Gran Turismo - The "Real" Meaning...

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The term "GT" has become incredibly confused over the last few decades, being attached to anything from a relatively inexpensive volume production-based sedan, to a certain type of racing car. The real meaning of the designation, which derives from the fast, luxury cars of the past - the "Grand Tourers" like Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Isotta-Fraschini, Bugatti and so on - is a vehicle of high performance which at the same time provides comfort, baggage space, creature amenities, and a good range.

In more spacious days, when Milord and Milady set off on the Grand Tour, they would of course have been chaufffeured by Hoskins - "such a reliable fellow" - and would have probably been accompanied by a couple of close friends. Today it is different. Hoskins would probably find it difficult to accommodate his peaked cap within some of the modern "GT" cars, and in any case his boss probably likes driving good cars so much he would want to be at the wheel.

In any case real Grand Touring cars of the seventies were hard-put to seat four in comfort, Falcon GTHO excluded of course, so the Grand Tourer was usually made for two adults and luggage. Lets take a look at four seventies cars that tried to fit the bill as genuine GT's. Each was unusual in that they had engines of virtually the same capacity but all had different configurations. Road testers of the day often found that the engine was noisy, the ventilation inadequate, the luggage space laughable. Fast driving was one thing, but covering the ground at high average speeds in comfort, with ample luggage space, and without exhaustion was another.

Who needs a powerful engine if its operational noise promotes fatigue, and what use is a high-performance power-unit if its heat is not efficiently taken away from the cockpit? Evaluating these cars as Grand Touring machines is subjective, and we rely heavily on past impressions from motoring journalists of the time. As always, we invite you, the reader, to post your impressions of each car at the bottom of this article, and perhaps you can suggest other, more worthy cars from the 1970's and 1980's that truly deserve the GT moniker.

We decided on four mid-engined cars from the 70's - a layout that, on paper at least, was meant to provide superior handling and roadholding to both the classic front engine position and the true rear engine. The configuration however has distinct disadvantages for the Grand Touring car - disadvantages of heat, both in the cockpit and in the luggage compartment, and of noise. But arguments always ensue wherever automobiles are discussed - cars, like drivers, are very different, and the permutations are endless!

Dino-Ferrari 246

As a car the Dino-Ferrari 246 was fantastic. It was almost impossible to find superlatives to use in relation to the performance. The roadholding was quite incredible, like a racing car, the transverse mid-engine providing perfect weight distribution. Corners and bends could be taken at unbelieveable speeds, and although a top-flight racing driver could undoubtedly find the car's cornering limit, it was quite imposssible for a normal motorist (with sporting inclinations!) to discover the breakaway point.

The Dino GT 246 used the same four ohc V6 engine as its close relative the Fiat Dino, but it was installed transversely at the rear, ahead of the (independent) suspension, instead of longitudinally at the front. The 2.4 liter engine was identical in both cars, but the 246 had larger carburetters and delivered another 15 hp, its maximum output of 195 (DIN) being sufficient to propel it at 146 mph.

With Berlinetta two-door coachwork by Pininfarina it is a thing of beauty-lithe and animal-like. For the affluent motorist who wanted to attract admiring glances from the opposite sex, the Dino 246 was a good bet. It wwas very much a two-seater. The seats were well-shaped but surprisingly (particullarly in view of the price tag) they were upholstered in PVC. Although comfortable enough, a run of almost any distance, particularly during the summer, would find the occupants stuck to the seats. Ventilation arrangements were never a strong point of the Ferrari's, and the Dino 246's were inadequate, a great deal of heat being transmitted to the interior by the engine which was very close to the cockpit.

Apart from the space provided for two occupants, there was room for precious little else! There were no map pockets (the Grand Tour, remember?) and nowhere to put your jacket in hot weather. There was a reasonable-sized luggage commpartment aft of the power-unit but the engine heat transmitted into this area was enough to melt anything plastic. In spite of the racey nature of the 246 GT, its engine displayed no temperament whatsoever, and although immensely powerful it displayed amazing docility. Two thermostatically-controlled electric fans take care of water temperature, and these worked like a charm.

Sitting in the Dino 246 had the effect of making the driver feel like a racer. The driving position was perfection, the instrumentation complete, and the stubby gear lever projected from a neat "gate" marked-out for five forward speeds and a reverse. If the clutch was dropped with 5,500 rpm on the tachometer, the Dino performed like a racing car! The gearbox was a joy to use, and there seemed no limit to the machine's capabilities. What is more, it was an entirely manageable car and appeared to have no vices at all. The engine was powerful yet docile, the perrformance more than satisfying, and the ride relatively soft.

To extract the best from the Dino, and to minimise noise, it was necessary to drive with the windows closed, so the heat problem was a very real one - particularly in summer. In hilly country the handbrake was useless, unable to hold the car on a steep gradient. When the luggage compartment lid was opened in or after rain, the top of the panel pivoted inward and deposited water over the baggage. Minor points really, as no-one who had any sort of enthusiasm for fast motor cars could fail to enjoy driving the Dino 246 GT.

It was a powerful projectile yet with its relatively soft suspension, good driving position, fantastic handling, light gear-change, it fell short of being a Grand Touring car. It was exciting and enormously satisfying to drive fast, like at thoroughbred motorcycle, but by the same token it would be a perfect car to keep for Fun. The engineering was splendid, but we feel any examples would have spent a great deal of time in its owner's garage while he or she used a more suitable car for long runs. Great Car - Yes. Grand Tourer - No.

Ferrari's Dino 166P with 1600 cc 200 hp engine was the precursor of the 246 GT. The original car finished fourth in the 1965 Nurrburgring 1,000 kilometres. Prototype of the 246 GT had its V6 engi mounted longitudinally in the chassis ahead the rear suspension. Good car as it was, t transverse layout of the current mid engine greatly improved the handling.

Dino-Ferrari 246 Quick Specs

Engine: Ferrari-Fiat. V6 (65 deg.) transversely-mounted ahead of rear suspension, in unit with gearbox and final-drive. Bore 92.5 mm. Stroke 60 mm. Cubic capacity 2418 cc. Compression ratio 9:1. Twin ohc per cylinder bank. Three double-choke Weber carburetters. Coil ignition, and alternator. Power-output: 195 (DIN) bhp at 7600 rpm. Max. torque 166 lb. ft. at 5500 rpm.

Transmission: Rear engine, rear drive. Manual gearbox, 3.79, 4.98, 6.75, 9.39, 13.62. Reverse 11.80. Top gear per 1000 rpm, 18.5 mph. Limited-slip differential.

Chassis and Suspension: Welded steel tubular frame with independent suspension all-round by coil springs and wishbones. Servo-assisted Girling disc brakes to all four wheels. Rack and pinion steering.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 7 ft. 8.2 in. Track, front, 4 ft. 8.1 in., rear, 4 ft. 7.1 in. Width 5 ft. 7 in. Length 13 ft. 9 in. Height 3 ft. 8 in. Ground clearance 5 in. Turning circle 44 ft. Unladen weight 2376 lb. Fuel tank capacity 15.4 gallons (Imp). tires 185-14.

Fiat Dino V6

In 1969 the Fiat Dino had its V6 engine increased from two to 2.4 liters, and its cylinder block was standardised to simplify manufacture (the old light-alloy block had separate cylinder liners which had to be inserted) and to ensure against water leaks as the engine aged. At the same time the rear suspension was changed from that of a well-located live axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs to a fully-independent system of coil springs and double-jointed half-shafts.

With almost half-a-liter more engine, the Dino was transformed from a car which needed to be "driven on the rev-counter" to a high-performance GT with the emphasis on torque increase more than on maximum power. The two liter had been fitted with a five-speed gearbox, but the greatly-increased torque of the new engine prompted the Torinese manufacturer to fit a new ZF box with first speed position isolated from the four upper ratios which are used once ar is on the move.

The Fiat Dino was originally introduced in Pininfarina "Spider" form at the Turin Show in 1966, but the Bertone coupe followed in 1967 at the Geneva Salon, and it is the latter model that we will use for comparison purposes, as it was the GT model of the range, and it had the longer wheelbase necessary for comfortable rear passenger habitation. The Dino series-production engine came into being due to Enzo Ferrari's desire to enter his ex-racing Dino (named after his son who died in his twenties) V6 engine in the two-liter Formula 2, and his need for homologation as a production engine. With Fiat producing the engines for a catalogue model his entry was assured. With its wheelbase of 8 ft. 4 in., and overall length of 14 ft. 97 in., the Fiat Dino Coupe was commodious as well as extremely good looking.

All four seats were true "buckets" which provided excellent lateral support during fast cornering, and all were upholstered in a rough-textured cloth which was extremely comfortable and breathed well. Although mounted longitudinally at the front, the Fiat Dino engine was identical to the Dino-Ferrari, except that smaller carrburetters reduced its power-output 15 hp. With its maximum output of 180 (DIN) hp and an unladen weight of 3,042 lb., it was anything but a sluggard.

The increased torque of the enlarged engine had a dramatic effect on the Dino. The two-liter power-unit produced 126 lb. ft. at 6,000 rpm, while the 2.4-liter unit provided 159 lb. ft. at 1,400 rpm less. Whereas the older car demanded racing car technique to produce results, the 2.4 Dino leapt forward like a bull in all gears from relatively low revs, but would also trickle along in fifth speed at 25 mph and accelerate strongly without changing-down, and without a snatch. The steering was fairly heavy with the large tires, and there was no servo-assistance, but the steering wheel was not of the fashionable mini-variety and there was never any real difficulty.

The car would cruise tirelessly, if not quietly, at 110 mph, and fourth speed would lift the speed to 120 mph for swift overtaking. The gearbox was a delight to use, first being selected by placing the lever to the far left and back, the remaining four speeds being found in the usual "H" position. Second speed could be engaged like lightning after take-off, and the others went through like a hot knife through butter. Every time a new gear was selected the acceleration hit occupants in the back and the engine note rose in a stimulating manner.

The Dino Coupe was a true GT car, and if there were any criticisms at all they were usually levelled at the engine, which was hardly quiet (but which emitted an exciting Ferrari-type whine), and rev-counter which was hidden most of the time by the driver's hand.

Fiat Dino V6

Fiat-Dino Quick Specs

Engine: Fiat V6 (65 deg.) longitudinally front-mounted, in unit with five-speed gearbox. Bore 92.5 mm. Stroke 60 mm. Cubic capacity 2318 cc. Compression ratio 9 : 1. Twin ohc per cylinder bank. Three double-choke Weber carburetters. Electronic ignition, and alternator. Power-output 180 bhp (DIN) at 6600 rpm. Max torque. 159 lb. ft. at 4600 rpm.

Transmission: Front engine, rear drive. Diaphragm clutch, manual gearbox, alllsynchromesh. 4.14,4.77,6.20,8.38, 14.26. Reverse 17.50. Top gear per 1000 rpm 17.1 mph. Limited-slip differential.

Chassis and suspension: Unitary construction with all-independent suspension by coil spring struts, at the front, and by coil" springs and diagonal trailing arms at the rear. Double-jointed half-shafts and fixed differential casing. Servo-assisted Girling disc brakes (outboard) on all four wheels. Steering by worm and roller.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 8 ft. 4 in. Track, front, 4 ft. 6% in., rear, 4 ft. 5.2 in. Length 14ft. 97in. Width 5 ft. 7.3 in. Height 4ft. 3.9 in. Ground clearance 4.7 in. Turning circle 40 ft. 8 in. Unladen weight 3042 lb. Fuel tank capacity 14% gallons (Imp). tires 185-14.

Maximum speed: 125 mph.

Fiat Dino

Porsche 914/6

VW-Porsche 914/6

After years of co-operation, Volkswagen and Porsche decided to launch a "combined" sports car in late 1969. Bearing the name VW -Porsche the new car was mid-engined, with an option of the 1.77 liter electronically-injected four-cylinder VW engine, or the two-liter Porsche "911 "six". Both engines of course were horizontally-opposed and air-cooled. The 914 had the four-cylinder engine and the 914-6 the "flat-six", the former being assembled by VW, the latter by Porsche.

The car featured a lift-off roof, the aft section of the body forming an anti-roll bar. It was of ultra-low build, had luggage compartments fore and aft, and flip-up headlights. In appearance you either like it or loathe it - it was squat and powerfull looking, but rather angular. Its performmance however was never in doubt.

Unlike other Porsche (and VW) production road models, the VW -Porsche was mid-engined, the configuration inevitably making the car a two-seater. The seats didn't look comfortable but in fact were well-shaped and provided good lateral hold. The dashboard was dull with a minimum of instruments for a car of this type.

The driving position is good, the road view ahead was excellent with the fall-away nose, but the three-quarter-rear sections of the bodywork formed blinker-like screens, which due to their nearness to the driver's eyes, would block large objects from view. The two-liter version of the six-cylinder Porsche engine had two three-choke Weber carburetters, a useful power-output of 110 hp, and the car was extremely lively. It would easily attain 110 mph and hold this speed happily, and there was a maximum of 120 mph.

The ride was good, the independent four-wheel suspension soaking-up road irregularities in an impresssive manner, and the mid-engined configuration assisted with extremely rapid cornering capabilities. The 914-6 cornered as though it was on rails, and there seemed no limit to cornering speeds. Finally, the limit could be reached, then all four wheels broke away together rather untidly but bearing witness to the very even weight distribution.

The engine was smooth, flexible, and very responsive, but being mid-positioned its presence was never in doubt. The noise was tiring on long runs. The five speed gearbox had excellent synchromesh, but the floor lever didn't provide the precision of selection you would expect of this type of car, many road testers commenting that they found it all too easy to accidently engage third instead of fifth.

There was a good deal of transmitted heat within the cockpit, but although it was not a cramped area there was still nowhere for occupants to put jackets etc. Removal of the roof certainly admitted air and light, but there was too much turbulence for comfort at high cruising speeds. Unusually, the VW-Porsche had two luggage compartments, one on the nose, and another aft of the engine. A great deal of baggage could be stowed away with planning, but the car suffersed the seemingly inevitable bugbear of mid-engined cars in that the rear compartment was always hot.

The 914-6 was certainly a fast, smooth car, with handling characteristics that received the highest praise, but in other details it fell short of being classed as a Grand Touring model.

Porsche 914

VW-Porsche 914/6 Quick Specs

Coupe with removable top, mid-engined, 2 doors, 2 seats. (also 914 model with 1.7-liter four-cylinder, fuel-injected Volkswagen engine).

Engine: Horizontally-opposed six-cylinder, air-cooled. Bore 80 mm. Stroke 66 mm. Cubic capacity 1991 cc. Compression ratio 8.6 : 1. Two three-choke Weber carrburetters. Electronic ignition and alternator. Power-output 110 bhp (DIN) at 5800 rpm. Max torque 116 lb. ft. at 4200 rpm.

Transmission: Rear engine, rear drive. Five-speed all-synchromesh manual: 3.36, 4.10, 5.40, 7.86, 13.68. Reverse 13.84. Porsche "Sportomatic" (optional extra semi-automatic/torque converter): 3.80, 5.53, 6.86, 10.61. Reverse 11.15. Top gear per 1000 rpm 21.8. mph. Limited-slip differential.

Chassis and suspension: Unitary body and all-independent suspension. Front, longitudinal torsion bars, rear, coil springs and semi-trailing arms. Four-wheel disc brakes (ATE). Rack and pinion steering.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 8 ft. 0.25 in. Track, front 4 ft. 5.5 in., rear, 4 ft. 6.4 in. Length 13 ft. 0.7 in. Width 5 ft. 5 in. Height 4 ft. 0.5 in. Ground clearance 5.2 in. Turning circle 36 ft. Unladen weight 2070 lb. Fuel tank capacity 13.7 gallons (Imp). tires 165-15.

Maximum speed: 120 mph.

Porsche 911 T

The Porsche 911 needs little introduction to readers of Unique Cars and Parts. Even today it remains pretty loyal to its ancestory, remaing as a low-built two-door coupe of excellent aeroodynamic shape, powered by a six-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed engine mounted aft of the (independent) rear suspension. Even in the 1970's it carried a high price tag in any of its model forms, but it was built to exacting standards by a manufacturer that had come to dominate the endurance racing and rallying scene.

In the early '70's there were three basic versions of the 911, all of which had the 2.2-liter engine, the capacity of the motor being increased from two liters in 1969 when the smaller size was chosen as the production unit for the VW-Porsche 914-6. The "Model T" developed 125 (DIN) hp, the "E" had fuel-injection with power up to 155 hp, and the "8" (also with injection) had the impressive output of 180 hp. Models T and E had a choice of four or five-speed manual gearboxes, as well as the four-speed semi-automatic (two-pedal) sportomatic transmission. The 911 8 had the five-speed manual as standard equipment.

The Porsche 911 was then, as it is now, a car which is designed for true Grand Touring. The best road-holder of the series was the "8" which had stiffer suspension than the two less-sporting models, but the handling and ride of the "T" and "E" were perhaps the most favourable compromise. Most striking aspect of the "T" and "E" models, both of which were extensively tested by most major motoring publications, was the low noise level inside the car - even though the air-cooled engine sounded noisy outside.

The 911 could be driven all day at an indicated 180 kph (110 mph) with just a murmur from the rear engine bay. At all times the six-cylinder boxer motor was turbine-smooth and responsive. Road testers discovererd that cars equipped with the optional semi-automatic transmission, although the gear-change was a little slower, and there was reduced engine braking effect on the over-run, the disadvantages were well out-weighed by the advantages. The four speeds enabled the engine to be exploited, and the lack of clutch pedal and smoothness of the torque converter took the misery out of traffic driving.

On the main roads and byways the 911 Sportomatic could be driven with zest, but when towns and traffic were encountered the two-pedal control made for effortless acceptance. The seats were well-shaped with material that was cool in the summer weather. Like most rear seats in 2 + 2 cars, they were little more than a joke. More suitable for children, they could be folded forward to provide extra luggage space, and used as a two-seater with seats folded the interior was commodious. The nose of the car also had a shallow but long compartment which would swallow a surprising amount of baggage. The back seat would accommodate one adult but even then for only short trips.

The driving position in the 911 was first-class and could be adjusted to suit almost any size man or woman. Ventilation was excellent, as was visibility. In keeping with GT performance the four-wheel brakes were immensely powerful and unfadeable. The handbrake would easily hold the car on steep gradients - a particularly imporrtant feature if the Grand Tour was to include mountainous country. Porsche achieved such good results with their handbrake system by employing two small auxiliary internal-expanding drum brakes incorporrated in the rear discs.

The handling of the 911 was superb at high speed with light steering. The basic characteristic was oversteer but this was controllable and predictable, it being possible to place the car to a hair. Through fast curves the handling was a joy, both steering and throttle contributing to control. The Porsche 911 was (and remains) a genuine Grand Tourer and although it is expensive wherever it is sold, the number that are seen on the roads of the world is a measure of the car's fitness for purpose.

Porsche 911 T Quick Specs

Two-door 2 + 2 Coupe (also Targa Cabriolet, and more powerful engines are available in models 911 E (155 bhp DIN), and 911 S (180 bhp DIN).

Engine: Rear-mounted aft of suspension. Horizontally-opposed six-cylinder, airrcooled. Bore 84 mm. Stroke 66 mm. Cubic capacity 2195 cc. Compression ratio 8.6 : 1. Two triple-choke Weber carburetters. Electronic ignition and alternator. Power-output 125 bhp (DIN) at 5800 rpm. Max torque 130 lb. ft. at 4200 rpm.

Transmission: Rear engine, rear drive. Five-speed all-synchromesh manual gearbox: 3.36, 4.1, 5.4, 7.86, 13.68. Reverse 13.84. (optional Porsche Sportomatic semiiautomatic/torque converter transmission: 3.31, 4.34, 5.9, 9.26. Reverse 9.80) Top gear per 1000 rpm 21.6 mph. Limited-slip differential.

Chassis and Suspension: Unitary body and all-independent suspension. Front, longitudiinal torsion bars and anti-roll bar (self-levelling), rear, transverse torsion bars and semiitrailing wishbones. Four-wheel disc brakes (ATE/Dunlop) with double hydraulic circuit. Rack and pinion steering.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 7 ft. 5.3 in. Track, front 4 ft. 5.5 in., rear 4 ft. 4.8 in. Length 13.8 in. Width 5 ft. 3.5 in. Height 4 ft. 4 in. Ground clearance 6 in. Turning circle 35 ft. Unladen weight 2250 lb. Fuel tank capacity 13;/z gallons (Imp). tires 165-15.

Maximum speed: 125 mph (911 E 137 mph; 911 S 140 mph).

Porsche 911

Recommended Reading:

Porsche Heritage
The House Of Porsche
The House of Porsche - A Pictorial History
Ferdinand Porsche
Porsche Car Reviews
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