/ 27 August 2023

Porsche 911 ST Tour de France revs to former glory

Seventies livery: Mechanic Jen Abbot and her team lovingly refurbished this 53-year-old Porsche 911 ST.

The Porsche 911 is a timeless classic that has won over motoring enthusiasts around the world. 

Considered one of the best driver’s cars ever made, there’s a seemingly endless selection of collector 911s which the motoring community has continued to drool over. 

This time around, I had the privilege of experiencing a local classic with an empowering story behind it about the mechanic who brought it back to life.

The Porsche ST Tour de France is a unique 911 with a story that begins in 1970. Almost all the manufactured models were different, as the cars were allowed to be specced individually for private use and competition. In addition, few were made, making the ST highly desirable.

Rallying was popular in the 1970s and Porsche was deeply invested. 

The ST was the car of choice. However, the already light 911 was in need of more weight-saving measures. So, out came the drill, and every­thing that could be made lighter was punched with holes or removed. 

Porsche’s biggest concern was the factory-entered Matra prototypes but it believed the robust 911 would outlast the Matras on the rough roads of the Tour de France.

To Porsche’s horror, it discovered, just before the rally, the French government had reworked the road, knowing the Matras would struggle with the rough surface. The 911 ST, driven by Gerard Larrousse, finished third, when it should have won.

What remains is a gorgeous 911 ST, in bold livery which speaks to the early 1970s, bringing us to this piece of history which I got to experience. 

Because the 911 ST is so rare, it is no surprise the model we were testing was a replica but don’t sell this car short. Jen Abbot, a youngster with a passion for racing, has taken it from a rotting crash wreck to something worth talking about.

Abbot, a mechanic by trade, works on restoring Porsches to their former glory and this special model is one of the many wrecks her team has brought back to life. 

Her 911 ST isn’t a showpiece as it  has seen its fair share of racing, competing in events such as the Knysna  Simola Hillclimb earlier this year.

As Abbot has made the 911 ST her own, she fitted a 2.9-litre MFI Magnesium flat-6 at the rear with a five-speed gearbox. This allows for a lighter and more responsive drive, while making a fantastic noise. 

The high-revving, lightweight motor screams as it opens up past 5 000r/min with a red line that seems to go on forever. It provides a linear, yet old-school, power delivery that has a strange ability to force a smile onto your face.

Handling is a big part of Porsche’s identity, and I found this was embedded in its history. This car is 53 years old, and even by today’s standards, it corners with precision with just a hint of a happy rear when you get overzealous.

The car was restored to closely resemble the original, from the wheel arches to the paintwork. The attention to detail is impressive — even the mini light rims in the back match the set of the original.

I’ve driven my fair share of classics and it’s refreshing to experience a car that so strongly represents its former glory in today’s modernised industry. 

It’s good to know this iconic car is still driven exactly as was intended 53 years ago, to appreciate how far Porsche has come over the years and to recognise what makes the 911 special, both now and in the past.