It landed on my desk one day, unannounced and unexpected. The package was large and covered in stickers and labels, suggesting that there was something important contained within. Indeed, a frantic exercise followed to open the mystery package, and to my surprise it contained the book, Porsche 911 ST 2.5: Camera Car, Le Mans Winner, Porsche Legend, by authors Thomas Imhof, Jürgen Barth and Michael Keyser.
There are some cars in the glorious past that you can stand and look at, admire, and just imagine quietly to yourself how the piece of machinery before you wrote itself into history around the famous race tracks of the world. Such races, and tales of winning against all the odds, are what inspire young drivers to want to follow a career behind the wheel of a race car. But all too often, those victories and tales of heroism are tinged with reality, the long days and nights preparing for innumerable races, and sometimes the hardships of accidents and disappointment.
The story of Porsche’s involvement in motorsport is known by most, but in that long history, certain race cars can be singled out as significant, or where those cars succeeded in international competition against much more powerful cars. One such story is that of the 911 ST 2.5 chassis #911 230 0538, a car that has lived two lives, surviving a hard racing life, a near four-decade period of obscurity, and potentially the unthinkable – a car crusher! Fortunately, the determination of a pair of Swiss 911 hunters resulted in the successful story that is contained within the pages of this fine book.
In the authors, Thomas Imhof, Jürgen Barth and Michael Keyser, you have two of the car’s pilots who drove this 911 in period, and who battled fender-to-fender with the best in the world. Barth and Keyser brought this car across the finish line first in class in 1972, in the world’s toughest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This 911 is also the only 911 to have successfully competed in all rounds of the World Championship races in 1972, from Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen in America to the Targa Florio, Nürburgring and Le Mans in Europe.
What also makes this 911 ST 2.5 so special, is the fact that it served as the camera car for the movie, ‘The Speed Merchants’ which was produced by the car’s owner and one of the authors, Michael Keyser (a DVD of the movie ‘The Speed Merchants’ is included in a pouch inside the back cover). In fact, in addition to his involvement as a racing driver in this car and film producer, Keyser’s life also included writing several other books. The background as to why his race team was known as Toad Hall Racing…, well you will have to read the book to find that out. The yellow 911 brought Keyser a number of victories, all of which can be found in the comprehensive Race Record at the back of the book.
Jürgen Barth’s contribution to the book is considerable, from personal photos from the ‘70s, to entry lists, time sheets, race results and period correspondence. From his place behind the wheel of the yellow 911 to his own skills as an author, Jürgen Barth has injected a very personal account of what it was like driving the car. In his own words, he refers to the “…romantic but also very dangerous period in motorsports history.” In this comment, he was so right, as the book is filled with so many fantastic images of racing in ’72, where the spectators would sit along the roadside during the Targa Florio, and on the pavements in the villages where the cars would fly past them at great speeds. Those days, probably never to be repeated, are brilliantly brought across for the enjoyment of the readers through these seldom seen images.
It is quite common today to find many images simply recycled in one book after the other, but not here. With Michael Keyser being a film producer and author, he was never far from a camera, and he too has brought a vast amount of his own archival images to the pages of this book. In images alone, this book is a gem, but it also contains such personal accounts in various races by Keyser and Barth from behind the wheel, enriching the story of this very special 911.
But the story is not just about this yellow 911 in its heyday, the account includes an unbroken timeline of this car’s life up until the moment it was discovered abandoned and heading for the crusher. The story continues with its journey back to Europe where it was restored by Porsche Classic, the experts in originality at the Porsche factory. From there the car re-entered public life in the hands of its new owner, whose intentions include showing this important race car in suitable historic events.
Before diving into this book, I had the incorrect perception that this might be just another book filled with pretty pictures of a former race car (albeit with significant history). But no, this book offers a truly fascinating look through a window into the past, where racing cars were really driven hard with the aim of winning races. If those race cars were lucky, they would live on in some lesser races until they had become so uncompetitive that they did actually disappear into obscurity…or the crusher. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
Thomas Imhof has written a number of books for this publisher and has also translated several others besides. Imhof has done an excellent job of pulling this history together, and compiling an interesting, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable book on the history of a hugely significant race car that lived a hard, but successful life. You don’t want to be caught without a copy of this book in your library, get a copy now, you will be glad you did. I know I am…
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