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