Six Decades, Seven Porsches

Brian Konoske

1973 911T Targa

Tom Frisardi's 1973 911T Targa makes 140 hp and weighs 2380 pounds. Ponder that for a moment -- once upon a time, the Porsche 911 had roughly the same power and weight as the new Ford Fiesta.

If you've never driven an air-cooled 911 (and I hadn't), the first thing you notice is the pedals. They're hinged at the bottom, so the arc of their travel is the opposite of what you expect. Some idiosyncrasies are endearing, but I think I'd have a hard time getting used to floor-hinged pedals. There's barely room down there for my feet as it is, so I have to angle my shoes sideways to get a firm stab at the pedals.

I remark to Frisardi that it feels like there's nowhere to put my left foot. "Well," he says, "on the Targa cars they welded in extra reinforcements to buttress that area, and that makes the footwell smaller." Between this car and the tiny 356s, I'm starting to get the sense that bygone decades were populated by a race of delicate woodland nymphs. Step into the freak tent, and come see the mighty giant who stands five foot eleven!

We get a clear stretch of road, and I give the 2.3-liter flat six some revs. It's not the night before Christmas, but the phrase "there arose such a clatter" springs to mind. A new Porsche six-cylinder feels like it would spin smoothly to centrifuge speeds; this air-cooled contraption sounds like it might fly apart at 5000 rpm. It's wonderful. Between the manual steering and the boisterous sound track, this is the sort of car you could drive all day at the speed limit and still have a great time.

Then again, it's also a 911, and thus calibrated to reward hard driving. For instance, the brakes don't feel exceptionally strong at low speeds, but Frisardi assures me that they get better the faster you go. "The brakes aren't power-assisted, but when the adrenaline's going, they feel great," he says. Who needs power assistance when you've got the power of fear?

I have recently parted with my 1987 Diamond Blue Metallic coupe. It was by far the most enjoyable car I have ever owned. I removed the cat, added a custom exhaust from B&B, installed a cold air ram system and had it chipped. The car put out way over 300 hp. It was a joy to drive just to listen to the engine. The pedal position was never an issue and nothing short of a turbo is a better car, even today than a late 80's 911 Carrera
And one last thing (this article really bugged me, obviously). Bump steer is not a twitch in the steering wheel when hitting a seem. Bump steer is from a suspension bottoming out, and a typically problem in "slammed" cars that have been lowered by hacks. Come on guys, really. And yes, it was common for sports cars to not have power steering in the 80's. Emphasis on sports cars...the typical chevy Impala did have power steering.
Too bad cars have all grown by one third or more on average. At 6'3" and 220 pounds, I never found a classic 911 too small. And I never had trouble adjusting to the way the pedals are mounted on the floor. The humorous exaggeration doesn't work in this case.
The author had never driven an air cooled Porsche? What is he, 16? At 42, I didn't think I was old enough to have nothing in common with the current crop of auto journalists. I recently read another auto journalist state he'd never driven a Z3. That dude must be all of 8 years old. And he pretends to know what the quintessential 80's yuppie car is? (It's a grey BMW btw). My 86 Carrera still keeps up with most anything on the track. And it's a rock solid daily driver.

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