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Total 911

Total 911

The magazine for Porsche 911 enthusiasts

The engineering genius of Dr Ferdinand Porsche

In 2014 the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, celebrated its five-year anniversary by putting on display a car that, in truth, actually somewhat resembled a wooden wagon.

The vehicle had been discovered in an undisclosed Austrian warehouse a year earlier – a dusty, century-old creation that would have featured four seats, now missing; an open-air chassis that could be used in both summer and winter; an electric motor, also missing, and large wooden wheels that were wrapped with pneumatic tyres. Its official name was the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, also known as the C.2 Phaeton model.

Most fascinating to the car world, however, was not the fact that a gem produced in 1898 and lost in 1902 could remain undiscovered for 112 years, but what happened to be stamped on the key components that still remained intact.

‘P1’, they read, the mark of one Ferdinand Porsche, and further affirmation that before the company that now bears his surname, before 911s and profit margins and even before ties to the Nazi Party, there was simply a man who was fascinated by the development of automotives – one who was willing to experiment with electricity as a means of doing so.

Born in 1875, Ferdinand Porsche’s interest in electricity stemmed back to his childhood in northern Bohemia – an area that was then part of Austria-Hungary and now falls under the Czech Republic. Porsche’s father, Anton, owned a workshop, and in his teenage years the younger Porsche would find himself helping his father by day, attending technical school by night.

At home Porsche was installing doorbells by 13 and experimenting with electrical lighting by 16 – a positive attitude that, with the help of a recommendation, landed him a job with the Vienna-based electrical company Bela Egger & Co. when he turned 18.

It was here in the Capital that Porsche’s formative work with the marvels of electricity began. Now with a day job that involved the medium, Porsche was able to attend occasional classes at a local university after work, which despite not ending with a formal education in engineering, saw Ferdinand develop the skills to produce an almost friction-free drivetrain by mounting electric motors in the front wheel hubs.

This work helped the engineer become his company’s head of testing before landing a job at Jakob Lohner & Co. in 1896. Previously Jakob Lohner had built coaches for the likes of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, but two years prior to Porsche’s arrival the company declared its interest in moving into automobiles.

Its first unveiling was the vehicle colloquially known as the P1. Weighing 1,359 kilograms, the 12-speed vehicle was mounted with an octagonal electric motor that was designed…

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Porsche officially retires 911 RSR

Porsche has officially retired the current incarnation of the 911 RSR. After three seasons, thirteen wins, 34 podium finishes and titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, along with victories at Le Mans and Sebring, the RSR will go down in motorsports history as one of the most successful Porsche race cars of all time.

In 2019, in IMSA competition, the RSR scored six GTLM class wins, including a record string of five in a row. Included in those wins were the endurance races at Sebring and Watkins Glen, as well as the sprint races at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Virginia International Raceway, Mid-Ohio and the streets of Long Beach, California.

Earlier in the season, Total 911 sat down with Earl Bamber to discuss the championship and the Porsche 911 RSR. “One advantage is that we have a flat six engine, which is better for weight distribution. Our car was designed to run to the limit of the rules. We all have idiosyncrasies, as we are a short wheelbase car which is better on a tight circuit whereas BMW is a long wheelbase car, which is better on a track with high speed corners, like Road America. Our car is well suited for the variety of tracks we run on in IMSA. You can’t be good everywhere. That’s why we do a championship, right?”

The Porsche 911 RSR proved to be the right tool for the job, both in the IMSA and in the FIA-WEC, where Porsche also won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world championships.

Laurens Vanthoor, who shared driving duties with Earl Bamber all season in the #912 and won the drivers’ title with Earl, summed up his feelings at Petit Le Mans. “I came to Porsche three years ago. I finally got the chance to drive in the USA. It’s something I’ve always wanted. The IMSA series was completely new territory for me. I had to get used to the racetracks, the processes and the car. Now I’ve won the title with my friend Earl. For me personally, a dream has come true.”

Even though the #912 car and driving duo of Bamber and Vanthoor won the championship, the contributions of the #911 car and drivers should not be overlooked. Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, the season long drivers of the #911, finished second in the championship, just a few points behind.

During the season, the #911 squad took wins at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Virginia International Raceway. The overall performance of the Porsche team was outstanding, as they defeated strong manufacturer efforts from Ford, Chevrolet, BMW and Ferrari to secure the IMSA GTLM championships.

Perhaps Frédéric Makowiecki, the third driver on the #911 car at Motul Petit Le Mans, summed it up the best. “It was a perfect season for Porsche. If you take home all the titles in the enormously competitive GTLM class, then it’s proof of perfect teamwork, strong performances in the cockpit and an extremely competitive car. The Porsche 911 RSR has enabled us to secure many victories. The new 911 RSR has some big shoes to fill next season.”

Total 911 awaits the start of the 2020 season at Daytona in January and the debut of the next generation of the venerable Porsche 911 RSR.

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3.2 Carrera Clubsport: the lightweight special

The proliferation of GT models over the last few years means we’ve arguably become a little spoilt when it comes to the concept of more focused, pared-back 911s. It was a rather more novel approach back in 1973 when the legendary 2.7 RS burst onto the scene, a model Porsche followed a year later with the much rarer 3.0 variant.

The SC RS continued Porsche’s burgeoning Rennsport tradition at the start of the 1980s, but the reality is it cannot be considered in the same vein as its predecessors. Just 21 were made, but it was also a pure competition car, unlike the homologated RS 911s of the 1970s. 

It would actually take until 1991 for the Rennsport badge to make a comeback on the decklid of a road-going Porsche 911 as we know it, this time attached to the 964.

That meant nearly a 20-year gap between these air-cooled homologation specials so coveted by enthusiasts today. There was, however, an attempt by Porsche between 1987 and 1989 to plug that gap with a lightweight special: the Clubsport

There was certainly space in the Carrera range of the time for something a little more focused, and with the 964 waiting in the wings it could be considered a fitting last hurrah before increasing modernity swept away many elements of 911 tradition. Even if it isn’t quite the real RS deal, this is a model that had more than a dusting of Rennsport magic, and today it’s a Total 911 favourite. 

Work on a prototype designated by Porsche as ‘911 F22 prototype sports package 2’ had begun in 1984, and it appeared on the road the following year featuring glass-fibre bumpers and the older 915 transmission, neither of which made it to the production version that would make its debut at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show two years later.

Initially aimed at those with an urge to participate in club-level racing and other track events, it would go on to make for a magical road car, albeit a rare one. Of the 340 made, just 53 would come to the UK, with a further 28 examples heading Stateside – yes, this is a lightweight special that was permitted for the American market. The majority of Carrera Clubsports – 169 – were produced in 1988.

Numbers like those should have ensured instant desirability, but rather to Porsche’s surprise the reality proved slightly different. Despite actually being cheaper than the 3.2 Carrera upon which it was based – not a strategy you could see Weissach embracing today, where less very much costs more – early sales were something of a struggle.

The reasons for this have never been fully explained, although it’s conceivable that the somewhat austere specification didn’t really chime with the period of 1980s excess, a time when the well-heeled wanted to flaunt their financial status with luxury cars. So what did ticking the option box marked ‘M637’ actually get a buyer for their £34,389?

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15 years of the Porsche 997.1

A new model of 911 is always controversial. Porsche enthusiasts tend to get so used to the current version that they can be almost resentful when it is replaced.

Indeed, the arrival of any new 911 is usually at least slightly controversial, and with over half a century of history, examples abound: the 964 disappointed for resembling its aging predecessor so closely; the 991 shocked some with its considerably larger dimensions and, for more conservative types, the 992 was not only wider still, but a daunting tech-fest.

Then, of course, there was the 996, Porsche’s imaginative and brave attempt to translate the 911 into the 21st century idiom. Such was the outcry that it was hard to distinguish whether it was the styling or the water-cooled engine which upset diehards more.

The original 901 attracted more curiosity than outright admiration, but in 1963 nobody knew what the future 911 would be capable of. 30 years later and the 993 was mostly favourably received, if still seen as quaintly old fashioned outside Porschedom

By contrast there was one 911 for which praise was unanimous when it appeared, and that was the 997. Here, Porsche managed to combine tradition and progress as never before or, for many people, since. Allow us to take you through the 997’s history, tech, and current standing.

Planning dictated that the 996 would run out six years after its launch, and preparations for that successor began within a year of the 996 appearing in the showrooms. In response to market and press reaction, ideas for its successor were already taking shape.

Two things became clear: if aesthetically modern, the 996 was a little too radical. The Carrera was seen as a shade too refined-looking, lacking a certain aggressive element.

If the Aerokitted versions partly addressed this, in reality they still looked too much like aftermarket modifications. The cabin, too, was not quite right: certainly it was more spacious, and ergonomically it addressed the classic faults of the old 911 cockpit, with its scattered and not always logical switchgear.

But the 996 interior’s curves were, for many observers, overstylised. There was also the matter that the 996 shared not just its cabin, but the entire body from the doors and A-pillar forward with the much cheaper Boxster. 

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Targa Florio 1973: the untold story

It was a warm, early evening on Sicily, and Campofelice, a small town on the northern coast, came at just the right time for a much-needed caffeine hit. I’d recently arrived with my photographer and partner, Iris, to research the 1973 Targa Florio race. 

Leaving the café on Campofelice’s main street, a double espresso keeping sleep at bay, we caught sight of a painting in the window of a little gallery across the road.

It appeared to be a Porsche 911 sitting in a tree. We were intrigued and, crossing over for a closer look, identified it as an RSR. Rather than sitting in the tree, the car appeared to have been wrapped around it – and at some speed. But 911s getting wrapped around trees is, unfortunately, nothing new. Why should this image have pride of place in a gallery here?

Had it been open we would have enquired about the background to the picture, but the place was shut up and gave no indication of opening hours. We were due to visit the town again the following day to check out its Targa Florio museum, so I made a mental note to call back then.

Iris knew little about the Targo Florio before this trip, and we talked as we drove on about why the 1973 race in particular is so inextricably linked to Porsche racing history.

The world’s oldest endurance motor race, conceived by Sicilian racing driver Vincenzo Florio in 1906, had by the mid-1920s become one of the most important races in Europe. Early events involved a circuit of the entire island, but by the time the race was incorporated into the FIA World Sports Car Championship in 1955, it had been shortened to 11 laps of the infamously unforgiving 45-mile Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, in the Madonie mountain range.

The FIA decided that the 1973 race was to be the last, on the grounds of both driver and spectator safety, so whichever car and drivers won that race would be remembered as the Targa Florio’s eternal winners.

A year before that, in early 1972, Dr Ernst Fuhrmann had taken over day-to-day running of Porsche. He was committed to the 911, but realised it needed to be recognised as a successful racer, believing that track wins would translate into road car sales. Fuhrmann turned to Norbert Singer to develop a 911 that would be competitive on the track against more exotic names such as Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.

Singer’s team immediately began the 911 RSR project, tasked with being ready for the 1973 season. The plan was for a lightened shell stripped of creature comforts and engine capacity increased to 2,992cc, which would make the RSR the first 911 to break the 300 horsepower barrier. Fuhrmann’s Targa Florio target was a creditable showing in the 1973 race, but he realised this would be a big ask given the near-500 horsepower of the Ferrari 512 Ps and…

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