Porsche 911 Performance Handbook 1963-1998, 3rd Edition. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
There are few cars with a history as long as that of the venerable Porsche 911. Now well into its fifth decade of continuous production, the German icon stands as a benchmark for all other manufacturers of sports and GT cars. One of the elements that makes the 911 such a remarkable success story is the fact that its basic shape, design, and layout all remain true to the original concept. This rather unique distinction means that there are a lot of 911s out there, and that almost any one can find a used one that will fit their budget.
Many an enthusiast grew up reading the barrage of magazine reviews and books dedicated to the 911, and due to the wide range of variants of the car, such materials were readily available. The subject of this review is titled Porsche 911 Performance Handbook 1963-1998, and it is the 3rd edition of this expansive guide to be published by Motorbooks International, as part of their popular “Motorbooks Workshop” series.
Author Bruce Anderson is one of the foremost Porsche 911 experts on the planet, so if ownership of one of the air-cooled cars produced from 1963-1998 is in the cards, you will want to peruse this latest edition of his performance guide. This book is not a restoration guide, but instead, represents a resource chock full of proven advice and techniques for those 911 owners seeking to maximize the true performance potential of their prized rides.
Even dedicated Porschephiles will relish the 911 history lesson provided in the book’s first chapter, as the author has compiled a wonderful chronological review of how the car evolved from the initial model 901, through its many variants.
Prospective buyers should read the second chapter at least twice, as the author proclaims that “buying a previously owned Porsche 911 can be the beginning of a long, pleasurable relationship if you do your homework.” He suggests that you take the time to do some research about the particular model you are interested in, as arming yourself with knowledge of technical specs, production details and build codes will help you “select a good, solid car.” It is also suggested that you have a knowledgeable Porsche mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection of potential candidates, as this simple step may keep you from buying “someone else’s problems.”
A clever two-page chart proves a handy reference when wading through the multitude of model designations and nomenclatures for the 36-year period covered in this book. Due to the incredible competition history of the 911, the chart also includes the dedicated race models as well.
Technical mavens will appreciate the expansive third chapter which examines the development and evolution of the potent flat-six boxer engines that provide the motivation to all 911s. Again, a comprehensive eight-page table that lists the basic technical and power specifications for every 911 produced during the air-cooled years caps off this chapter.
Engine rebuilds are a major endeavour with any car, but due to the long service of the flat-six design, some variants have proven more reliable than others. We also learn that the power plants in some of the lower volume models were designed to operate so close to the limit that they require more careful, and regular, overhauls. The author examines various engine components and is careful to point out some of the more common issues that may arise as well as offer potential solutions to overcome them.
Making significant modifications to a Porsche engine requires more thought than doing the same to a domestic V8, as aftermarket components are often of lesser quality than Porsche factory ones, and performing such work may also effect reliability. Anderson looks at some of the most common tweaks in chapter 5, and works his way up the displacement ladder along the way.
The 911 has always been an enthusiast’s dream car, as handling and driving dynamics are the foundations of the recipe that has kept this car on the road for almost a half century. As a result, it is no surprise that the author devoted a lot of ink to the discussion of the various suspension, brake, wheel and tire options available for 911s from this period.
The final section of the book is devoted to transmission details. A flip through this chapter will educate the reader about some of the gear ratios and design parameters that correspond to particular 911 models.
It was nice to finally get a definitive explanation of the operation of the “Tiptronic” transmission, as well as a look at its forbearer (the short-lived Sportomatic), and even the long development history of its eventual replacement, the PDK.
The icing on the cake is the addition of a number of useful appendices at the end of the book, including my favourite, Appendix 1, which reveals production figures for every air-cooled 911 model produced.
If you have already cleared a space in your garage for a used 911, then the purchase of this book would be money well spent.
Porsche 911 Performance Handbook 1963 -1998, 3rd Edition