1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3

Tracing the genesis of race-bred 911 designed for the road

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Ferdinand Karl Piech, the ex-VW group CEO and the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, is an icon who turned Volkswagen into the automotive giant that owns a multitude of prestigious brands. As he famously stated "All I ever wanted to do was build cars" and his early days at Porsche proved he was pretty damn good at it. One of the best examples to prove the same is the 1967 911R - the lightest 911 ever built!

The Origin Story

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3
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In 1966, just three years after the success of the 906 projects that became the basis for the iconic 917 Le-Mans winning racecar,Ferdinand Karl Piech was chosen to head Porsche’s R&D division, and boy, did he rise to the occasion! The 911 was a fairly new platform, but in that short time, it had already started showing its potential as an excellent all-around racecar with class wins at Le Mans and the European rally championship.

So, his first order of business as the R&D chief was to apply Collin Chapman’s philosophy and shed as much weight off the 911 platform as possible to create the very first race-bred high-performance 911 to take on the highly coveted GT racing series. They started with the 160-horsepower 911S as a basis. With racing mechanic, Rolf Wutherich, by his side, they started replacing all the unnecessary metal with fiberglass, which meant the new car had fiberglass doors, bonnet, wings, and plexiglass panels taking place of all the glass panels.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3
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The obsession for lightness was so intense that they ended up drilling holes into all the structural metal panels, and even the door handle and tail lights were replaced in favor of lighter plastic replacement parts.

By the end of this intense weight-shedding regime, they managed to bring the weight of the car to 1,763 pounds from the initial 2,270 pounds, giving rise to the first-ever 911 R which continues to hold the title of the lightest 911 of all time!

The effects of this intense weight loss regime were evident from day one. To round up the whole package, the 911 R received a more rev-happy, aluminum-headed, race-spec flat-six engine similar to the one used in the 906 and 910 racecars making 210 horsepower at 10,000rpm.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3
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At the end of the day, the car was brilliant, and Porsche’s racing manager and driver, Huschke von Hanstein, agreed that this car is as good as they come and had the potential to dominate the GT class. But, unfortunately, Porsche’s top brass was not very convinced, and at the time, the sales of the regular 911 were starting to plateau. So, the idea of creating 500 roadgoing examples to meet the homologation requirements did not seem like a wise financial decision for the board at the time, but they did not jump to this conclusion from the get-go.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3
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Porsche had coachbuilder Karl Baur build another 20 examples in a numbered production series - 118990001R-118990020R - and that’s when Porsche management decided to step in and pulled the plug on the whole operation. This left 20 lucky with the opportunity to get their hands on what was arguably the best road-going 911 of that era priced at 45,000 Deutschmarks.

Passing on the "R" genes

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3 High Resolution Exterior
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Though not a successful product on paper, the 1967 911 R laid the foundations for the creation of the famous 911 Carrera 2.7 RS from 1972. This not only proved to be an invaluable sequel to the 911 R and Dr. Piech’s vision of creating road-going versions of 911 race cars, but it was also a sales success that restored the faith of Porsche executives in the platform’s sales potential, and from there on, started the rich legacy of making the best track-focused road cars in the world.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The successor to the original 911 R came in the form of the 991-generation 911 R from 2016 and it is safe to say, it was a fitting successor that checked all the right boxes. The new 911 R comes with the 991 GT3 RS’ 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six, punching out 500 horsepower and 338 pound-feet of torque. At the time of launch, it carried a base price of $143,600. Given the history, Porsche was worried about the sales success of this car, but fortunately, this one was all sold out before the first car even left the production line.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3 High Resolution Exterior
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It wasn’t because it was easier to live with or less hardcore; oh no, it was just as raw and visceral as the original. Looking at the modern 911 R now, people even with strong and varied opinions will all agree that this is perhaps the best 911 of this century, and for good reason. It employs the same lightweight mentality as its predecessor and utilizes bespoke lightweight elements such as a magnesium roof, plexiglass quarter windows, etc. Even an optional flywheel is available that’s so light that lets you hear the gear latch when the clutch is engaged. As for the weight, at 3,021 pounds, it is the lightest of the modern-day, street-legal Porsches. The second part is the sounds this car lets you experience since it features little to no sound detinning in the name of weight-saving, which exposes the occupants to a whole host of great mechanical noises like the induction noise and the sounds of various valves and actuators that are missing from virtually all modern cars, no matter how extreme.

1967 Porsche 911R - The Grand-Daddy Of The 911 GT3
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The success of the 2017 911 R prompted the GT division to create the 911 Touring, virtually a wing-less and sedate-looking 911 GT3 that is trying to capitalize on the success of the minimal approach that people loved about the original 911 R and its successor, which then trickled down to smaller cars like the Cayman GT4. In short, we all owe a great deal to Dr. Ferdinand Piech and his pet project, the "unsuccessful" 911 R for the analog Porsches we celebrate today.

Bhavik Sreenath
Bhavik Sreenath
A keen automotive enthusiast with a love for anything with engines. He loves discovering the world of cars and technology to explore new boundaries in the field of modern-day journalism.  Read full bio
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