Short-Stroke Shootout

Also from Issue 177

  • 996 GT3 vs. 997 GT3
  • 2009 Panamera S, 4S, and Turbo
  • Mille Miglia with Gijs van Lennep
  • Rare 964 Turbo S2 Driven
  • 930-powered 356
  • Interview: Paul Ritchie of PMNA
  • Market Update: 911 Turbo
  • Porsche Icon: 911 GT1-98
  • $0.79 911 Foggy Headlight Fix
  • Project 914 3.6: Details, and First Drive
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Short-Stroke Shootout 1
Short-Stroke Shootout 2
Short-Stroke Shootout 3
Short-Stroke Shootout 4
Short-Stroke Shootout 5
Short-Stroke Shootout 6
Short-Stroke Shootout 7

This 16,000-kilometer 911T is unique, having been delivered new to its German owner with many S options. When the ’73 RS was unveiled, the buyer decided he would take his 911 back to the dealer to have as many ’73 RS 2.7 parts retrofitted as possible. The RS influence is evident inside: the smooth vinyl dash trim, door panels, and black headliner. The original Recaro fiberglass buckets have been replaced for this trip with later, more comfortable Recaro touring seats.

I’m not thinking about seats, though. I’m thinking about the 2.8. Starting on an aluminum Turbo case, Henry at Supertec Perfor­mance combined a 66-mm crank with high-compression 95-mm pistons and cylinders to come up with 2807 cc of high-winding flat-six fury.

Does the combination still exhibit the small-bore passion I’ve been preaching? Well, perhaps not quite like the 2.2 or 2.5, but it pairs short-stroke character with epic, crushing power! Picture Godzilla with a dozen roses for Mrs. Zilla in one fist while clutching and shaking a Tokyo metro bus in the other. And much like Godzilla, I’m crushing small towns beneath me while deepening my love — or is it lust? — for this engine combo.

Prior to this drive, the idea of twisting an engine conceived nearly 50 years ago to 8000+ rpm was disconcerting. I had already decided that any engine ever financed by my wallet would remain safely in the 7300-rpm range. What an epiphany then to mash the throttle in this 911 and watch the tach point to 8 before I can even contemplate what I’ve done.

In most cases, an engine will communicate what it’s willing to do and where its comfort zone is. In this case, I feel no weird vibes from the 2.8 as I repeatedly shift at eight grand. And the power…

Giggling like a prepubescent schoolgirl, I do 60–100 mph in just 8.5 seconds, a full five seconds quicker than in my 2.2. The 2.8’s punch is especially impressive because the five-speed 901 it’s hooked up to has standard 1971 gearing. The fabulous torque of the 2.8 pulls each ratio effortlessly. Thanks to some fiberglass and carbon-fiber panels, this 2,100-pound 911 is 175 pounds lighter than my car, but it’s also stifled by a factory 2.2-liter airbox and SSI heat exchangers that are two tips of the hat towards comfort. A pair of large-tube headers might bump horsepower up by 10 percent or so, but probably only in the upper reaches.

While more displacement means more horsepower, more compression makes for a more responsive engine. You don’t want to go overboard when it comes to compression, though. This 2.8 is running a compression ratio of 10.1:1 — the outer limit of safety if you want to log a lot of road miles without worrying about the quality of the “premium” fuel available in cosmopolitan towns such as Bovina, Texas and Pie Town, New Mexico.

I’d say Randy got this combo exactly right. It generates a torrent of usable power, yet is tractable at all speeds. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe a modern EFI system is responsible for the driveability. In reality, the twin-plug ignition system and the Supertec-modified mechanical fuel injection get the credit. We’ve experienced temperatures ranging from near freezing in the mountains to 100º+ F crossing the Mojave, with elevations ranging from sea level to nearly 10,000 feet. Not once have I noticed a cough or felt a flat spot. But, like any system devoid of computers to handle the air-fuel mixture, the high altitudes mean rich running. Even so, the 2.8 took it in stride.

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