I’ve always respected but never quite been a fan of P.J. O’Rourke’s favorite AENSC, the Porsche 911, but our Editor in Chief pro tem is indeed a fan of that car, or at least of the classic air-cooled variety, if not the more recent versions (or, for the matter, the company that makes them). Hence, last summer when I saw that the Concours of America at St. John’s had, as two of its judged categories, Porsche 911 Early 1963-1978 and Porsche 911 Late 1979-2013, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Porsche icon, I knew that I’d be able to get lots of photos of 911s powered by boxers bereft of wasser for the EIC’s enjoyment and yours as well. The cars pictured here span almost the entire 1963-1997 run for the air-cooled 911. The oldest one pictured here is a 1964 Cabriolet prototype, one of two extant 901 prototypes (the car was renamed before it went on sale to avoid a conflict with Peugeot, who objected to the three digit name with zero in the middle). The youngest is a 993 Targa from 1997, the final year for the air-cooled 911.
In addition to the street-going 911 cars, I’ve also included photos of some other significant air-cooled Porsches, Peter Gregg’s 1977 Brumos Porsche 934.5, which won the Trans Am championship that year, sort of, and a 1964 Porsche 904, the midengine car Porsche built to go sports car racing in the mid-1960s, also known as the Carrera GTS, and a 906, which was developed from the 904.
The Brumos 934.5 has a great story, with a race winning quasi-championship provenance. As you might guess from model number, it’s a bit of a hybrid. Based on the FIA Group 4 Porsche 934, as built by Porsche it had the wider rear wheels and wing from a 935, and was powered by a 590 hp 3.0 liter flat six with a KKK turbocharger. Porsche built 10 of them and Brumos Porsche owner and racer Peter Gregg bought two of them. He sold one to a customer and was going to use the other as his personal racer. This is where racing politics entered the story.
After its 1975 season was dominated by the 934, IMSA, in an attempt to appease major American sponsors, changed the rules, effectively banning the Porsche. Teams running that car moved to the SCCA’s Trans-Am series for the 1976 season. The quality of the IMSA fields dropped and it wasn’t a successful year for the sanctioning body, so for 1977, they invited the Porsche teams back. Gregg drove a 934 equipped with the 935′s tire package and wing at a special test session for Jim Bishop, who ran IMSA. Bishop decided that the car wouldn’t dominate and approved it to run in IMSA’s ’77 season. The SCCA similarly approved what would be known as the 934.5. When Gregg showed up at the April IMSA race at Road Atlanta, though, he’d added more 935 parts and IMSA sent him home to revert the car back to how it had been tested. Instead, Gregg went to the SCCA who approved the modifications and more. He went on to win six of the ten Trans-Am races that season, winning the championship, at least according to the SCCA at first. The FIA, the international auto racing body, though, disagreed.
One of those six winning races was when the Trans-Am series stopped at the Mosport track in Canada for a six hour endurance race that was part of the World Championship of Makes, ultimately under the jurisdiction of the FIA. A racing rival, Canadian Porsche dealer Ludwig Heimrath protested Gregg’s 934.5 to the FIA which ruled against Gregg eight months after the race. Porsche didn’t care and published a championship poster.
Suffering from a progressive and incurable disease of the nervous system that stopped his racing career, Peter Gregg took his own life in 1980. The late Dave Aase, who dismantled Porsches in southern California, bought Gregg’s 934.5 to use as a showroom display. Current owner Bob Weber had first seen the car when Gregg raced it at Road America in 1977. ”I was a kid at the fence in 1977 at Elkhart Lake, watching this monster belching fire and tearing around with a whoosh,” he recalled. “It made me want to own a Porsche turbo someday.” He saw it again, in 1993, at Aase’s shop and finally in 2004 he was able to fulfill his boyhood dream and buy a very special Porsche turbo. Weber then entrusted former Brumos team member Paul Willison with a show-winning restoration to how it was as raced by Gregg.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallac view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS