1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS

The Porsche Carrera RS 3.0 was an amazing performer by mid-1970s standards, and it's not too shabby even now. Journalist/race driver Paul Frere tested one for Road & Track and recorded a 124-mph average over 78 miles of fast Italian autostrada.

What's more, "60 mph is reached in a staggering 5.2 seconds with the help of superlative rear-wheel grip, and the 1/4-mile mark comes in 14 seconds...The car understeers, though lifting off at the limit of adhesion will swing the tail out sharply. On the Casale track, near Torino, I found that fast bends must still be approached with some power on and that getting the car around fast and safely still calls for a certain amount of delicacy."

Porsche 911
The top-line Porsche 911 for '74 was a new Carrera, which used the S engine.

Like the 2.7, the "street" 3.0 wasn't sold in America, though Roger Penske gave the RSR lots of publicity by using 15 in his inaugural International Race of Champions series of driver showdowns. Another 49 were built and continued to dominate the likes of SCCA Trans-Am and the IMSA Camel GT series. A final 60 were finished as roadgoing RS models.

But it scarcely mattered that these race-and-ride Porsche 911s didn't ply U.S. streets, for their influence was evident in a new top-line '74 model looking much like the 3.0 RS -- whale tail, bulged fenders, big graphics, and all. It, too, was called Carrera, returning the name to American showrooms for the first time since the last 356 Carrera 2s. Inevitably, it was slower than its European cousin but somewhat more civilized.

At the other end of the scale, the base '74 was just plain 911 again, and much like the previous T. The S was now the midrange offering, equivalent to the former E in trim and performance. All used the new 2.7 engine, but much more mildly tuned than in the 2.7 RS.

The American-market Carrera and S listed 167 horsepower (SAE net) at 5,800 rpm, the base 911 "only" 143 horsepower. The extra displacement was yet another timely Porsche response to tightening emissions limits, complemented by linewide adoption of Bosch's more modern CIS injection.

This same model group was also sold in other markets, though with freer breathing and commensurately more horsepower: 150 DIN horsepower European at 5,700 rpm (911), 175 at 5,800 rpm (911S), and 210 at 6,300 rpm (Carrera 2.7).

Regardless of tuning, all '74-model Porsche 911s wore the new front and rear bumpers mandated by American Law. After all, why have different bumpers for just one market?

Road & Track reported that "Porsche went beyond 1974 requirements for sports cars and did a major redesign to put the bumpers' effective heights at the 16- and 20-in. level already required for sedans and to be [required] for sports cars next year." This involved pulling the bumpers out and putting them on aluminum-alloy tubes that collapsed when struck at 5 mph or above -- and thus had to be replaced.

Still, they did protect the body much better, and the bumpers were now also aluminum, which saved weight. Hydraulic shock-absorber attachments that didn't need replacing were standard for the United Kingdom and available elsewhere -- in the United States as a $135 "mandatory option." Accordion-pleat rubber boots neatly filled the gaps between body and bumpers, which were overlaid in color-keyed plastic with black rubber inserts.

Here was yet another thoroughly Porsche solution, and one that made most other "crash" bumpers seem clumsy. Not that Zuffenhausen didn't have reason to do it right: The United States was now taking over 50 percent of the company total yearly production. (By contrast, the U.S. accounted for well under 20 percent of annual BMW and Mercedes volume.)

Other changes for '74 included a full-width taillight lens bearing the Porsche name, black-finish engine grille with a "2.7" legend in chrome, high-back bucket seats, tiny fresh-air vents at each end of the dash, and new steering wheels. Targas lost their fold-up roof panel for a more convenient one-piece affair.

Chassis-wise, forged aluminum replaced welded steel for rear semi-trailing arms in all '74s, and sway bars and wheel/tire packages were tailored to each model. The base 911 had the usual 5.5 X 15 alloy rims and 165HR15 tires; the 911S rolled on forged 15 X 6 wheels with 185/70VR15 rubber (optional on the base car). Both sported a 16 mm-diameter front anti-roll bar and could be ordered with an 18 mm rear bar. The Carrera used the S wheel/tire combo in front and 215/60 tires on 15 X 7 rims at the rear. It also came with the rear bar, plus a larger 20 mm front bar.

Comfort and performance options proliferated for 1974. The five-speed was still reasonable at $250, a new two-stage electric rear window defroster cost $70, and buyers could now order Koni shocks, a deluxe steering wheel, and contrast-color 911S road wheels. Also on the list were paint and upholstery "to sample," meaning any hue or trim material the buyer wanted. By default, Zuffenhausen was becoming a "boutique" automaker in the face of soaring prices fueled by rampant inflation.

Porsche 911
The 2.7-liter flat-six, used in all '74 Porsche 911s, lasted through 1977.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

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