The real 911
“Dang if that new RS 4.0 isn’t the sweetest car ever made? Or the GT2… or any of the new 911s for that matter, right? They’re perfect. So why do they bore the hell out of me? I’m a little ashamed to admit they do. They are probably just too good. Or at least I’m assuming they are. I have never actually driven any of the aforementioned cars, but I really don’t need to. To me they are just a car that faintly resembles the cars that I truly love and have driven so many of.
Sometimes I refer to them as ‘real’ 911s… or just 911s. More often though, I just call them ‘old’. Old 911s were made until around 1989. Don’t get me wrong, anything after that is still a really cool car… just not an old 911. A 964 or 993, although air-cooled, will never be an old 911 – even 50 years from now. Granted, an ’88 3.2 Carrera is a vastly different driving experience than a ’65 2.0 with Solex carburators, but these cars, and all in between, have a special feel that is unlike any other car. They are different in a way that I can’t always define but I know is true.
Driving an old 911 can be a love/hate thing. I love the sound, the smell (sans oil leaks), the bug-eyed headlights, the big gauges and depending on the year and model, the speed and handling. But I’ve always said ‘drive a bad 911 and you won’t get it…you will hate it’. You’ll wonder what anyone ever saw in this weird little car. Maybe the car needs a clutch cable, shifter bushings, syncros, throttle bushings, shocks, more bushings, tyres… you know, ten or fifteen thousand bucks spent on it. Sometimes, just one of these problems can ruin an experience. But drive a properly sorted ’74 Carrera, ’67 S or a sweet low mileage SC and if you aren’t smitten after that, then I might feel a little sorry for you. I just drove a ’73 RS that we restored and it almost made me cry it was so pleasant. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, ‘if you ever have the means’…do it!
When I was 7-years old, my friend’s mum had a new ’77 911S Targa. It was the first 911 I’d really spent much time around. I remember getting excited just before going over to his house to look at it. It was white with the chrome trim and that iconic stainless steel Targa bar. Man, did I love that stainless steel. One day his mum took us for a ride and I sat in the back. I was totally mesmerised by the sound and the monumentally cool, big gauges with bright orange needles. Watching that tach needle swing and correlate to the glorious racket behind my head was so amazing that I could hardly contain myself. I was already into cars, I loved cars, but now I was a 911 guy…err, kid. From then on, and to this day, every time I’d see or hear a 911, I get excited. This reaction will probably never go away, at least I hope it doesn’t.
Believe it, or not, some of my favorite, attainable 911s are the mid to late ’70s models. The 2.7-litre cars have gained a bad reputation over the years and rightfully so. They are usually worn out and leaking badly. But I actually see more engine problems on 3.0-litre SCs. Broken head studs are very common, even on low mileage cars – I had an SC in for service a few years back with 14,000 miles on it. The car was perfect except for the eight broken head studs!
Good 2.7 and 3.0-litre 911s are a pleasure to drive. The steering is light, the engines are responsive and produce good power. The suspension is well suited to a relatively lightweight car and can be improved upon with minimal effort. The 915 transmission can be a bummer but once again, if you rebuild it properly, re-bush the shifter and run a good coupler, they work just fine – sometimes, really well. The interiors have a nice retro feel but still incorporate modern seat belts, an important feature of a car driven regularly. In general, Seventies 911s are a good balance of stylish cool and practical daily driver. Yeah, critics bum out on the impact bumpers but in my opinion, cool always comes down to other things. The right wheels, ride height, headlights, tail if you want one – these are the details that matter. Lots of great colours in that period, too. Granted, most have been painted red, black or white, but if you happen to find an original car that’s in green, blue or orange, all the better. My ’78 SC is Bitter Chocolate and really stands out. People either love it or hate it, but it’s not boring, that’s for sure.
So, the next time I’m driving my SC and get passed by a black 997 Carrera S Coupé, I’ll think to myself, ‘well now that’s a handsome car… I bet it’s perfect’. But I will soon forget, try and find third gear, and continue to truly enjoy my ‘real’ 911.”