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the ‘other’ 2.7 Carrera

Nobody likes a killjoy, especially an automotive one. If you were a Porsche 911 driver in the mid-1970s, it must have felt as if everyone was wanting to take all of your toys away and spoil all of your fun. A combination of a global fuel crisis, soaring pump prices for petrol and oil embargoes all combined with a sudden attack of conscience as the world woke up to environmental damage and vehicle accident safety. This ended up having a significant impact on the Porsche 911 that everyone loved.

Gone were the beautiful chromed bumpers, replaced with what many saw as ugly ‘Federal spec’ Impact Bumpers. Even the traditional Porsche whaletail wasn’t spared, the German TÜV authorities deciding that the trailing edge was potentially dangerous, leading Porsche to introduce the soft-rubber edging that we know so well today.

In Europe, drivers were spared many of the engine modifications needed for Porsche to continue to sell the 911 in the US. We remained safely enjoying our mechanical fuel injection throttle response and looked smugly across the Atlantic at the Americans and their California law makers, their poor 911 seemingly shackled.

History has not been kind to the US-spec Carrera 2.7. If online forums and hearsay were to be believed, a California-specification Carrera 2.7 would probably have the uphill performance of a Citroën 2CV. Everywhere you could possibly look gives reinforcement of the jaundiced view that the 2.7 Carrera with CIS is to be avoided. Nothing to see here… head over to Europe and seek out a 2.7 MFI.

However, for one man, the chance to own a US-specification 911 proved to be irresistible. “When a friend told me about a 2.7 US Carrera he’d seen for sale, I wasn’t inspired. Like everyone else it was some way down my list of Porsche I’d like to own. However, my friend then said, ‘It’s a non-sunroof Coupe’,” Robin Titterington says.

“That got me interested. After all, I could always swap out the engine, hot rod it, remove the emissions gear. So I bought it with the expectation to change it, tune it, improve it.” “But as I began to put some miles on the car, the entire validity of their tainted reputation came into question. This was a stock engine and I was having fun. Something doesn’t add up here! I’ve driven 1973 Carrera RSs, nearly every year of early 911 T, E, and S models and have owned a hot rod 2.5-litre 1971 911 for years – I’m not easily swayed.”

Robin was actually enjoying driving the US 2.7 just as it was. The performance was certainly different, but a long way from being unacceptable. And compared with other 911s he had owned, it was actually quite comparable. Why should this stock US-spec 2.7 Carrera with all of its alleged shackles and compromises be such fun to drive? Robin tried to
find out more.

“I began doing some quick research, but rather than answer my questions it seemed to turn up lots of conflicting performance data and information. Reviews of the 1974 US Carrera from ‘back in the day’ were overwhelmingly positive, although the performance numbers were all over the map. More recent information and opinion seems predominantly negative. I soon had magazines and books scattered all over my desktop and had to start writing things down to keep it all straight.”

So it appears that all is not as it would seem with the 1974 US 2.7. Robin’s investigations actually posed more questions than answers. “It seems that there were so many different ways to record performance stats in the 1970s. Plus, many automotive magazines didn’t test with the same desire for accuracy that they do today.” Swapping between power outputs measured at the flywheel and then also at the wheels seems to throw many figures hopelessly out of context. Robin’s study of the period data proves to
be very interesting.

He continues, “For instance, Car & Driver’s February 1972 test of the new 2.4-litre Porsche used SAE gross horsepower numbers, giving the 911 S 210bhp, but in its 1974 test of the Carrera they switched to the opposite extreme with SAE net horsepower, giving it only 167hp! No wonder many have come to believe these cars are underpowered. In SAE gross units, the 1974 Carrera US has 195bhp.”

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Rennsport titans: 991 GT2 RS vs 991.2 GT3 RS

Lambourn, Berkshire, UK. It’s a cloudy yet hot, muggy summer’s day, the mercury creeping into the high 20s by early afternoon. The countryside, booming with life after a soggy winter, is awash with vibrant greens and glorious yellows, vegetation clambering high for the sun above.

However, the most striking shade of green today doesn’t come courtesy of British shrubbery – in fact, it won’t be found in the fields of Berkshire at all. Instead you’ll have to look on the roads cutting through them, the vibrant Lizard green hue adorning those wide, aggressive hips of Porsche’s new
GT3 RS. The ‘Lizard’, as it has affectionately become known as by enthusiasts, storms along an undulating B-road, its low-slung nose glued to the asphalt at the front, its striking wing towering into the sky from behind. Following closely behind is another visually arresting 991: a Miami blue GT2 RS, no less, offering a hot pursuit as it too bobs along, its chassis stubbornly hugging the contours of this bumpy British back route.

Currently the hottest two products from Porsche’s famous GT line, seeing – and hearing – these two 911 Rennsports as they tear through the countryside is one of the most visually arresting sights anyone will have seen for a long time. Boasting gargantuan presence on the asphalt, their rarity (not to mention value) means it won’t be often you’ll see even one of these blue-chip 911s on the public road, let alone both at the same time, side by side.

These are two 991s married by their devotion to delivering the ultimate in modern Porsche performance in focused, lightweight packages, divorced spectacularly in exactly how that performance is administered. It’s 991 GT2 RS v 991.2 GT3 RS – and we’re the first to put these two titans to the test.

Delve a little deeper and you’ll notice the two cars have many similarities in their spec: the most obvious is simply outrageous aero on a super-wide Turbo body. Then there’s a PDK gearbox, an electronic differential and rear-axle steering, not to mention a comprehensive weight-saving program which includes thinner glass, a deployment of different materials and a removal of sound deadening.

But there are key differences too, beginning, of course, with their respective flat sixes. The 4.0-litre unit in the back of the GT3 RS has been carried over from the 991.2 GT3, albeit with revised breathing (in the form of modified intakes and a titanium exhaust) for an extra 20hp, its 520hp total an astonishing feat for a naturally aspirated, six-pot motor. That maximum output is realised at a heady 8,250rpm, though its redline is the headline snatcher, it being a mighty 9,000rpm. This is the first Rennsport to spin all the way up to a full nine grand after the 991.1 was pegged back to ‘just’ 8,600rpm.

The GT3 RS’s engine credentials are mighty, but its Miami blue brother takes things further still – to the tune of 700 maximum horsepower and a ludicrous 750Nm peak twist. The GT2 RS achieves this via alternative means to the atmospheric GT3, bolting bigger turbochargers to the 3.8-litre 9A1 engine found in the 991.2 Turbo S. A remap sees this blown Rennsport achieve what is unprecedented power and torque figures for any road-going 911, ever.

But how do these polarities in power delivery translate on the road? Or do their similarities justifiably pull them together? Most importantly of all, which of these 991 Rennsports offers the most thrilling drive? We had better find out.

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964 vs 3.2 Carrera: evolving the 911

By 1984, as the latest 3.2 was appearing in the showrooms, the 911 was already a phenomenon: it had far exceeded the impressive 15-year life of the 356 and, thanks to the passion and insight of then-CEO Peter Schutz, showed no signs of flagging. No other mass-production car conceived in the 1960s survived into a third decade. In 1982 Ford had built the last Cortina, but that car had been rebodied no fewer than four times; only the primitive Land Rover could offer the visual continuity of the 911.

The Porsche remained both profitable and near the top of the performance league. In 1984 231bhp was respectable, and on the quieter roads of those times a driver could deploy such horsepower regularly in a way quite impossible for today’s 500bhp 911s. Indeed, to beat a 3.2 you needed an Italian exotic of the type that required a mechanic in the boot, and even then it would never sustain day-in day-out 120mph use on the Autobahn.

But if the 911 was still a selling proposition, the strength of the dollar during the early 1980s making Porsche an increasingly attractive proposition to Americans, this masked the fact that it was dated. It had no power steering, a ride quality not worthy of its price bracket, no auto transmission option and byzantine heating and ventilation systems. Australian journalist Peter Robinson said in 1978: “The 911 belongs to another era. It’s showing its age and not just around the edge, so let’s put it out to pasture with the other thoroughbreds before it breaks down and has to be destroyed in front of its adoring public.”

Such antipodean directness was too much for Porsche, and Robinson later revealed that it was 11 years before Porsche would let him near another press car. Nevertheless, there were rumblings within Porsche too. Styling director Tony Lapine was a well-known 911 dissident, but Peter Falk was also critical. A man steeped in 911 development, and who before retirement produced the famous Lastenheft which sought to redefine the fundamental characteristics a new 911 should have, Falk represented the very essence of 911 integrity and tradition. After 20 years he wanted to see improvements, such as dispensing with the archaic torsion bars.

Falk’s voice did not go unheard. In April 1984 the board authorised development of the next 911, Typ 964. This would be the 911’s first step to making up lost ground. In fact, when it was revealed in 1988, the 964 looked remarkably like its predecessor. The board had stipulated that nothing was to be changed above the level of the axles. This had vastly restricted the designers, but Dick Soderberg’s skilful melding of the impact bumpers into the bodywork was widely praised, and the smooth-surfaced, technical-looking ‘Design 90’ 16-inch wheels were much admired. All of a sudden the Fuchs appeared old-fashioned…

 

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R v GT3 v Carrera T: Revival of the manual 991s

What a difference a few short months can make. For a time it looked like the 991 generation was threatening the very existence of a manual gearbox in a Porsche 911 altogether. Unwanted alterations to the new stick shift, twinned with the prominence of PDK, lead some to believe the company was at one point shaping up for a future solely dedicated to auto-shifting sports cars, similar to events at some of its rivals.

While this ‘death of the manual’ movement has raged like a fire through the workshops of other automotive manufacturers, nobody really expected the flames to be fanned as far as the doors of Zuffenhausen. After all, a Porsche has always been about style over outright speed – exemplified by the company’s time-honoured tradition of placing the tachometer and not the speedometer in the centre of the 911’s five dials. It’s how you get there, not how fast.

And yet, as is well documented, it was the 991 generation which began to change the 911’s relationship with the manual gearbox from the get-go. Upon launch at the tail end of 2011, enthusiasts found the six-speed stick shift in the 997.2 replaced by an all-new gearbox for the 991.1, which featured an additional seventh ratio. Conceptually something of a modern-day overdrive gear, this seventh ratio was exceedingly tall, intended for cruising on motorways or the Autobahn, all the while keeping engine revs low and thus improving the new 911’s MPG return.

On paper these changes made sense, but in reality enthusiasts struggled to adapt to the feel of the seven-speed shifter, it unnecessarily clunky and lacking a directness through each gate which the 997’s unit had mastered so wonderfully. Somewhere beneath that protracted H-pattern, Porsche’s slick stick shift had seemingly been lost.

Then the arrival of Porsche’s first 991-generation GT car in 2013 gave rise to another revelation. The GT3 was presented for the first time with a PDK-only transmission, Porsche telling Total 911 in issue 99 at the time: “There’s no chance of a manual gearbox in the future.” The PDK-only GT3 RS that followed went some way to hammering home the point, which left many enthusiasts wondering what future lay ahead for the manual gearbox in a Porsche.

Alas, we know how the script developed from there. A wave of appreciation for manual gearboxes (some might even have called it a public outcry) brought about the Carrera S-engined Cayman GT4 in 2015, before the emphatic arrival of the 991 R in 2016 as the 911’s saviour of the stick shift.

The R proved Porsche’s GT department was prepared to listen to its customers, yet the car’s exclusivity (just 991 were produced worldwide)
meant only a few could benefit from this significant U-turn in company policy. Porsche again listened, unveiling the 991.2 GT3 last year with PDK but, crucially, a six-speed manual gearbox was available as a no-cost option.

The company went further still. For those who couldn’t get their hands on this latest prize GT car, Porsche presented the Carrera T: essentially a pared back and driver-honed version of its base Carrera 911. The line-up was thus complete, with stick shift available, at last, throughout the entire contemporary model range.

So, these are the crusaders; reviving the spirit and flair of the manual gearbox, this the crucial ingredient in any sports car that wishes to be associated with any notion of an analogue, purist drive. The big question, of course, is what is the driving experience on offer from all three?

For the full article, including expert buying tips for each 911 Cabriolet model, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 168 in shops now or get it delivered directly to your door via here. Alternatively you can download the issue to any Apple or Android device. 

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Porsche 996: GT3 Genesis

GT3: the most evocative, desirable collection of letters and numbers as you can ask for to be tacked to the rump of a 911. Add RS into the mix and that’s even more so. The GT3, as its name and subsequent RS spin-off highlights, has its tyres firmly rooted in Porsche’s racing activities. It’s enough to elevate all the cars here above the usual rhetoric spewed about the once ‘undesirable’ 996, the GT3 badge signifying something very special indeed.

There are three GT3s in the 996 generation, the Gen1 available from 1998-2001, the Gen2 coming in 2003 until 2005, with the RS spun off that between 2004 and 2005. That Gen1 car is unique among GT3s, largely because it’s the only GT3 not to have a same-generation RS model based on it, the Gen1 being Porsche’s GT3 genesis.

It’s inconceivable that you’re reading this and don’t know at least the basics surrounding the GT3. Lighter, more engaging, its creation allowing homologation of parts to allow Porsche to race the 911 to great success around the world. Actually, with the original GT3 that lighter element is a misnomer, as put the Gen1 car on the scales and it’s carrying around 30kg more mass than its base 996 Carrera relation.

Blame that on the marginally heavier G96/90 gearbox and M96/76 engine, as well as an additional engine radiator. Porsche didn’t elect to go down the lightweight panels, thinner glass route with its first GT3 model, though it did bin the rear seats in a small – 8kg – concession to mass reduction, while Sport bucket seats removed around 20kg over the standard Carrera’s pews. As a means of recompense for the weight gain, the M96/76 engine, more commonly referred to in reverential tones as ‘the Mezger’, was fitted, its specification being pure motorsport, with lightened, stronger internals to cope with the stresses of winning competition.

And what compensation, the Le Mans-winning GT1-derived, naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat six unit was rated at 360bhp at 7,200rpm – redlining at 7,800rpm – with peak torque of 370Nm. It’s a glorious engine with enough power to allow the GT3 to reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, 100mph in 10.2 seconds and a quoted top speed of 187mph. But it isn’t the numbers that matter, really, rather how it delivers its performance. In Walter Röhrl’s hands the first GT3 lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes 56 seconds – isn’t it ridiculous to think how far things have come in under 20 years? Stopping all that are 330mm cross-drilled, inner-vented discs of 330mm in diameter, grabbed by four-piston monoblock callipers.

Getting into James Samuel’s yellow Gen1 car today demonstrates exactly what Porsche intended its customers to do with their GT3s: track them. Why else would Porsche include adjustable suspension with extended-axle geometry sitting 30mm lower than standard, an adjustable rear wing and the possibility to quickly (relatively speaking here, and if you’re a race mechanic) swap out gear ratios to suit differing tracks, as well as the synchro rings? To that Porsche added differing hubs, with 10mm larger bearings over the Carrera’s 70mm ones for the greater forces racing tyres would exert. Spherical top joints more rigidly position the front suspension, the same possible at the rear if you’re off racing, the GT department adding five alternative mountings at the back for the adjustable tubular anti-roll bars.

For the full feature, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 167 in shops now or get it delivered to your door. You can also download a digital copy, featuring a bonus gallery, to your chosen Apple or Android device. 

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