1968 RHD 911 TR
August 1st, 2020
I was reminded of the 911 TR recently, not least by some of the adverts for the new Carrera T showing it alongside a 911 T. Fifty years ago, with the 911 R classed as a prototype, something closer to the regular production models was needed to compete in touring car and GT racing and rallying. In 1968, the base 911 and the L were classified as group 2 touring cars and the T and the S as group 3 GT’s. The competition-spec T – known variously as the T Rallye, the TH and, latterly, and more commonly, the TR – weighed less than the S, but was otherwise similar, with an S-spec and S-numbered engine. The factory built around thirty TRs with parts from the homologation papers and the sports purpose handbook. More often than not, that meant a sports kit for the engine, shorter and closer gear ratios, a limited slip diff with uprated drive shafts, and a bigger fuel tank. Inside were sports seats, a roll hoop and not much else. Some more standard cars were sent back to the factory to be converted and some were built to the same spec by privateers. The model was competitive across a wide range of events, with an outright win on the Monte Carlo Rally (Vic Elford and David Stone, 1968) followed by class wins at Le Mans (Jean-Pierre Gaban and Roger van der Schrick, 1968), the Targa Florio (Everardo Ostini and Gianpiero Moretti, known as “Nomex”, 1969) and the Tour de France (Claude Ballot-Lena and Jean-Claude Morenas, 1969). The TR was superseded after a year or two by the ST, but the earlier cars continued to compete, with bigger engines and wider wheels and arches under group 4 regs. Those in the know reckon half or more of the factory TRs still exist. 
Rarer still are the factory right hand drive cars. Four were produced and all have survived. Two came to the UK, one went to Africa via the UK and the other went to Australia. I’ve known the two UK cars for some time and recently took a look at the African car, now back here too. Each has a story to tell. The first of the UK cars by chassis number was London Mews-based dealer Dan Margulies’ tangerine car. Margulies and co-driver Rob Mackie campaigned the car in 1968, but then sold it and replaced it with another – this time in left hand drive and light blue – that they took to the Targa Florio in 1969. The original right hand drive car lost its way somewhat, as many former competition cars do, until it was recognized and rescued by Josh Sadler some years later. It has since been restored to something very close to its original spec by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner. The second of the UK cars was Paddy McNally’s silver car. It was supplied with the usual S-spec engine, but soon fitted with a factory-supplied twin-plug 906-spec unit, making it almost as much an R as a TR. In passing, it seems Alan Hamilton’s Australian car was supplied with a similar spec engine to suit the local racing regs. McNally’s car achieved early success in South Africa before coming back to Europe to compete in endurance racing. It changed hands a couple of times before Alain de Cadenet and Mike Ogier drove it on the Targa Florio in 1970. Anthony Bamford then UK road registered it, hence the J-plate it wears today. In 1971, by now dark blue and with a 2.2 S engine in an effort to match the newer cars, it sought to qualify for Le Mans. In a fraught session, it tangled with Jo Siffert’s 917. Motorsport reported that the driver “raised the wrath of Siffert by wandering across the road in front of him during practice. The Swiss had a nasty moment avoiding the dozy chap and lodged an official complaint.” The car missed the required time by a fraction. It later went rallying with some success and was restored more recently.

The last of the right hand drive cars went to Africa after a short initial stay in the UK. It remains remarkably original having had an unintentionally quiet life. It was, and is, tangerine, and, like the Margulies’ car, retains its original engine and gearbox along with many other features competition cars tend to lose. After its time in the UK, and some club racing here, the car went to Kenya, and some more club racing, before getting stuck in Uganda for several years. It eventually came back to the UK ten years or so ago and a sympathetic restoration is now all but complete. It may not be able to match the competition history of some other TRs, but, thanks to another knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner, it is a fascinating reference guide to the period spec of these rare cars. So, three different stories from three special cars. Will any of the new Carrera T’s be able to match them? Unlikely, I think, but you never know!

A previous version of this piece appeared in Classic Porsche magazine.
Robert Barrie E&OE