1973-1974 Porsche 911

The Porsche 911 continued its winning ways for 1973. Changes for that year's F-Series models began with big black-rubber bumper guards and steel reinforcing door beams per federal mandate, plus distinctive "cookie-cutter" alloy wheels for the E. Engines stayed the same through mid-model year, when the T gained Bosch's new K-Jetronic fuel injection (a.k.a. CIS -- Continuous Injection System), good for an extra 10 DIN horsepower European (seven SAE).

1973 Porsche 911
The 1973 U.S. Porsche 911 lineup (from left): S, T, and E models.

Despite a now decade-old basic design, the 911 seemed to have aged hardly at all. Of course, it was still getting better -- and not a moment too soon, given the upheavals that rocked the American auto industry for model-year 1974. The toughest U.S. emissions standards ever made most engines less efficient than ever. A new federal edict for 5-mph bumpers brought power-sapping weight and ugly looks to too many cars. Inflation was still pushing prices up and sales down, even as soaring insurance rates continued devastating the ranks of performance machines.

But the real shocker came in late 1973 from a heretofore little-known cartel called OPEC -- Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- which decided to make "black gold" as precious as real gold by shutting off Middle East pipelines. Long waiting lines began to form at gas pumps across the United States, and prices for all petroleum-based products went out of sight. That winter was longer and colder than usual for the world's industrial nations as rationing and other energy-conserving measures threatened to become a way of life.

Against this bleak backdrop stood refurbished Porsche 911s that remained uncompromising high performers in utter defiance of the day's news. They naturally had "crash" bumpers, but so skillfully integrated as to look like they'd been there all along. And while many automakers resorted to smaller engines, the 911s got a larger one that met all the latest "smog regs" while sacrificing little in performance or fuel efficiency.

Of course, these changes were pure coincidence, for no one could have predicted the events of 1973-74. Still, the Porsche 911 entered its eleventh year as unassailable proof that when the going got tough, Porsche knew how to get going.

Porsche 911
Larger, sturdier bumpers for 1974 marked the 911's first major design change.

Much of the groundwork for the '74s was laid in 1973 with a very special European 911: the Carrera RS. The initials meant Rennsport ("racing sport"), signifying a competition Porsche -- here, a 911 trimmed and tuned for the Group 4 GT class. Rules specified a minimum 500 be sold, and Porsche deliberately held the price to the equivalent of about $10,000 in Germany to ensure they would.

Happily, demand proved so strong that 1,636 were ultimately produced. With that, the RS was reclassified as a Group 3 series-production GT, a class it stood to dominate because of minimal allowable modifications. Porsche raised the car's price by several thousand dollars to more closely reflect true worth.

The late Dean Batchelor recorded that some 600 RS models were trimmed a la 911S for road use in Europe. None came to America, though: "dirty" engine, you know.

Dirty or not, the engine was indisputably powerful. Designated Type 911/93, it was a new 2.7-liter version of the now legendary flat-six, achieved by boring out the 2.4 from 84 to 90 mm. This required deleting the Biral cylinder liners and instead coating the bores with Nikasil, a nickel/silicon carbide alloy that brought a happy bonus in reduced internal friction. The 2.4's valves, timing, compression, and fuel injection were all retained, but the extra cc's added 20 horses for a total of 200 DIN horsepower European/230 SAE at 6,300 rpm in roadgoing trim.

As a homologation special, the RS 2.7 was much lightened (thin-gauge body steel, for instance) and thus tipped the scales at less than a ton -- about 300 pounds under a stock S. The chassis was beefed up with gas-pressurized Bilstein shocks, super-stiff sway bars, and aluminum wheels measuring an inch wider at the rear than on a roadgoing S (six inches versus five).

Outside, RS 2.7s were unmistakable. All were finished in white, and Zuffenhausen designers played up the return of a production-based Carrera by putting an outsize version of the traditional name script (in blue) above the rocker panels. Rear fenders were further flared to suit the wider wheels (also blue), and a small "bib" spoiler sprouted beneath the front bumper.

But the visual keynote was a prominent rear spoiler molded into the engine cover. Aptly nicknamed "ducktail," it kept the rear firmly planted at speed by reducing lift from 320 to just 93 pounds. It also improved airflow through the engine-cover grille and moved the effective center of pressure about six inches rearward as another aid to stability.

The Carrera RS was greeted with high enthusiasm, and the full-fledged RSR track version wrote a brilliant record in Group 4 competition. Porsche upped the ante for '74 with the RS/RSR 3.0, needing to build only 100 for homologation as a 2.7 "evolution."

Despite similar weight-reducing mods, the 3.0 was some 400 pounds heavier than the 2.7. But that was more than offset by another 5-mm bore stretch that gave 2993cc and net roadgoing horsepower of 220 (DIN European) at 6,200 rpm.

Also featured were a wider, horizontal rear spoiler, quickly dubbed the "whale tail"; a bulkier front spoiler with large, rectangular air intake; even wider wheels (8-inch front, 9-inch aft) and tires (215/60VR15 front, 235/60VR15 rear); die-cast aluminum crankcase; and huge cross-drilled disc brakes from Porsche's mighty turbocharged 917 Can-Am racer.

The 2.7 had needed a special road permit in Germany because the ducktail was deemed hazardous to pedestrians. Porsche got around this on the 3.0 by supplying two engine covers: one with a large racing spoiler, the other with a smaller whale tail edged in protective black rubber. Several wild colors were added, and black replaced chrome on most body trim.

Porsche 911
Here's the 1974 Targa semi-convertible in base-model trim.

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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