10 Aug Icons – Porsche 911 ST, the rally contender
Porsche 911 ST, the rally contender
Imagine that you are about to be crowned monarch of one of the world’s last colonial empires. Your coronation will of course feature men on horses and people with funny hats, but surely there must be even better ways to celebrate your mightiness. Like a race, obviously.
That’s what happened when Elizabeth II in 1953 took possession of all that pink land in old atlases. It led to the birth of one of the world’s great classic rallies: The East African Safari Rally.
Right from the beginning this grueling race through Kenya, Uganda and Taganyika (modern day Tanzania), became the kind of thing everyone wanted to win. Including Porsche. And in 1970 – after considerable amounts of diddle-daddling – they made their move and introduced what was to become yet another 911 icon: The Porsche 911 ST.
It took its lead from its predecessor, the 1967 911R, and went on a radical diet. The car was stripped of all the shiny bits, and of soundproofing, under-seal, heating ducts, seat slide supports, the glove-box lid, ashtray, sun visors, rear torsion-bar covers and pretty much everything else that wasn’t essential. For the body hub and panels thinner gauge steel and fiberglass were used. And all windows except the windscreen were replaced with plexiglass. To top it off Porsche fitted wider seven-inch forged aluminum Fuchs front wheels and nine-inch rear wheels and the front brake calipers from the 908/2.
Porsche took the opportunity to enhance all areas of the engine. Biral cylinders, higher compression ratios, Mahle pistons, twin-plug heads, polished connecting rods and plastic intake trumpets were a few of the improvements. Horsepower jumped to an astonishing 240. It may not sound like a lot compared to, say, a Bugatti Veyron’s 1,001 horsepower. But, then again, the Veyron makes Saturn look underweight, while the Porsche 911 ST tips the scales at just 850 kg.
The car came too late for the 1970 East African Rally. But, although it originally was intended as a rally car, it made its mark at several track events during its first season. This included Le Mans and class wins at Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in a refurbished rally car with a 270 hp, 2.5 liter engine.
In 1971 Porsche took a long, hard look at the feather weight 911 ST and concluded it was fat. Weight was further reduced to 800 kg, which, to Porsche’s eyes, was close to obese. So using titanium and additional fiberglass components, weight was lowered once more to an astonishing 789kg. Factory cars were given an experimental 2.4 liter engine with horsepower reported to be around 260.
Porsche prepared 3 factory cars specifically for the East African Safari Rally. But in spite of a valiant effort none of the cars completed this punishing endurance event. To the day this remains the most spectacular defeat (read: ‘epic fail’ for the age-challenged) of Porsche. It took another 40 years for Porsche to finally win the event; although not the main event, but one reserved for classic cars. The greatest thing: The driver had been behind the wheels of one of Porsche’s own 911 STs during their 1971 attempt. It seems not only old Porsches can soldier on; their drivers can as well.
The Porsche 911 ST is truly one of the greatest 911s of them all. Not convinced? Well, how many other cars have their own Facebook page