Including the Porsche 911 in our quest for the greatest sports car of all time was given. But what? There are many possibilities from 911’s 56-year-old race: air-cooled or water-cooled, turbocharged or atmospheric, exotic or crazy. Finally we went to old school.
Short wheelbase 911 is irresistible. In its day, this 1967 911 was the Super Club racer’s choice, the kind you would hammer on the field all weekend and then drive home. And while there are faster and more valuable 911s with long hoods, we wanted something that was not unobtanium when it was new. Brett Sloan from air-conditioned specialist Sloan Motors in Connecticut ̵
This is an excerpt from our recent article, The Search For the Greatest Sports Car of All Time, where we rounded up eight of the most important enthusiastic cars ever made, tested them at Lime Rock Park and declared an ultimate winner. Enjoy this chapter on the Porsche 911, but remember to read the entire eight-part story.
When the track surface dried, Sloan briefed me on pre-inspection procedures. Turn the ignition key (which is known, on the left side) to the accessory position, and listen to the ticking fuel pump to empty. Then keep the throttle fully open while turning the engine over. First gear is dogleg, left and down, and oh, “rev the shit out of it.” Nice of us.
The 911 S ‘2.0-liter six is powered by two triple-choke Weber IDS carbs and set for peak torque at 5,200 rpm, with low power output to 7200-rpm redline. After the warm-up rounds, I found myself taking Lime Rock’s long Big Bend in second gear, revs, to ensure a sharp exit towards the track’s only left hands.
Over 5000 rpm. Drives this fantastic snarly flat-six 911 in a way that counteracts the stated 160 horsepower. This 911 is a relic of another Porsche, one that will sell you a car that is not meant for a moment of puttering, but only for sparkling speed.
Almost everyone struggled with this 911s Type 901 gearbox – you need to know exactly where the gears are when you row through. The shifting of first to fourth gears was common, and even those with considerable air-cooled experience fell victim. “But when you get the shifts right,” said digital editor Aaron Brown, “it’s so satisfying.”
“No idea how short-wheel-drive cars achieved their reputation as tough stuff,” said senior editor Kyle Kinard. “They’re as friendly as a spaniel.”
“The scary physics never left me,” added editor-in-chief Bob Sorokanich, coming out of his very first turn in an air-cooled 911. “Which is probably unfair. The driving experience itself was docile and predictable. The way the car slides into a corner is magical. . ”
The 911 steering is a high watermark, even in this group of cars, with apparently no filter between the thin front Michelin and the palms. “The steering feel of a Porsche 356, an experience closer to sailing than driving,” said Kinard.
The wide, thin-rimmed wheel contributes to the maritime atmosphere. Steering felt surprisingly easy, given the lack of a power assistant. Be patient when entering, let the weight change when the car rolls over on the high side walls. Once the chassis is set, adjust the turning radius with your right foot. “Put it right, and you realize that half the fun is putting it right,” said contributor John Krewson. “Just do not forget to commit,” Brown added.
Senior editor Zach Bowman summed it up best. “So happy,” he said. “Charming sounds. The way the cap just disappears. Nothing is good by modern standards, but I do not care. I just want to squeeze it. Living thin tires. ”
1967 PORSCHE 911 S
160 hp / 132 lb-ft
PRICE WHEN NEW:
An early 911 is different from most cars in this test; you have to drive around its uniqueness. Unlike the Miata, Integra and Cobra, the Porsche is not a car you jump in and hammer on without experience. It is a car to grow with. I once bought a Fifties Martin guitar, not because I thought it sounded particularly good in my hands, but because I thought I could finally get a good note out of it, and getting there would be fun. Maybe that’s why I like these rattly old cars so much.
I’m glad we also chose this 911. You still get tastes of Porsche’s Volkswagen origins, reminders that in its day this car was an outlier. The 911 has become so ubiquitous that we tend to forget that a sports car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled flat-six is strange. But just three years and a month after this car left the factory, Porsche Le Mans won outright, forever changing the company. This car is a link between the small family’s concern that was early in Porsche and the very profitable luxury car manufacturer it became.
At one level or another, it did not matter which 911 we chose. This is not an excavation by Sloan or the car’s owner – it’s just that this coupe stands for decades of Porsche sports car history. 911 has evolved, and trades with simplicity and charm for ease of use, security and speed. Still, it is still the benchmark, the standard choice in high-end sports cars. Perhaps no other model line has remained so true to its core mission.
Porsche began building rear-engined sports cars in 1948, just one year later Road & Track began celebrating a new kind of automotive culture that emerged in America after the war. We declared that the rear motor car, 356, “tomorrow’s car” in a road test in November 1952, our first of a Porsche. Today, Porsche will continue to sell you a sports car with a rear engine. It’s a lot different from the old 356, but in ways that really matter, it’s not.
Click here to find out which vehicle won our eight-car shootout.