ROBERT BAR­RIE

On con­cours events – and more

Classic Porsche - - Contents -

“AFTER ALL, IT’S AL­WAYS GOOD TO SEE WHERE WE ARE GO­ING…”

His­toric rac­ing is a sum­mer sport and the sun al­ways shines. Not true, sadly. We all know how to drive in the wet – soften ev­ery­thing off, keep it smooth and stay off the con­ven­tional rac­ing line. As ever, know­ing it and ac­tu­ally do­ing it are two very dif­fer­ent things. I was briefly re­minded of that as the lead­ing group of cars splashed past me on both sides on the fi­nal lap of a rainy his­toric sports car race at Sil­ver­stone re­cently. The first Co­bra snapped side­ways and was caught by its driver, a sec­ond Co­bra took a short cut across the grass and a light­weight E-type slid along be­hind hop­ing to pick up the pieces.

I had seen them com­ing from some way back – ev­ery­oneʼs lights were on in the gloom – and there were blue flags to warn of their ar­rival, but lap­ping and be­ing lapped can still make for tense mo­ments. There were no prob­lems this time – the lead­ersʼ com­mit­ment was matched by their car con­trol and the first Co­bra duly went on to take the flag. Then it was time for some ap­pre­cia­tive wav­ing from us driv­ers to the mar­shals on the in-lap. A wet race is a chal­lenge for them, too.

We en­coun­tered a dif­fer­ent set of is­sues a few weeks ear­lier in a sim­i­larly wet race at Magny Cours. We al­most ex­pect rain in Eng­land, but surely not in France? If any­thing, it was worse. A GT40 came up be­hind me more than once only to aqua­plane off be­fore pass­ing. A safety car was sent out to as­sess the con­di­tions.

Some of the slower cars had trou­ble clos­ing up on it, so – to the frus­tra­tion of the quicker cars – the safety car pe­riod be­came ex­tended. It even­tu­ally went back in again and rac­ing re­sumed. Then it came back out and, after a fur­ther in­ter­val, the race was red flagged. All very dis­ap­point­ing you might think, but some canny com­peti­tors man­aged to use the chaotic con­di­tions to their ad­van­tage.

In round num­bers, a wet lap and a re­fu­el­ing stop each took three min­utes. So a stop cost a lap. Sim­ple. How­ever, un­der the safety car, the lap time went up to four min­utes. Now it was pos­si­ble to stop, get back out in front of the train and work your way back round to the back of it with­out los­ing a lap. Why did­nʼt we spot that? It turned out to be the dif­fer­ence be­tween first and sec­ond in class. Damn!

All this talk of rain leads to the im­por­tant sub­ject of wind­screen wipers and

where they park. It came up when I was re­search­ing some of the de­tails on a very early right-hand drive 911. I used to own a sim­i­lar car only a few chas­sis num­bers later, so I should re­ally have re­mem­bered.

Any­way, is­sue #20 of this magazine fea­tured the very first right-hand drive car and the pic­tures showed its wipers parked on the pas­sen­ger side. Knowl­edge­able en­thu­si­asts told me that was cor­rect. That should have been suf­fi­cient, but I had seen some older pho­to­graphs of the same car that sug­gested, ear­lier in its life, its wipers had parked on the driver ʼs side.

The usu­ally re­li­able Brett John­sonʼs Re­storer ʼs Guide to Au­then­tic­ity said the wipers parked on the right on the ear­li­est cars – thatʼs pre­sum­ably the driver ʼs side on a right-hand drive car. Peter Mor­gan said much the same thing in my well-thumbed copy of Orig­i­nal Porsche 911,

de­spite show­ing a num­ber of pic­tures that sug­gested other­wise. An­other dif­fer­ence of opin­ion about the de­tails.

As be­fore, the best way to re­solve these dis­putes is to look at some orig­i­nal cars and some pe­riod pho­to­graphs. That was eas­ier in this case than in many oth­ers, not least be­cause most pic­tures of the front of a car, as well as those from other an­gles, show the wipers.

So, out came the Brook­lands road test com­pi­la­tions and one or two other pe­riod sources. The an­swer turns out to be the one we started with – the wipers park on the pas­sen­ger side on the ear­li­est cars. The very first right-hand drive car may have been an ex­cep­tion due to its ear­li­ness. I should also say that the rule changed after the first two or three years of pro­duc­tion. In model year 1968, as both Brett John­son and Peter Mor­gan will tell you, the wipers started to park on the driver ʼs side! They were also painted black rather than sil­ver. If this dis­cus­sion starts to sound a bit early 911-cen­tric, I did also look at some late-356 pic­tures, in­clud­ing those in Wal­lace Wyssʼs Porsche 356 Photo Al­bum with a sim­i­lar ques­tion in mind.

Youʼve guessed it, the wipers on the older model ap­pear to park on the driver ʼs side. It looks as if the con­ven­tion went from the driver ʼs side to the pas­sen­ger ʼs side and back again in less than three years. As far as I can tell, the changes were made in the name of im­proved vis­i­bil­ity. After all, itʼs al­ways good to see where we are go­ing. CP

It would ap­pear that even the men at Porsche could­nʼt make up their minds on the ques­tion of which side to park the wind­screen wipers…

Robert Bar­rie is a clas­sic Porsche en­thu­si­ast through and through. As well as com­pet­ing in his­toric events with a va­ri­ety of early Porsches and or­gan­is­ing track days, heʼs also a pur­veyor of fine clas­sic au­to­mo­biles

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