Is the base 2.7 911 of 1974 the most underrated aircooled Neunelfer?
Impact bumpers marked a step-change in the 911. Total 911 assesses the merits of the entry-level 2.7
The year 1974 represented great change for Porsche. After a decade of constant fettling of its 911, where it witnessed increases in wheelbase, model designations, engine capacity and specification options, Zuffenhausen decided to ring the changes in what was the first major refresh of the car’s now famous history.
Most notably from the outset, those slender lines associated with Butzi’s initial 911 design were altered by Tony Lapine and his team, the addition of impact bumpers at both the front and rear of the car a regulatory necessity rather than a creative endeavour. The 911 needed to adopt impact bumpers to satisfy US crash-safety regulations, and though their presence unquestionably disrupted the flow of the 911’s appearance, it truly was a case of adapt or die. The latter was out the question, as it had by now gained an envious reputation as a robust sports car capable of outgunning its bigger motorsporting rivals.
The engine too was updated, the entire line-up ditching the 2.4-litre engine capacity of the F-series cars in favour of the 2.7-litre capacity used by the 1973 Carrera RS. Black window trim was retained from that first 911 Rennsport for the top-spec cars, with door handles and mirrors also now finished in black instead of chrome. There were minor upgrades to the interior too, including the incorporation of headrests into a one-piece seat for the first time.
Aside from changing the body and engine,
Porsche also took the opportunity to revamp its entire 911 model line-up. Three cars would remain – until, of course, the Turbo arrived a year later in
1975 – but the top-spec 911S of the F-series replaced
the doomed 911E as the middle offering, while the
911 Carrera became the new jewel of Porsche’s showroom. At the other end the T was scrapped entirely, the entry-level car now simply referred to as the base 911 for this new chapter of Neunelfer.
However, while the pre-impact bumper 911T is a fairly sought-after classic today for the purity of its lines, its successor in the 2.7 911 isn’t generally looked at with a similar fondness. At face value this is understandable. The base 2.7 car may be more powerful than the 911T by 25bhp in Us-spec, but it’s heavier by around 50kg too, largely cancelling out any straight-line performance advantage, and the G-series cars just don’t possess the purity in appearance of the early, pre-impact bumper models. However, there are fewer 2.7 911s on the planet than 911Ts, with a quoted 9,320 2.7s built in both Coupe and Targa body styles over the 1974 and 1975 model years, while the 911T was produced 16,933 times between 1972 and 1973.
Despite this, the base 2.7 has largely been forgotten in the classic marketplace, it considered less desirable than the T before it or indeed the cars succeeding it, such as the heavier SC or 3.2 Carrera. It’s not like 1974 is an unpopular year of production either: the top-of-the-range 2.7 Carrera is revered as a genuine collector’s car for its credentials as a ‘secret RS’, the 3.0-litre RSS of the same model year generally considered to be a superior car to the halo 2.7 RS. It’s fair to say though the mid-spec 911S has suffered a similar fate to the base 911 in being largely forgotten. Has an injustice been served?
The example put forward for scrutiny today is owned by Eric, proprietor at Houston-based specialists Eurocar-werk. Finished in stunning Light blue metallic, its build date of September 1974 means that, given the August shutdown at the factory to mark the end of each model year, this would have been one of the first of the new G-series cars rolling off the production line.
As such, this 2.7 911 possesses some unique design quirks which mark the transition at Zuffenhausen from F- to G-series. For example, while the car features black window surrounds and side mirrors in spec with the 1974 model year, its chrome slats on the decklid have been carried over from the 1973 model year, evidence of a time when a changeover from one generation to another didn’t mean consigning leftover parts to the bin. Being an early car also means it has Nikasil cylinder liners, Porsche switching to Alusil midway through the 1974 model year so it could cast a cylinder block without inserting iron cylinder liners. This glorious 2.7 also boasts desirable extras including Fuchs wheels and a five-speed 915 gearbox, as well as Californian-spec air conditioning mounted beneath the dashboard. Its ‘sugar loaf’ headlights are correct US specification, too.
Inside, the new one-piece seats offer a much more comfortable sitting position, though the steering wheel will have its detractors. Really, only the horn button is new: the large, thin rim itself is clearly taken directly from the F-series cars, this base car not getting the new three-piece wheel as found on the 2.7 Carrera, which had a smaller diameter and a thicker grip. As such the wheel looks unconventionally large compared to the rest of this rather more refined cabin, and that slab of a horn button certainly isn’t the prettiest to look at. Worry not, though, for when driving, your vision will be far beyond such proximity, your eyes fixed on the horizon ahead.
A Typ 911/92 flat six resides under the decklid, fitted with Bosch K-jetronic fuel injection, a continuous injection system where mass airflow
dictates a constant flow of fuel to the injectors. Ironically, Porsche debuted the system on the 1973.5 911T from January 1973, only months before the arrival of the impact-bumper G-series, the T otherwise staying loyal to Zenith carburettors since its inception in 1968.
Starting the car, the engine catches immediately, settling quickly to a constant idle. A blast of beautiful cold air is streaming through the car’s vents. It’s very welcome, the fresh breeze a stark contrast against the intense humidity of a late Texan summer outside.
Out on the highway, the first thing to notice is how well the car rides over a generally poor road surface. There are no nasty clunks or knocks evident, a testament to how well Eric has had this particular example maintained. The chassis set-up, really, is no different to the 911T before it, but diligent maintenance means the ride is near to as good today as it was at launch some 44 years previously.
The main difference between the two cars is the way in which power is exerted. Squeezing the gas pedal, power delivery is delightfully smooth. Even from as little as 2,000rpm the 2.7 911 pulls admirably, but by 5,500rpm the car is running out of puff, and so chasing the redline isn’t quite as rewarding as that offered by the superior 2.7 Carrera. It’s a torquey motor though – despite the 2.7 911’s official 0-62mph being more than an F-series 911T, here on the road it feels quick, if not outright fast.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, for the 2.7 911 is light years ahead of the 911T in terms of comfort. Whereas the 911T is far more agricultural in terms of its power deliverance, the 2.7 911 tones this rawness down, with more grand touring-like credentials. The change from one model year to the next is, in fact, quite remarkable to comprehend. The 2.7 911 is effortlessly easy to drive, even with an overly long throw of the shifter – though a specialist could fit a short shift kit – and it doesn’t feel as besieged by overall weight as the stat sheet would have you believe. Push it through a turn and the steering weights up wonderfully, with plenty of grip available to call upon too, it far more stable in these scenarios than its predecessor. Making the most of that punchy mid-range torque is key to swift progress in the 2.7, so your application to the way you drive this is a little different to how you’d approach other more peaky, naturally aspirated 911s, but it’s still great fun to pedal.
Within minutes I’ve changed my perception of a base 2.7 911. It is quite the underrated classic, needlessly so, as we’ve just discovered. Sure, it’s a far cry away from, say, a 2.4S in terms of its feverish character at the top end, but then this car was intended as an entirely different proposition, favoured for the rigours of the road rather than the race track. Moreover, the 2.7 911 succeeded in delivering a desirable sports car which would appeal to a wider audience.
As we know, 1974 represented quite the step change for Porsche and, with hindsight, we can say that really the period was one of the most important in the 911’s history. Its most radical shake-up at the time, this was a venture which, despite initial concerns over the disruption of the car’s aesthetical purity, ultimately proved successful, showing the company its enthusiasts would still accept the 911 as it morphed around legislative pressures – something it has managed to do ever since. If you’re in the market for a good, useable classic which has a real relevance to the 911’s overall story, the base 2.7 911 and 911S should not be so readily dismissed.
“The 2.7 911 succeeded in delivering a desirable sports car which would appeal to a wider audience”
ABOVE Note manual window winders, F-series wheel rim, plus Vw-spec vinyl seat centers. Lower dash air con was a must for Cali cars