Tuesday, July 25, 2017

More Cruisin' on the River: a 1929 Chevrolet that did the 100th Anniversary Pekin to Paris Race and Run

Thanks, Ed, for some interesting material!!

Back in 1907 there was a famous automobile run and race from Peking to Paris that was reenacted 50 years years later.  Then in 2007 the race was reenacted for the third time to mark the 100th anniversary of the trek.  The antique cars were staged for the grueling journal in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Yesterday at the "Cruising on the River" car show in Cincinnati I met the owner of a 1929 Chevrolet that made this 100th anniversary run.  See attached photos.  His co-driver was a petite young woman of -- at the time early 20s -- who now lives in New York City.  They stayed mostly in small hostels along the way but he told me that during the days they drove in Mongolia they slept on the ground.  The entire trip took 34 days and, can you believe, the only trouble that the old Chevy had was one blown out tire?

This gentleman told me some incredible stories as I raptly listened.  He lives in Cincinnati and brings the car out for shows at least six times a year. He told me the car still starts up "first time, every time."  

This is the kind of "car culture" story that is truly fascinating !!!


Addendum to my just made post regarding the fellow I met yesterday who drove in the 2007 Peking to Paris antique vehicle race.  His name is Dan Reising and he is listed on this participant list found at this website.  I stand corrected -- the car was a 1930 Chevrolet coupe and not a 1929.  But can you imagine -- unless he was telling me a tall tale -- the car's only trouble was one blown tire.  How many of our vehicles would make the same run without any mechanical trouble.  And sleeping on the ground in Mongolia -- no Motel 6's?

And more -- biographies of the drivers ---

The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, the first-ever trans-continental motor race, celebrates its centenary this year: 100 years after five cars left Peking (today known as Beijing) to drive all the way to Paris, over 130 vintage cars will follow the same itinerary. In total, ten Chevrolet cars are participating in this year's challenge, built between 1928 and 1941. One of these cars is the Chevrolet coupe owned by Dan Rensing. It was built in 1930 at the Janesville, Wisconsin assembly plant and is equipped with a 6-cylinder engine delivering 50 hp.

Michele Shapiro, 37, will be behind the wheel of the historic vehicle. She lives in New York and is currently Director of Special Projects at an international investigations and security firm, but will quit this job for the race. She has already participated in multiple rally challenges. For instance, she was the first American ever to compete in the Aicha de Gazelles Rally, a grueling eight-day rally in the Sahara desert. She was also the winner of the 2004 European Bullrun Rally. A lover of cars, fashion and extreme adventure, Michele says: "I'm constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself. My favorite challenges involve driving cars I've never driven before in places I've never been before. If I could just get Alexander McQueen to design my racing suit I'd really be in heaven."

The owner of the vehicle, Dan Rensing, 57, will be the co-driver, navigator and mechanic. A resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, he is married, has one daughter and one son and has been working as a surveyor since 1970. He has always been passionate about mechanics and started working on cars at age 16 when he began reading books and repairing vehicles as a hobby. He bought the 1930 Chevrolet coupe especially for the Peking-Paris race. Dan explains: "When I decided to participate in the race, I was, of course, looking for a car that would be available in running condition and at a reasonable price: The Chevrolet car was the perfect solution. For me, Chevrolet has always stood for solid build quality and durability." He found the car in Minnesota and drove it back to Ohio where he restored it completely and prepared it for the race.

The New 2018 Ford Mustang

So why is the Ford Mustang so enduring in American life?  Is it the sheer beauty of the car? Performance? Or is it the democratic appeal, the fact that a Mustang owner can work at a steel mill, a university, a bank, or anywhere in between?  The Mustang is one of those rare mass assembly products that both evoke status and blur class lines. It can be -- if accessorized and options -- nearly as fast as a Porsche or Ferrari -- or it can be rather tame, although tameness is increasing difficult to achieve.  If you stretch it, you could almost argue it is a family car, but that family must have short legs.  It makes a person look better, although if you dig deep enough that person is really quite unimportant, as we all are.

So the new 7th generation Mustang is coming soon at a Ford dealer near you!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Customized Karmann-Ghia at Crusin' on the River: Note the Porsche Hubcaps!

Nice customized Karmann-Ghia where the owner  brought his own umbrella to protect his bllue baby

The Venerable Chrysler Corporation Slant 6 of the 1960s: Crusin' on the River, July 23, 2017

One of the best engines ever to come out of Detroit,  Here are Ed's comments:

Was struck in a sentimental way by this Dodge Dart with a 225 Slant Six engine.  Can't imagine they came from the factory this clean.  Had a 66 Dart with this engine after college graduation and then when a couple of years later had a 68 Barracuda in British Racing Green with the same engine.  I recall that folks who had never seen one of these engines would peer under my hood and say: "The engine slants to the side."  Yep, they would be correct.

Crusin' on the River, July 23, 2017, Cincinnati, Ohio: Ed's Favorite Car, an Opel GT

My favorite car at the show today was a very nice original Opal GT -- among the first imported to this country with the body built in France prior to the building of the Opal Rudesheim factory.   Look at this photos -- original paint and original non-blemished brown leather seats.  Only 43,000 documented miles on the car.  I told the owner that he ever wanted to sell him give me a call.  

Note the cute little German flag on the front fender in one of the photos;  Of course the Goodyear tires are not spec, but that's a small thing.  And recall the odd headlight lids that were manually opened and closed -- they tilted "inward" rather than up and down.

Ed's Old Cougar at Cruisin' on the River, July 23, 2017

An Excerpt form Ed's email; to me -- 

John, in all of the many years I've been going to car shows, I'd have to rate the "Cruisin' on the River" one in Cincinnati near the top -- while it rained pretty hard in late morning, by noonthere were nearly 400 vehicles there and the rain stopped.  I had never driven old US-50 which runs along the river in the western part of Cincinnati but its like a walk back in time: Neat old buildings along side of the road.  Plus the park where this show is held each year, part of the Cincinnati park system, was spectacular!

I will send you some photos of some interesting vehicles either later today or tomorrow -- for the blog.  But my Cougar was prominently displayed (see the three attached photos).  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cars and Coffee at Austin Landing, Springboro, Ohio, July 22

First two photos are of a Porsche 914, looks like it is for sale, Very nice appearance, dash looked immaculate. An original color. I wonder what the dealer wants for this car?

I normally do not see many Fiat 124s at these events. This one was very presentable, although engine certainly was not detailed in any way. A most beautiful body style, questionable reliability, if I remember correctly!

We had considerable rain during the night and so there were not as many cars as usual, but there seemed to be plenty of people walking around! Because of the threat of rain the event was held on the covered, lower part of the parking garage. So it was sort of dark and not in a open space. I did not find many older cars there, and perhaps that is what Cars and Coffee has become in terms of a gathering.  Many young people, however, and thus quite a contrast from the Friday night Cruise-In in Beavercreek, which is large populated by "old dogs."

Beavercreek, Ohio Cruise-In, July 21, 2017

The First 4 photos depict a 1963 Studebaker Lark Daytona

Slim Pick-uns on this Friday night. Same turnout maybe due to heat and the threat of rain.

Slow night tonight at the Beavercreek Cruise-In.  Turnout low, perhaps due to the high humidity and heat along with the threat of raid, which did one eventually, but well after dark. I wasn't terribly excited by the cars present, although the 1963 Studebaker Daytona  was similar to Andy Beckman's 1964 model.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Comment on the article by P.J. O'Rourke, "The Last Best Year: Why 1967 may have been the pinnacle for the automobile"

1967 Austin-Healy 3000 BJ8
1967 Porsche 911S in Irish Green
The article appears in the Fall 2017 issue of Haggerty, pp. 28-39.

1967 was a year during which I was absorbed with survival in the classroom: advanced freshman chemistry, calculus, university physics -- all tough stuff.  I did own a 1959 MGA, similar to that of P.J. O'Rourke's, but probably did not heave nearly the fun in it that he did.

1967 was a great year for the automobile, and due to looming federal legislation, the last year in which automobiles were relatively free of emissions equipment and safety design modifications.  Soon the government could be designing cars, although politicians at air quality and safety hearings swore that they did not want to do so.  The reality proved different.

O'Rourke's article is a joy to read, taking me back to a day when car culture was at its apex and socialization often took place with the automobile as a backdrop. The author points to various 1967 automobiles, both domestic and foreign, that defined the ear -- the Jaguar XKE, The Porsche 911S, Austin Mini, Shelby GT350 and GT500, Corvette C2 Stingray, and Alfa Romeo Spider. It was a Golden Age that superseded the mid-1950s, in part because American per capita wealth was near its all-time peak and thus the masses could either afford or aspire vehicles that they could have only dreamed of a generation earlier.

Yes, the air was foul, and people were dying in record numbers. Urban congestion was worse than ever. Vietnam was beginning to rip into the soul of America's social and class fabric. Racism was rearing its ugly head, not only in the South but also the North.  But we were all Americans during the 1960s, despite our differences. Individualism would only triumph a decade later.

I heartily recommend that you read O'Rourke's article if you get a chance to do so.  He ends on a very strong and perceptive note, suggesting what was lost after 1967:

"Cars are better today, cleaner an safer, far more reliable, easier to drive at high speed and, in many cases, faster and more powerful as well. But enough complications have been added to make a shade tree mechanic use his tree to hang himself. And quirkiness has been subtracted. The since of aerodynamics and the ease of computer modeling has calmed styling. High-tech electronics have soothed manic -- and depressive -- mechanics traits. Modern automobiles are high-functioning, but they're on Prozac. Back in 1967, the cars were crazy good."

1967 Camaro 396 SS

1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500

The Meaning Behind the Color of a Car

Taken and slightly modified from an interview with French color designer Jean-Gabriel Causse published  in the Porsche magazine Christophus:

Most people are a little more decided in their preference.
We know that blue is the most popular color in all cultures. This might have something to do with the fact that blue is the color of the sky.
A very basic question: What exactly are colors?
In physical terms, colors are different combinations of electromagnetic waves. Our retinas turn these mixtures of light into nerve impulses. These signals are transmitted to the visual cortex of the brain, which gives us the conscious sensation of color. So colors do not exist as such. They arise in our minds. Which also explains why they are extraordinarily subjective. Each person perceives color in a slightly different way.
But there is a surprising amount of overlap, such as in the colors people prefer for their cars.
According to surveys, 60 percent of people say that color is one of the main factors they consider when purchasing a car. In this case, however, they don’t choose their favorite color but instead generally select something discreet and reserved. A few decades ago, red was the most popular color for cars. Now it’s white, followed by black, silver, and gray. Three-quarters of the new cars sold in 2016 were one of these colors.
How do you explain this development?
People simply used to take more pleasure in brighter colors, which also used to signify wealth. Dark suits only started becoming popular for men in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, women’s fashion began to lose color as well—one example being Coco Chanel’s “little black dress.” By the way, you can observe a similar trend in architecture and interior design. Even fifty or sixty years ago, it wouldn't have occurred to anyone to paint the walls of their homes white. That has now become the absolute standard. And we’re seeing a similar trend in cars. As an aside, white is a good choice for safety reasons. We know that white cars have the lowest accident rates, which is probably because they’re readily visible in all kinds of light.
Why white is so popular?
White is a very discreet color. It doesn’t clamor for attention. And that’s exactly what most people are looking for. If you want to have a low profile, then it’s good to choose something like white, black, silver, or gray.
Nearly every tourist who visits Havana is thrilled by the colors of the cars on the streets. But that’s because those vehicles were made at a time when it was customary to paint them in vibrant colors. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the same was true of cars on the streets of Paris or Stuttgart. People used to make greater use of the symbolism or power of colors than they do now.

What effect do colors have on us?
Countless studies have shown that colors exert considerable influence on us. Mountain climbers feel the cold less when their parkas are red—a color that everyone associates with warmth. People who have a blue desktop on their computers produce around twice as many ideas as those with a red desktop. Colors have incredible power.

Biological, cultural, and individual psychological factors all play a role.

All cultures associate red with aggression and strength. That’s also true in the animal kingdom. When finches encounter members of their same species with red feathers, the level of the stress hormone corticosterone in their blood increases by fifty-eight percent. So the color red appears to have a direct physical effect on us, quite simply via the wavelength of red light.
What about cultural factors?
Red warns us of danger. But this effect is surely also learned. Every child learns that prohibition signs are always red. Red is also the color that we associate with Italian sports cars. But this isn’t a law of nature. It’s historical happenstance. At the famous Gordon Bennett Cup in 1900, the English team got the color green (British Racing Green), France got blue, Germany white, and Italy red. That’s why if I bought a Porsche, it wouldn’t be red. In my opinion that doesn't fit with a German sports car.

Sports cars are less likely to have drab colors.
That’s true. People who drive sports cars are a little more open to the mentality of play. It’s about pleasure and fun, not just the seriousness of life. Furthermore, many sports cars are simply gorgeous. I can never get enough of the elegant lines of a Porsche 911. You almost have to choose a color that stands out. I think we need more courage again in our choice of color. Walt Disney once said, “Dream your life in colors—it’s the secret to happiness.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quick Fix for a loose taillight bulb on a 1971 Porsche 911

Hi folks --- Three times during recent weeks I have been told that my left brake light was out on my 1971 Porsche 911T.  At first I tried to bend the two contacts for the 1157 bulb and that did not work.  I then tried using some dielectric grease, and that worked only until the car moved and then the light went out for good.  So I looked at the internet and found a quick fix; namely, add some drops of solder to the two contacts and that should tighten the bulb up.  I did that -- fixed the bulb in a box with a hole in it to make working on it easier, then placed some drops of solder on the two contacts. I added enough solder that the bulb did not want to lock in place!  So I took a small file, and  carefully took material off until the bulb locked to place.  And guess what? The light now works like a charm!

1157 Bulb

Friday, July 14, 2017

Porsche GT Team at the Nurburgring, July 16 -- 6 hour race

Porsche 911 RSR

The six-hour race on the Nürburgring on 16 July is the last event on European soil for the 2017 Sports Car World Endurance Championship. After the Nürburgring round, five overseas races will be contested in Mexico, USA, Japan, China and Bahrain. On the storied racetrack in Germany’s Eifel region, the Porsche GT Team fields two new 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class, in which the fight for points and victories is the most cutthroat in the WEC. Thanks to the Balance of Performance, which was created to ensure that all vehicles of different concepts compete on the same performance level, fans will witness gripping fights for positions and thrilling races to the flag. The 510 hp 911 RSR racers were developed from scratch by Porsche Motorsport in Weissach and are based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. The 911 RSR made a successful start to the season, clinching third at its maiden outing in Silverstone. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans recently, the new racer narrowly missed out on a podium spot, securing fourth after a strong performance and long stints in the lead.

The Porsche drivers

Four works drivers compete for the Porsche GT Team: Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) share the cockpit of the #91 Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class. They started into the season with third place at Silverstone. Their team colleagues Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) man the #92 car. In the GTE-Am class, the Porsche customer squad Dempsey Proton Racing fields a 911 RSR from the 2015 model year. It is driven by the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) as well as Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst from Germany. So far this season, they have achieved third place at Silverstone and second in Spa-Francorchamps.

The Porsche 911 RSR

The 911 RSR, which celebrated its race debut at the Daytona 24-hour classic in January, is a completely new development: the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission have all been designed in Weissach from scratch. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). Thanks to the large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. 

Balance of Performance (BoP)

The “Balance of Performance” applies to the GTE-Pro class of the WEC Sports Car World Endurance Championship as well as the GTLM class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. “BoP” was introduced by the FIA ​​with the aim of achieving a level playing field for the different vehicle concepts, and thus ensuring balanced and fair races. The intention is that it should not make a fundamental difference if a vehicle is powered by a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine, or if the engine is mounted on the front axle or in front of the rear axle. The basic aerodynamic shape of the vehicles should also not play a decisive role.
After an initial grading by the FIA, the balance of performance is adjusted at the races by means of telemetry - not only using lap times, but also acceleration profiles and engine mappings. This data input is automatically analysed and incorporated into the “Balance of Performance”. The most frequently used means of adjusting the performance level is through adding or subtracting weight. In keeping with the rule-makers’ intention, the key to success on the racetrack is not about the individual potential of a vehicle, instead it’s about the performance of the drivers, the race strategy, a perfect setup or the skill of the team with their pit stops.

Comments before the race

Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “It’s not only the fans who enjoy the race on the Nürburgring with its great tradition in long-distance events. The entire Porsche GT Team is very excited about our home race. When the WEC first raced here two years ago, Porsche celebrated an outstanding double victory. The Eifel circuit is the home track of our long-standing partner Manthey Racing, who will again run the WEC operations for us this season. We hope we can make the most of our home advantage and get a good start into the second half of the season at our races abroad.”
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Leader GT Works Motorsport: “We face two main challenges at the Nürburgring. Firstly, we have to see how quickly the team can adjust to the race after the long break following Le Mans, and how can we best optimise our procedures. Secondly, will we manage to find the best possible setup for our new 911 RSR for this demanding racetrack? On top of this, we have to be prepared for absolutely everything in the Eifel and make sure that we have the right tyres for all eventualities.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Brief History of the Solitude Ring in Stuttgart, Germany

Solitude Hill Climb, 18 May 1924. Spectators in the Mercedes stand.
Mercedes-Benz and the Solitude Ring
The Solitude racing track in Stuttgart not only has strong associations with Mercedes-Benz racing history: this shared past dates back even further than the brand, which came into being in 1926. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) competed on the triangular circuit with its Mercedes racing cars from as early as 1922. The hill climb, which was inaugurated in 1903 for motorcycles, was opened to automobiles in 1922. In the years that followed, the racing cars of Benz as well as the Mercedes vehicles of DMG played a dominant role in many classes.
Already in 1923, a young Mercedes driver won his class in the Solitude hill climb as part of the ADAC Reichs Rally. The world of motorsport was to hear a lot more of this young man, who, in only his second race for the brand with the star, was victorious in three individual categories in his Mercedes 1.5-litre racing car while winning the overall classification for touring cars up to 6 tax hp: his name was Rudolf Caracciola. Benz and DMG vehicles also celebrated other victories. In the following year, for example, Mercedes factory driver Adolf Rosenberger was triumphant in the hill climb.

"Around Solitude", 18 September 1927. Georg Kimpel (starting number 27) at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz Model S. Kimpel finished second in the class for sports cars over five litres displacement.

The first "Around Solitude" race was held in 1925. Otto Merz won the inaugural competition in the class for racing cars up to two litres in a Mercedes two-litre four-cylinder supercharged racing car. This time, Adolf Rosenberger won the class up to 8 tax hp in a Benz two-litre "teardrop" car – the world's first mid-engined racing car, which was unveiled by the Mannheim-based company in 1923.
One class victory each for Mercedes and Benz in the first "Around Solitude" race over the challenging 22.3-kilometre circuit: from a present-day perspective, this seemed like a taste of things to come. For the merger between DMG and Benz & Cie. in 1926 was to give rise to the Mercedes-Benz brand,
Whose first success at Solitude was not long in coming: on 12 September 1926, Willy Walb was victorious in the class for sports cars over five litres in a Mercedes-Benz Model K. The same race marked Alfred Neubauer's debut as racing director. In the decades that followed up until 1955, he was to play a leading part in this role in the racing triumphs of Mercedes-Benz.
The Solitude races of that era were true festivals of motorsport. Yet it was not just public interest that was growing steadily, but also the power of the racing cars. For safety reasons, therefore, 1927 – the success year of the Model S – was the last year in which automobiles were allowed onto the 1925 circuit. Mercedes-Benz said goodbye in style, the Model S winning the classes for sports cars over five litres (Willy Walb) and over three litres (Otto Merz).
From 1928, Solitude was to be reserved for motorcycle racing. Even so, at the Solitude Race of 1937 Mercedes-Benz racing driver Hermann Lang was able to demonstrate the Silver Arrow W 125 at full speed to the enthusiastic spectators. A press release from the company at the time stated: "Tripoli winner Hermann Lang, at the wheel of the victorious Mercedes-Benz racing car, will start the International Solitude Race of 1937 by completing several laps of the familiar Solitude track at racing speed. The citizens of Stuttgart will have their first opportunity to admire the thrilling skill of their local driver following his first victory in a major international race as he negotiates this difficult circuit."
After the Second World War, the Solitude Ring experienced a new heyday. Now, it was not just racing cars that competed over the 11.7-kilometre triangular circuit, which, still in existence today, features numerous curves and differences in height. The Solitude Rally was added in the mid-1950s. It, too, is associated with the names of Mercedes-Benz racing drivers such as Eugen Böhringer and Eberhard Mahle. The Solitude Ring was additionally used by Mercedes-Benz in the 1950s for testing its racing cars as well as for selecting and training its racing drivers. Car racing was reinstated on the circuit in 1949. In the 1960s, even Formula 1 and Formula 2 races were held on the Stuttgart track, adding international sparkle with a star-studded field of competitors. The last race on the Solitude Ring was in 1965. Since 2008, the history of the circuit has been brought back to life by the Solitude Revival.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts in World War I

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts in World War I

A WWI Rolls-Royce Armored Car

During WWI, more than 100 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts served on the European and Middle Eastern fronts.   These vehicles were armored cars, technologically transitional  antecedents to the tank. Other makes were also used during the war, beginning perhaps with a Minerva touring sedan used to raid German lines in Belgium in 1914.  Mobile, but heavy and difficult to steer, not quite impervious to bullets but certainly able to repel a large percentage enemy fire, these vehicles were of limited use once the Western Front became stabilized, since the mud and weather limited their movement. Useful at Gallipoli and on the Eastern Front in Romania and Bulgaria – whereever there was movement -- these cars were “more valuable than rubies” in the desert. T.E. Lawrence commanded a unit of nine of these Silver
Ghosts in the war against the Ottoman Empire, where they were described as a “most involved and intricate weapon.” After the Great War and during the 1920s they were used during the Irish Civil War in 1922 and in India, during the 1930s, where they were equipped with .303 Bren machine guns.

Source: Jim Motavalli, “The Bulletproof Ghost,” Military History, 26(April/May 2009), 56-63.

After WWI, Lowell Thomas ,interviewing Lawrence, asked him, "Is there anything on earth, to be bought with money, that you can't afford, but would like to have?" Lawrence smiled and replied "Perhaps it is childish, but I should like my own Rolls-Royce care with enough tires and petrol to last me all my life."

Tanks Encyclopedia600 × 362Search by image
The Büssing A5P, one of the three designs ordered by the German head of staff. Only three units of the A5P were built. It was a massive vehicle.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Porsche History: a 1968 Porsche 911 R

Deep in the forest, an exceptionally rare Porsche – a 1968 911 R – roars into life. One of just 19 lightweight models ever built, the car boasts a unique, fully documented body and engine combination and a prestigious racing history. Its past drivers include none other than Gérard Larousse. This is the extraordinary tale of a buried Porsche treasure.
911 R, 1968, 2017, Porsche AG
In the distance, a woodpecker drums its steady beat against a tree. The faint echo reverberates as the branches of the bare trees sway back and forth in the wind. In this forest just to the south of the metropolis of Brussels, all is calm and peaceful. But the mechanical noise of an ignition key turning interrupts the idyllic scene. The fuel pump hums into life, the starter fires up the 10.5:1 engine and sets the crankshaft in motion. 66 millimetres up and 66 down, then the dual ignition responds – the 46-mm IDA triple-barrel carburettor provides a high-precision mixture of fuel and air, awakening the two-litre naturally aspirated engine from its slumber with a foot on the gas. The modern stainless steel silencer certainly looks the part, but whether it actually does the job is another question altogether. The woodpecker has long since been drowned out by the unfiltered noise of a 210 hp Porsche six-cylinder flat engine.

It’s enough to give me goose bumps – the sound is phenomenal, reminiscent of the first few seconds of the 1966 film “Grand Prix”, when the camera pans out of the black depths of the exhaust. It’s little wonder that the film’s accolades include an Oscar for best sound effects. And now that sound is here – live and in stereo. It reverberates through my jeans and feels as though it is travelling in the asphalt under my feet, creeping into my body through the soles of my Converse. Kobus Cantraine smiles, and says – or, more accurately, shouts – “It would just be wrong to sell it. It’s too beautiful, right?” Then he puts his foot to the floor and sweeps past the camera. The sight of the round rear lights disappearing on the horizon is unforgettable, leaving the rumbling dry echo of the racing car to persist in its wake. So that was it: the Porsche 911 R with chassis number 11899016R, number 16 of 19 to roll off the production line. 49 years old and showing no signs of slowing down.

The luxury of a Porsche 911 combined with the comfort features of the 911 S

It’s almost exactly 49 years to the day since the day the car was ‘born’: The Kardex card confirms that the car was delivered to the dealer Sonauto in Paris on April 9, 1968. Porsche was notified of the car’s purchase on April 24. Its first owner was a company called “Le Danseurs”, which belonged to French entrepreneur and racing driver Claude Ballot-Léna. So far, so good. But there are some other handwritten notes on the Kardex, the most important of which indicates that the car had a 170 hp engine. A perplexing detail – surely the card should state 210 hp? Other Porsche documents reveal more: The original engine, number 5080016, was replaced with engine number 961770 when the car had just 40 kilometres on the clock, as evidenced by a single concise and casual remark: “Car converted from type 911 R to type 911 S.” The Kardex card provides an explanation: “S engine fitted, as 911 Rs were not saleable”.
Ballot-Léna wanted the luxury of a lightweight Porsche 911 combined with the many comfort and convenience features of the 911 S, as he intended to use the car on the road rather than the track. The specification of his “R” is described on the Kardex: “interior panelling, foot mats, normal seat on right.” This was an unorthodox approach, considering the fact that a 911 R came with a price tag of around 45,000 marks at the time, while the “standard” 911 S came in at around half that. But to then add another 10,048.47 marks in conversion costs to the bill before the car has even made it out of the factory? Who would even entertain such an idea? Apparently, only Claude Ballot-Léna – as there are no other known cases of such an unusual R-type conversion. Weighing in at around 70 kilograms heavier (with safety belts and ten litres of fuel in the tank), but with around an entire VW Beetle’s worth less power thanks to its new 901/02 engine, the 911 R – sorry, S – cruised the streets of Bagnolet in Bobigny, on the outskirts of Paris. However, in June of that year, the first owner sold the car to Xavier Camprubi, a private racing driver who was keen to use the Porsche as originally intended by its designers: on the track. And so the backtracking began: Camprubi had the car converted back into an R-type by the racing department of Sonauto. All the internal panelling and elements of a normal, non-racing car were removed, and the engine was replaced with a 911-R type 901/22 model, numbered AT 961770.
911 R, 1968, 2017, Porsche AG

The 991 R: The yellow headlight lenses with flat glass on top 

In the first few months of its life, this incredibly rare Porsche was radically altered not once, but twice. With this tumultuous history, it was a challenge for Kobus Cantraine to work out precisely what had been done to the car – and to verify exactly what he was looking at – when he bought the restored vehicle in 2016. Had he really bought number 16? Or had someone somehow put a 911 R together using lightweight parts from another car, such as a 912? “I’ve not found any evidence that this is not car number 16”, he explains. All of the documents back up this assumption. Magnetic resonance scanning has shown a blank, untouched piece of metal where the VIN would normally be embossed on a standard 911 – and a cleanly imprinted number in the chassis number location for the R. Other details that would be difficult to falsify also proved accurate.

No tin, no sealant, no interior panelling

So why the doubt? First of all, converting a 911 to an “R” type using readily available parts is an attractive idea from a financial perspective. Secondly, historic photographs suggest that this 911 R could have undergone an undocumented body replacement in its racing car era. Such an action would have been perfectly plausible after a serious accident that took place at Rallye de l’Hérault, with Bernard Gnuva at the wheel. On all of the photographs taken of the car after this race, the rear end looks significantly wider. Is it possible that only the side sections were replaced? Kobus Cantraine nods: “That’s highly likely”. As evidence to support his assumption, he reports that the open weld seam below the door, where the door sill meets the side section, remained visible even after the accident.
This was just one area where Porsche made weight savings. No tin, no sealant, no interior panelling, drilled holes everywhere, light materials, thin sheet metal – the “R” model is a meticulous adaptation of the 911. The decision to replace the rear lights with round Hella lights and use fibre-reinforced plastic components made especially for this car, represented an enormous modification to the design – just to save a few grams of weight. The 911 R bodies, built by Baur, were optimised for speed in every possible way: With fibre-reinforced plastic components, aluminium, thin wood (not unlike that used to build model aeroplanes), lighter dashboard overlays, no covers or plugs in unused holes that would otherwise have been occupied by series-standard equipment, thin glass, Plexiglas, leather straps instead of window cranks with heavy scissor mechanisms, pull ropes instead of interior handles, no sun visor on the right, no heating – in fact, nothing but 210 hp and 100 litres of fuel.

Credited as the driving force behind the 911 R: Ferdinand Piëch

Today, Ferdinand Piëch is widely credited as the driving force behind the 911 R. In the summer of 1966, work commenced on a rally version of the Porsche 901/911 that had just been launched. The objective was to keep the weight-to-power ratio as low as possible. Racing expert Rolf Wütherich got to work and calculated that, at an unladen weight of 800 kilograms, 210 hp would be sufficient to achieve a weight-to-power ratio of under four kilograms per unit of horsepower – beating the offering of his contemporary competitors by around 1.5 kilograms. Such considerations were necessary for sports car manufacturer Porsche to continue achieving good sales. But the new 911 was not a fast seller, and the high development and production costs had resulted in a car that was more expensive than expected. The company successfully counteracted this issue with the 912: Porsche sold almost twice as many of its “new woman” in the range than of the new top model, which had been marketed as the new “SC” to the public.
911 R, 1968, 2017, Porsche AG

Details of the 911 R

Meanwhile, the fact that 911s could be successful on the track was being proven by private drivers rather than the factory itself. A rally version was required, and the Porsche engineers deftly designed a vehicle that came close to the golden figure of 800 kilograms unladen weight, slimming the 911 S down by about 200 kilograms in weight. The second major focus was the engine. The 901/22, which had already been used with great success in the Carrera 6, was the starting point for the new rally car. Dual ignition, titanium connecting rods and torque-proof beyond 8,000 revs – resulting in a car that could deliver zero to 100 km/h in under six seconds, and a standing kilometre in just over 24 seconds.

A record in autumn 1967

In addition to speed, proving the reliability of the engine was a particularly important factor for Porsche. With this in mind, in autumn 1967, the company used the car in a record attempt that was originally planned for the Carrera 6. But the Carrera was too low-riding for the steep banked corners of Monza and came down too hard on the road. Instead, Jo Siffert, Rico Steinemann, Charles Vögele and Dieter Spoerry drove the 911 R, with very few modifications. The car survived 20,000 kilometres at full throttle, set five new world records, achieved 14 international class victories and an average speed of over 200 km/h.The 911 R’s place in the racing car hall of fame was cemented thanks to Gérard Larrousse. In 1969, he won two major victories in his car, which was chassis number five. He went on to win the Tour de France Automobile from September 18 to 26, and was the overall winner of the Tour de Corse held on November 8 and 9. The 911 he drove was one of two “R” types with a DOHC engine and 230 hp. The car is now part of the Collier collection in the USA.
However, in preparation for these races, Larrousse initially took to the track in a different 911 R – the very car at the centre of this tale. He competed in at least one official race: the Ronde Cévenole on June 7 and 8, 1969. His lap times were outstanding, and he maintained a constant second place, coming in just under half a minute behind Giunti, the driver in pole position in an Alfa Romeo 33/2 prototype – only a slim gap in a race where lap times average around 3:15 to 3:20. In the ninth and penultimate lap, the right steering knuckle at the front of the car snapped on the small connecting road just before the start and finish straight. The issue brought the race to an abrupt end for Porsche – luckily before the car was damaged or the driver was hurt. Photographic evidence indicates that a minor accident occurred during the eighth lap: The scratches on the bumper, masking tape on the headlights and the crooked rear wheel clearly indicate that an incident on the track could have caused the later failure of the knuckle component.

A fantastic story

Xavier Camprubi, who lent Larrousse his Porsche for this race, was probably not best pleased about the damage. But we already know that this would not be the last of this car’s racing woes. In 1970, Camprubi commissioned a factory overhaul then sold the car to 24-year-old Bernard Gnuva. The volatile young driver was involved in a serious collision in the vehicle, and new metal doors and a wider rear wing were fitted. From 1973 onwards, the 911 R no. 16 was used on the road by Jean Gonçalves, then by Raymond Touroul, and finally by Jean-Pierre Bodin, before it was eventually incorporated into a private collection and restored. In 2016, Larrousse was reunited with “his” first 911 R and autographed it. Only after that did it receive its “Larrousse look” makeover from Kobus. What a fantastic Porsche – with a fantastic story.
Porsche 911 R: Technical data
Engine: Six-cylinder flat engine
Displacement: 1,991 cm3
Bore x stroke: 80 x 66 mm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Max. power: 210 hp at 8,000 rpm
Max. torque: 206 Nm at 6,700 rpm
Carburettor: 2 triple Weber 46 IDA
Power transmission: 5-speed manual gearbox, rear wheel drive
Unladen weight: 800 to 830 kg
Length/width/height: 4,100/1,610/1,320 mm
Wheelbase: 2,211 mm
Rims: Fuchs lightweight 6 x 15 and 7 x 15-inch
Tyres: Dunlop Racing 5.00–15 and 5.50–15
Vmax: 230 km/h
0–100 km/h: 5.9 s