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Porsche 911 Cabriolets: G-series v 964 v 993

Yorkshire dry-stone walls have a very useful application that was never intended by the original builders several centuries ago. In addition to providing the unique signature style that is the Yorkshire landscape while also containing livestock over the centuries, they also make a superb surface to echo back the bark of an air-cooled 911 engine. Combine that with the final days of a long, hot summer and a trio of Cabriolet 911s – all with the hoods folded as they truly should be – and we have the perfect recipe for a great day’s driving and a chance to investigate the appeal of the open-top 911 experience. Will we enjoy a day in the sunshine, or will the bumpy Yorkshire lanes highlight the compromise of 911 body stiffness?

Heading out of the market town of Malton, I’m at the rear of the convoy in the 993 Cabriolet. The air is filled with the bass burble of air-cooled exhaust tones at low RPM, the whiff of that unique 911 aroma of hot oil and burned hydrocarbons from the two cars ahead spilling over into the interior, the sun providing a warmth on my face that is still pleasant so late in the summer. Good times.

Turning left down some of our favourite B-roads, the sunshine dapples the tree-lined road ahead… it’s time to increase the pace. We’re staying away from the vast, open moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors today, instead staying on the lower ground of the Vale of York and the twisting, turning B-roads that keep hands and feet busy as the road snakes between those ancient dry-stone walls. The three cars span an eight-year period of 911 evolution, from the torsion bars and impact bumpers of 1989, through the transformation of 1990 with power assistance and coil springs, to the final development of the air-cooled Porsche 911 in the 993.

Without a doubt everyone will have a personal favourite. Indeed, as we gather the cars together for photographs, the debate commences even before photographer Alistair has rigged his first flash head. The most visually arresting is the 1989 Super Sport in Guards red. For me this car is the epitome of that period of Porsche sales. The hedonistic period when excess was encouraged and every businessman and city trader in the City of London had to have a giant Motorola brick phone, expensive Italian shoes and matching briefcase, plus a Guards red Porsche 911. For the full-on effect it had to be the Turbo body, Fuchs alloys and the whaletail spoiler. And if you really wished to be publicly on display through the city streets, then the Cabriolet ensured that you shared your cellphone conversation with everyone around you as you discussed the day’s share trading at the traffic lights.

So how does the drive compare almost 30 years later? We hand over the keys to the 993 that we arrived in and swap to the cream seats of the Super Sport. Instantly I’m missing the powered steering as we shuffle back and forth to leave the photo location, the non-standard steering wheel not helping with its smaller diameter, though once rolling along the country lanes it’s much less of an issue. The road is initially bumpy, and several things become apparent. Firstly there is indeed that flex and shake from around the windscreen area that I recall from previous drives. Secondly, despite there only being a few years between the registration dates, the 1989 car does feel as though it’s from a much older generation of Porsche.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car – far from it. And as the road smooths out and widens we’re able to enjoy the bark of the 3.2 engine and use the echo board of Yorkshire’s dry-stone walls to enjoy some rather delightful pops and crackles on the downshifts. Through the avenue of trees we return to our location, and I swap into the black 964.

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PROJECT GOLD: THE TRUE STORY

It’s a fascinating venture which has stirred up sizeable interest, partly because we never thought this could happen: we’re in the year 2018 and Porsche has just built an air-cooled 911, some two decades after its last. Incredibly, the car has just sold at auction for a whopping $3.1million too, so it might well be the ultimate collector’s Porsche 911. But what do we really know about it? 

Okay, so it’s a remake of the 993 Turbo rather than a brand-new model, Porsche giving Project Gold, as it’s been dubbed, a chassis number following directly on from the last 993 Turbo rolling off the production line in 1998. Finished in Golden metallic, the car is modelled as an air-cooled version of the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, this 993 built by Porsche Classic using its enviable itinerary of some 52,000 genuine Porsche Classic parts.

There is an air of cynicism surrounding this project, though. Porsche says the car was built from the last remaining 993 Turbo shell it had ‘laying around’; emissions regulations mean it can’t be registered and thus driven on public roads, and those same reasons are precisely why the car won’t be present at its own auction lot at RM Sotheby’s Porsche sale at PEC Atlanta – in fact, it won’t be in the US at all. Then there’s the spec: Porsche states the Turbo’s flat six produces 450hp, which means it comes with the coveted Powerkit, standard on the Exclusive-built 993 Turbo S. The optional side air intakes are Turbo S-spec, as is the carbon dashboard.

In fact, Project Gold is a set of yellow calipers away from being a fully loaded 993 Turbo S rather than a mere Turbo. However, Porsche has opted against branding it as such, likely because that would have left the 345 owners worldwide of the 993 Turbo S extremely upset that their investment-grade collectible had lost a modicum of rarity. It certainly smacks of marketing fanfare, but is this fair? Uwe Makrutzki, manager at Porsche AG’s Classic factory restoration team, and Philipp Salm, sales and marketing manager at Porsche Classic, have joined us at Rennsport Reunion to dispel the myths.

We ask first about that lone spare shell. “It’s not unusual to have spare parts when you change from one generation to another. In the case of the 993 to 996 we had a spare 993 Turbo shell – only one – which was stored in an outdoor hall in a town called Möglingen,” Uwe tells us matter-of-factly. “We’d known about the shell for years but didn’t have the desire to do anything with it. Then we were asked to do something for the 70 years of Porsche celebrations.

For the full exposé on Project Gold, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 172, in shops now or available for direct delivery to your door. You can also download the issue, which features bonus image galleries, to any Apple or Android device. 

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Porsche 997 v 991 GT2 RS tested on track

When we think about ‘Porsche’ and ‘Rennsport’, which connotations spring to mind? For me it’s the many ingredients which make the visceral experience of a raw 911: ostentatious aero; a stripped interior; loud, mechanical noises from inside the car; razor sharp throttle response and direct, unfiltered steering. The concept of a turbocharger wouldn’t be high on the list of too many enthusiasts.

Perhaps it should though, for Porsche’s history with turbocharging is as rich as its narrative with racing, the company’s endeavours on the track spawning the concept of its Rennsport cars for the road in the first place. Even before the company had unveiled its 911 Turbo to the world in 1975 it had already set about trying to race it. Built by Norbert Singer, the 2.1 Turbo RSR was constructed according to FIA Group 5 rules and pitted alongside sports ‘silhouette’ cars from rivals including Ferrari and Matra. It raced at Le Mans in 1974 – with every top-level Le Mans Porsche since using forced induction.

It finished 2nd overall to a Matra driven by a certain Gérard Larrousse, keeping a host of open-cockpit prototypes honest. It was no fluke: the RSR Turbo went on to record another 2nd place in the Watkins Glen 6 Hours, 7th at the 1,000km at Paul Ricard and 5th at the Brands Hatch 1,000km on the way to helping Porsche finish third in the World Sports Car Championship that year.

Alas, it was to be the only turbocharged 911 to officially adopt the Rennsport name. New rules from the FIA stipulated a change, Porsche going on to spawn the 911 Turbo-based 934, 935 and 936 thereafter. That is, until 2010. Following three generations of GT2 in the 993, 996 and 997, Porsche unveiled the 997 GT2 RS. Ostensibly a Frankenstein of the 997.2 Turbo S and 997 GT3 RS 4.0, it was a carbon-clad, lightweight monster with rose-jointed rear suspension, its tuned, twin-turbo motor making it the most potent road 911 of all time with a mighty 620hp at its disposal.

Although it never really featured in top-level works or customer racing (save for Jeff Zwart’s record-breaking Pikes Peak run in 2011), the 997 GT2 RS looked to be sharing the 2.1 Turbo RSR’s destiny of being an exotic anomaly interwoven in the Porsche Rennsport tapestry. There was no indicator of a successor in the pipeline, the 991 generation skipping the GT2 moniker entirely. Then, in autumn 2017 at, of all places, the launch of a new Xbox racing sim, Porsche announced the arrival of its 991 GT2 RS.

With only 500 997 GT2 RS’s and an estimated 2,000 991 GT2 RS’s worldwide, it’s not often you’ll see one of each generation side by side. However, that’s exactly the sight we’re treated to on arrival at Silverstone’s Porsche Experience Centre ahead of our twin test of both these performance goliaths. Representing GT2 RS genesis, the established 997 is the platinum smash hit, its 991-shaped replacement posing as the awkward second album. Can it really take Porsche’s blown Rennsport to a new level?

We’re yet to turn a wheel in either, but the 991 is already asserting itself, towering above the 997. The 991 simply looks like a Cup car, albeit with licence plates, its rear wing dwarfing the 997’s comparatively modest proportions. We’ll save the comparisons for later, though. After a quick cuppa and sign-on, it’s time to get reacquainted with the 997.

For the full feature on our 997 v 991 GT2 RS track test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 171 in shops now. You can also order your copy here for delivery to your door anywhere in the world, or download to an Apple or Android device of your choice. 

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forward-dated 911 SC: back to the future

The road ahead is deserted, its twisting Tarmac totally bereft of traffic. A thick wall of trees lines the roadside, their density willing us to keep moving our 991 towards the setting sun.

A look in the rear-view mirror reveals much the same story behind us. The highway is empty, save for two hazy yellow lights in the far distance. However, as the minutes tick by, those lights become more prominent. Glancing briefly at the road ahead, my eyes return to the 991’s rear-view mirror, fixated on those yellow lights coming quickly towards us. There’s a red hue visible between them now. A bonnet. A roof. A windscreen. It’s a car.

The rate at which this car is closing in on us is astonishing. It surges up the stretch of road behind us, revealing more detail with each passing second as its features become ever larger in our mirrors. A 964, I think to myself, catching its chunky front PU with integrated side lights. Then, roaring up behind us, the 964 pulls out and shoots past, gliding back in line and charging up the road ahead. Now the confusion sets in: replete with one-piece bumper, full-width rear reflector with clear ‘Porsche’ script, a distinctive tea tray spoiler and wheels with the lip and profile of Cup-spec alloys, the visual cues give this car away as a 964 3.3 Turbo. However, the mechanical howl of that flat six as it shot past certainly wasn’t akin to the noise of a 911 with an exhaust turbocharger bolted on. So, what on earth has just overtaken us on this rural stretch of Swedish asphalt?

Luckily, we don’t have to wait too long to find out. Not 20 minutes later we pull into a gas station and there, sitting by the pumps in front, is our mystery Porsche 911, being fuelled by its joint owner, Andreas. Originally a 1982 SC, the car was converted to a 964-look of sorts before Andreas and co-owner Lennart bought the car, though closer inspection of that one-piece Strosek front PU shows it to be more 944 than 911. We’re also told the rear bumper mimics that of a 3.0 RS. A peek inside reveals the car’s true age, its Pasha interior an obvious giveaway. Not that this car is trying to hide anything: Andreas and Lennart have even left the ‘SC’ lettering on the car’s decklid.

In our contemporary world where backdating a 911 is all the rage, the idea of a forward-dated 911 makes for an odd concept, but one which, in a bygone era, was a popular conversion. Due to the large spectrum of interchangeable parts on air-cooled 911s, many found favour with the idea of swapping a few panels to make an older model look just like one which had only just rolled off the production line at Zuffenhausen. Much like backdating, how convincing the car looked depended largely on how far you were willing to go, or how much you were willing to spend. So what of the car we’ve caught up with?

Andreas tells me he and Lennart bought the car in its current guise, complete with ‘teardrop’ wing mirrors commonly found on later 964s. “We found favour with how different it was compared to other SCs, and especially liked how it drove,” Andreas tells me as he replaces the fuel hose and tightens the 911’s filler cap. So did Andreas and Lennart ever consider converting the car back to standard, or backdating it – as is currently in vogue – to a longhood, pre-impact bumper 911? “No, because a lot of work had gone into converting it to 964 spec. For example, the rear reflector on a 964 sits at a slightly different angle to the G-series cars, so getting this to fit required the previous owner to make some modifications to the rear wings. We believe this is part of the history of the car and shouldn’t be changed,” comes Andreas’ reply.

For the full feature on forward-dated 911s, including a how-to guide from specialists, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 171 in shops now. You can also order your copy here for delivery to your door anywhere in the world, or download to an Apple or Android device of your choice. 

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New Porsche 992: first look

It looks much the same, but there are significant changes. Not least, Porsche has future-proofed the 992 model for hybridisation, using a re-engineered eight-speed PDK transmission from the Panamera that’s got a space in it for an electric motor. It won’t be called into action just yet though, says 911 boss August Achleitner, because he’s not convinced the battery tech is good enough for now, but don’t rule it out for the Gen2 model.

That hybrid preparation also means there’s some space in the body for battery packs, though like the gap in the gearbox they’ll remain unused at the 992’s launch. All Carreras will now be widebodied, with the Carrera S we’ve been in the same width as the GTS. The front axle gains 40mm, while there’s new technology like Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning and the option of Night Vision. A march to autonomy? Achleitner says no, saying the 911 will be one of the last cars to do so, adding that at its core it’s a driver’s car.

All the new equipment inevitably adds weight, though the use of aluminium in the body helps mitigate that, Porsche’s engineers targeting a weight the same as the outgoing 991 for the new 992 model. There’s a new standard driving mode, the 992 detecting wet roads and priming the stability with tweaks to the gearbox and the rear wing’s angle of attack. Achleitner says that’s the result of the 911 being a relatively light car on wide tyres – with staggered wheel sizes of 20 and 21 inch, wearing 245/30 ZR20 and 305/30 ZR21 tyres respectively.

The engine remains the same turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six, with a number of significant revisions. There’s piezo injection, an entirely new intake and exhaust system, re-positioned intercoolers (on top of the engine, 993 Turbo style), while EU cars have an exhaust particulate filter, too. The output is up, 450hp in the Carrera S – the Carrera anticipated to have 385hp or so. In the S, Porsche’s engineers are saying it’ll match the performance of the 997 Turbo, so a sub-4.0 sec 0-62mph time, and a 190+mph top speed.

The slightly slower Carrera will follow the S’s intro, it adding the seven-speed manual to the line-up, while the inevitable Turbo, Turbo S, GT3, and GT3 RS models following, too. Word is the Turbo is punching out 650+hp.

We’ve ridden alongside Achleitner and his team of engineers as the 992 is signed off prior to its November reveal in LA. Be sure to read the full inside story of the new, future-proofed 911 in Total 911 issue 172, out October 31st.

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