Taking a ride in one of the rarest air-cooled Porsche 911s ever

Taking a ride in one of the rarest air-cooled Porsche 911s ever

There’s just one 1968 911L model in South Africa and it’s as rare as a unicorn anywhere else in the world, writes Brenwin Naidu

By now we are all aware of the classic Porsche 911 bubble. And many are perhaps regretful that they had not acted sooner, snapping up an example before market values burgeoned well out of grasp. The legend from Stuttgart can be easily justified as a veritable investment — just ask anyone who pounced at the right time. But while one may take the clinical view of purchasing a 911 for future dividends, the rewards of owning and living with one seem equally rewarding.

This is the impression I get from Tony Vaughan, avid Sunday Times Motoring reader and owner of some of the finest classic models in the country, which have been in his family from the 1960s.

Camera shy, he refuses to pose alongside his gleaming 1968 911L but he is only too happy to proffer more of his collection for our pleasure. We will take him up on that for future classic car features — for now, the spotlight will shine on one of the rarest versions of the 911 in existence.

Porsche 911L Interior

A successor to the 356, the first generation 911 was available in an assortment of flavours.

In 1968 the range was kicked off by the entry-level 911T, followed by the middle-range 911E and headlined by the 911S. Then there was the lesser-known 911L, whose moniker denoted a more luxurious constitution. Interestingly, the reasons for its birth were more bureaucratic than anything. This is how the story goes. In 1968 there were 449 911S models in the factory destined for the US — and the government had just implemented stricter emissions regulations.

That left the boffins at Zuffenhausen with a bit of an issue. Tweaking the 911S to comply with the new laws meant muzzling power, so the overall result would not do justice to the sporty promise of its moniker. Instead, they added a different letter to the title and created a product with a greater emphasis on comfort. Highlights for the model included a bespoke interior, with aluminium trim instead of the wood that was fashionable at that time.

On the outside, the changes were minor: different trims are the extent of it. The familiar Fuchs alloys were an option, while steel wheels were standard. The trim of the 911L was unique to that year and was not seen again.

Porsche 911L Radio

The door panels seem to boast more padding and there are niceties such as a sunroof and an AM/FM radio. It still works, as we heard the assertive voice of Radio 702’s Azania Mosaka through the cabin in relatively fine clarity. After 40km/h however, everything is drowned out by the distinctive acoustics that only a Porsche flat-six can provide.

By modern standards, a car like this would probably disappoint most from a dynamic perspective. Vaughan describes the performance as effusive, although he warns that the car’s heavy tail and short length makes for some interesting handling characteristics. The wheelbase was extended in subsequent years in a bid to polish the athletic traits of the vehicle. The 911L features a five-speed manual transmission, with first at the bottom in a dog-leg fashion. “If you rarely drive the car, you might put it into reverse by mistake,” says Vaughan.

Porsche 911L

While sighting any classic Porsche on our roads is an occasion, spotting this Polo Red 911L is akin to finding a unicorn. Vaughan presents a heavy folder documenting the history of the car. It was officially imported to South Africa by the Lindsay Saker franchise in 1968, one of two such units to arrive. The other 911L suffered a terrible fate, being written off two decades ago. “We are not certain how many are left worldwide, but this is the only known example in the Southern Hemisphere.”

As you would expect, the owner is no stranger to receiving offers for the rare 911L. Interest has come from as far as Australia, after the car had been profiled in an international classic Porsche magazine. But Vaughan is adamant that this investment, as well has his other classics from Stuttgart will never leave his portfolio. – All pictures by Waldo Swiegers

Porsche 911L Engine