June 6, 2013—100 days. That’s exactly the length of time that Wide Open owned the 1977 Porsche 911S. As many of you know, I sold the classic, silver “Neunelfer” on Monday. I took a lunch break and met up with Shawn, the buyer, to wrap things up. We had agreed to the price the night before and when I arrived he was ready to go, money in proverbial hand. The whole deal took about five minutes.
But I had decided to sell the car before it was even purchased. I’ve never been a 911 guy because I believe that the rear-engine layout is fundamentally flawed. German stubbornness and an inability to admit that Dr. Ing. Porsche got it wrong are the only things that kept the 911 alive during the early 1980’s (that and American Peter Schutz). The fact that modern-day 400hp 911’s don’t go sliding through turns backwards into horrible, fiery wrecks on a regular basis is more a function of traction and stability control than some inherent balance. However, die-hard Porsche fans tried to convince me otherwise.
Having spent about 7,000 miles in the 911 though, I actually did come to love and appreciate the car—the lightness, precise steering, an endless third gear, and the wonderful package. I also realized that the 911’s popularity is completely due to the combination of package and power.
“Package” is a term that describes how the occupants and systems are organized in a car. In the 911’s case, the package is amazing for two reasons: first, there isn’t an engine in front of you so the hood can be low and short, allowing drivers to put the car precisely where they desire because sight-lines are so much better. This is also true of mid-engined cars, but in 1963 how many mid-engined cars were there (let alone the 1930's when the concept behind the 911 was first developed)?
Second, the Porsche’s relatively upright seating affords a much more controlling position than many of its competitors’ more hunkered, leaned back arrangement. When compared to the majority of its rivals, the better view inspires more confidence in drivers (the same reason people enjoy driving SUV’s).
And there are legions of these drivers who believe the 911 is the greatest sports car ever. They also believe it is their sacred duty to convince you of this, ye of little faith. So when I told people that I bought the car to drive it round-trip to Amelia Island with no intention of keeping the thing, I was usually met with a look that was a mixture of disbelief and disgust, “wait... you bought a classic 911... and, and, and... you don’t want to keep it?!”
Then came the usual litany of reasons regarding why I simply HAD to keep the car—it’s a classic! It will only appreciate! It’s original! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S A 911!!!!! What’s wrong with you?! To which I’d usually reply in an indifferent manner, “Yeah, it’s cool. But I’d like to get something better and sharper.” Which effectively ended every single one of those conversations because, obviously, there isn’t anything better and/or sharper.
But Porsche-fan zealotry aside, even Porsche has admitted they got it wrong. That admission is embodied in the Boxster/Cayman—proper mid-engined sports cars. And frankly, there are cars that are better and sharper whose only shortcoming is lacking Porsche’s high-dollar European snob appeal (which is of paramount importance to Porsche’s 911 target demographic—Scarsdale dentists and Venice Beach producers).
The 1977 911S was certainly a fun car (as are all 911s I've driven) at a budget price; it has decent power and a great package. It inspires confidence in the driver and likes to be pushed. Yet, this isn't enough to overcome it's one major flaw: the rear-engine layout and consequential instability. And so as originally planned, I sold the car. The proposition is to replace it with something sharper and more predictable. If all goes as intended, we’ll have such a car in the Wide Open garage in a week or two. Stay tuned... [kiWO]
Have a thought on what our next car should be? Let us know on our Facebook page.