Porsche 911 Pushing 50

By Jason H. Harper - 2013-04-11T11:09:31Z

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

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Manual Steering

There’s no assist on the steering, and it requires considerable heft to turn the wheel, demanding two hands at all times. Any idle tug of the wheel elicits a directional change. Several times when I find myself looking at the landscape the car veers in that direction.

But on narrow curving lanes upstate, the car firms to the road and a slight tilt of steering wheel is all it needs to carve through corners. Shifting between third and fourth gears is immensely satisfying, with a smooth clink of gears. The engine sounds like an aged opera tenor with a four-packet-a-day smoking habit.

Perhaps it’s the effect of all that gas seeping into the cockpit, but I’m euphoric. The car feels alive. We’re blurring through the scenery, our butts seemingly hanging only inches from the asphalt. The feedback from the steering wheel transmits every crack and pebble on the road.

We’re not really going all that fast, though. I’m concentrating intensely when a Toyota (7203)passes us. The driver glances over. She’s on her mobile phone, steering with one hand, relaxed.

Modern cars are packed with computers and have efficient engines flush with power. I could navigate these same curvy roads in a new 911 at three times the speed and never feel like I was pushing.

But it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or involving. This is exactly why buyers spend months looking for that perfect, vintage, 911.

Left, this year is the 50th anniversary of the 1974 Porsche 911 model. The overall shape and rear engine placement remains the same.