porsche couldn’t find the car of his dreams. So he built one himself with help of his father, Ferdinand Porsche.
In the 30’s, Ferdinand had worked for Volkswagen and so obtained a lot of experience in the automotive-industry. It’s needless to say that they would use Volkswagen-parts for the production of their own sports car, such as the iconic air-cooled boxer-engine. The very first Porsche, so called 356, was born in 1948. The 356, that ran off from the Volkswagen Beetle’s lay-out (rear-engined), was small and ultra light. It’s handling was exceptionally good according to it’s drivers, that it was described as reliable. Porsche setted standards for small sports cars with the 356 and was therefore a huge success. Both on the road as in the motorsport, from racing to rallying. Porsche had their own vision and didn’t follow trends, leading to Porsche being a benchmark for other sports car manufacturers.
After the succes of the 356, a new chapter came along, which was called 901.
The Porsche 901 wasn’t that different from the 356. Four seats instead of two, the iconic air-cooled boxer-six engine instead of its four-cilinder variant and body lines where Porsche refuses to get rid of to this day. Around one hundred 901’s were built. This because Peugeot claimed all three-digit-number names with a ‘zero’ in the midst. Porsche was forced to rename the 901 and called it 911. Because of the 901’s low production numbers, it was later seen as the prototype of what would become world’s most successful sports car, which is the 911. Your turn, Peugeot.
The Very first generation of the Porsche 911 was introduced in 1963 and was provided with a boxer-six that sends 130hp to the rear wheels. In the beginning People weren’t convinced by the 911. “I don’t know if it’s still a Porsche” was being said. But after the first test reports came in, people went crazy about the 911. Again it was the handling that blew its drivers away. The success was so enormous that they knew at Porsche what to do: more 911! They came up with the 912 -basically a 911 with a 4-cilinder engine- and later a roofless version of the 911. This latter was generally popular in America. But Porsche frightened for the safety regulations on roll-overs that the American government would apply. Which would make a cabriolet convertibles unsaleable on the US market. Therefore, Porsche designed a coupé with open roof, basically. It was provided with a recognizable rollbar which guaranteed the firmness of a coupé. At Porsche they called it a Targa, named after the Targa Florio races. Turns out, the ‘roll-over regulations’ never came trough, which made the Targa’s “nonessential”.
In 1966 Porsche fulfill the people their requirements to go faster. They built a more powerfull 911: the 911s. The engine was provided with a re-profiled camshaft, larger valves, better porting, higher compression and larger jets for the Weber carburetors. This resulted in more horsepower and improved torque. The ‘s’ badge not only refers to ‘sport’ but also to ‘success’. The triumph was so immense that Porsche built s-variants of almost every 911 ever since. Later on, Porsche introduced the 911T, E and L as well.
My boy’s dream was not quite a Porsche. No, it simply was a Lamborghini. And I can’t the only one here. My interest for Porsches grew nonetheless as I became older. Its rich racing history and vision on the future spoke to me the most. Just think about the little Porsche 550 -the giant slayer-, who in the 1950’s dominated the motorsport in North-America. The 917 that scored in 1970 Porsche their historic first-ever outright victory in the world’s most prestigious endurance race, Le Mans 24h. Or the 935 -And for the carnuts under us more specefic; the Kremer Type 3- who defeated all prototypes at circuit De La Sarthe in the pouring rain.. Am I deviating again?
Like any other addiction it started with that very first time. Earlier this year I was appointed to lead Gent-Wevelgem, a Belgian cyclist race, in a Porsche GT3 RS (2016). A whole day I spent in a 911 that shares DNA with a racecar, that GT3 RS thus. To keep it short: It was the best car I’ve ever experienced so far. On that very day my Porsche-addiction become clear to me.
There is not a single day going by where I haven’t searched for the available Porsches on the market.
Behind the wheel
My brother has been working for Bavaria Motors for a few years now. He easily is as infected with the petrol-virus as myself. Every year during Zoute-Grand-Prix, a four day automotive festival in Knokke, He is able to pick a car from the fleet. This year was no different. Even though my brothers vision deviates from mine (He is more attracted to modern supercars, whilst I prefer oldies), he chose to surprise me with this 50 years old 911 2.2s.
Although Zoute-Grand-Prix started Thursday, October 10th. We were only able to leave Friday, october 11th, in the evening. That Friday I left early to work, so I would be home again sooner. Lost in the thoughts of driving the 911s I made it through my day. Once home again, I waited for my brother to arrive. Quickly I took my camera bag and off we went, on the highway direction Knokke. It was cold and raining continuously, there was no radio and well guessed, the heater was broken, too. But after driving a short while, the engine started giving a pleasing warmth to the cockpit. Resulting in condense on the windows. As we barely could see anymore, we had to open the windows. If they didn’t get stuck at least. Deeply sighing my brother looked at me, with a smile on my face I told him: “These defects are what makes the car alive!”
Later that day we would meet an avid colleague photographer, who took his Alfa Romeo GTV6 to Knokke . With this duo of 12 cylinders we drove through the city center, searching for the surprises ZGP offers each year. The Golf course was being prepared for the Concours D’élégance that would start the morning after. Arriving at dusk, a few cars were already there. By moonlight we ran at the Kustlaan into a few classics that drove the Zoute Rally earlier that day. Whilst making night images, we failed to stay aware of time. it was one o’ clock when we returned home.
The next morning, after only a few hours of sleep, I was so overwhelmed in the morning because I would take place behind the wheel of my favorite sports car, the 911. Even a cup of coffee escaped me, what rarely happens. Still sleepy I started the cold engine. Much better! On the road to Knokke I was emphatically reminded why the highway wasn’t the ultimate playground for this Porsche. This particular example is equipped by the previous owner with rally specifications : a roll cage, rally-seats, rally-seat belts, Sport-suspension, sport-steering wheel, protection plates underneath the chassis and extra rally-lights. It would have been a shame if we only discovered the highway with this rally-ready Porsche. Because it was raining continuously in Knokke, we decided to return direction home to have some fun with this 911. We drove typical Flemish roads inbetween the fields. The uneven and muddy roads were just perfect to enjoy this 911 to the fullest.
Purebred sports car
The boxer-six of this particular 911 sends 180hp to the rear wheels. What for a modern sports car might be ridiculously low, was for Porsche just enough to build a challenging car in the 70’s. This 911 doesn’t obtain enough power to behave unexpecting in corners. Not even on a wet road surfaces. Due the sport suspension the chassis floats closer by the tarmac than an original 911. This in combination with the small sport-steering wheel results in a very controllable handling. The front end goes fast into the corner while the rear comes out sportively. The rally seat belts are clamping you tight, so you sit steady whilst cornering. This Porsche fulfill all aspects of a purebred sports car, to me. No over the top amount of horsepower and nothing about this car is unnecessary. Pure minimalism. It’s a true drivers car. That’s where it is all about in the first place with Porsches.
After daily driving this 911s for three days, reality kicked me in the face when I was driving direction work Monday morning in my Ford Focus. well..