Widebody backdated 911s Retro Spex. Backdating with style - retro 911s take on ST and RSR styling cues, but with a modern twist. Going back in time with your 911 necessitates a target model or an era to pitch it at. We sample two different takes on Porsche’s halcyon racing days of the early ’70s, but are they fit for the heroes who drove them back then? Words: Johnny Tipler. Photography: Antony Fraser.
It’s amazing how much #Porsche
911s changed in the space of a couple of years. In 1972 they were long-bonneted, unspoilered, and in 1974 they’d sprouted wings, air dams and impact bumpers. Our two retrospectives this month were built to order by Specialist Cars of Malton, starting life as a 964 and a 3.2 Carrera, yet both project Porsche 911 racecar styling from either side of that major visual revamp. But what exactly are we being asked to believe we’re seeing? The pale grey car could be an ST along the lines of 1972’s European GT Championship contenders, and the yellow peril looks like nothing so much as a 3.0 Carrera RSR comps car from #1974
Paradoxically it’s the later donor car that portrays the earlier longbonnet look and the earlier one that comes across as the 1974 IROC racer.
So why would you want to ape an ST? Though never officially documented as such by the factory, that was the designation it was given in the race shop by the guys who built it. Following on from the hot 911R of 1968, Porsche supplied racing and rallying customers with the homologated 911T, fitted with the 911S engine and described it as a 911T Rally or TR, in effect a 911S lightweight. Then for #1970
they built a 911S lightweight as a homologated production model, basically a 911T with an S engine, so the factory called it an ST. For the #1972
racing season a number of 2.5-litre 911 S coupés were built, incorporating new anti-roll bars, harder Bilstein shocks, and a half roll-cage in the rear of the stripped-out cockpit. The shape of the swollen steel wheelarches is peculiar to the ST, and except for the front spoiler the rest of the body panels were in steel. The blueprinted 2.5-litre flat-six ran with Bosch fuel injection, racing camshafts and pistons, polished intake and exhaust ports, and twin-spark ignition, developing 270bhp at 8,000rpm. The ST was the first 911 available from the factory with the potential to score a class win at Le Mans, as Erwin Kremer did in 1970. Björn Waldegård won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1970 in a works ST and, moreover, John Fitzpatrick won the 1972 European GT series in a Kremer-built ST. ‘The 911 was the best rally car at that time, no question,’ declares Waldegård.
Between 1970 and 1972, the factory made 18 ‘STs’ (J. Barth) with sufficient componentry manufactured for customers to build an additional 30 complete cars, plus the relevant parts to upgrade a further 100 cars to ST spec. And that makes doing a replica ST an attractive proposition indeed. There’s also comfortable scope for ambiguity, since the ST was itself abstruse, spanning two years and two fairly significant evolutions. If nothing else, it’s more esoteric than a 2.7 RS rep.
Which brings us onto the yellow 3.0 RSR lookalike that we’ve got here, replicating the invincible European GT Championship winning car from 1974. In fact from 1974 to 1977 the 3.0 Carrera RSR was the staple Group 4 racer, with 17 of them running at Le Mans that year. Production of the 3.0- litre RS series began in Autumn 1973, and the first 15 units went to the States for the IROC (International Race of Champions) series, to be swapped amongst a bunch of elite drivers from F1, USAC, NASCAR, IMSA, TransAm and Can-Am competing against one another in mechanically identical, though individually wildly coloured, cars – the first 911 racecars with the new raised ‘impact bumper’ look and huge whaletail wing. Of the 109 RSRs made, 59 were road-registered, and just six in right-hand-drive.
The 3.0 RS and #RSR
were wellestablished midfield runners in the 1974 World Championship for Makes endurance events, and John Fitzpatrick lifted the crown in the European GT Championship with five class wins in the Gelo Racing 3.0 RSR. ‘I think the nicest 911 race car was the 3.0-litre RSR,’ Fitz proclaims. He’s not alone: Hurley Haywood’s career took off with the Brumos RSR: ‘In 1973 the factory gave a 3.0-litre 911 RSR Group 4 prototype to Peter Gregg and myself, and we won Daytona and then Sebring, so that car pretty much had me going.’ That was even before it had been homologated as a GT car. In 1975 Gijs van Lennep shared a 3.0 Carrera RSR at Le Mans with John Fitzpatrick, placing 5th overall.
‘That was the best Le Mans ever,’ says Gijs, who twice won the event outright, ‘as all we had to do was put a bit of oil in, clean the windows, put petrol in, change the front brake pads once, and that was it. Refuelling was very slow and you could work on the car and do the petrol in one go. We spent just 17 minutes in the pits in the whole 24 hours, and that seems to be a record too.’ Even we could do that! Jürgen Barth campaigns one these days on Tour Auto and declares that the competition 911 he would always come back to out of sheer dependability is the #Porsche-911-3.0-Carrera-RSR
. ‘It wasn’t as quick or as powerful as the 935, obviously, but it was a great all rounder.’ So that’s what all the fuss is about. Pretty beguiling, emulating the legends in such an iconic shape, isn’t it?
Bent on indulging in a bit of hero worship ourselves, we head up to the wilderness beyond Pickering: this is Heartbeat territory, but will my heart beat faster? There’s a fabulous 360 degree panorama from up here, surrounded by heather and limestone boulders, gorse, grouse, sheep and lambs, though the climate’s fickle. Sunny to start with, we manage to avoid a dousing, and back off the moor it’s summertime again.
Let’s go with the pale grey car first. Prior to the transformation, the donor #Porsche-911-964-C2
was not at all in good shape. Allegedly every panel had something wrong with it, the paintwork was dreadful, the wheels were disposable, the interior was quite hideous. Then a visionary with a penchant for early ’70s race cars saw it and decided it had a brighter future. There’s a curious ambiguity about that too.
The cabin interior is stripped out like a race car and partly trimmed like a limousine, so there’s bare metal showing all the lines where the panels have been welded together. Conversely, there’s leather trim along the bottom of the dash, the door cards are clad in quilted Alcantara, and along the top of the dash it’s also swathed in Alcantara. Ooh là-là! All very well executed, but somewhat theatrical for a parody race car, wouldn’t you say? There’s an aluminium strip along the central tunnel that suggests it could be a four-wheel drive transmission tunnel, hungover from the 964 structure, with the gear lever poking through that. It’s got footrests in the shape of drilled plates for the passenger/navigator and for the driver’s left foot, and then behind the pedals. It has a Momo Prototipo steering wheel, and the gauges are in pale grey, matching the colour of the car, and the computer aspect of the rev counter is blanked off, while the rest of the instrumentation consists of specially trimmed 964 switches. It’s all very nicely finished, but it does smack of an identity crisis. The dinky little streamlined door mirrors don’t do much, and I twiddle with the faces in a bid to find some rearward vision down the flanks. Seats are period-style sports buckets embraced by Schroth four-point harnesses, and a Safety Devices half roll-cage occupies the back of the cabin, rigged for driver/navigator intercom.
Externally, the ST look has been achieved by swapping the 964 panels for 911 E-programme ones, trading short bonnet for long, impact bumpers for classic. I look underneath the wheelarches. The flaring technique is dimly discernable. They’ve cut off the original milder 964 flares, overlapped the classic arches slightly, pinned and welded them on, filling up any imperfections. At Specialist Cars, the painting process involves stripping everything out, engine, suspension, wheels, trim, interior, then it’s put on the spit, which holds the front and back ends so the shell can be tilted onto its side for the bottom to be prepped.
Then it receives a primer base coat, which is flatted back, and the topcoat is applied. This is the two-pack method (as opposed to water-based with lacquer coat), with the shell oven-baked to make the chemicals harden off. Pale grey with understated racing stripes (painted on, not stickers) is extremely cool. The closure panels and wings are painted at the same time, and then fitted along with the rubber inserts. In the process it’s lost the 964 sill covers, and the front and rear bumpers are fibreglass, appropriate for the E- and Fprogramme 911. All window surrounds and door handles are in chrome. The 964 roof, doors and windows, plus the powertrain and running gear are retained. I reflect that the STs ran in 1972 without ducktail spoilers, which helps pin down the era it purports to represent more specifically; by 1973 aerodynamics had moved on a notch and they mostly had ducktails. Those deep-dished Fuchs, shod with Toyo Proxes, complete the picture, though in period the STs mostly ran Minilites at the rear as Fuchs did not produce any 9in rims at the time, and Porsche used Minilite ninespoke magnesium wheels. These Fuchs lookalikes are made by Braid in Spain, and it’s when I look at the hubs more closely I see why they fill out the wheelarches so amply.
It’s because it’s fitted with 10mm spacers on the front and two – an 8mm and a 10mm – on the back. It’s all about the look, though, because to fill those arches up you’ve got to have wheels a long way away from the hubs.
What’s the reality? The flat-six blares from the specially designed twin-pipe exhaust box, an ecstatic paean to 911 racers, prompting high revs and taunting bystanders in equal measure. Throttle response is sharp, the needle zinging right round the rev counter. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in a 911 in an urban context for a very long time!
Much of this has to do with the noise it’s making, which is a really outrageous amount, though on a long journey it could be quite painful on the ears. As it stands there’s a question mark over the comfort factor too.
The seat is fixed, and I would alter the angle of the squab as I’m more perched on it than nestling in it. Out on the open road I’m a bit wary as it’s skittish over the bumps, unpredictably oversteering then understeering, and the ride is a tad harsh. The brakes are sharp, though, providing instant rallentando, and I can keep it under control by using the throttle to make the front end turn in and duck out, and giving it its head. It’s one feisty car, this, and lots of fun in a frivolous driving situation.
Following the yellow car up to the moors, it looks for all the world like an IROC racer, a wide- bodied 3.0 Carrera RSR, sporting a huge whale tail wing, the top V of the roll cage visible through the back window, and a couple of vents in the trailing ends of the front wings to let the heat out, with corresponding ducts in the leading edges of the rear arches to aid cooling. It’s a plastic fantastic: the side windows are perspex, the doors, wings and roof are fibreglass, though front and rear windscreens are glass. The fibreglass wings are bonded in place with a flexible sealant called J-B Weld. The original 3.2 wings are unbolted, slots cut in the shell and the new ones slide in place, accompanied by the bonding medium.
After the main painting process the rubber trims and seals are inserted, and when the bumpers are bolted back on they nip up the rubber. It has a matching rev counter, but mustard rather than rape, if I can use that hue, because I’d say the external colour is more of a rapeseed yellow. The ensemble is set off by lattice BBS wheels, and the Carrera graphics are a nice period touch too. This is the one that gets most stares in town. It’s got GT3 seats with Sabelt harnesses and a comprehensively welded-in roll cage, which just happens to be one of the most difficult roll cages I’ve ever had to get my leg over to get into a car.
Plus there’s a bar right across the front of the cabin where your knees are. The top of the dash has been upholstered in a flock material, there are canvas door pulls, and the Kevlar pattern is revealed in the underside of the roof. The interior is so dominated by the vibrant yellow submarine effect, the Beatles would feel right at home living in here.
There’s much more of a go-kart feel about the driving position, and I’m absorbing every last little bump on the road surface through the steering wheel, which is wriggling away like a mad adder.
I’m traversing the fast moorland up on Blakey Ridge and the car bounces on the bumps, the suspension’s that hard. The brakes feel like they are of the period, needing firm pressure on the pedal to slow it down, while the 915 shift is the old fashioned pattern with reverse down to the right. I take advantage of those broad tyres, leaning hard on them in fast corners. On smooth new country lane blacktop, everything starts to make sense with the yellow car, and with no undulations to disturb it, it’s a fast, rock-solid performance car. Going back in time with a pair of 911s doesn’t mean they’re slower.
The grey car is a 3.6, so there’s no question that’s a quick car. And despite its raw and rascally attitude, the yellow peril’s running un-modded 3.2-litre power, which means it’s more relaxed than racetrack revvy. It does sound the part, and a 231bhp flat-six in a largely fibreglass panelled body has a decent amount of get-up and- go to complement its radical looks. My driving accomplice on our shoot, Phil Robson from Specialist Cars, whangs the grey car while I yank the yellow, and we enjoy a hooley of a drive along the back doubles from Pickering to Malton, scudding around the corners in unison and blaring down the tree-lined avenues, pedal to the metal, great fun, really using the revs. A memorable blast, and he’s a brazen biker so he keeps it together.
The conversion work has been accomplished superbly and each car looks the part. They deliver aesthetically, they turn heads, show a fair turn of speed on the blacktop, and they demonstrate they do go bloody well in the cross-country chase we’ve just had. But are they any better than the chassis they purport to replicate? After all, one of the points of backdating is to end up with classic looks and more modern running gear. Both boxes ticked. They have the looks and the performance, giving us a couple of contenders to indulge in some non-specific historic road rallying. Being John Fitzpatrick and Björn Waldegård.
John Hawkins Specialist Cars of Malton
York Road Business Park
Tel: 01653 697722 http://www.specialistcarsltd.co.uk
Email: Sales and Underwrites - [email protected]
Sales – [email protected]
Below: Engine is unmodified, but 3.6-litres is enough in this lightweight, stripped out shell. Intercom is essential!
Grey ST-alike is based on a #Porsche-911-964
, while the yellow #Porsche-911-RSR
clone is #Porsche-911-Carrera-3.2
derived. Both take the ‘clone’ look with a pinch of salt. These aren’t faithful replicas but look the business none the less. We particualrly like those lattice #BBS
“I don’t think I’ve had so much fun in a #Porsche-911
for a very long time. Much of this has to do with the noise: Outrageous ”
Modern and retro mix together for a different take on the backdate look. Below: On the move and it all comes together.