Let’s look back a few years: When the first Porsche appeared in 1948, it was little more than a hotted-up VW beautified by a streamlined coupe bodyâ€”made of aluminum at that timeâ€”produced in very small numbers in very small workshops at Gmund in Austria. The 1131-cc, air-cooled flat-4 engine had been talked into producing 40 bhp, the transmission incorporated that remarkably solid crash box good for a) delightfully professional, doubleclutched changes, or b) changes without any use of the clutch, or c) the production of horrible noises without apparent ill effects, and the brakes used the original small VW drums. Top speed was around 87 mph, and the car soon got a reputation for “difficult” cornering because of a strong addiction to oversteer. To the surprise of many, this modest themeâ€”just like that of the VW itselfâ€”proved capable of fantastic development. After Porsche had returned to Stuttgart, large-scalc production methods were adopted, and numerous improvements made later models faster, quieter, more refined and led to better handling and reliability.
The most obvious development concerned the push-rod engine. Enlargements first to 1300 and then to 1500 cc brought racing units which, when fed with alcoholic beverage, produced up to 98 bhp (DIN measurement, i.e., with all accessories and silencer) and propelled coupes and open 2-seaters at speeds exceeding 125 mph.
For some time these engines collected success after success, but in 1952 Ferry Porsche and his staff realized that, for serious racing, the days of the simple pushrod unit were numbered. A completely new, flat=4 engine of 1500 cc was built, air cooled again, but incorporating 4 overhead camshafts; the result was an initial power output of 115 bhp at 7500 rpm.
In an open 2-seater, driven by pre-war ace Hans Stuck, this engine had a few experimental sorties in 1953; entrusted to Hans Herrmann, it made its first successful bid for top racing honors in the 1954 Mille Miglia, where it delighted its creators by placing 6th overall and winning the i50occ class. Even today, the racing career of this design is anything but over, as the 1961 Porsche GP team started this season with a fuel-injected version credited with about 165 bhpâ€” nearly 50% more than the original design target.
In the same year of 1954, this engine also commenced a second career which, as far as the private Porsche owner is concerned, is of even greater direct interest: It was installed in one of the Austrian-made aluminum coupes and appeared in the Liege-Rome-Liege, one of the toughest Iong=distance rallies ever; driven by Polensky and Linge, it beat the entire competition and came first in general classification.
The winning potential of this combination was so convincing that series=production was decided; christened “Carrera” in honor of the Mexican Road Race and recognized as a “series-production GT car,” it has since distinguished itself in countless events.
The Carrera, produced first with 1500, later with 1600 cc, was meant for the driver interested in serious high-speed motoring. Many Carreras never faced a starter’s flag, and there was really not much point in preferring the more sophisticated engine and its exacting demands on maintenance unless the superior performance in the upper speed range could be exploitedâ€”the pushrod units were cheaper to buy and to run, less noisy and, in daily use, just as fast. One Carrera specialty merits recording: To this day, all pushrod engines have been cooled by virtually the original VW fan. This was not good enough for the 4 ohc engines, for which a powerful blower with twin rotors was evolved; at high revs, huge quantities of air were expelled underneath the engine, which on dry roads produced the most spectacular clouds of dust and a distinct “atmosphere of racing.”
As the years went by, even the big touring cars got more power and began to trespass into performance regions hitherto considered private Porsche hunting grounds. To enable the air-cooled fraternity to keep in front, even in straight-line acceleration, something more powerful than even the Super go was desirable. The 2-liter “Carrera 2″ was the answer.
This model was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the fall of 1961; its body has all the latest modifications mentioned in R&T’s December 1961 issue (larger window area, modified front hood, freshair inlets ahead of windshield, external fuel filler cap, twin cooling air inlets on engine cover), while the chassis specification is identical to that of the Super 90, with its rear swing axle with transverse equalization leaf spring. In other words, body and running gear are modified in detail only; it follows that in comparison with the Super 90 and the 1600 (tested by R&T in March ’6o and October ’61), no radical departures are to be expected.
The only thing completely new is the engine. Porsche has often been named among those constructors who are wizards at achieving results which others (or theory) consider impossible; when it was decided to provide plenty of torque at low speedsâ€”for real accelerationâ€”and smooth, flexible running, even the fathers of the Carrera agreed that this could best be achieved by a little more displacement: When the 4-ohc engine was first laid down, it had already been decided that the design should permit a maximum size of 2 liters, and this then was the volume selected for the Carrera 2. With 92-mm bore and 74=mm stroke, it is decidedly oversquare; its peak power of 152 bhp (SAE rating) at 6200 rpm is definitely below the figure attainable by this unit in racing tune; maximum torque comes at 4600 rpm on a long, flat curve. In the interest of smoother running, longer life and easier maintenance, bearings arc plain throughout, in contrast to the early models’ roller bearings for the mains and connecting rods.
Our test car was fitted with the “European” gearbox; for cars supplied to the U.S., standard ratios in 3rd (1.227) antd 4th (0.885) are slightly “slower,” in the interest of a little more pulling power.
As explained previously, we did not expect any surprises from the chassis; when we threw our test gear into the back of the car, we were prepared to find a well-known package in which only the new engine would merit special comment. In a way, we were right, because all the well=known features are there: the very comfortable Reutter seats, the quick gearchange, the familiar surroundings and, above all, the unmistakable feel of a quality car built for the connoisseur. But we did have a pleasant surprise. Apparently the “unchanged” chassis has again been subject to subtle detail development, which makes itself felt as soon as one takes the wheel. The steering is a little betterâ€”improved response with reduced vibration feedbackâ€”and there is unmistakable progress in the way the car keeps glued to the road at all times. There is better stability under fierce acceleration, at full speed and under heavy braking, and experiments like braking in a corner can result in a slightly ragged line but practically never bring real trouble.
It is likely that part of this improvement must be credited to the late-model “round shoulder” tires but, whatever the reason, the balance is perfect.
This is not useless luxury. The high torque promised on paper is certainly there, and when climbing wind= ing mountain roads it is very easy to accelerate out of a corner with too much steam; under conditions such as this, the exceptional controllability is quickly appreciated.
The car’s acceleration is truly exhilarating. The clutch takes quite a bit of throttle without protest, and when one finds that it is time for 2nd gear, down comes the stick in a flick, more acceleration, and other cars pass by as if in reverse. High up in the speed range, this is itâ€”the effortless superiority of the true high-performance machine.
Performance figures are almost exactly as claimed by the manufacturer. Best recorded speed was 126 mph (Porsche says 124.5) and our acceleration times were just slightly slower than those given by a graph included in the specifications. Unfortunately, our test car was wanted “back as soon as possible,” so we had no opportunity to check the fuel consumption. However, we have reason to believe that owners will find it easy to get better than the minimum 16.8-mpg figure indicated.
In the body department, the most notable innovation concerns the fresh=air intake, combined with electric fan and a separate heater which is situated in the front compartment, ahead of the battery. This combination is effective and (at last!) permits windshield defrosting without running the engine; it has the amusing peculiarity that, after switching the engine off, the burner continues with burbling noises until all the fuel previously aspirated is used upâ€”which may lead to uninitiated parking lot attendants calling the fire squad when faced with a car obviously about to explode! At present, no figures are available concerning the additional fuel consumption of this heater but, anyhow, the extra comfort is worth something.
Points of criticism: When we first laid eyes (and cars) on the new engine, in the autumn of 1961, we were struck by a silkiness totally unusual for this kind of power unit. It was therefore with high expectations that we approached our test car. But these expectations were not entirely fulfilled: There was too much noise inside the car, and the engine appeared to have that certain roughness well remembered from older Carreras. In fairness, we must record that we tried a preproduction model, so we can only hope that this peculiarity will have disappeared on the cars supplied to customers. A second remark concerns the body as a whole. It is certain that Porsche has never tried to be “a la mode” and bless it for thatâ€”but after 14 years with an almost unchanged shape, even the accustomed eye begins to notice some signs of age. The instrument panel, for example, is higher up than is usual nowadays, and visibility could only benefit from a lower waistline.
Also, of course, the rear seating compartment remains impossibleâ€”at least for grown=upsâ€”for distances over 5 miles. No doubt comparatively small production figures do not invite frequent body changes, even less so when the existing shape has many proven advantages and a solid following, but, in spite of this, we feel that Porsche should start to look aheadâ€”if it hasn’t already done so.
As a whole, the Carrera 2 is certainly one of the most desirable GT cars produced today; it is not cheap, and maintenance will not be quite as easy as on the simpler pushrod versions, but it should delight the owner looking for a car of high quality and exceptional roadworthiness.
Text by Hansjoer Bendel from original Porsche brochure you can download from TBP