1973 Porsche 911E Targa

1973 Porsche 911E Targa

Porsche and carburettor fan Ajmal Mahmood has always lusted after an early 911. Today we let him loose in a pre-impact bumper, fuel-injected Targa. Words Ross Alkureishi. Photography Tony Baker.

‘I’ve heard stories of going through a hedge backwards’ — reader’s 911 trial

The List Reader Ajmal Mahmood gets a long-awaited drive in an aircooled Porsche 911E

Your dream drive made real ‘I love how it puts power down – it’s so smooth and refined’

Some people know exactly what they want; take Classic Cars reader Ajmal Mahmood, who wrote in supplying a dream drive List that included a very specific Porsche 911. His request read, ‘Porsche 911 Targa (early, glass screen, fuel-injected model)’. That specificity had me playing the car-sourcing equivalent of Tinder for two months, via both the classifieds and my Porsche contacts. Ah, a pre-impact Porsche 911, dang, it’s a carburetted T – swipe left; Porsche 911 Targa, ’75 impact bumper – swipe left; 1972 Porsche 911E Targa, glass window; it’s perfect, but the dealer is not interested. Damn, swipe left, again.

1973 Porsche 911E Targa

Karma though, always rewards the tenacious, and 1973 911E Targa owner Stuart Macleod has thankfully provided us with our swipe-right moment. As I arrive outside his home, both reader and owner are kicking the tyres of Stuart’s stunningly restored car and deeply involved in 911 conversations.

Finally, I have have the pleasure of meeting, the exacting Mr Mahmood. I interject during a suitable lull and immediately ask him to justify his choice – no pressure. ‘I’ve driven lots of cars with carburettors, but I wanted to try one that would have a better and smoother power delivery, and a more consistent experience each time,’ he explains. ‘Other non-FI cars that I’ve had in the past have been a bit hit and miss, and stuttery, and I’d heard great things about this mechanically fuel-injected 2.4.’ Fair point – all is forgiven.

1973 Porsche 911E Targa

We spend a few minutes taking in the Targa’s slim, low-slung hips and delicate styling details. ‘I just love the look of this car. I’ve always lusted after an early 911, but the nearest I’ve ever got is a toy when I was a child,’ explains Ajmal. ‘Compared to cars of today, it’s so compact and I like that. The new 911 is huge, even compared to my 996,’ he continues, gesticulating across to the one he arrived in. ‘I prefer driving small cars for fun.’

Preference noted, it also becomes clear that in classic and modern classic terms our reader is a brave man. ‘I bought the 996 sight-unseen. I sorted the search results by cheapest and bought the first one that came up, for £6550. I wanted to prove to a friend it’d make a great, affordable everyday sports car, and it has.’ He even has a YouTube channel, Flat Cap Driver, in which he documents one or two of his cars’ adventures. ‘I had less luck with a Boxster I bought off eBay, though…’

‘Compared to cars of today, it’s so compact and I like that. I prefer driving small cars for fun’

Time to get our man into the driver’s seat. Thus inserted, Stuart shares some final preparatory instructions, ‘Don’t rush the gearbox, it responds best to slow and deliberate shifts.’ Ajmal says that the interior feels very familiar, before making an admission that explains why. He’s been a bit of a cheeky boy – since writing to us he’s only gone and bought a Porsche 912.

‘Mine is left-hand-drive though, and has a dog-leg gearbox and fewer instruments.’ Nonetheless, it should make for some interesting comparisons. ‘This car’s interior is great but by this model year a lot of the brushed metal finish of earlier years had gone, and I’ve always liked the hockey puck type steering wheel. It is period-perfect though, save for some timing additions on the dashboard that Stuart has added for gentle classic rallies, which I like, and I can’t believe the original radio works.’

Ajmal fires up the flat-six and it immediately settles into a reassuring, offbeat, air-cooled tickover. We venture slowly out into the Oxfordshire countryside. The roads are damp and leaf matter abounds – surely not the perfect combination for acclimatising yourself to someone else’s early 911?

We’d best start off in a straight line, so we head for the nearest dual carriageway. Once there, I pull into a lay-by and gesture for play to commence – fly my pretty, fly. The rear end squats and the diminutive Porsche tears off down the inside lane of our chosen A-road. Five minutes later, and he’s heading back in the opposite direction. He gives another thumbs up and it’s followed by multiple, repeat Teutonic shuttle runs.

Pulling over, he unloads enthusiastically, ‘I love how it puts the power down. The responsiveness of the engine is of course, much greater than my 912, but it’s just so different in terms of how it delivers it; this is so smooth and refined. I’m really surprised just how quickly I’ve become comfortable driving it. Being a right-hand drive car with a regular five-speed gearbox helps, I guess, but I’ve acclimatised almost immediately. All the controls feel very mechanical, with a good weight to them – very similar to my 912 in that regard, as you’d expect.

‘Stuart’s advice regarding the gearchanges is spot on, because I may have crunched second gear without it. Third doesn’t give the reassuring “click” to say that it’s in and that made me a bit nervous initially, as did just how far forward first and third are – I haven’t got to fifth yet. My hand has hit the dash a couple of times. The brakes in older Porsches take some getting used to because of the way the pedals come out of the floor, but I’ve been driving my 912 for a while now so I’m used to them – although my car’s aren’t servo-driven; the 911E’s still let you know you’re in an old car, but they’re very sorted and inspire confidence. The other thing is that the difference in weight distribution is noticeable immediately, even here on a straight road.’

That should make corners interesting. We head off the main thoroughfare and delve deep into the woods, and a long B-road snaking its way malevolently up a hill. The dark-coloured Porsche stands out beautifully at this time of year against the multitude of autumn orange tones, as it climbs at first slowly and then with more gusto. Stuart is behind me in convoy in his modern wagon and I glance momentarily in my rear-view mirror, wondering if he’s saying a quiet prayer, but his face remains firmly composed.

I can sense Ajmal’s confidence growing, but he’s still safely well within the car’s limits and simply enjoying the ride. An upcoming tight S-bend sees him brake before he accelerates through, the 911 taking the change in direction in its stride without needing a repeat visit to the anchors midway through. As the trees break, we pull over into a car park.

‘The roads feel really greasy, and it doesn’t help that it’s been drizzling recently,’ says Ajmal. ‘I’m taking it very easy on the bends and I’m observing the rules of driving an old 911, where you brake as you come up to the corner and then accelerate through. I’ve heard too many stories about going through a hedge backwards! I had to brake even harder before that S-bend to ensure that I could accelerate all the way through; in a mega-powerful car, you’d be carrying some serious speed through the second part and if you lost it, you’d be in big trouble. Even though this has a relatively long wheelbase, I can really feel the weight being that much further out over the rear wheels. The steering also feels heavier than my 912, which is a surprise because the tyres and wheels are the same size – again, it must come down to that — distribution.’

Back in period, Stuttgart recognised the 911’s propensity to succumb to the pendulum effect if the driver lifted off the throttle mid-corner and so in 1969 extended the wheelbase by 57mm to counter this. Stuart points out the telltale notches on the rear wings, just above the sill lines, before popping the boot lid and revealing the engine compartment.

‘Whoa, in my 912 the engine is pretty much sat over the rear wheels, and I can almost stand in the engine bay, there’s so much room. It’s no wonder I can throw it around a lot more. Not here though, you can see how much tighter it is and how much further back the weight is,’ says Ajmal. ‘Actually, as a historic race or rally car, the 912 is preferable,’ agrees Stuart. ‘The handling is more predictable, even if the power output is lower – you also sit in significantly lower competition classes. ‘I’m not sure about the chrome trims on the wheelarches. And I can’t decide if I like the trim along the sill, but these are minor considerations.

‘Values of these cars are insane now, but it’s worth whatever someone is going to pay for it. I’m not bothered by all that matchingnumbers stuff, so I may be in the market for something crusty, patinated and with a crazy back story at some point in the future.’

Back out on the road and conditions are drying up, which allows Ajmal room for energetic play. We retrace our steps, before heading on a loop back to base. It’s a combination of gentle sauntering, and harder edged roads. As we pass through one village, we hit the school run and a hefty bit of stationary traffic; a carburettor-fed classic would no doubt be huffing and puffing, but the fuel-injected Porsche doesn’t miss a single beat. As we pull up back onto Stuart’s driveway, and Ajmal hands back the keys, it’s time for reflection. ‘The driving experience has been very much as I expected to a certain degree, but the smooth, refined delivery of the power and the comfort with which I could get in and move along the road came as a big surprise. I was perhaps expecting something more raw, smelly and noisy, but it’s been immensely enjoyable, nonetheless.

‘The great thing about the MFI is that it’s reliable every time you fire it up… unlike some carb-fed cars, which can flip-flop between the sublime and the ridiculous based on temperature, atmospheric pressure or the alignment of the planets!

‘I can’t decide if I’m disappointed by the refined part. My 912 – and up to a point, my MG – are raw and the noise, the smell and the slight feeling of, “I’m not sure I’m completely in control here, but I love it!’ may have been lacking, but perhaps that makes Stuart’s car more usable regularly and for longer journeys.’

At this point I realise that Ajmal has justified his choice of fuel delivery, but not why he wanted a Targa. ‘I’ve got the Coupé in the 996 and 912 and a convertible in my MGB, and I wanted to know if it was the best of both worlds.’ And is it? ‘I’m not sure, I think it’s neither one or the other, so I’d have to say that for the moment I’ll stick with two cars, or even three.’

Could it be that Ajmal has met his crush and in our game of automotive Tinder is going to swipe left? ‘On one hand I absolutely love the idea of being able to jump in the fuel-injected car whenever and enjoy it – it’s such a stunning car – but on the other hand would I miss the raw chaos of carburettors? ‘On final reflection, I think an early 911S has to replace it on my List. Perhaps I’m just a masochist.’

A day in the 911E has led to Ajmal tweaking his Porsche preferences. Elegant details mostly to our reader’s liking Ajmal and Ross discuss the pros and cons of fuel injection.

Model named after the Sicilian road race; used exclusively by Porsche Ajmal carries out a detailed comparison with his 912’s cabin. Instrument dials are a study in design simplicity.

TECHNICAL DATA 1973 Porsche 911E Targa

  • Engine 2195cc flat-six, sohc per bank, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection
  • Max Power 155bhp @ 6200rpm
  • Max Torque 141lb ft @ 4500rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: independent by MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, longitudinal torsion bars, anti-roll bar. Rear: independent by semi-trailing arms, transverse torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Ventilated discs all round
  • Weight 1093kg (2410lb)
  • Performance 0-60mph: 7.0sec
  • Top speed: 137mph
  • Fuel consumption 29mpg
  • Cost new £3992
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £36,000-£85,000
‘I’m observing the rules of driving an old 911 – brake before the corner and accelerate through it’
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