Point One

Also from Issue 180

  • 997 Sport PASM vs. regular PASM
  • Preview: 2011 Boxster Spyder
  • 2009 Corvette ZR1 vs. 997 GT2
  • Troutman-Barnes four-door 911S
  • Patrick Long 2010 GT3 Cup Tire Test
  • Modified 997 GT2
  • Market Update: 1989–98 911
  • Interview: Dirk Werner
  • Project Cayman: Lightweight Seats
  • How Not to Own a 944, Epilogue
  • Tech Forum: TPMS Part 1
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Porsche’s refusal to proactively market the SC-L left a gaping hole for two early 911 tuners to fill. Sensing an opportunity improve upon Porsche’s hobbled SC and to successfully market the result, Alois Ruf and Max Moritz stepped forward. The two asked Porsche’s permission to use 97-mm bore cylinders and pistons for their own 911 hot rods. Por­sche declined, so they went to Mahle to have the pistons and cylinders produced. Mahle feared intellectual property issues, so Ruf and Moritz ordered 98-mm bore parts instead, yielding 3185 cc with the stock 70.4-mm stroke.

Moritz’s 911-based offering didn’t fare particularly well; likely less than 100 examples were sold. Ruf’s 215-hp SC-R, on the other hand, became its first official “serial number” Porsche model and was quite successful, as some 400 units went to customers. Sprenger estimates that between 200 and 300 SC-Ls were delivered during its three-year run. The SC-L was discontinued for 1981, when the RoW 3.0 went to 204 hp.

Today, even in Germany, time has erased nearly all tracks left by those special cars. Internal documentation has been disposed of and Sprenger’s personal project folder has been lost in the shuffle. Thus, knowledge of the details mostly resides in the minds of those few who played a role in the project. To a lesser extent, it resides with those who purchased the machines. A letter from Bret and Sprenger accompanied each sale, and a folded insert was placed in each owner’s manual containing some information and the power and torque curves. Blincoe surmises, “If I didn’t have the letter or the insert, I would presume this car to be a three-liter. Maybe there’s another one in the country and the owner doesn’t even know what it is.”

The possibility of that doesn’t surprise Jim Williams. An inveterate 911 tinkerer, Williams has his own 3.1 story to tell. “I was looking for a three-liter engine to put in my ’73 RS lookalike,” he begins. He saw a rebuilt one advertised on Pelican Parts’ website. “It was obvious from the advertisement that the guy who owned it was not a Porsche person.” Williams called to check out the story. Comfortable with what he learned, he made the purchase. The crate arrived at his Huntsville, Alabama residence soon after.

The first thing Williams noted upon opening the crate was that the motor had been poorly taken care of. Closer inspection commenced. “Part of the sheet metal was left off the engine, and it allowed me to look in the cylinders,” he continues. “I expected to see cooling fins all the way around on the cylinder top, side, and bottom. What I saw were Turbo cylinders.” He knew them to be 97 mm, not 95.

“I started looking closer and closer and I thought, Gosh, it looks like this was put together out of somebody’s parts bin.” Williams’ wide-ranging experience with 911 powerplants has led him to be well-regarded in the Porsche internet community as a CIS-knowledgeable resource. So what he found next was a big eye-opener: “This engine had, on the fuel distributor, a Bosch (part number) stamp which is totally unlike what was on any Porsche I’d ever seen.”

He expected to see something like 0 438 100 031 or 0 438 100 097. Instead, he saw 6149/8617E, supporting Sprenger’s assertion that the fuel distributor was unique to the SC-L. “The only explanation I can come up with is that Porsche designed what they needed for this particular engine and had Bosch build it and calibrate it,” Williams supposes.

Then he found the first clear clue that the flat six might somehow be a factory special. There, stamped on the engine case was 930/03 3.1. Williams’ own odyssey to learn about the SC-L began, necessitated by the fact that the motor had not been rebuilt as advertised. To date, he’s likely one of the only people in the U.S. to have pulled a 3.1 apart and realized it was something special. Cer­tainly, similar experiences have led understandably confused 911 mechanics and enthusiasts to scratch their heads and wonder. It’s impossible to tell how many.

Today, head-scratching wonderment has led me to the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia, where Live Oak branches draped with Spanish Moss hang low over country roads. A quick twist of the key and the 3.1 burbles to life. With only 27,300 miles on the odometer, the 915 gearbox feels tight. At lower revs, power delivery feels like that of the 3.0. Just beyond 3000 rpm, though, the torque comes on far stronger than in its contemporary sibling.

The thrust in the midrange reminds me of my 1989 Carrera 3.2’s, though its surge comes closer to 4000 rpm. The SC-L starts to flatten out only when the tach nudges 5000 rpm. In the final 1000 rpm before redline, the 3.1 is perhaps not as eager as the 3.2, but it’s still plenty willing. It’s the deeply satisfying rush between 3000 and 5000 rpm that stays with you, though.

The SC-L Targa has been in Blincoe’s hands now for 25 years. In fact, it’s the longest he’s ever owned a Porsche —and he’s owned quite a few. While only 4,000 miles have amassed in that period, the 3.1 has been exercised at regular intervals throughout its time in the States. And, no, Blincoe isn’t looking to part with it to make room in his garage for something he’d be inclined to drive more often. “What could I replace a car like this with?” he asks, smiling. If owning such a unique piece of Porsche history is the goal, the answer is simple: Not much.

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