This is not a Leica story. But it is about an equally revered German brand — Porsche. I am very fortunate to own two classic Porsche 911s and this is a story about one of them, my 1977 2.7. If Macfilos editor, Mike, is interested I will write the story of the second car, a 1971 2.2 911, for publication later.
My enthusiasm for Porsches started at a very early age when I was given a Dinky Toys model of a 356. It was cream and I remember it well as my younger brother acquired an identical model which I suspect that he still has in his attic. I must remember to ask him one of these days.
From that early start, I have closely followed the progress of Porsche and, in particular, the company’s motorsport participation until today. I have a big library of Porsche-related books. My working career was in the motor industry and, although I had a close association with many great brands including BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Peugeot and Ford, working for Porsche always eluded me. Pity.
In 2000, I was in a position to indulge my passion for Porsche in the metal and full size when I acquired my car. It was not my dream Porsche but it was an affordable Porsche and it was a 911 — a 1977 2.7.
There are few models of the Porsche 911 which are not now highly revered. But the 1974-78 2.7 probably falls under that heading and I believe that poor reputation is now undeserved. The early 2.7s did suffer engine problems in the first few years of their lives but if a 2.7 is still going strong today then you can be pretty confident that the original problems have all been long ironed out.
Big bumper car
Another issue faced by the 2.7s was that they were the first of the so called “big bumper” cars and the engines in the US had very basic emissions control gear. The big bumpers were a response to the US 5-mph crash requirements but, coming after the very elegant long-nose cars the 2.7s were seen as less attractive. The early emission control gear on the US market engines did nothing for the driveability and performance of the 2.7 engine, so this also tarnished the reputation of these cars. But, fortunately, it was only the US market engines that were fitted with this performance throttling gear.
My 1977 2.7 passed the 215,500 kilometre mark last month. When I bought it in 2001, it had done 159,000 km — so I have travelled 56,000 km in it in the past 19 years. Not bad for a car which is not a daily driver, particularly since it shares my affections with another Porsche.
I bought it cheaply from a used car dealer on Sydney’s Parramatta Road. It was in a very tired, sad condition. The yellow paint was faded and chalky. The car was dirty. There were lots of small problems caused by the lack of maintenance and TLC. Worst of all, it was a Sportomatic — a strange semi-automatic transmission which was quite clever but is now rather unloved and very difficult to repair. It had stood unloved and ignored on the dealer’s yard for many months and I had watched its asking price come down and down as I drove to work. One day I made them an offer that they were only too pleased to accept
Sounds like a bad buy? Well, above all else it was very original and unmolested which was rare for a car of its age in Australia. Many have had flares added and wings tacked on, among other abominations. It had an almost complete tool kit, the original space-saver tyre and original compressor and complete original books — although the service history was incomplete for the previous five years. It even had original yellow NSW registration plates which looked crude but which I retained until five years ago when the NSW government introduced a very favourable scheme for historical vehicle registrations with neat white plates. And it was a beautiful yellow, although the paint had seen better days.
The car was imported into Australia in April 1977. The first recorded owner was Maree, the spouse of the only Sydney Porsche dealer at the time, John Newall, who ran it for six months. I suspect that it was also the dealership demonstrator at the time. Then it was owned by the head of a major advertising agency for ten years and who gave it a hard life and who smoked heavily — hence the nicotine-stained headlining. Fortunately, though, the smell has long gone.
I set to work to turn this rather tarnished jewel into a good driving car and in the first four years, a lot of mechanical work was done to put it into shape. The biggest change was pulling the Sportomatic out and installing a 915 five-speed manual gearbox in 2002. I also had the original factory air-conditioning completely rebuilt and it now works really well. But it was an expensive way to cool the car and today I would have ripped it all out and fitted one of the off-the-shelf kits from the US.
In 2016 the original paint was cut and polished and some repainting which was done by one of Sydney’s best classic car paint shops. The interior is totally original and I have managed to acquire a working, 1977 Porsche-branded Blaupunkt radio/cassette player to replace the 1980s Pioneer radio/CD sound system.
I was told very early on by one of Sydney’s premier Porsche specialists, well known for the quality of their work and the size of their invoices, that the engine was a “grenade” — just waiting to explode. Since then it has done numerous hill climbs, rallies, sprints and regularity trials and notched up 56,000 kilometres. That engine has not been touched and it is still only using “normal” amounts of oil. Some grenade, some engine.
The old 2.7 drives very well, is usually reliable and it is reasonably quick and, thanks to the Bosch CIS fuel injection, it is surprisingly economical.
Was it a good buy? Well, I could have bought a better car for much more money at the outset and avoided all the rebuilding costs. But the journey has been fun and I ended up with a car which I really know and which I love driving. And it’s yellow.
The article is illustrated with photos of the car taken over the past 19 years. When the lockdown is over, one of the first things I am going to do is get the Porsches out of the garage and fire them up and take each of them out for a drive. In the meantime all I can do is sit in the garage, start them up and rev them until my spouse complains. Then I dutifully switch them off. Frustrating but still better than a Dinky Toy.