One of the many things Porsche owners boast about is their air cooling which “neither boils nor freezes.” With a Porsche Super 90 to test in the middle of winter it seemed an excellent time to see if the car is really that docile in snowy surroundings-and incidentally whether the prospective S 90 owner could expect his bomb to perform on less violent days around a ski resort, for instance.
The fact that a Porsche will out=handle, out-perform and one-up just about anything in its class is no news.
The fact that the Super 90, the hottest pushrod Porsche they offer will do all that and still behave like a Iamb when you can’t get it over 2,000 revs in the snow (in second yet), is equally impressive. This latest version of the Stuttgart flat four had all the diamondlike luster we expected on the open highway but it was equally willing to potter between hotel and ski lift with the top down, never choking, fussing or missing a beat under conditions that are completely foreign to itâ€”to wit, slow drives.
This is doubly noteworthy in a S 90 because this mill is well-and-truly tuned. The Super 90 replaced the Carrera de Luxe and they had to apply all of the extensive Porsche background to promote 90 healthy horses from 1.6 liters of pushrod engine. That was pretty close to a Carrera value a few years backâ€”without the expensive handfitted engine and overhead cams. The manner in which the ponies were bred is a major part of this tale.
A quick peek under the lid shows item number oneâ€”two giant double Solex carbs from the Carrera line. They are mounted on “semiram” intakes that feed new heads with better flow and larger intake valves. Compression was boosted and higher, fourring pistons fitted into special cylinder barrels that have a sprayed steel coat to promote smoother break=in and longer life. The blower puts out more cooling air. They also fitted lighter pushrods, stronger valves, beefier valve seats and stiffer springs.
That was enough to raise the 75hp Super to 90 hp but it isn’t the Porsche way to hot up the top end and let the bottom struggle. Porsche wouldn’t buy a shorter motor life so they reworked the entire bottom end too (or rather the middle in an opposed four). Main bearing caps are stronger and of sturdier stuff on the faces and the con rods are huskier.
The sum is an engine that will boost a luxurious two seater up to 113 mph and do it calmly as if that were the normal thing. You have to keep an eye on that big central tach to stay out of the red zone, the power* plant is so eager. Incidentally, conditions prevented our usual top-speed test but the factory had recently run this exact car, top up, and recorded 123.5 as an average. It was fully believable, allowing for speedo error.
Our own acceleration figures point up one Porsche habit. They are not prone to get off the mark like a shot, but once rolling the rush of push is all there and then some in the 90.
The bodyâ€”a cabrioletâ€”was naturally the 356 B design introduced in late 1961. This means bumpers raised 3 inches in front and 4 inches in the rear, higher headlights, brake cooling vents under the front bumper, new light-metal brake drums with axial cooling ribs and an improved water seal, new gearbox and a dished steering wheel with black rim, to name the highlights.
The fresh air rent in front of the windshield gives ample ventilation to the passenger compartment. A new low fuel tank gives a larger luggage space and brings the fuel filler spout outside of the car. An electric clock is standard in all models. A gear shift lock has made the car even more theft proof.
Those brakes are a typical Porsche trick. Previous Porsches were noted for fine braking but that wasn’t enough for Zuffenhausen; they made them better and fitted Energit 999 linings to boot. Similarly they went after the gearboxâ€”which was always considered one of the best features in a Porscheâ€”and made it better. The handle is shorter and thicker and angled toward the driver. The throws from cog to cog are shorter too and it is literally impossible to beat the Porsche-patent synchromesh.
Shifting is only one driving pleasure with these cars. The steering is precise beyond belief, though a little heavier than you might expect. Forward vision is good and the black instrument dials are round, large and right where the driver can take them in at a glance. One minor complaint is the ash tray spotted under the center of the dash where it skins your knuckles on fast shifts from II to III. The pedals are well placed though the acceIerator=return spring was stiff enough to tire the ankle on partthrottle cruises.
Comfort is beyond belief in the reclining seats and the padded and trimmed top is absolutely draft and leakproof. Closed, the car is fully as weathertight as a coupe. The top is not a one-hand opener (nor closer) though one man can manage it with a little skill applied. Like all rag tops, the car is blind to the rear quarters, but that is a small price to pay for such a true allweather vehicle, and the two mirrors were properly placed.
The heater is another realm where Porsche improved the marque with the 356 B. It is a hot=air model, off the engine, but it puts out all the warmth you can use in belowafreezing weather. Unfortunately, the knob, located ahead of the shift lever, has to be turned endlessly from off to on.
The car is certainly a two=seater, despite the improved occasional seats in the rear. Porsche gained some 2 inches of headroom back there but anybody larger than a child would still be cramped. Besides that, the real luggage room is behind the front seats. With the rear scat backs folded down there is plenty of space for touring luggage for two.
And finally, the handling. Old Porschists will be astounded with the B line. The tail-wagging-the-dog feel is gone and the car remains neutral right up to the border. In this realm the Super 90 is even better than the new Normal und Super with its compensating spring that softens the ride (softer torsion bar used with it) but holds the wheels on the road better.
Text by Jerry Sloniger from 1962 original Porsche brochure you can download in our downloads section