23 Mar 2014
A Porsche 911 anniversary.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Porsche G series or "big bumper" 911 models.The big bumpers were introduced to meet US market 5 mph collision rules.These were part of a package of car safety rules mandated after the public response to Ralph Nader's book-"Unsafe at any speed" which took the US motor industry to task for its unsafe products and in particular the very wayward handling of the rear engined Chevrolet Corvair.Sadly the rules were hastily conceived and executed and in particular the 5 mph collision requirements.
The G series cars were fitted with shock absorbers behind the bellows on the bumpers on US market cars but these were not fitted for other markets to save weight.
One can only imagine the angst the 5 mph collision requirements caused Porsche as they had to corrupt the beautiful flowing lines of the 911 with these ugly devices.It must have been the cause of much handwringing and teeth gnashing.The task of redesigning the car fell to new chief designer Tony Lapine who had come to Porsche from GM after Butzi Porsche had left in the Porsche/Piech family "shakeout".
The G series were not that well received when shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October 1973.Press comments at the time were very polite but that was characteristic of the times anyway but beneath the politeness you can detect a distinct feeling of disappointment .And the reception got worse when significant price hikes and a rather disappointing engine line up was revealed.The switch from the lusty mechanical fuel injection and carbs to the new emissions friendly Bosch K-Jetronic (CSI) fuel injection was also a factor.Just over 5000 911s were sold in the US market in 1974-a very poor sales performance.
Part of the problem was that the G series marked a change in the 911 philosophy.Previously the 911 was a lightweight,svelte and rather edgy sports car.The new safety laws and emission requirements in the US and European markets meant that the 911 had to change to a more refined,heavier and less edgy product.Also the 1973 oil crisis had meant that for the first time there was a realisation that petrol supply was a major concern - so it was not a good time to move to bigger engines particularly for the European markets.
Gradually the market accepted the G series -- more powerful engines helped this process and fuel supply anxieties faded -and the big bumper cars became a sales success through the 1980s.
Seen above are three examples of early G series cars photographed by me last weekend.On the left -a 3 litre-in the centre my 2.7 and on the right a very preserved 3.2 SC.