The 1974 model year marked the first truly significant change to the 911 since its launch some 10 years earlier. A response to increasingly stringent legislation from the US, it introduced a raft of subtle but telling improvements that would go largely unaltered until production ceased some 15 years later.
Chunky build numbers over that period make what is now universally described as the G-Series, although technically that designation only applies to ’74 cars, one of the most widely available, affordable and, in many cases, unloved 911s of the air-cooled era. But the progress made by Porsche for the G-programme created a safer, more powerful, tractable, refined and reliable 911, yet one still blessed with the unique characteristics that by now had won over the world.
With an ability to straddle the gap between the earliest short wheelbase cars and the more modern and, dare we say, less authentic-feeling 964, the G-Series might just offer the ideal 911 ownership experience today. And with prices still on the low side, relatively speaking, it might just do so at a bargain price.
The car you see here is a 1977 911S, kindly lent to us by Canford Classics, which recently performed a full engine and gearbox rebuild. As per standard S specification at the time, it’s fitted with the 175bhp 2.7-litre engine that marked a major step forward from the final 2.4-litre units of the earlier cars. Apart from the benefits of increased capacity, the 2.7 was also blessed with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, increasing efficiency and reliability and providing markedly smoother power delivery.
Externally, the major change for the G-Series and its descendants was the addition of Wolfgang Möbius’ ingenious impact bumpers, cleverly integrated so as not to spoil the 911’s basic silhouette and also effective enough to make a meaningful difference to low-speed impact. The look met resistance over the years, a contributing factor to this generation of 911’s weaker residual values, but with familiarity and time it has come full circle, now rightly admired as the deft design solution that it is.
This was a good period for paint and this example is finished in ultra-rare Coppa Florio Blue, a factory colour created to celebrate Porsche’s victory at the event of the same name in 1976. Offset by black Fuchs alloys and an original and equally impeccable cork interior and it’s proper 1970s Porsche done right.
Inside, the G-Series feels familiar, as it should, having accounted for quite so much of 911 production: bluff five-dial instrument binnacle, VDO instruments with those chunky orange needles and standard three-spoke steering wheel. Something that really connects it, and you, to the past is Porsche’s curious approach to ancillary switchgear at this point in its history.
The floor-mounted air-flow controls and choke make some sense when you consider where the engine is, but you could play ‘hunt the fuel cap release’ for several hours and the heater and ventilation controls necessitate a multilingual guide to be glued inside the glovebox. It’s what makes the early 911 a proper curio, and something that, once understood, famously makes it a part of you too.
On the move, the floor hinged pedals take some adjusting to, as does the long, slow action of the five-speed 915 gearbox. It’s a combination of initially awkward processes that really underline just how far the 911 has come, even in its first major transition to the immeasurably more modern-feeling 964. But like the heater controls, only tenfold, once you get your head around it the unique challenges pay dividends.
If you haven’t driven an early 911 in a while it’s immensely rewarding to rediscover the old magic. The way the steering loads up and the thin-rimmed, large-diameter wheel animates the road surface in your fists. The way the rear squats down under throttle and the front end goes light. The mechanical holler above 4000rpm as induction roar drowns out the whirr and chatter of transmission. The thrust in your back that suggests a car far younger than this 40-something. The confidence-inspiring brake feel.
There’s also a solidity to the G-Series that feels absent in earlier cars. Which is not to say it’s significantly safer, nor that these ‘later’ cars feel anything other than old themselves, but the developments in the cabin do make it feel significantly more refined and usable. Facing
the prospect of using an air-cooled 911 on a regular basis, as is their wont, it would be sorely tempting to plump for a post-’73 car. You get most of the visceral thrills and the sense of occasion, but with superior ergonomics, comfort and dependability where it really matters.
The inclusion of impact bumpers and the new interior design only added between 25kg and 35kg to these cars, and greater power output offsets that gain easily. And what a G-Series may lack in purity in the strictest sense, it more than makes up for in the sort of improved road-holding that allows you to push a little harder.
So what’s the catch? I’m not sure there is one. The only obvious caveat for the G-Series is finding a solid one as they’re all prone to rot, much like their forebears, particularly the pre-1976 cars that by and large escaped the zinc. Major metalwork threatens to put you into negative equity on a 911 whose final resale value, however good it may be, is always going to fall some way short of the more coveted early cars. But it’s entirely possible to find something solid with all the obvious due diligence.
As values for the earliest cars soar, and the more modern, less ‘classic’ 964 and 993 command improbable sums for an altogether different experience, that huge patch of Porsche production in between looks a shrewd hunting ground for the cautious but committed enthusiast. The G-Series can and does offer the best of both worlds and potentially for very sensible money. Heart and head seldom so readily align.
Huge thanks go to the team at Canford Classics.