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Classic Porsche test: story of the Carrera 3.0

In many Porsche 911 books the Carrera 3.0 hardly merits a mention. Sandwiched between the revered Carrera 2.7 and all-conquering SC, it’s a mere footnote in a 56-year story. Has history judged it too harshly? Is the ‘Carrera 3’ underrated or simply underwhelming? Only driving one will tell us for sure.

The odds seem stacked against the 3.0 from the start. First, Porsche broke an unwritten rule by launching a new car with less power than its predecessor. And while a 13hp shortfall mattered more on paper than the road, the outgoing Carrera 2.7 also boasted perfect pedigree, being mechanically identical to the 1973 RS 2.7, barring the US model. The new 3.0, conversely, was defined by what it lacked. It was, in essence, ‘a Turbo without the turbo’.

On sale for just two years between 1976 and 1977, the Carrera 3.0 was the middle rung of a revised 911 range. The base model – called 911 Lux in some markets – retained a 165hp version of the 2.7-litre engine. The 3.0, meanwhile, adopted the 2,994cc lump from the flagship 930. This development of the 1974 3.0 RS engine would serve the 911 in various guises until 1984. In naturally aspirated form quoted power was 197hp at 6,000rpm, this versus 260hp at 5,500rpm for the top-dog Turbo. Fuel economy was improved, albeit not sufficiently for US emissions legislation. The 3.0 was never sold Stateside as a result.

Transforming a 930 into a Carrera 3 wasn’t merely a case of unbolting the blower. The N/A engine also had larger inlet ports, while compression ratio increased from 6.5:1 to 8.5:1. Further fettling for the 1976 model year included a die-cast aluminium crankcase, Nikasil cylinder liners, a five-blade cooling fan and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, replacing the plunger-type system. The use of K-Jetronic, which endured until the 1994 964 Turbo 3.6, also meant the demise of the hand throttle, supplanted by a vacuum-operated warm-up regulator. Most buyers chose the five-speed manual transmission, but Porsche also offered the four-speed ‘box from the Turbo and the clutchless Sportomatic – the latter now reduced to just three ratios.

What the 3.0 lacked in peak power it made up for in mid-range muscle. Maximum torque of 255Nm matches the outgoing Carrera 2.7 and is developed 900rpm lower in the rev range, meaning it equals the older car’s 6.3-second sprint to 60mph. Top speed is an Autobahn-friendly 145mph. The 3.0 is a relatively light 911, too. At 1,093kg it weighs 67kg – or a typical adult passenger – less than a 1978 SC.

At first glance the Carrera 3 looks little different to other impact-bumper 911s. ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ alloys in 6×15- and 7×15-inch sizes were standard, with wider Turbo-spec Fuchs for the Sport pack. The latter included a Whaletail spoiler and optional ‘Carrera’ side script, plus Bilstein dampers replacing the standard Koni or Boge set-up. A Comfort pack was also added for 1977 with 14-inch wheels and softer Bilsteins. Coupe versions of the 3.0 outsold Targas by a factor of two to one.

The most significant cosmetic update, however, is hidden from view. 1976 saw Porsche introduce hot-dip zinc coating for all panels, vastly improving the 911’s traditionally rather feeble resistance to rust. Stuttgart then put its Deutschmarks on the line with an industry-leading six-year corrosion warranty, which boosted resale values and reinforced a growing reputation for quality. Sadly the zinc protection is rarely so effective in the longer term; even slight damage exposes the steel underneath, allowing rust to take hold.

Inside, the Carrera 3 made a significant step towards curing another of the 911’s age-old issues: inadequate heating. Until this point regulating cabin temperature had been a hit-and-miss affair, using levers between the seats to mix air heated by the exhaust with fresh air from outside. The new system, standard on the 3.0 and Turbo, used two thermostats and a rotary controller to manage this process automatically. Separate fan and heater sliders were also introduced for 1977 along with face-level air vents, albeit only on the passenger side.

Further improvements to comfort came from extra sound deadening and a plusher interior, including carpeting on the lower doors from 1977. A larger driver’s door mirror was fitted, now electrically operated and heated, and cruise control – called Tempostat in Europe or Automatic Speed Control in the US – was an option for the first time. Porsche even changed the design of the locks to improve security. Now, instead of pop-up buttons that could be hooked with a coat hanger, the 911 had round knobs on the door panels. The Targa’s opening quarterlights were discontinued to deter smash-and-grab opportunists, too.

We could go on, of course. But there are only so many facts about thermostats or carpeted doors even the most committed enthusiast needs. What matters more is how the Carrera 3.0 drives and, ultimately, its place in the air-cooled 911 hierarchy. To find out we visited Classic Motor Hub, a huge multi-marque showroom that at the time of writing has the car pictured for sale at £87,500. CMH is also nestled among some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages
and finest driving roads. If the Carrera 3.0 can’t impress here…

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996.2 v 997.1 GT3

Passers-by seem impressed, if a little nonplussed as to why we’re photographing two seemingly identical 911 GT3s. But to Porsche aficionados the 996 and 997 generations actually represent two very different flavours of GT3, and spark lively debate. Today we’re comparing the last of the 996 GT3s with the first of the 997, putting the GT3’s first generational shift under the microscope and declaring a winner.

It’s now 20 years since Porsche released its first 911 GT3, a road car that was produced to homologate the racers. The arrival of Andreas Preuninger soon after saw ‘Mr GT3’ put his stamp on the 996 generation with the revised 996.2 GT3 of 2003. He had to wait for the subsequent 997 GT3 of 2006 to take ownership of a GT3 generation from the start. That car is now identified as a 997.1, differentiating it from the later 997.2 GT3.

Both 996.2 and 997.1 Porsche GT3s remain highly coveted sports cars today, and overlap in pricing – the bulk of 996.2 GT3s span £60,000 to £80,000, with 997.1 GT3s grabbing the baton at £70,000 and accelerating off to £90,000.

We’ve come to Porsche specialists Paragon in East Sussex to explore two excellent examples currently residing in stock. Paragon’s 996 has covered 37,000 miles and is up at £74,995. The 997, meanwhile, is yours for £84,995. Both have undergone significant prep work to lift them to Paragon’s standards.

Both are as road-spec as they come in Comfort trim – no roll cage, fire extinguisher or buckets – featuring stock six-piston brakes with no carbon-ceramics, and factory suspension specs including camber settings. You’re unlikely to find two fitter, more representative, more comparable examples.

I jump into the 996 for the 20-mile trip to our Beachy Head photo location for two reasons: I’ve had good seat time in 997 GT3s, but have only once driven a 996 GT3, and pretty briefly on track – this is the car I really need to get my head around. I’m also curious to see how different it is from my own 996 3.4 Carrera.

The GT3’s headline changes versus the Carrera included lower, stiffer suspension; deletion of the rear seats; slightly wider 18-inch alloys; uprated six-piston front brakes (four rear) and, most importantly, the completely different Mezger 3.6-litre flat six, here rated at 380bhp and 385Nm.

I’d expected a significantly more aggressive temperament than my own car, but that’s just not true. Yes, it bobbles a bit when driven slowly over imperfect urban tarmac, and you notice the more responsive front end, a little extra weight to the steering on initial turn-in and reduced body roll even at more moderate speeds, but it actually rides with generous compliance, and there’s no huge penalty in terms of road noise. More aggressive than a Carrera, of course, but potter about and I don’t think there’s a huge trade-off here.

Driven harder on the twists that course down to the coast from the top of Beachy Head, the 996 is sublime. The steering immediately loads up with weight to contextualise lateral forces loading through the suspension; its intimidating detail encourages you to hold the wheel gently to better let it breathe and communicate through your fingertips. 15 years on its ratio still feels perfectly quick enough, and the way the front end arcs into corners without delay remains strikingly immediate – there’s very little roll and waiting for mass to settle, no slack to work through to get the steering working.

For the full 996.2 v 997.1 GT3 head-to-head test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 177 in shops now or get it delivered to your door via here. You can also download a digital copy with high definition bonus galleries to any Apple or Android device.

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993 v 991: wild Porsche GT2s

The year 1994 offered something of a step change for Porsche Motorsport. After multiple notable racing successes with naturally aspirated 911s such as the Carrera RSR and RS 3.8, the company once again turned its attention to turbocharging for elite GT racing. A new car was born out of the 993 generation, wider and wilder than ever before. The name given to this new high-performance 911 was simply the racing class it was to participate in: let us say hello once again to the now-legendary 993 GT2.

However, these cars were badged ‘GT’ – as can be seen below its huge rear wing. To compete in this class Porsche had to manufacture and homologate a street version, which became available as early as April of 1995. Little did Porsche and 911 enthusiasts know at the time, but it would become an absolute icon of a car, and one of the most sought-after today.

Unlike the car it was based on – the new 993 Turbo – the GT2 offered 22bhp more and offered a host of upgrades to the drivetrain, body, suspension and equipment, to name but a few. The big news was that the GT2 would be rear-wheel drive only, the 200kg weight loss over a Turbo mainly being attributed to this change. With the GT2 Porsche had made it perfectly clear it was not about to relinquish the ominous widowmaker moniker too easily. Rear-wheel-drive 911 Turbos were until then aimed at the more experienced driver, but the change to four-wheel drive left a gap at the very top of the 911 range, one that was to be filled by the motorsport-inspired GT2 street car.

Fast forward more than 20 years and until recently customers had to look to the naturally aspirated GT3 RS model to have race-inspired thrills. However, as a final swansong to the 991 range, Andreas Preuninger and his GT team developed and manufactured the most powerful production 911 to date. One can ramble on about the finer details of this machine, which you would have read in previous issues of Total 911, but there is no better way to sum it up than the 6:47.25 time the 991 GT2 RS set around the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife.

In South Africa where the owner of both these exquisite cars opens the garage door, I find myself subconsciously drifting towards the 993 GT2 first. The door feels light in my hand as I pull its handle. I lower myself into the Recaro bucket seat and shut the door, the thud reminiscent of a whole era of air-cooled Porsche. The seat offers side support from your hips all the way up to your shoulders – the goosebumps on my forearms already demonstrate this is an exceptional place to be!

The cabin is basic, but not Clubsport or race car basic; after all, this is the more comfortable ‘Strasse’ specification. However, there are no rear seats, only carpets with the neat ‘GT’ inscription, as is the case on the back of the car below the rear wing. The cabin is compact – you sit close to the dashboard and windscreen in classic 911 guise. I hold the leather-trimmed, three-spoke steering wheel, impressed by the fact there is not a button in sight.

I’ve been privileged enough to have driven a few 993 GT2s before, and every time it is a particularly memorable occasion. Today is no different. A quick peek in the side mirror gets me all excited again as those monstrous, tacked-on wheel arches fill the view. These were added to enable the GT2’s enormous 11-inch-wide wheels to fit under its arches.

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Richard Attwood drives a 964 3.8 R restomod

road car. A race car. An engineer’s car. The 911, more than any other car, is a product of continual automotive evolution. Porsche’s enhancements have kept it relevant for the road, competitive on the track and have cemented its reputation as the enthusiast’s car of choice. That evolution isn’t just limited to Porsche itself; an entire industry out there takes 911s backwards and forwards in time, improving, re-imagining, personalising. The 911 is an eminently adaptable basis upon which owners can build the car they want from it.

With this 964, that’s exactly what RPM Technik has done for its owner Ian Humphris. The idea was for a fast road car that could be track driven, adding contemporary performance while being respectful to the classic feel and engagement a 964 brings. Using a Carrera 2 as its basis, the build process has been meticulous, seeking improvements in every area, this now a 964 that can run with its more recent GT department relations, yet offers a driving bandwidth that enables it to be enjoyed on the road, too.

Of all the many branches of 911 evolution and sub-species, this visceral, exciting 964 arguably represents the most appealing opportunity for perfecting and personalising, taking a tired Carrera and reviving it as a car that can be enjoyed. Its performance absolutely eclipses a 964 RS that you’d be too scared to drive. What RPM and Humphris have created is the perfect riposte to a zeitgeist where vehicular value takes president over the value of driving itself.

PART ONE: ON TRACK

It’s a sunny day at Bedford Autodrome, our track time exclusively reserved for RPM Technik’s 964 3.8. Owner Humphris likes his cars too: there’s a 997 GT3 RS in his garage, alongside some other special machinery, but it’s the 964 he’s animated about.

It’s obviously not standard, but to the uninformed could just be a neat, small, red Porsche 911. Its lowered stance could be missed, its split-rim BBS alloys less so. Humphris admits that they’re his road wheels, having a set of Cup 17-inch wheels with some cut slicks for serious track work. There are subtle hints to its revisions visually then, the black-rimmed headlight surrounds an RSR nod, the small lip splitter a neat addition under the front bumper.

There’s no surprises seeing the brake intakes on the front bumper, though they’re framed by darker indicator lenses. These, like those headlight surrounds, contrast perfectly with the red bodywork. Around the back the build follows the same understated enhancement route, this 964 retaining a single exhaust pipe, though the engine cover suggests that single pipe is attached to something a little bit different from the norm. The sticker, not badge, says 3.8 R, a model that’s entirely of its owner’s making, and justifiably so. Specification or naming purists be damned, this is a car that defines purity, a car built for an individual, with their – and only their – ambition and goals for it driving the entire project.

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Inside the world’s best Porsche collection

It’s just after midday and we find ourselves waiting outside a plain, nondescript building, its featureless, external monotony a brilliant contrast to the magic of what resides inside. That’s because within these walls you’ll find what is very likely the most astonishing, most unbelievable Porsche collection on the planet which, until very recently, has been kept a complete secret to everybody. You should prepare to be amazed.

It’s a complicated process to get inside the building but, after sharing introductions with the rather secretive owner, we’re lead inside. Greeted by a maze of stairways and corridors at first, our eyes take a little time to adjust to the bleached-out haze of white floors, walls and ceilings, illuminated by brilliantly white lights. The connotations here are almost surgical – for a minute you’d forgive us for thinking we’re about to take a look around a top-secret new hospital that’s soon to open.

Eventually we reach a wide set of windowless double doors, bright light from the other side visible through a minute gap where they meet. Pulling on each handle, the owner swings the doors open and steps back, imploring the three of us in our party to venture inside.

Staggering into the room, three sets of jaws hit the floor as our brains attempt to compute the information we think our eyes are relaying. There are no less than 54 Porsche sports cars impeccably laid out in this huge room which, like the corridors leading to it, is a complete whitewash from floor to ceiling. The cars within this hall, rather predictably, are all finished in varying shades of factory ‘weiß’. Welcome to The White Collection.

What started with a single Matchbox 911 Turbo has grown into what is the most awe-inspiring stockpiling of Porsche on the planet. It’s not just because of the unique colour either. The cars in this room are, almost exclusively, extremely rare and collectible models, and all boast low mileages. Don’t let the colourless hues fool you: each Porsche is extensively, bountifully specced, with most of the modern cars simply dripping in bespoke CXX options – but we’ll come to that later.

The collection is vast and immaculately presented. Walking towards the middle of the room, a row of 911 GT2s from 993 right up to 997 RS sit to our left – the 991 is in transit – all organised in chronological order. To our right there’s a row of air-cooled Porsche Rennsports ordered from first to last, including both M471 Lightweight and M472 Touring versions of the original 2.7 Carrera RS. The water-cooled Rennsports line up opposite, with the holy trinity of Porsche supercars in the 959, Carrera GT and 918 presented, in white, in the middle.

Flanking each end of the Rennsport displays you’ll find an extensive Turbo and Turbo S line-up, plus a long line of rare flatbacks which culminates in a 991 R. There’s a row of Cabriolets in the distance, plus every Porsche Speedster, and some choice Targas. All are meticulously placed in stringently straight lines.

Back to that white Matchbox Turbo. “I was given the car when I was a child and was mesmerised by its flowing lines, and so I cherished it. More than a car, I found art in its design. It continued to inspire me as I grew up,” says the Collection’s bashful owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. His first Porsche was a 993, though not in white. They came later, amassed over a period of years, though there’s an admission that “the collecting only became quite aggressive in the last six years or so. The aim, as you can see, was to have one of everything, in white, in the lowest mileage possible.”

Boasting what is likely the best independent Porsche collection in the world, the owner of The White Collection might also be one of the Exclusive Department’s best contemporary customers. The 918 has north of $100,000 in CXX options, and the R, GT3 RS and GTS Targa aren’t far behind. The total amount of CXX options in the room could be near to $1 million. Even cars such as the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, which came with bespoke Gold metallic paint, was optioned in Carrera White Metallic and, popping the front bonnet, the entire boot is lined in luxury leather with contrast gold stitching, courtesy of the Exclusive Department.

Most 991 interiors are resplendent in CXX Yachting blue leather with white contrast stitching and seat piping, this specification a clear favourite of the meticulous owner. The inspiration for this lies on the far side of the room, among the flank of flatbacks, where a 3.2 Carrera resides with a factory Yachting Blue interior. “I just fell in love with the colour combination when I bought that particular car,” the owner says. “It works so well and complements the white exterior, so from that moment on I decided all the new cars should be finished this way.” That 3.2 Carrera’s legacy now includes a 991 R, 991 GT3 RS and 918, all with Yachting Blue interiors.

For the full exposé on The White Collection, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 175 in shops now, or get it delivered to your door. Can can also enjoy a special bonus gallery of the Collection via our digital editions for both Apple and Android

 

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