The Legend of the Porsche Speedster

Did YOU know the story of the Porsche Speedster?

356 Speedster Cover
Photo Credit: HERE

As many of you know, Porsche will be releasing a production version of the 991.2 speedster next month at the Geneva International Motor Show. But what many of you don’t know, is the history of the speedster, the essence of it. We see the low cut windshield, signature five spoke wheels, and the flying buttresses, immediately realizing that we are not looking at an ordinary 911, rather, a speedster.

991.2 Speedster
Photo Credit: HERE

While Ferdinand Porsche was imprisoned in France, his son, Ferry Porsche kept the family business going to fulfill his dreams of building a sports car under the Porsche name. As a result, the Porsche 356 was born. A car built for handling, acceleration, and braking, many Porsche enthusiasts consider the 356 to be the first true Porsche ever built because it was the first to be fully built under the Porsche name. All other “Porsches” prior were built under the name, Volkswagen.

The 356 speedster however, owes its existence to Max Hoffman, the only importer of Porsche’s to the United States in 1950. Hoffman was achieving great sales success at the time because of Porsche, so he suggested that they should make a car based on the 356 to rival the popular British sports cars dominating the market. He suggested that the new 356 should resemble a Jaguar XK120 and be more affordable than the rest of the 356 line. From this, came the Porsche Type 540, a 356 based sports car. However the Type 540 was far too heavy to be considered a sports car, so Ferry Porsche commissioned popular coach-builder, Heuer-Glaser to build the car out of aluminum. This made the production costs skyrocket. As a result, Porsche had to sell every car for $4,600, at a loss. Even with this price, the Type 540 was still $300 more expensive than the XK120. $300 in today’s money would be $3,193.64, a deal breaker for many people.

Max Hoffman Porsche
Photo Credit: HERE

Porsche discussed this problem with Hoffman and they agreed that a 356 cabriolet would do a better job as a basis, decreasing production costs by being built on the same production line as the other 356s. By removing some trim and weather protection, they decreased the price and reduced the weight of the car. A low cut windshield was made specifically to be removed for race weekends. The most noticeable difference with the Speedster and the normal 356 were the thin chrome strips that ran down the side of the car. To keep the price low, only a speedometer and a temperature gauge were standard. A heater and a tachometer were optional extras in order to keep the base price under $3,000 (typical Porsche options). The car also featured fixed-back bucket seats to add to the race theme. This new Speedster was an instant hit, especially in sunny Southern California. Production peaked at 1,157 cars in 1957, and started declining after until eventually being replaced by the 356 D in 1958.

356 D
Photo Credit: HERE

Make sure to come back when the 991.2 911 Speedster debuts at the Geneva International Motor Show in March, we will be following up on how Porsche continued the Speedster legacy with its 911. As always, THANK YOU FOR READING and come back next Sunday for a brand new article. Don’t forget to follow us on WordPress and share this article with your friends! Follow us on Instagram at rsreportblog and check out our Facebook Group, Porsche Enthusiasts United. Feel free to suggest new topics in the Contact page. Newly added on the contact page is a link to the Porsche Club of America website which you should definitely check out HERE! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to come back next Sunday!

Porsche’s Legendary Era of GT1 Racing: Part II

 

98 GT1
Photo Credit to @instacar_enthusiast on Instagram

After the two disappointing seasons for the 911 GT1 and GT1 Evo, Porsche decided that they needed an all new GT1 car that resembled more of a sports prototype. They wanted to at least match the performance of their rivals, the Toyota GT-One, the new V8 Mercedes CLK GTR, and the BMW V12 LM. The new car was dubbed the 911 GT1-98. The ‘98’ represented the year in which the car competed in GT1, 1998.

There were 2 standards for Porsche to reach. They wanted the car to compete and to be competitive. In order for it to compete, Porsche had to make at least one street legal version, a Straßenversion. That was exactly what Porsche did, they made only one Straßenversion in a pure white livery. Information is very limited about this car. After all, only one was produced. Porsche only brings it out to major car events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Estimated launch price was $900,000, just like the previous Straßenversion. You could buy ten 996 911 Carreras for that money.

GT1 98 Street
Photo Credit: HERE

For the GT1-98 to be competitive, Porsche fitted it with a 3.2 liter twin turbo flat 6 engine that produced 550 horsepower and 465 pound feet of torque. This monster of an engine was mated to all new sequential gearbox which allowed the car to shift significantly faster than before. The new double wishbone suspension helped the car corner at higher speeds and reduce body roll. It only weighed 2,095 lbs (950 kg) because all of the body panels were made out of carbon fiber. Even the chassis was made out of this wonderful material. It had a top speed of 193 mph with the high downforce setup. However, it reached 205 mph at Le Mans with a low downforce setup.

GT1 Speed
Photo Credit: HERE

Obviously this was no ordinary 996. The only parts shared with the 996 911 (the car that was supposedly the base of the GT1-98) were the headlights and taillights, just like previous generations of the 911 GT1s. Bob Wallek, a driver for Porsche, said “The GT1-98 has more grip, is easier to drive, conserves the tires, is faster and has a stiffer chassis.” Similarly, Porsche’s engineer, Herbert Ampferer, said,“The new GT1 was supposed to slim down by ten percent compared to the old one,” referring to the weight of the car.

Porsche knew that the GT1-98 was slower than its rivals, most noticeably the Mercedes CLK GTR. The air flow restrictions were unfavorable for Porsche because their engine was turbocharged, unlike the CLK GTR’s new naturally aspirated V8. However, luck was on their side at Le Mans in 1998. The Toyota GT-One was troubled with gearbox reliability, the BMW V12 LM was out of the race because of wheel bearing problems, and the Mercedes CLK GTR was troubled with the oil pumps for the new V8. Porsche had a clear opening for a win and they took a one-two finish at that year’s Le Mans, making it their 16th win, a new record. That’s Porsche reliability for you.

GT1 98
Photo Credit: HERE

Trouble struck at the Petite Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. Yannick Dalmas, the driver of one of the GT1-98s, was speeding through a crest as air caught the underbody. The force of the air acting on the underbody coupled with the mid mounted flat six caused the car to do an entire backflip in mid air and land on the rear bumper, causing the tank to crack and light the car on fire. After the backflip, the car veered into the side barriers. Yannick Dalmas came rough unscathed. In 1999 the CLK GTR had the same crash and in 2000 the BMW V12 LM had the same crash in the same race as the 911 GT1-98.

The golden era of GT1 was over that year, all manufacturers pulled out the series and only Mercedes remained. The new FIA GT championship was overridden with GT2 cars. Porsche could have competed, but they decided not to defend their lucky win at Le Mans in 1998. After that, only LMP prototypes won and recently Porsche raced their 919. Please leave a comment if you’d like to hear about the 919 next week!

As always, THANK YOU FOR READING and come back next Sunday for a brand new article. Don’t forget to follow us on WordPress and share this article with your friends! Follow us on Instagram at rsreportblog and check out our Facebook Group, Porsche Enthusiasts United. Feel free to suggest new topics in the Contact page. Newly added on the contact page is a link to the Porsche Club of America website which you should definitely check out HERE! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to come back next Sunday!

Porsche’s Legendary Era of GT1 Racing: Part I

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When I was a child, I was a massive fan of Hot Wheels. It fueled my car obsession before I had discovered Top Gear. I collected them for many years, but one car always stood out to me. It didn’t look like any other car I had seen before. The aggressive low cut front end, the vented hood and wheel arches, the roof scoop, the extended wheelbase, the massive ducktail and high rising wing kept me wondering what car it could have been. All I could recognize were the 2 “fried egg” headlights from the 996 911. But as I peered underneath the car to discover the plastic under tray with the make and model I discovered that, yes, it was in fact, a 996 911. But the three characters in front of 996 911 were the ones that confused me. What could GT1 possibly mean? Why did the car look completely different just because GT1 was added to its name?

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Photo Credit: HERE

GT1 was a form of FIA Championships in the 1990s. Porsche made 3 GT1 based cars during this era of legendary racing. The first GT1 car was based on the 993, the second was based on the first one with minor revisions, and the third was based on the 996. These 911s would have to race against some of the most important names in Le Mans history, such as the McLaren F1 GTR, the Mercedes CLK GTR, and the Toyota GT-One. These cars were the pinnacle of the automobile, the absolute extreme of what the manufacturers could achieve. The reason behind these three new GT1 cars being produced was the disappointing season for the 962. It was too outdated and could not keep up with the competition. The F1 GTRs were dominating in the Le Mans endurance race and Porsche could not endure being on the losing side. The 993 911 GT1 was born.

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The 993 911 GT1 was introduced in 1996. Nobert Singer, who had been responsible for every Porsche that had competed in Le Mans, was given the 993 911 and the objective to make it a Le Mans monster. He took the front end of a 993, attached it to a custom built tubular frame and a monocoque chassis. Then he attached it to the rear of a 962 to produce this Frankenstein of the car world. It had a watercooled twin turbo 3.2 liter flat six that made 590 horsepower and 479 pound feet of torque. The flat six was mounted longitudinally and was connected to a 6 speed manual transmission. It reached 100 kph (62 mph) in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 307 kph (191 mph), however during Le Mans the car achieved 320 kph (205 mph) on the La Sarthe straight. To help achieve this, all of the body panels on this car were changed; the only parts shared with the original car were the headlights and taillights.

 

Even the staple of the 911-its rear mounted engine-was moved to become mid engined in order to aid weight distribution and aerodynamics. The 993 911 GT1 was revealed to the public at the 4 Hours of Brands Hatch endurance race and took a 1-2 finish. It finished 5th overall, and third in its class.

During this era of FIA regulations, manufacturers were forced produce at least one production car for the race car to be based on. Instead of Porsche wasting their time producing the next generation of 911 and not focusing enough on the GT1 car, they decided to produce a “Homologation Special” called the 911 GT1 Straßenversion (which translates to street version).

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Photo Credit: HERE

The Straßenversion had the same twin turbo 3.2 liter flat six, however it was detuned to 532 horsepower , mainly because of emissions regulations in Europe at the time. The ground clearance was increased, the suspension was softened and the car was given a more comfortable interior. The difference in the 0-100 kph (62 mph) time was 0.2 seconds; from 3.7 seconds to 3.9 seconds. Even though regulations called for 25 cars, Porsche produced 23 units of the Straßenversion; all were sold to the public with one being delivered to the German government. As for the price, a clean $912,000 out of your bank account.

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Photo Credit: HERE

The new GT1 car was mechanically identical to the previous GT1 car. Minor revisions led to the name 911 GT1 Evo (Evolution). The biggest difference between the old GT1 and the GT1 Evo were the new headlights and taillights, which previewed the next generation 911 lights, also referred to as the “fried egg headlights.” The aerodynamics were revised in order to increase downforce and reduce drag. The wing was adjustable based on top speed or handling preferences and it weighed only 1,050 kg (2,310 lb).

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Photo Credit: HERE

Unfortunately, the car was plagued with reliability problems and did not cover the full race distance. This motivated Porsche to work harder and smarter for the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship and boy, did they deliver with the successor of the GT1 Evo, the 996 based GT1-98. Make sure to come back next week to hear the exhilarating story behind it, including nearly fatal crashes and increasing competitiveness between the manufacturers participating.

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Photo Credit: HERE

As always, THANK YOU FOR READING and come back next Sunday for a brand new article. Don’t forget to follow us on WordPress and share this article with your friends! Follow us on Instagram at rsreportblog and check out our Facebook Group, Porsche Enthusiasts United. Feel free to suggest new topics in the Contact page. Newly added on the contact page is a link to the Porsche Club of America website which you should definitely check out HERE! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to come back next Sunday!