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Porsche 911 History

1978-1979 Porsche 911SC

The 1978 Porsche 911SC defiantly disproved those who'd written off the air-cooled rear-engine concept. Of course, Porsche had often defied conventional wisdom, but it must have taken special delight this time in thumbing its nose at naysayers. "So you think ze 911 is no longer so good, ja? Ve vill show you!"

Porsche 911
The 1978 SC series was very similar to the European 3.0-liter Carrera.

Per company tradition, the SC bowed at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1977 alongside a virtually unchanged 930. Essentially, it was the old Carrera 3.0 in everything but name: same basic specifications, appearance, and features. (Autocar called it "a Carrera with a broader market appeal.")

Displacement and cylinder dimensions were unchanged, but 8.5:1 compression and other tuning differences took DIN horsepower European down to 180 at 5,500 rpm (172 horsepower SAE net). But that was up slightly on the previous "cooking" 2.7, and a flatter, fuller torque curve with a peak 189 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm (SAE net) made the SC even easier to drive.

In line with Porsche's policy of a "world" specification and performance level, all 1978-model 911s, regardless of market, got a U.S.-style air pump and Bosch breakerless electronic ignition with rpm limiter. But the American SC used the more efficient catalytic converter instead of thermal reactors as its main emissions-control device, which also enhanced drivability.

Other SC improvements included a stronger crank with larger bearings and the return of an aluminum crankcase. Outside were the Turbo Carrera's wider rear wheels and tires and flared fenders to cradle them. A new Sport Group package option added the well-known whale tail and front air dam.

With the SC, the Porsche 911 could finally claim tractability as a virtue. In fact, Road & Track likened it to "a big V-8-powered Detroit car. There's lots of torque, so constant downshifting isn't necessary even in slow traffic. No Porsche owner is going to let the revs fall to 1000 rpm in 5th gear and then attempt to accelerate. But to prove a point, we did this with the SC and the engine accepted the treatment with never a judder of protest...just roll your foot off the clutch pedal and glide away."

Autocar found that in fourth gear "there was scarcely more than half a second's difference between the times for every increment between 30-50 mph [6.5 seconds] and 80-100 mph [6.3 sec]...Even in fifth gear the same pattern emerges."

Some testers still griped about notchy shift action, though that tended to disappear after a few thousand miles. The linkage was stiff on purpose (though it would less so starting with 1987 models, suggesting second thoughts). Spring loading was biased toward the middle plane (third/fourth), so selecting top gear demanded conscious effort, at least by neophytes.

Like previous Porsche 911s, the SC tended to final oversteer, but it was set up to maintain understeer through higher cornering speeds and forces. The bigger rear wheels and tires helped, and even bigger Pirelli P7 boots were available (205/55VR16 front, 225/50VR16 rear). Apply too much power through a hard bend and the pilot merely got more understeer; lift off mid-bend and the back end might try to catch up with the front. Still, it usually took a professional now to elicit tail-wag.

In all, the SC was widely judged the most forgiving 911 yet, though the "wide tyres [sic] have some demerits in wet weather," warned Autocar. "We suffered occasionally from front-end aquaplaning under braking on water-covered roads, and understeer is also far more noticeable on wet surfaces. In these...conditions the tail can sometimes be provoked out of line with the throttle, and understeer can also be killed by the traditional remedy of easing back on the throttle, being prepared to catch the resulting slide. Such intricacies of handling make the Porsche very much a driver's car; experience with it constantly teaches new skills."

The SC rolled into 1979 with standard power brakes and a new clutch-disc hub that minimized gear chatter at low speeds. The latter necessitated moving the engine rearward by 30 mm (about 1.2 inches), but no handling changes were noticeable except on the track. Porsche engineers also decreed higher rear tire pressures (from 34 to 43 psi). The Sportomatic option was finally dropped for lack of interest, and base prices jumped in the United States by some $3,500.

Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 SC was visually unchanged for '79, as shown by this Targa.

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
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