29 Jun Icons – Porsche 911R, the first thoroughbred racer
Icons – Porsche 911R, the first thoroughbred racer
There is rare, and then there is super rare. The other day, as I stopped for a traffic light, a nude girl crossed the street and walked leisurely into a nearby park. That’s rare – even here in Copenhagen.
But super rare is an entirely different animal. Its stomping ground is the sub-micron thin layer that separates the mundane from the impossible. It lives and breeds behind scratching a pimple on your bum and having it explode into fireworks and a cascade of pure diamonds.
This is where you find the Porsche 911R.
It surfaced from Porsche’s experimental department in 1967 as a super lightweight version of the short wheel base standard 911. And boy, did those engineers go to extremes to strip the car off as much weight as possible.
Most panels were refabricated in lightweight fiberglass, including the doors, hood, engine cover and bumpers. Along with an interior stripped down to the bare essentials and lightweight windows, the 911R weighed in at only 810 kg. That’s 230 kg less than the anything but heavy standard 911.
From far off, you can spot a 911R by its no-nonsense looks. The flared wheel arches, the lack of grilles at the front, the smaller bumpers and its distinctive circular rear lights. By looking closer, the extent of the 911R program becomes apparent with details such as a bank of louvers in the rear quarter plexiglass windows, plastic door hinges and wider 6J and 7J Fuchs rims.
|Stripped interior with 3 gauges|
|Front with no grilles|
|Louvred plexiglass windows|
The 4 prototypes and 19 of the subsequent 20 consumer models were fitted with the Type 901/22 2.0 litre engine from the Carrera 906. With its dual-plug ignition and 46 mm Weber carburettors it produced 210 hp at a banshee screaming 8,000 RPM. Stepping on the throttle must have been like unleashing a thunderstorm of hell-bent fury.
The record run of the Porsche 911R
No introduction to the Porsche 911R would be complete without the tale of its most legendary achievement: Its 20,000 km record run in 1967 on the Monza track.
A Swiss racing team had been using a Porsche Carrera 6 for their record attempt, but it broke its suspension on the bumpy Italian track. According to the rules, they had only 48 hours to repair or replace the car in order to repeat the attempt. After a call to the Porsche factory a decision was made to drive a pair of 911R’s from Stuttgart to Monza, even though first calculations had revealed that the car probably couldn’t stand the distance of the record attempt.
The gears proved to be the most vulnerable part. So Porsche fitted 4thgear with the cogs as 5th car, effectively giving the car two top gears. Ultimately the 911R used for the record attempt managed and did the 20,000 kilometres with an average speed of 209 km/h. When the dust had settled, Porsche discovered, to their amazement, that the very same engine previously had been doing a 100 hour run on the test bench, without any part change whatsoever.
Why you can’t have a Porsche 911R
So why, you may ask, is this car so rare? Why did Porsche not build the 500 cars required to homologate it for GT competition? Well, you can blame the people in marketing. They did not believe they could sell 40 Porsche 911R’s a month. And they were probably right.
But the Porsche 911R left a great legacy. It cleared the way for subsequent race versions. And it is one of the greatest style icon of the Porsche 911 hot-rod scene.
The chances of actually owning one may be as unlikely as discovering that an alien life form has set up base camp in your cellar. But while replicating the feeling of playing host to our Interstellar Overlords, the Vogons, may not be easy, it is actually far from impossible to get preeeetty close to the Porsche 911R experience.