904 Driver

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These are noises that will bring goose-bumps to the arms of anyone who knows the history of the 904 and its later fiberglass brethren. Then there’s the handling: The car zips from one corner to the next, light and responsive. It reminds me of — gasp! — a well-sorted, lightweight 914 race car. And, as the factory developed the 914 for racing, one suspects its engineers were reminded of the 904….

A few years back, Alex decided that the 904’s flat six wasn’t as fresh as it once was. The engine was removed and sent to Cleveland, Ohio, where former Stoddard engine builder John Truman works his magic. While the exotic engine was apart, Alex decided to detune its spec slightly for better manners on the street.

Out came the center-lube camshafts and the non-adjustable lightweight 906 rocker arms, to be replaced with a more moderate cam grind and standard 911 rockers. At the same time, the original 46 IDA Weber carburetors were swapped for a more modest pair of 40 IDA triple-throat carbs. Of course, Alex stored all of the original parts.

The engine is probably more impres­sive for the driving I’m doing this day than it would have been in its earlier, higher-strung state. I’m not spinning the twitchy mechanical tachometer anywhere near 8000 rpm, where the original 2.0 made peak power — and the less peaky powerband satisfies completely.

As the 40-mm carbs mix air and fuel behind us, Alex looks over and proudly tells me he can average roughly 35 mpg on the highway if he drives the 904 conservatively. That observation earns him points in my book, as he’s the only person I’ve run across to spout fuel-economy numbers for his 904!

Eventually, my drive comes to an end. I kill the ignition and coast to a stop in the driveway. Alex steps out and latches the passenger door, while I sit by myself for a moment and soak in the last few seconds. I can feel the heat from the engine coming through the thin fiberglass bulkhead, validating Alex’s comments about how warm the car can get in the summer. After one last pat on the steering wheel, I reach for the door release and whisper, “What a wonderful little machine.”

And it is. Watching Alex talk about the car and listening to him reflect on adventures from years ago, I can’t help but feel a little jealous. Not so much for his owning such a valuable collector car or even for having had the foresight to buy a 904 when they were “affordable.” No, I’m jealous because I can tell he really loves this car. The two have had a near 40-year relationship filled with pleasure, trials, and pride. The 904 wove itself into Alex’s life when he was a teenager, and this particular one has become part of his identity.

When asked about his plans for the future, Alex has this to say about the car he calls his emotional getaway car: “I’ll keep driving it. I drive it because Porsche wanted people to drive them!”

Also from Issue 185

  • Chris Harris on the 620-hp 911 GT2 RS
  • Chris Harris races for Porsche at the 'Ring
  • A two-owner, D-I-Y four-cam 356
  • Driving the most expensive 997 of them all
  • Is Porsche's second Cayenne good enough?
  • American driver Patrick Long steals the show
  • 996s and 997s, the greatest daily 911s?
  • A new driver sensation
  • Turbo club racing 911s with a modern twist
  • 2010 Cayman S stance adjustment
  • Our 914 gets seals, an interior, and audio
  • M96 rear main seals
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