L must be one of the least exhilarating letters in the automotive world – and especially for those who appreciate Porsche 911s. After all, ‘L’ usually refers to long-wheelbase models, but letters such as S, R, RS, GT or GTS, well, enthusiasts pay more notice to those!
There has been one L in the 911 range and, as it happens, it adorned a car with pride of place in the 911 lineage. In the days leading up to our drive in the 911L, social media was abuzz as the world’s motoring media descended on the new, improved Kyalami circuit in Johannesburg, South Africa, to attend the international launch of the 991.2 Turbo and Turbo S.
This morning, before Porsche’s fastest production 911s set of on their hot laps, the track’s management allowed us to grace the newly laid tarmac with a special 911 from the 1960s – a model never before featured in the pages of this magazine – the 911L from 1968. As is the case today, back at the start of the 911’s production life, Porsche didn’t wait too long to update the range. By the end of 1966, the firm introduced the 911S for the 1967 model year. By the end of that year, Porsche changed the 911’s range again, adding the T (Touring) as well as the L. The L featured several of the S’s features, but not its more powerful engine (the former still ofered 130bhp at 6,100rpm). This was partly owing to US regulations but it did, however, feature the S’s ventilated disc brakes. By 1968 the 911 range comprised of the T, L and S. But, even though Porsche had little experience in terms of its customers’ demands, the firm was learning quickly with every passing year. The L was another chapter, albeit a very short one, with the company testing the proverbial waters in the European and US markets.
For the American market, Porsche made a few changes to the engine to comply with the emission requirements. Compared with the European engines, these US-specification units featured a V-belt driven air pump, which blows air into the exhaust manifolds when the throttle is closed. In line with Porsche’s aim to ofer a luxury version of the 911 with a softer ride, the front anti-roll diameter was also reduced from 13mm to 11mm. The current owner purchased this 911L around three years ago. In other words, at exactly the right time before the air-cooled market exploded. There was little interest in the car at the auction where he bought it; as a result, he bought it for a bargain price. Since then, he has spent a significant sum on the car to restore certain elements of it. One of the highlights includes an engine-out detail job, which has left the flat six in near-pristine condition. The owner explains: “It’s just such a fun car to drive but I have to admit, it handles like a dog!” The only nonstandard items on the car are the headlights, but he is hoping to source and fit true-to-original items in the future. Our location for the drive and shoot of the L couldn’t be more appropriate. As I paged through a few of my Porsche books before this drive, I was surprised to find that 911Ls participated in a few race events all those years ago. In 1968 an L took part in the GDR Rally and in the same year, Helmut Kelleners and Jürgen Neuhaus competed in a touring car race at the Nürburgring. As the sun rises over the 911L’s small dimensions, its Polo red colour becomes even brighter, as does the run-of area painted in the colour of the South African flag. If it wasn’t for the gold-coloured Porsche and 911L lettering on the engine cover, the car could easily be mistaken for one of any short-wheelbase 911s.