They may get little thought, but head back more than forty years and you’ll discover that bumpers defined the look of the 911 for a generation
Impact bumpers changed the 911’s silhouette in 1974, but the G-series look is now revered
The american car market has influenced the 911 in many ways. a 1971 requirement that cars must survive a 5mph (8km/h) impact without further damage to bodywork, for many manufacturers, meant adopting huge and notably ugly bumpers, but porsche had a better idea. instead of afterthoughts that resembled bridge girders, Wolfgang möbius skilfully blended them into the neunelfer’s bodywork: the ‘impact bumper’ had arrived.
it’s fair to say that not everyone found the chunky new look appealing. painting them in body colour certainly helped with their integration, however, and porsche’s approach to the problem was typically thorough. Forming them from aluminium of around 5mm thickness kept weight down, but the clever part, from a styling perspective, was the use of short rubber/polyurethane bellows at each end that allowed for their movement in a low-speed knock while neatly covering the gap between bumper and bodywork.
on vehicles headed stateside the bumpers were attached to hydraulic dampers that absorbed any impact and allowed the bumper to return to its original position, while row cars used cheaper and lighter crushable steel tubes that would be replaced following any collision. While the new bumpers might have looked simple, an impressive number of sections and fittings were used in their construction, further evidence of porsche’s engineering integrity.
The look was kept deliberately clean and unfussy on the outside, though, with just the addition of black rubbing strips in the centre to protect against minor parking mishaps, and a pair of neat overriders at the rear, located either side of the number plate (and incorporating the number plate lighting). at the front, indicator lenses were incorporated at each end, along with headlamp washer jets where necessary, but that was it in terms of embellishment.
it was a look that lasted right through until 1989, when the 3.2 carrera bowed out to be replaced with the 964, which adopted an altogether smoother design. impact bumpers have provided enthusiasts with an easy point of reference when it comes to 911 generations, and it’s surely only porsche that could have turned a regulatory defeat into a design victory.
“Wolfgang Möbius skilfully blended the bumpers into the Neunelfer’s bodywork”