Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

The 911 story

Here are some snippets about the Porsche 911: I make no secret of the fact that Porsche is my favorite make, though many of the new Porsche’s are not my favorite cars. Let’s get them out of the way first. The Panamera is a fat pig. It reminds me of an overweight, bloated buffalo. Why is there such a car as the Cayenne? And the Cayenne Turbo is even more nonsensical. Goes like a 911 on steroids with a carrying capacity of several adult humans, three children and two weeks of grocery shopping - but why? Are there really people who want supercar performance in a supermarket shopping trolley? Wouldn’t they just rather have a Porsche sports car and a Fortuner for the shops?

Early 911

But of course, the mystique of Porsche goes back to the immediate post-war era, the days when it was the mechanics who deliberated as to whether a potential customer even deserved a car. If the person was unable to change the unsynchronized gearbox without grating the gears - he did not get one!

In 1950, Professor Porsche turned 75 and a huge meeting of Porsche owners met in front of Castle Solitude near Stuttgart to honor him. He responded by walking through the ranks of cars and shook hands with all the drivers. About 12 months later, he suffered a stroke and died on January 30, 1952. At that point Ferry Porsche took over the responsibility for design.

Thinking outside the box was the norm at the Porsche works, and when they ran their rally cars on the autobahn (governed by the US Military Police in 1951 with a 50 mph speed limit) they made themselves special plates with “Test Car” on it which exempted it from the blanket ban. However, the “test cars” were actually competing in a rally!

The 911 has carved itself a place in motoring history, being a car that conventional engineering design claimed was “wrong”. With the world’s motor cars being at that time almost universally front engined and rear drive, how could a sports car with the engine in the rear hanging out behind the rear wheels and the gearbox possibly work?

1973 RS Carrera

The previous model, the 356, broke enough design rules - the new model would have to work, and in the tradition of excellence pioneered by old Professor Ferdinand Porsche. It was also hard to imagine how any new model would be more popular than the 356, which had sold 76,303 cars by the time it was phased out in 1965.

After many designs were rejected, the 911 gradually began to take shape, with a flat six with a triple Solex carburettor and a single overhead cam on each bank of three cylinders. A forged steel crankshaft and dry sumped oil circulation was settled on. A true racing specification. However, before the new six cylinder car reached production, there was a problem. Code named the Porsche 901, it was shown for the first time at the Frankfurt show in 1963 and it was then that Porsche found that Peugeot had the rights to all three number combinations with a zero in the middle (remember the 203?). The new Porsche was then renamed the 911. But as all those who have had older 911’s will tell you, the engine number was 901 XXXXXX, with the number 901 cast into the engine block.

Right from the outset, the new 911 proved itself to be a competitive car. In January 1965, in its first international competition showing, the 911 won the 2 liter class in the Monte Carlo Rally.

As the years went on, the 911 engine progressively grew in capacity to 2.2 liters, then 2.4, 2.7 and then 3 liters, and this was all done by enlarging the bore, the stroke remained the same at 70.4 mm.

By 1973, the road going RS Carrera was delivering 230 bhp and the performance figures were zero to 100 km/h in just over five seconds. That supercar performance was almost 40 years ago! However, with all the development of the 911 series, Professor Porsche’s maxim of “only replace something good with something better” was rigidly adhered to.

The name ‘Porsche’ is synonymous with engineering excellence and has attracted millions of aficionados over the years. I had one friend in Australia who was a salesman in the Porsche dealership. He maintained, “I don’t have to sell Porsches, people come in to buy them.”

And of course, no article about Porsches can be written without including the wonderful joke about the lady in the Porsche showroom who felt the burning desire to break wind. Opening the passenger door she sat in and let nature rip, to suddenly find a salesman was sitting in the driving seat. Trying to get over this embarrassing situation she stammered, “Just how much is this Porsche 911?” He replied, “Madam, if you farted just sitting in a 911, you are going to sh*t yourself when you hear the price!”

Stop-Start traffic is the answer?

Has the Bangkok traffic for many years had the answer to fuel economy? Sit in any of Bangkok’s thousands of taxis and watch the driver turn off the engine when held in traffic. The simplistic approach being that the vehicle uses no fuel when the motor is turned off, therefore the fuel economy improves.

Mini Cooper D

Bosch is now doing this electronically. Called “Idle-stop” it switches off a petrol engine when the vehicle comes to a halt and re-starts it when the driver is ready to move off. (Bangkok’s taxi drivers currently do this manually with the ignition key.)

Bosch is very sure that this fuel-saving technology will become standard fitment in Europe, with an 85 percent take-up by 2014. Already, this technology is being used in some models by Toyota, Citroen, Fiat, BMW, Mini, Hyundai, Mazda, Kia, Mercedes and Volkswagen, and available in some areas of the world. One example of the fuel consumption that can be recorded with idle-stop is in the Mini Cooper D, a diesel model that uses just 3.9 L/100 km.

Bosch claims that it might seem like pure electric is not far away, but in their point of view it will not come tomorrow - there is still a long way to go with the combustion engine.

Other fuel saving improvements would include smaller capacity engines with turbo or supercharging, cylinder deactivation, variable valve actuation, improved ignition control, direct injection, better exhaust gas treatment including re-circulation and better transmission controls.

Bosch predicts petrol and diesel engines will still dominate sales around the world in 2016. Its data suggests hybrids will grow, but will not outsell ethanol flex fuel and LPG/CNG in Europe and the US.

An example of this stop-start technology is used in the Honda Insight Hybrid. To prevent unnecessary fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, the Insight’s gasoline engine is turned off when there is no need for propulsion or air conditioning. During typical deceleration, the regenerative braking and fuel cut mode begin as soon as the driver begins to decelerate. When the engine speed slows down to about 1000 rpm, regenerative braking will stop, and the driver will typically switch into neutral.

If in climate control mode this will also affect whether or not idle-stop is performed. In Auto mode, the engine will be allowed to continue running to operate the air conditioning compressor. In Economy mode, idle-stop may occur, possibly causing the air conditioning compressor to temporarily stop.

Another example of Stop-Start is in the BMW 1-Series when fitted with hybrid technology, in this instance called Stop-Start. This is the Bosch system again, by which the engine shuts down at idle when making frequent stops during city driving.

BMW projects an 8 percent improvement in fuel economy with this system, and a significant drop in tailpipe emissions. Simplicity of the components was specified by the BMW engineers; fancy batteries or sophisticated drive-train components were not considered. The engine cycling on and off had to be seamless, with durability to match.

Of course, while this technology might work well in the colder climates in Europe and Japan, in South East Asia with high ambient temperatures all year round, the comfort zone in the traffic has to be maintained. As mentioned before, if it is possible to turn an air-conditioning compressor with battery power, air-conditioning no longer depends upon the running of a petrol engine, but as described by Honda, even in their Economy mode, the engine may have to restart, making the idle-stop system not as applicable here.

Of course, this system is really not new either, and indeed most ‘new’ technology is merely refinement of an older one. The following was sent to me by auto enthusiast Jerry Coffey, suggesting I hearken back to 1933 and the Auburns in the US. Jerry wrote, “The 1933 Auburns had a key start. All one had to do was turn the key. You didn’t even have to twist it over further. It was an electrical device called “Startex” mounted on the firewall under the hood. It not only activated the starter, but would restart the engine if the engine stalled. For example, if the engine was cold, or you let the clutch out too quickly on a hill and stalled it. It was great when it worked as intended, but it sometimes got out of adjustment. Startex was used on other premium American cars of the era for a couple years but was later discontinued. I had a 1933 Auburn and remember working all afternoon with my dad trying to adjust it!” Thanks Jerry.


Autotrivia Quiz

What was this car before it got a sari? It was, of course, the 1953 Morris Oxford which became the Hindustan Ambassador.

Autotrivia: It is so difficult to produce questions that are not immediately answered by Mr. Google, so I asked, what was this car before it got a sari? It was, of course, the 1953 Morris Oxford which became the Hindustan Ambassador.

Take the sari off this car