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The Complete Book of the Porsche 911.


Randy Leffingwell.
ISBN 978 0 7603 3939 8
Published 2011. (Hardback, 288 pages).
Review date Jan 2012.
Book on the Porsche 911

UK RRP 30.

Buy this Book:
The Porsche 911 has been around in various forms since the early 1960s, so there has been plenty of opportunity for books on the subject to grace the shelves of book shops everywhere. This title, by Randy Leffingwell and published by Motorbooks in 2011, brings the story right up to date with the most recent chapters of the 911's enduring story.
To understand the 911 though requires a grounding on the cars that came before it, and the lengthy introduction chapter does just this, describing the early prototype 356s and production cars - the coupes, speedsters and cabriolets - with the text accompanied by a good selection of black and white photographs, which I think are of recent capture rather than of the period. From the very beginning, the 356 design was tweaked and pulled in different directions, resulting in a wide choice of models being offered to an eager and receptive public. The design proved to be long-lived too. The first cars rolled off the lines in the late 1940s, and the 356, in "C" guise, was still in production in the early 1960s, by which time a replacement was soon to be offered.
Chapter one guides the reader through the First Generation cars, ie those of 1964 to 1969. The first cars recognisable as a 911 were actually referred to as the 901 and 902, but for reasons covered in the book, a switch to 911 and 912 had to be made so as not to upset another manufacturer. As with its predecessor, the 911 would soon be offered in a variety of different specifications. Closed coupes and Targa (open) top versions would appear in Porsche agents before long, with models such as the 911S (1967/1968) briefly making an appearance. The development of competition cars, such as the 911R, also feature, again accompanied by well re-produced images taken in recent times of restored cars. Unusual one-off variations add to the story - not least the four-door 911 that was custom-built by one customer, and a one-off Roadster built by Bertone as a styling exercise.
The next series of cars, from 1970 to 1977, come under the spotlight in Chapter two (eg 911T, 911E, 911S, plus the Carrera and Turbo versions), with photographs and specification tables accompanying the main body of text. As before, a large number of clear, colour, photographs illustrate this section, with road and race cars again featuring. Many of the colour schemes offered in that era appear quite lurid to 21st-Century eyes, but not all Porsche owners in the seventies wanted to stand out from the crowd, a photograph of a beige 911 Targa being a case in point.
In 1975 the stunning 911 Turbo, with its wide-boy rear arches and whale tale, grew gasps of excitement from the young and not-so-young at its launch. Whereas now even many humble shopping trolleys feature forced-induction under their bonnets, in the '70s it was still the preserve of exotic machinery such as the 911 and BMW's 2002, and mastering such a tail-happy beast, in the days before computer-controlled everything, couldn't be assumed. If the fire-breathing 911 Turbo was too much of a handful, the more genteel Porsche owner may well instead have opted for the re-introduced 912, in "E" guise, a four-cylinder fuel-injected version which combined the 911's look with a more manageable powertrain. Once more this chapter rounds off by taking a look at some of the racers, which for this era included the 930, 934 and 935.
The book continues with the evolution of the 911 into the late seventies and early eighties, while Chapter four dwells on the mid-late eighties, a time when no self-respecting city trader in London would be seen without a 911 parked outside his or her trendy apartment. The 911 was no longer the preserve of sportscar fanatics and admirers of fine engineering, willing to adapt to its unusual pedal layout and rear-engined handling traits. As a car-mad teenager, I well remember the giant poster I had on my bedroom wall of the 959, a 450bhp monster designed with an eye firmly planted on motorsport success, Group B and endurance rallying especially. Photos of roadgoing and Rothmans-liveried rally examples both feature within this book's pages.
The later cars of the 1990s are veering out of the true "classic" era for me, and while they're superb cars in their own right, are a little out-of-scope for this site. Suffice to say, the Carrera 2 and Carrera 4, the Turbo, and the cabriolets are all adequately covered, as are the GT1, GT2 and Ruf-modified cars. By the time that water-cooled 911s, factory name 996, take over from the air-cooled types, I switch off, but enthusiasts of the marque will no doubt find these later evolutions of the theme just as interesting. The final chapter takes the story up to 2010, to the current range. It would perhaps have been interesting to read of how the current 911 fits within Porsche's overall product group, which now includes the Boxster and Cayenne to name two, but that's only a minor point.
There are plenty of Porsche titles in motoring bookshops, and many of them concentrate on the 911, either looking at the series as a whole or with regard to specific models only. This book does a good job of not only telling the story of the pre-911 years, but describing the evolution of a car that, at its launch, no-one would have believed would still be in production, albeit in much-altered form, so many decades later. This is a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in this car.
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