The Art of Reduction
Is it possible to build a car today with the same ideals and inspiration of half a century ago?
The two models have now met for the first time. Nearly half a century of
“My car is like a ballerina,” says Johan-Frank Dirickx, a Belgian collector and owner of a 1967
That is how Dirickx describes the two-liter flat-six sports car that he bought in the United States in 2007. Its 210-hp engine has to propel a weight of only a little over 800 kilos. For the new 911 R, the power-to-weight ratio is even more striking. Its four-liter flat-six engine—the one from the 911 GT3 RS assembly, to be precise—churns out 500 hp, and the car weighs 1,370 kilos with a full tank. No other model in the current 911 series is lighter. “You hear its power as soon as you start it up, and you feel its lightness and agility as soon as you pull out of the garage,” says Andreas Preuninger of the
The technology is as immediate as that in a race car. You hear the gears kick in and feel the clutch engage while the naturally aspirated engine sends cascades of sound rolling through the cockpit. For weight reduction reasons, the 911 R doesn’t have any noise insulation materials or heavy-duty foil that would otherwise envelop the interior. Carbon and magnesium body parts and a titanium exhaust system are additional examples of the consistent lightweight construction, as is the absence of air-conditioning and stereo systems. “It’s our motorsport take on a connected car,” says Preuninger. That means that the 911 R delivers the most direct interface between driver and car in order to enable immediate sensation and dynamic agility. Dirickx knows what that’s like in his old 911 R. “Twice a year I rent a private racetrack just to have fun with my car,” he says. “The driving sensation is unparalleled.”
Dirickx could drive his seductively understated car on public roads, but he doesn’t really enjoy that anymore. Experts estimate the value of the car at around €3.5 million, and apart from a few additions it is still in original condition. Although it has only around 40,000 kilometers, it is a citizen of the world. This 911 R was the one that Vic Elford presented to the press on the Hockenheimring in December of 1967.
What about the lap times on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring? “We didn’t time the car because we didn’t build it for the racetrack,” says Preuninger. These days there are a number of high-tech systems that make cars faster on tracks, but also heavier. Components of this type, such as a lightning-quick double-clutch system (PDK), were out of the question for the 911 R. Purists will rejoice, because what are a few tenths of a second compared to the joy of your hand on the gearshift? And the car was given a completely retuned six-speed manual transmission. If desired—and Preuninger highly recommends it—
A limited edition of 991 of the new 911 R will be built in Zuffenhausen, and Dirickx has already ordered one, because it is exactly the kind of sports car he loves: one that moves quickly, nimbly, and powerfully, like his vintage 911 R. And because he likes the understated design, which is in keeping with that of its 1967 predecessor. As such, the new 911 R embodies the very essence of the 911 model series, not only in its technology but also in its visuals. These include the classic wiry chassis, the 20-inch center-locking lightweight wheels, and, if desired, the double dark-red or signal-green stripes that were favored on the cars of half a century ago.
The newcomer almost leaves the impression of being the first 911 R in all these years to have matured to perfection. There’s nothing more that could be left out of this car—and that is precisely what makes it so complete.
By Sven Freese
Photos by Stefan Bogner