Friday, 21 August 2009


I’ve set up some Autotrader searches for 911’s and this one popped up within 15 miles of SS7 Towers. As I was looking to kill a couple of hours on Saturday morning while SS7 Jnr was sailing, I thought I’d arrange to pop up to Fernhurst TVR in the cabby with SS3.5 and try out my first torsion barred 911.

Or it might be the first - I do remember frightening myself in what was probably an SC running wide onto a Windsor Great Park verge at huge speed when I was younger, but it was many moons ago and I’m (somewhat) saner and (much) older now.

On first sight it was like being in the Kings Road 25 years ago. Bright red paint, big rear wing, black pin stripe interior and a shiny Panasonic stereo were all present and correct. Rear seat belts were noticeable by their complete absence however.

The car had been owned by a polisher. He’d even got to the oil pipes in the front wheel arch, which gleamed a dull brass against the (no doubt polished) red under arches. No rust to be seen anywhere, the rear N spec Pirellis were new and the fronts had plenty of tread to go with the age related sidewall cracks. Hmmm.

Although it was Saturday morning, and there was a fair amount of traffic around, the sales guy was happy to let me take it out alone. Or at least, he would have been had it been taxed. So he had to come along with us with the younger SS7 unsecured in the back cuddling the trade plates. The targa top stayed in the boot, even though it was dull and threatening rain, and we headed south to Midhurst with the sales guy driving.

First impressions were of the small size of the car, particularly the anorexic width, but the inhabitants had ample room. The dash showed its age with hard plastics, tired looking switchgear and the classic shot-gun blast 911 ergonomics. Every hing seemed present and working though.

The ride was great, nice and compliant but without wallowing, with only a suggestion of scuttle shake over larger bumps. Certainly its nothing like as bad as the floppy cabby we’d arrived in. The sakes guy and I chatted about our shared dislike of the remote experience driving moderns gives, and he told me about his early Griffiths 500 and the woes of TVR's later straight 6 engines.

At Midhurst I took the (unassisted) wheel for the 10 min drive back up. The seating position with the power seats was high, and the steering wheel, an un-delightful 4 spoke Porsche job from the mid-80s, was a slight stretch away.

The over-centre pedal action and skewed position was also pure old skool Porsche, but within 30 seconds it didn't register. My first impression of the ride was correct; this is what we’ve all been missing in the recent pursuit of huge rims, pencil thin tyrewalls and granite suspension; the ability to float along the road at speed, not beat it into submission. If Porsche could do it in 1985 (and who knows what state this one was really in after 24 years with no major bills in evidence), what have they been doing since? Add pin sharp steering with real feel and feedback, the sound of the sky and wind rushing past the targa top, and you have a really great driving experience. At no point in the admittedly gentle 5 miles back did it feel like we were going to go through a hedge backwards, just great turn-in and traction allied with uncanny body control.

On the negatives, the 915 gearbox is the fly in the ointment; vague and slow no matter how you dress this up as 'character'. The car didn’t really feel fast either, not much cam effect, or 'bissen' as Porsche call it, at 4000 rpm when I did push, plus the interior was not a great place to be. The lack of rear belts would be a complete showstopper as far as Mrs SS7 goes.

Since the little drive my head’s been spinning. I’ve practically already spec’d a G50 3.2 coupe (I’m prepared to give up the targa for something more solid) duck tailed and chromed of window frame fitted with a late (plastic inlet manifold) 3.6 motor, a fresh interior and Tuthill suspension and brakes. All in a shade of seal grey with and trad. polished Fuchs and the best of 2009 tyre technology.

Someone talk me out of it.


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