It’s di-a-bolical, man! You’d better make sure it is pointed straight when you nail the throttle — or it will jump up and bite you!” warns Jeff Smith as he hands over the keys to his potent, 3.8-liter 1973 911E. He’s got every right to be cautious. Not long ago, he saw a similarly equipped former Excellence cover car (May, 2004) belonging to fellow Oregonian Barrett Smith backed into a telephone pole and written off by an over-enthusiastic driver.
Diabolical is a good word to describe a 2,150-pound early 911 with a 325-hp 993 RS-spec engine hanging behind 245-mm rear tires. The fact that those tires are tucked into genuine RS 2.7 flares means the rear track is pretty narrow, too…
Some seat time riding shotgun sounds like a good idea before taking hold of this 911’s wheel. The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of a headrest on the original lightweight Recaro passenger seat. Of course, that isn’t the first thing you notice when you sit down — but it becomes an issue as soon as Smith accelerates away from the first stop light. He’s not even getting on it, mind you. No, a smooth and linear run up through first and second gear is all it takes to give me an unavoidable case of “noodle neck.” In response to my comment on the need for a headrest, Smith just chuckles and says the lack of head support is the one thing his wife dislikes about the car, too.
This 911 will accelerate from just about any speed in just about any gear rapidly and without complaint. And that’s exactly how it responds when Smith lugs it down to 1500 rpm in fourth gear and then rolls on the throttle. The bright red 911 responds instantly, seamlessly twisting its tachometer to the redline. No muss, no fuss. With little sound deadening, it gets pretty loud in the cabin as the car accelerates — but it’s a good loud, the kind that car guys, and 911 guys in particular, will enjoy. Only at certain mid-range rpm do you notice a low resonance or drumming, easily dealt with by making a quick downshift.
As slow-moving traffic looms in the windshield, Smith rolls off the throttle and onto the brake pedal, activating a set of massive Brembo brake calipers hovering over 12.5-inch rotors up front and 12-inch discs in back. Once again, the car does exactly what it should: it stops now.
The fact this 911 does what it’s supposed to means that it’s hardly intimidating when I take the wheel. In fact, due to how well planned out and put together this car is, it almost feels docile. The idle is smooth and low, just like a brand-new car. The clutch is comfortably firm and predictable, but the flywheel is a bit light and it’s easy to stall the engine if you don’t give it enough revs when taking off. Once you’re rolling, though, it’s like driving a new Toyota. There’s none of the peakiness found in the high-strung, small-displacement Porsche flat sixes of the early 1970s.
“She’s got great torque doesn’t she?” asks Smith after we’ve driven through town for a while, stopping at several intersections along the way.
“Yeah, the torque is amazing!” I say.
He chuckles and says, “Why don’t you try starting out in first gear next time?”
Oh yeah, this isn’t a 901 box with the dogleg first gear I’m used to…it’s a 915 box, and I’ve been leaving every intersection in second gear. Really professional.