She was my first 911, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had read that the 2.2S lacked umph at lower revs, so Olivia’s eager, responsive nature was a pleasant surprise. Her powerband is exciting; I look for every opportunity to surpass 4500 rpm and feel the surge up to the redline at 7300. Freeway onramps are my pit out at Le Mans, every corner a rev-matched downshift homage to Tertre Rouge.
Over time, more experienced 911 drivers told me there was no way that Olivia was a stock 2.2S; she was too quick! Occasionally, I would drive other 2.2Ss and wonder why they didn’t have her punch. While talking with the previous owner, I insisted that something must have been changed in the engine, yet he assured me that the flat six had been rebuilt to factory specs.
“But of course you realize she has close-ratio gears?” he asked. So that’s what makes Olivia so much snappier, so much stronger off of low-speed corners. She sports a 904 mainshaft with close-ratio gears in second through fifth. Compared to the cost of getting more power from the already efficient S-spec 2.2, a close-ratio gearbox is a modest investment that makes a noticeable difference.
Of course, like most modifications, short gears are a compromise. Leaving Ohio with the goal of putting as much of the boring Midwest behind us as possible, the lower fifth and short 225/50R15 rear tires mean I’m cruising at roughly 300 rpm more than most of our crew. The 2.2S doesn’t seem to mind, though. In fact, it seems to find a happy place right around 4300 rpm, well above the speed limit. If my concentration lapses, it goes there, every time. Cop bait? You bet.
The short gears mask Olivia’s mere 2.2 liters up to about 100 mph, where aero resistance begins to overwhelm her. Late in the afternoon, on the wide-open expanses of western Missouri, I experiment with acceleration. To go from 60 to 100 mph in fourth takes about 13.5 seconds. Not bad — but not great, either. I decide it’ll be interesting to see how the larger engines in the other 911s stack up.
Pulling into our hotel in the little town of Stroud, Oklahoma, my satisfaction with the 2.2S and short gears is reinforced. But like any true gearhead, I can’t shake the feeling that a little more power would be nice. When I finally fall asleep, I’m looking forward to Curt’s 2.5…
Day 2 1971 911T 2.5
Day two starts off with a chuckle. Curt is one of these guys who grows restless during long Michigan winters and tweaks his car to break the monotony. This year, the “Gray Wolf” (as he calls it) evolved into a pseudo vintage rally car with steel wheels and auxiliary lights. Part of Curt’s rally motif is a pair of what our group calls “mud flaps” but what he insists are “official rally stone guards.” Taking the good-natured “mud-flap” comments in stride, Curt retired to bed unaware that we’d be applying “Mudflap Girl” decals to his stone guards in the wee hours.
Hundreds of Oklahoman miles pass before he discovers our chicanery. Now that Curt’s in on the joke, I boot him out and take the wheel of his hot-rodded T. Much like my car, this 911 was owned by a true enthusiast for nearly 25 years. A second similarity is that our engines were rebuilt “back in the day” by the head engine guy at Stoddard, Fred Truman.