That’s exactly how it feels! I have driven some pretty cool cars in the past. Some have been more valuable, more powerful or more historically significant…but none were this perfect, this new, this virginal. C’mon, the floor pan and fenderwells are glossy white! Tossing this car around on a twisty California road is akin to wearing a white tuxedo to a Carolina BBQ restaurant. Sure, you can, but really…?
So yes, I was a bit hesitant as I shut the door and heard that “ping” that always reminds me of the sound of a well-hit golf ball. A slight tug of the hand throttle and twist of the key caused an immediate response as the 2.7-liter flat six barked to life. First impression: That’s one well-dialed mechanical fuel-injection system. It started quickly, even when stone cold, without the plumes of over-rich exhaust and surging idle often found during the cold-start phase of these MFI cars. Asked about it later, Richard admitted to spending “a lot of time” getting it tuned exactly to factory specification.
Running through the gears slowly, waiting for operating temps to come up to a reasonable level, I began to sense what made the 2.7 Carrera so desirable in the early ’70s and why they achieved such legendary status. This is a remarkably balanced package. It starts with the engine. Before the 2.7 RS came along, top-range Porsches had effervescent and peaky little engines that needed to rev before they made any useable power. The 2.7, with its longer 70.4mm crankshaft and 90mm pistons, changed this philosophy slightly, moving the powerband down and creating torque unlike anything Porsche drivers had experienced. It created a more comfortable car to drive quickly. So, no, it doesn’t rev quite as quickly as, say, a 2.0 S, but it begins to pull lower in the power-band and piles on speed at a quicker rate as it heads toward redline.
Once up to temp, the quality of this package is further clarified. The handling is superb. Yes, at that stock ride height there is noticeable body roll, but it doesn’t wallow about like your grandmother’s de Ville. It works well and doesn’t beat you to death while doing so. Body roll and tire deflection are foreign ideas in today’s era of huge swaybars and 40-series rubber. But back in the ’60s and ’70s even race cars had quite a bit of movement in their suspension and tires. Classic photos of early 911s carrying the inside wheel through a fast turn illustrate this nicely. Even period Formula 1 cars had what would now seem excessive body roll until aerodynamics forced builders to stiffen chassis so they wouldn’t “unstick” the ground effects while cornering.
Tony shared an insightful theory on the nose-high stance and soft suspension Porsche designed into the Carrera RS. “Those German engineers knew what they were doing. I think that they set the spring rates, shock valving and ride
height where they did because that was where it worked best with the tires they had at the time. As time went by, owners and enthusiasts began to lower the cars, install stiffer torsion bars and lower profile tires, and I’m not convinced that it was the right thing to do, especially for a street car.”
This comment stays with me as I drive the car and becomes even more relevant when I am hustled around by Dirk Layer at a considerably faster pace. Yes, the car is very comfortable, not beating you up like some more stiffly suspended 911s I have experienced, but it is quick, too. The RS sprints from one corner to the next, changing direction with very predictable slip angles. You wouldn’t describe it as being “on rails”; instead, this is a car that wants to be tossed around a little bit, all the while making you feel very much in control and confident that you will get plenty of warning before the back end tries to get away. It really makes one wonder if sometimes we don’t overthink the suspension on these old cars.
After returning from our drive, we take the car to another photo location and get some final shots. Looking through the long telephoto lens, I’m struck by how perfectly straight the single-stage Grand Prix white bodywork really is. I have seen many cars where each panel – fender, door, quarter-panel – has been made perfectly straight individually, but not as a complete unit. The resulting reflections in the paintwork tend to jog and change planes as they cross from one panel to the next. In contrast, the reflections in the side of the RS have perfect continuity from front to back with only tiny breaks at the door gaps. The trick for a really straight 911, explained Tony, is to mock up the car completely during the bodywork stage with a set of new sacrificial door and hood seals as well as window frames (prior to re-anodizing) and the same latches and hinges as will be used during final assembly. With the panels fitted perfectly, the car is block sanded as a unit before blowing it apart and prepping for paint. This adds labor and expense, but the result makes a compelling argument for the procedure.
Continuing the mantra of “factory correct,” the trunk area and underside were not slathered in thick coats of color or, heaven forbid, clearcoated. That’s not how Porsche delivered the car. Instead, these areas received a thin coat of white with hints of gray sealer primer peeking through in the crevices or in the shadows of pinch seams and flanges. Some may cringe, but that’s the way it was originally. No revisionist history here.
So what does one do with arguably the most pristine restored ’73 2.7 Carrera RS? Currently it is parked most of the time. There are a handful of concours events in its future, and it needs to remain as perfect as possible, at least for the time being. It’s a tough time for Bill, who admits that once in a while he sneaks it out of the garage and takes it for short drives around town. While talking with Bill about the car, he reminded me of his occupation, saying, “That’s probably why I had the car restored the way I did. I like to concentrate on the details.”
With that said, this is also the guy who had the RS completely sideways during his maiden drive. This “show-car” period is destined to be short lived. Bill is a racer at heart, and he knows that a 73 Carrera RS isn’t a car to be coddled like fine art. Many concours show cars have the reputation, right or wrong, of being all fluff and no substance, likely unable to drive home if they had to. Bill’s RS is dialed, meaning that keeping it in the garage is even more of a challenge. After all, this is a car that Porsche expected to be driven hard, and you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand that!