Toy Cannon

Also from Issue 211

  • 1975 911
  • 911 50 year celebration
  • 1955 356 Continental
  • 911 Cabriolet buyer's guide
  • 997 GT3 RSR
  • Zwart's 911s
  • Profile: engineer Helmuth Bott
  • 18 year old racer Tyler Palmer
  • SC vs. C2 buying comparison
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Climbing into this car is hugely unfamiliar. The seat is soft and bouncy, unbelievably comfy! It’s the opposite of the racer-like C4S seat, which left my thighs numb after the three and a half hours of driving. The 1967 seat doesn’t make you conform; it conforms to you.

Probably designed by off-campus agitators.

And then there’s the simple act of closing the door. This car is so new (this is not an “old 1967 911,” it’s a new 1967 911) that simply closing its door is a revelation. The door has been closed so few times that it makes this precision, crisp click/handshake you want to hear again just to hear it. An old 1967 911 with, say, 96,000 miles of closures doesn’t sound like this. And here’s the point Finigan makes: Restored old 911s don’t sound like this, either. Speaking from long experience, he says restorers have a lot of trouble recreating the exact mechanical handshake of a “new” door, and more than that, they have worse trouble getting the authentic empty-drum reverberation from the early-911 door’s sheet metal when it closes. Thinking they’re clever, they almost always use too much “mud” in the door, mistakenly dulling the sound.

This door is like a tom-tom. I remember the sound well.

The transmission uses the “racing” gearbox configuration. First gear is to the left and down, with the “H” containing second, third, fourth and fifth—“racing” because first is only needed at the start. The gating is typical early Porsche, by no means short-throw and by no means strictly aligned. Yet with its casual feel, the gating is entirely adequate for enthusiastic driving (albeit the Richie Ginther in you might want to make changes).

The engine, too, is free-revving and, of course, beautifully balanced. Starting it on this cold spring day, it’s as I remember them, cold-blooded and stubborn about smoothing out. Another memory is of how genuinely muffled this muffler sounds. It makes a deeply cushioned throb, reinforcing the impression that this is a circumspect, gentlemanly performance car, quite different in nature from the rumbly threat of the C4S at idle. But after being warmed and given its head, the ’67 will make that signature shriek that used to stop pedestrians on the street.

The car’s interior is fresh, profoundly new, downright delicate. Slivers of comfortable elbow rests on the doors are punctuated with little buttons at the front to release the doorlock. Wonderful. Only a few years later, these elbow rests would become huge Baroque assemblies. A display of five large dials on the dash keep the driver informed of fuel level, oil temp, engine revs, speed, and time of day. Very aeronautical. Yet there is an airy simplicity about the content and style of this “modern” dashboard—and of the interior, in general. For a small car, markedly smaller than the C4S, it’s roomy and comfortable and far less intense. In fact, it’s completely different inside, far more like the 356 from which it so recently sprang.

Slipping the shift lever gently into first and releasing the light clutch, the wide-diameter wooden wheel, so tiny in my hands I could wrap around it three times, steers the 911 gently and effortlessly. The car feels unbelievably light through the controls. And as we drive out through the streets of Marblehead to the coast, a sharp, gusty wind whipping us, the car reacts to the weather as if alive. This is not merely an impression—the car is literally light, responsive in a completely different way than the forceful, muscle-bound C4S. It brings back all the sensitive, effortless qualities we used to love in the earliest Porsches—feather-light agility and high-spirited responsiveness.

As I move up through the gears now, I listen to the tearing silk behind us. I feel the electrical liveliness through the beautiful optional wooden steering wheel. The car communicates every tiny pebble on the pavement, every asphalt crease and patch…and I remember riding up through Gaviota Pass with my friend Cam Warren long ago, feeling the pleasure of this car.

The Carrera 4S is a deeply satisfying drive that makes available a huge slice of cutting-edge racing technology—a slice that you can park in your own driveway. It is where we are after 50 amazing 911 years. But in this vibrant, delectably alive young creature from 1967, I am driving another precious part of the Porsche experience. It’s a part that in the headlong rush of progress reminds us that we have lost some priceless sensations that only the early Porsches, with newness in their heart, ever had.

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