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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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Porsche 964… Courant d’air !

Il fut un temps où rouler en Porsche 964 ne nécessitait pas d’avoir coché tous les numéros gagnants d’une grille de Loto… Oui je sais, aujourd’hui, quand on repense à cette époque pas si lointaine, on plonge dans des pensées bien nostalgiques. En attendant, il y en a qui ont su profiter quand il était […]

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sponsored: Commission your Porsche 911 as fine art

Many 911 owners would already consider their car to be a piece of automotive art – we certainly do – and gazing over the curvaceous bodywork can give many hours of pleasure.  But there’s more than one way to enjoy the stunning appearance, and having it committed to canvas would be special indeed. Which brings us to the work of renowned artist, Rob Hefferan. Fascinated with art since childhood, his first exhibition in 2003 showcasing his skills in figurative work and portraiture was a resounding success. It’s those skills along with an international reputation for quality and unrivalled attention to detail that has led to his work being commissioned by numerous celebrity clients, and it turns out that Rob has another passion; “I’ve been obsessed with cars since I was young, and that developed into a love for Porsches, and the 911 in particular”. 

A serial owner of our favourite sports car, his collection has included the 996, both generations of 997 model, and he now enjoys a 991 Carrera S. A proper car guy, then, which is why he’s decided to focus his talents on the Zuffenhausen marque, offering owners and enthusiasts the opportunity to have their pride and joy recreated as fine art. He admits this is a new challenge and one he relishes, already having set to work creating around a dozen paintings of various Porsches. While such artwork isn’t entirely new, what’s different here and core to Rob’s ethos is capturing even the smallest of details that make each car unique. And having seen it for ourselves we are talking about beautiful pieces of art here, the sort of work that would complement 911 ownership in a way that other pictures just can’t. Painted either in oils or acrylic depending on the timescales involved, each work can take anything from 150 to 300 hours to complete and the work is also unusual compared to other automotive artists in that he is happy to depict not just the car but to include the owner as well. It’s where the talent for portrait work really pays off. 

As for the process of commissioning a painting, an owner can either provide pictures of the car or Rob will travel to view your 911, employing a professional photographer to take dozens of detailed reference shots from which to work. It’s a painstaking process but one that results in something very special, but there was something we were keen to ask and that’s whether he had a favourite 911. “Not really” says Rob. “I love all of them, but if pushed I guess I’d have to say it’s the cars from the 1960’s that most capture my attention.”  “It’s the shape and form that I find so appealing, and the way the light falls on the bodywork. There are few cars like it, and I really admire Porsche’s heritage, especially when it comes to motorsport.” That emphasis on history and quality really shines through when it comes to the finished painting, and whether you own just the one car or are lucky enough to have a collection to see them represented in such a way is likely to prove very hard to resist. You can see examples of Rob’s work by visiting his website at http://www.robhefferanautomotiveart.com, but we’ll say now that you should be prepared to find yourself as tempted to commission his services as we are.

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Porsche 2.4S, 964 C2, 997.1 GT3 RS, 991 GT2 RS: Driver’s 911s

By definition any 911 is a driver’s car, but the proliferation of Porsche’s sports car, through both time and model variation, means some 911s are that little bit more engaging and interesting to drive than its contemporary models.

As cars become ever more complex, weightier and increasingly remote, we’ve picked some 911 highlights which celebrate what’s arguably been taken away from more modern machinery: the unfiltered joy of pure driving.

Our quartet spans key eras of the 911 in the form of an early car, modern classic, recent Rennsport and the outrageous present, each example putting the driver at the very core of their existence.

A not-inconsiderable tract of time and huge technological advances differentiate the first and last 911s that we’re driving here, but each represents one of the defining elements of the 911, that being driver appeal.

Any of these cars will thrill and engage, each exhibiting character and engagement that’s commensurate with their era, but what is undeniable is that each and every 911 retains a signature that’s unique to it, which is why it’s such a celebrated sports car. Some though are worth celebrating that little bit more…

For the full road test of our driver’s 911s, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 184 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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