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The R gruppe · Rays 911


Ray Crawford's 1970 Porsche 911S
There are as many types of Porsche owners as there are Porsche cars. But they can be herded into some pretty broad categories. There's the concourse group, the track junkie group, the canyon bomber group, the valet at the martini bar group. And the R Gruppe.

R Gruppe was founded to celebrate cars built for what Porsche referred to as 'The Sports Purpose.' In the 1960s. Porsche realized that a large portion of its customers wanted to race, rally or hill-climb their vehicles, so the company released a document to help them out. It detailed factory race parts and easy modifications that could be done (and undone) to any car Porsche built. Ray Crawford is a member of the R Gruppe and has a perfect example of a 911 built for a sporting purpose.

Purpose Built
Crawford's creation started life as a 1970 911S. It was mostly the bodywork that drew him to the car originally, which he located on eBay. He wanted a car with SC flares but didn't want to go through the trouble and expense of flaring it himself. This car already had them-a big time-saver. The 911 had been listed several times, but always with a reserve price that kept it out of reach of potential buyers. The third listing was the charm, but not for Crawford. Apparently, the seller lowered the reserve in the middle of the night and he woke the next day to find some lucky insomniac had hit the 'Buy It Now' button in the wee hours. Crawford continued searching for his dream 911, until he received a call from said insomniac offering him the car. Not wanting to lose it a second time, he flew to the insomniac's locale, drove the car and snapped it up.

This is where things get interesting. Crawford isn't the kind of guy who can leave well enough alone. He developed a plan: his ideal 911 would be built around Porsche's own 'Sports Purpose' mantra. The car could be driven any distance to the track, run a two-day event, then be driven home again. No trailer queen here; not an all-out racecar, but a true enthusiast's dream.

Crawford knew he wanted more power. The options seemed to be either rebuilding the stock engine or finding a pre-built unit in order to save some money for other improvements. It didn't take long to find the 2.9-liter twin-plug currently in the car. The problem was that it came wrapped in a lot of sheet metal he didn't need. Crawford ended up buying another complete 911 just to get the engine. It did, however, turn out to be a worthwhile investment.

The engine was built by Andial, legendary race engine builder for some the most successful Porsche racecars in history. It's still fed by mechanical injection and expels spent gases through SSI heat exchangers and a sport muffler with a stock look to it. The sound of the car is amazing-a deep growl at low revs, building to the glorious mechanical roar only achieved with a flat six.

The first thing most people notice in the engine bay is the squid-like distributor hanging off the back of the engine. It resembles a MENSA test more than an ignition component and I can just imagine Porsche race mechanics wagering beers on who would be the quickest to get a twin-plug engine wired up correctly. The second remarkable object is the air conditioning compressor opposite the distributor. Part of Crawford's goal of a comfortable touring car was to have AC and heat, both of which work well in the small cockpit. To get the power to the ground, the car employs a later 915 transmission. The five-speed unit, with its cable-operated clutch, will handle loads of power and still remain simple and reliable. While the 915 tranny was out of the car, it was augmented with a Quaife limited-slip differential. Combining the diff and rear-engine layout makes for a car that launches out of corners with the ferocity of a pit bull rounding the house to chase the mailman on the doorstep. It squats down, snarls and shoots.

With all this extra power, something had to be done to bring the chassis up to snuff. Mirage International was tasked with supplying and building something comfortable on the street as well as the track. It was decided that consistent geometry was paramount, followed by the need for adjustability. All pivot points were fitted with spherical bearings, the rear spring plates replaced with adjustable 935 units. Torsion bars were replaced with coil springs fitted over height-adjustable shock bodies. Crawford also uprated the stock anti-roll bars to thicker units more capable of handling the forces that would be generated on the track.

The R Gruppe influence led him to go for the more period look of running mismatched wheels. In the '70s, finding Fuchs in broader widths wasn't an option, so enthusiasts looking for wider meats would run Minilites in the rear. The rear wheels on Crawford's car were built by PS Engineering and fit the period look of the car perfectly. The 8x15 wheels allow him to run 225/50s in back, while the front 7x15 Fuchs are wrapped in 205/55s.

Inside the cockpit are more period-appropriate components. Both seats are factory Recaros, the driver's being an R Racing bucket, a one-piece seat with deep bolsters and fore-aft adjustment only. The passenger seat is a factory Recaro sport seat. When Crawford acquired the car, the entire interior was black. He re-skinned the seats and door panels in red leather and installed a rear seat delete modeled after the factory piece. On top of that sits actual Porsche luggage. The company once made a limited run of luggage sets (numbering 911 in total) and Crawford has one of them.

The R Gruppe 911 is a beautiful example of an early car and a prime example of Porsche's intentions with its 'Sports Purpose' program. The car has been modified just the way Crawford wanted, to perform exactly as he intended. Perfect bone-stock 911s can be seen at concourse events anywhere, but to really see what Porsche built these cars for, you need to catch Ray Crawford and other R Gruppe members tearing up racetracks all over the country.

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