ROAD TRIP: HIGH­LAND FLING

Six­teen of the most sig­nif­i­cant Porsche 911s, in­clud­ing the one mil­lionth unit, danced their way through Ed­in­burgh’s Scot­tish High­lands.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

AAMID a blaze of public­ity in May, the one-mil­lionth 911 rolled off the Porsche pro­duc­tion line in Zuf­fen­hausen, Ger­many. And to mark the oc­ca­sion, Porsche cel­e­brated in the best way it knew. No glitzy gala event with champagne, speeches and Justin Bieber; in­stead, this most driver­fo­cussed of mar­ques took a bunch of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists to the beau­ti­ful Scot­tish High­lands, tossed us the keys not just to that price­less mil­lionth 911 but also to a whole lineup of 15 other 911 mod­els past and present, and let us loose. Many of the older cars at our dis­posal were lit­er­ally mu­seum pieces – pris­tine ex­am­ples of ev­ery 911 gen­er­a­tion, lib­er­ated from the Porsche Mu­seum in Stuttgart just for our ben­e­fit. Start­ing from the ma­jes­tic and im­pos­ing Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle, our con­voy made its way out of town via po­lice es­cort past dis­be­liev­ing lo­cals, onto the mo­tor­way and then north-west through the Trossachs Na­tional Park, past whisky dis­til­leries, mist-shrouded hills, cen­turies-old cas­tles, mir­ror-smooth lochs, and on to the stun­ning, sweep­ing roads of the Kyle of Lochalsh on Scot­land’s west coast.

The next day, we headed back south­wards to the chal­leng­ing Knock­hill Cir­cuit for a few ban­zai laps in the new 997.2 GT3, and for the chance to fur­ther in­dulge in the buf­fet of 911s on the sur­round­ing coun­try roads. Just putting some miles un­der the wheels of that mil­lionth 911 was a unique priv­i­lege, of course. It may have been a stan­dard Car­rera S coupe and not one of the hard­core GT vari­ants, but the fac­tory’s Porsche Exclusive cus­tomi­sa­tion de­part­ment had worked its magic on it.

Fin­ished in a retro non­metal­lic Ir­ish Green paint job (re­pro­duc­ing the hue of the very first of­fi­cial 911 pre­sented to Ferry Porsche in 1964), it was fur­ther dis­tin­guished by old-school ac­cents like a ma­hogany steer­ing wheel rim and dash­board in­serts, hound­stooth seat fabric and chrome win­dow trim. Sub­tle “1,000,000” an­niver­sary lo­gos were also scat­tered through­out (B-pil­lars, dash­board, in­stru­ment clus­ter) to mark this par­tic­u­lar car’s land­mark status. Not want­ing to go down in his­tory as the joker who pranged this price­less, ir­re­place­able car be­fore it had a chance to take its place in the Porsche Mu­seum, I drove it gin­gerly and briefly be­fore hand­ing it back with re­lief. Not that it mat­tered, be­cause truth be told, it was no dif­fer­ent to drive than other any other 991.2 Car­rera S. In­stead, I was

far more keen to sam­ple some of the rarer, out-of­pro­duc­tion mod­els that Porsche had lined up for us. And what a lineup. The cars ranged from a 1967 2.0 Targa, through a 1985 pre­pro­duc­tion ex­am­ple of the Car­rera 3.2 Club Sport, a 1991 964 Turbo, a 1995 993 Targa Tip­tronic, a 2000 996 GT3, a 2010 997 Speed­ster, a 2010 997 GT3 RS, to the 991-gen­er­a­tion high­lights like the 911 GT3 RS, 911 R, and the very lat­est, fresh-from­launch 991.2 GT3 (in both man­ual and PDK guises). And af­ter two days spent hop­ping from 911 to 911 in an ex­tended flat-6 orgy ses­sion, a hand­ful of the Porsches stood out, the ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing them seared into my eter­nal mem­ory. In terms of eye-open­ers, that 1985 3.2 Club Sport was the most sur­pris­ing. I hadn’t ex­pected much of this 32-year-old 911, par­tic­u­larly one as tame-look­ing as this, with­out the flared arches and gap­ing in­takes that we’ve come to ex­pect of the more spe­cial 911 vari­ants. But looks de­ceive, be­cause the Club Sport was in ef­fect the GT3 RS of its era – stripped out with no air-con, sound in­su­la­tion, cen­tral lock­ing, power win­dows or elec­tric seats

THERE WASN’T TIME TO STOP AT A DIS­TILLERY FOR A DRAM, BUT IN­STEAD I EN­JOYED A VER­TI­CAL TAST­ING OF A DIF­FER­ENT SORT – A SAM­PLING OF EV­ERY 911 GEN­ER­A­TION THROUGH THE YEARS.

(heck, it didn’t even have rear seats), it was the most fo­cussed 911 of its day. Its tweaked, low­ered sus­pen­sion, lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial and high­er­revving en­gine set it apart from the stan­dard Car­rera, too. And what a lovely, nim­ble de­vice it was, dart­ing into bends, re­sist­ing roll and grip­ping far more stoutly than ex­pected. And that en­gine! De­light­fully lin­ear in de­liv­ery and brim­ming with verve, its 231bhp en­dowed the 1160kg Club Sport with per­for­mance that even to­day is a match for many sports cars. The 996 GT3 from 2000 was an­other rev­e­la­tion. The 996 surely wins the wooden spoon as the dowdi­est-look­ing of all 911 gen­er­a­tions, but to drive, that first-ever GT3 was a joy.

Its raspy, free-revving 3.6-litre Mezger en­gine de­liv­ered 360bhp and a sub-5sec cen­tury sprint time, but even more cru­cially, its steer­ing was just the chat­ti­est, most com­mu­nica­tive helm I’ve ever held, end­lessly jig­gling in my hands as its weight ebbed and flowed in sym­pa­thy with the road sur­face and the steer­ing in­put. The fol­low­ing gen­er­a­tion, the 997, pro­duced an­other

gem – the 997.2 GT3 RS. With the trusty Mezger flat-6 now grown to 3.8 litres and 444bhp, this was the rawest, most in­tense model on the drive, the un­even idle from its high-lift cams lit­er­ally rock­ing the car at idle. The builtin roll cage and ab­sence of sound in­su­la­tion just added to the track-car feel of the RS, and to drive it was aptly vis­ceral and all-con­sum­ing; a sus­tained, de­li­cious as­sault on the senses. And then there was the 911 R, the most-hyped 911 in re­cent mem­ory, and of all the cars on this road trip in Scot­land, the one that I ap­proached with the most scep­ti­cism. As­ton­ish­ingly, my doubts evap­o­rated within sec­onds of my en­gag­ing its short-throw gearshift and mov­ing off; sud­denly I un­der­stood what the fuss was all about. De­signed to marry the su­per­car-ri­valling power and pace of the 991 GT3 RS with a more road-bi­ased, in­ter­ac­tive chas­sis, and equipped with a man­ual gear­box in­stead

of the dual-clutch PDK on the lap­time-chas­ing RS, the 911 R proved the great­est of all the 991-gen­er­a­tion cars I sam­pled in Scot­land.

It was sim­ply ad­dic­tive, its chas­sis grip­ping fe­ro­ciously but squat­ting and mov­ing about just enough to make me, the driver, feel cen­tral to the process in­stead of just an awe-struck pas­sen­ger. It was an epic ride which Porsche took us on, over some of the world’s most spec­tac­u­lar driv­ing roads, with the equally stun­ning Scot­tish High­lands as a back­drop. Unforgettable set­ting, unforgettable cars.

Un­for­tu­nately, there wasn’t time to stop at some of the many dis­til­leries in the re­gion for a dram, but in­stead I en­joyed a ver­ti­cal tast­ing of a dif­fer­ent sort – a sam­pling of ev­ery 911 gen­er­a­tion through the years. What I learned was that Porsche’s icon has de­vel­oped and pro­gressed mas­sively over the last half­cen­tury, with the shat­ter­ing per­for­mance and grip of the lat­ter-day cars a world away from the more mod­est dy­namic lev­els of the ear­lier ex­am­ples. But through it all, the driver-cen­tric ethos of the model has re­mained un­changed, as much a part of the 911’s DNA and lin­eage as its unique rear-en­gine lay­out, its round, up­right head­lamps and its un­mis­tak­able slant-backed shape.

The au­thor thor­oughly en­joyed the 32-year-old Club Sport (top) and the 17-year-old 996 GT3.

Porsche’s his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant 959 and 911 GT1 drove the Scot­tish pipe band to dis­trac­tion.

The old­est of these GT3s was the most glo­ri­ous on this epic road trip – the 997.2 RS in the mid­dle.

Porsche’s spe­cial con­voy in­cluded a sil­ver 993 Targa and a blue 997 Speed­ster.

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