A large package landed on my desk just before Christmas, and being weightier than normal my interest was aroused, so I immediately tackled the packaging to reveal the contents. It was the latest offering from T.A.G Motor Books, a 384-page tome on the Porsche 911 R. This was a book that justifiably jumped the order of books that I have to review, and so it was a case of ‘last in first out,’ which might amuse the accountants out there.
The world has changed, but this bit of news won’t surprise many readers. Back in the 1960s, sports cars tended to be somewhat basic in nature and definitely performance orientated. Those high-performance sports cars intended for racing, tended to be even more spartan when it came to comfort, and harsher in terms of suspension, some might even say brutish. But then the concept of comfort in a sports car was unheard of. After all, you bought a sports car for what it was, and if you wanted comfort, well then you selected a different type of car to suit your needs.
The Porsche 911 R was never intended as a roadgoing sports car, it was built to race, even if it did look like a stripped-out road car. The ride was harsh, and having been driven in one, the sound from the engine is brutal, especially in a cabin devoid of any sound deadening. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, as one needs to understand where the company stood when the 911 R was produced.
You could go back as far as Porsche’s participation in the 1951 Carrera Panamericana, in an effort to understand the origins of the company’s top performance machines. As a result of their third-place finish in the 1954 race in Mexico, Porsche’s marketing department decided to use the name ‘Carrera’ for their top performing 356 model. When the 356 was replaced by the 911 in 1965, no Carrera model was introduced, and it was left to privateers to race the 911 S in competition. Vic Elford was instrumental in persuading Porsche, and in particular Baron Huschke von Hanstein, to develop the 911 for rallying and with his surprising results, those at Porsche sat up and took notice.
It wasn’t long before a 2-litre 6-cylinder engine from the 906 race car was installed in the 911 and, with all standard body panels exchanged for GFRP panels (saving 172kg), the 911 R was born. This sounds like the end of the story, but it was not quite so simple, as von Hanstein sought to maximise the marketing angle of this development. Factory drivers, Vic Elford, Hans Herrmann and Jochen Neerpasch, brought a 911 R (fitted with a Sportomatic gearbox) across the line first in the 1967 Marathon de la Route, the tortuous 84-hour endurance event held at the Nürburgring in August that year. Towards the end of the year, a 911 R set a clutch of world records at Monza: the 15,000km record fell after 71 hours; and after 72 hours the next record fell with the 911 R maintaining an average speed of 209.947km/h for the period. Additional records of 10,000 miles and the 96-hour records followed. The detail with which this remarkable achievement is described in the book is quite outstanding, not to mention entertaining!
In essence, the book explains in impressive detail, with period photos and superb studio photography, the development of the 911 R from an idea through to its racing achievements. The importance of the 911 R is often underestimated in Porsche’s overall rise to motorsport domination in later years, but this small band of 20 cars played a significant role in that journey. In its time, the 911 R was a mix of engineering progress and lightweight manufacturing, right in keeping with Ferry Porsche’s ‘light and nimble’ philosophy. Easy-to-read graphs show where weight was shaved off compared with the standard model, engine performance data, period press releases, cut-away illustrations, race circuit maps and much more interesting information in addition, is presented to the reader.
Over time, much of this history has been forgotten, but in 2016 the spirit of the early 911 R was revived. The story of the 991-based 911 R in many ways mirrors that of its forefather almost five decades earlier, and the authors have done a sterling job of presenting and illustrating this. With the use of design sketches, testing photographs and 3D graphics, the reader gets the best possible idea of the development path that lay behind the new model. From body and aerodynamics to materials, interior, exterior colours, engine and drivetrain, suspension and steering – in fact every aspect of the new 911 R is explained in great depth, in an easy, flowing manner. It is not difficult to imagine that covering the newer model is somewhat easier than the older model, simply because of the availability of a plethora of material, but the authors have covered the two models in equal measure.
At the back of the book, a separate section gives the production details of every 991-based 911 R produced. There are colour charts giving all the available paint options, and a separate section is devoted to the production process of the new 911 R. The amount of information and detail is just right, not too technical but enough to give the reader a good idea of the workings of this great car.
When the original 911 R was produced back in 1967, just 20 units were made. This was a very limited run as the model then was intended purely for the track, and would therefore be bought only by racing drivers. When the new model was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016, a total of 991 examples were planned for production as this model would be sold as a roadgoing model.
As mentioned, the presentation of the book is truly superb. From the high-quality and attractive slip case that this book is housed in, to the very last page of the book, the quality of this publication will impress. The book could be described as a magnificent piece of design work as the style of the presentation and layout is tasteful and clear, without garish and unnecessary highlights or colouring.
If you are a Porsche enthusiast, this book is worth every penny of the investment you will make, as it outlines the origins of the 911’s motorsport heritage. There were of course other 911s that were raced back in the mid-60s, but the 911 R was the factory’s first serious commitment to motorsport with the 911. Concerning the new 911 R, the authors put it this way in the Foreword: “It is remarkable how such a culture can be reinterpreted again and again over such a long period of time. This is testimony to the belief that an honest and genuine concept can inspire anyone who encounters it. Including us.”
For the serious Porschephile, this book is an absolute essential addition to your bookshelf. In fact, this book is as important to your automotive library, as the ‘R’ was to the 911’s rise to prominence in world of GT racing. With just 1500 numbered books printed, readers wanting to get a copy had better get moving, because they won’t be sitting around for long!
Christoph Mäder, Georg Konradsheim, Thomas Gruber
T.A.G. Motor Books GmbH
29 November 2017
978-3-9818419-5-4 (English edition)
26 x 29.9 cm (book); 27 x 31 cm (slipcase)
384 pages (2 special acetate foil pages with photorealistic 3D illustrations)
553 photos (428 colour, 125 b/w); 49 illustrations; 135 images of period documents
Brown leatherette with stitching and simulated hounds tooth pattern
Silver with embossed, red stripes
€387.00 incl. 7 % VAT
Written by: Glen Smale
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