The 911 is a very peculiar beast. Without going all Clarkson by railing about the bonkers rear engined VW Beetle layout – the most peculiar thing about the 911 is the length of time it’s been in production.
With 50 years of continuous modification the 911 offers seemingly endless opportunities to update or backdate cars according to personal taste, prevailing fashion or market values at the time.
Modifying & Updating
Performance oriented 911 owners have always sought ways and means to eke out more power and better handling by modifying their cars. Often following the example of privateer racers or the Porsche factory race programme. From an engine perspective this could involve boring and/or stroking the engine, fitting wilder cams/race pistons/better carbs etc. From a suspension and braking perspective fatter wheels and tyres, lowered suspension and meatier brakes (sometimes from race cars) were the order of the day.
As new models continued to churn off the production line however – there came a point where some owners of what at the time were low value early cars decided to opt for full blown updating. This was particularly prevalent with the advent of the wide bodies whaletailed yuppiemobiles of the 80s. This resulted in in some people grafting steroid injected wheel arches, asphalt scraping front air dams and tea tray rear spoilers onto their then humble pre-73 cars.
Some also went to the extent of shoe-horning bigger, later engines and transmissions into their once elegantly under-stated, narrow bodied cars.
Rise Of The Replicas & Recreations
As the price of original 2.7 RS cars continued to stretch well beyond the means of normal mortals – there was an increasingly popular trend towards modifying early cars to emulate this iconic 911. With only 1580 built – original 2.7 RS prices were only going in one direction so replicas and recreations were the only route to ownership for most folks.
On the face of it – the process of recreation wasn’t that difficult to achieve. Using an early LWB 69-73 car as a base just stick on a ducktail engine lid, add fibre glass RS front spoiler and rear bumper unit. Apply a bit of judicious wheel arch flaring and fill the fatter arches with wider, colour coded Fuchs alloys (colour matched to the Carrera side decals of course). Last but not least – simply jettison most of the interior trim (front and rear seats, poncy electric window mechanisms, pernickety interior door handles and panels) and insert a couple of replica recaros plus plain and simple RS door panels with little pull handles or tags. For the real racer look – also stick in a roll cage and race harnesses and Bob’s your uncle you have something that at best could be pretty indistinguishable from the real thing (externally at least).
For the full-blown recreationsts – the mechanical aspects of the 2.7 RS could also be mirrored by upgrading whatever engine the donor car had (the 2.7 engine was anyway an expanded 2.4) by fitting bigger barrels and pistons. Alternatively they had the option of sourcing a replacement 2nd hand 2.7 or later 3.0/3.2 engine from later non-RS cars to provide the required level of RS like power.
Things started to get very strange when people started to backdate later cars to look like earlier ones. It’s hard to say precisely when, why and how this started but I it was probably driven by a combination of the increaing value of early (pre-73) cars when compared to lower value later and less loved 911s.
The net result was what seemed to be a new cottage industry in modifying later fat bumper and wider bodied 2.7s, SCs and Carreras by fitting earlier long bonnets and modifying front and rear bodywork to revert to 2.7 RS styling. Backdating the interiors followed the same principle of chucking out existing seats and trim and fitting the spartan RS seats and door panels.
In principle I have no problem with modifying, updating or backdating but given the way that 911 values have changed over recent years (they even have their own Index for goodness sake) then there must be some owners who have lived to regret not keeping their cars to original specification as this now seems to be a much more important factor in determining value.
I was tempted myself to go down the 2.7 RS replica route with my 2.2 E when I first bought the car but i really loved the purity of the original body profile and decided to keep the car as original as possible from a bodywork and from a mechanical perspective. OK I did arguably divert from this principle by fitting a 2.2S engine, brakes and suspension but the case for my defence is that a) the car came with the wrong T engine and some half cock coil spring suspension and b) it was a contemporary upgrade which owners would have carried out at the time the car was new or nearly new.
Exhibit A: – I remember looking at a beautiful white 2.2S at Jaz Porsche and again at Hedingham. Steve Winter (Jaz) explained that this had originally been Vic Elford’s “company car” provided by Porsche when he was racing their wonderful 917. When the 2.4 came out – Vic sent his car back to the factory and they kindly fitted a 2.4 S motor. There you go – contemporary modification. The case for the defence rests!!!
What I’ve noticed over the past couple of years is a a bit of diversification on the backdating and/or retro styling trend. I guess it’s partly a change in fashion and partly due to the changing values of particular models but there seems to have been a move away from 2.7 RS or 2.8/3.0 RSR replicas and more towards earlier STs.
On a visit to a PCGB meet at the Ace Cafe in May 2013 I saw no less that 3 ST replicas. Two were based on 72 Oelklappe (external oil filler over rear wheel arch unique to 72 model) cars but what really surprised me was that the third one was based on a 964. I have to say that all the cars looked and sounded great and their owners who I chatted to were justifiably proud of them and clearly enjoyed driving retro looking high performance cars.
People are still making RS and RSR replicas and I saw one of the them in the Martini emblazoned flesh on a visit to Sportwagen. It was the recreation of a Targa Florio race winning 2.8 RSR and the level of detail that had gone into making it match the long lost original was truly staggering. So here’s a really positve aspect of replicas and recreations. Not only do the fastidious owners have the visceral joy of driving the beasts they’ve recreated – we have the pleasure and privelege of seeing cars on the road or on race tracks that were crashed, trashed or otherwise destroyed many years ago.