Design icons

As 911 per­for­mance grew, so too did the need for more ef­fec­tive aero­dy­nam­ics. This iconic spoiler was the re­sult

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Chris Ran­dall Pho­tog­ra­phy by Porsche Ar­chive

We've al­ready cov­ered the duck­tail spoiler; this is­sue we ex­am­ine the whaletail that fol­lowed

We kicked off our ‘Design Icons’ se­ries with the duck­tail spoiler (or ‘bürzel’), one of the first such de­vices fit­ted to a pro­duc­tion road car and one that grew from Porsche’s rac­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. But while very adept at im­prov­ing the 911’s han­dling, it had one key flaw: the Ger­man au­thor­i­ties de­creed that its sharp edges were a dan­ger to pedes­tri­ans. Not only was greater down­force needed for the next gen­er­a­tion of mod­els, but a safer design too. Porsche’s an­swer wasn’t long in ar­riv­ing, the 1974 3.0 RS of­fered with the rather more ex­trav­a­gant whaletail that fea­tured on the rac­ing RSR, which cer­tainly couldn’t be ac­cused of be­ing un­der­stated. It was a timely in­tro­duc­tion as the blis­ter­ingly quick Turbo was just around the cor­ner and, paired with a deeper front air dam, the 75 per cent re­duc­tion in rear lift was cer­tainly use­ful.

Im­proved aero­dy­namic prop­er­ties aside, the whaletail also boasted one par­tic­u­larly ob­vi­ous fea­ture: the flex­i­ble rub­ber edge, a so­lu­tion that was deemed rather more ac­cept­able to the au­thor­i­ties. In­ter­est­ingly, the 3.3-litre Turbo fea­tured a re­vised design known as the ‘tea tray’, but the whaletail would be op­tional for a va­ri­ety of nar­row-bod­ied, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Ne­unelfers right up un­til

1989 when the 3.2 Car­rera would be re­placed by the 964 with its elec­tri­cally op­er­ated spoiler.

Al­though the design re­mained es­sen­tially un­changed through­out this time, there were dif­fer­ent grille ar­range­ments for Turbo and nor­mally as­pi­rated mod­els, and for those with air-con­di­tion­ing. Whaletail-equipped cars could also be spec­i­fied with a rear wiper, some­thing de­nied to cars fit­ted with the ear­lier duck­tail. While the first ver­sions were moulded in one piece as part of the en­gine cover, later 911s would fea­ture a sep­a­rate glass­fi­bre wing that was bolted to the lid, some­thing that ex­plains the large num­ber of cars that have had a whaletail re­moved or added by their own­ers since. In­ci­den­tally, any­one tempted to add one should know that orig­i­nal items fea­tured the word ‘Porsche’ just be­neath the rub­ber lip, while the Porsche crest also ap­peared on the rub­ber sec­tion.

It’s cer­tainly un­der­stand­able that such a dis­tinc­tive design would prove a tempt­ing ad­di­tion to un­adorned mod­els, and it would also lead Porsche to give it one fi­nal ap­pear­ance on the 964 Turbo S. As with the ‘bürzel’, the whaletail would come to sym­bol­ise the 911 for whole gen­er­a­tions of buy­ers and en­thu­si­asts, but it’s worth end­ing with a slightly less known fact. To prove that the Ger­manic sense of hu­mour was alive and well, Porsche took to Youtube back in Au­gust 2017 and, in a video ti­tled ‘Your Most Wanted Mod­els,’ they demon­strated that a whaletail could hold 40 beer bot­tles on its up­per sur­face. Yes, re­ally.

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