Porsche has just added a bunch of new N-rated tyres to its list of approved rubber for older Porsche sports cars. The fact that Stuttgart’s release considers anything pre-2005 as classic is something we’ll gloss over for now – not going there on a Friday afternoon.
Porsche N-rated Tyres on Classic 911s
The Porsche tyre N-rating system is a subject of much discussion amongst classic 911 owners: probably in the top three conversation starters along with “what oil should I use?” and “I once turned down a 964RS for £20 and a half-eaten steak and kidney pie.” Not fitting N-rated tyres to your old Porsche won’t make it fail the MOT or invalidate your insurance, but there may be some comfort in fitting tyres which Porsche has tested on your classic. It also leaves you with plenty of headspace to worry about the engine going bang or whatever people worry about these days.
Pirelli, Continental, Michelin and Bridgestone all have rubber on the latest classic Porsche N-rated tyre list. As impact bumper 911s are closest to my heart, it’s nice to see that Continental Sport Contact tyres continue to be available in 205/55 and 245/45 ZR16 for 7- and 9-inch Fuchs wheels as fitted to my Carrera 3.0 (albeit the Sport Contacts on my car at present are not N rated). For those who follow a Porsche-approved lifestyle, 959 owners are stuck with Bridgestone RE71s (plenty noisy at 80dB), 964RS drivers have a better choice of Sport Contacts, Michelin Pilot Sport 2, Pirelli P Zero Rosso or Trofeo R compounds, while 924 Turbo drivers have the Sport Contact, Pilot Exalto 2 or P Zero Rosso to choose from.
Porsche Tyre Test Drivers
Porsche invited Walter Röhrl along to help with approvals, the former World Rally champion offering input based on a long history of driving classic Porsche models. Many of the current works drivers also have a classic 911 tucked away somewhere – would be interesting to see one of them drifting a pre-’73, abusing a set of N-rated tyres (Pirelli CN36 or P6000 if you must have the N). It is also interesting to see Walter leaning on a pair of P7Rs (sexiest tread pattern ever IMO) but those tyres are not on the Porsche approved list as far as I can see: P7 Cinturatos yes, but not P7Rs.
“The driving properties in the early years were not as full or balanced as they are today,” says Walter. “The new generation of tyres is more fitting than ever to the driving style of a challenging sports car.” Porsche tyre tester, Dieter Röscheisen, said of the newly-approved tyres: “The new tyre releases will make it possible for classic models to follow the curve into the modern era with exceptionally good and balanced driving properties.” (I imagine it is more likely that a PR person said this. My hope is that Dieter was overexcited after spending an afternoon shredding 993 RS rear tyres and couldn’t elucidate.)
I don’t have N-rated tyres fitted to any of my five old Porsches. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, as my cars are eternal works-in-progress and only one of the Porsches is currently road legal (a classic 2004 SUV model). I have a set of part-worn 205/55 16 Bridgestones for the 924 Turbo, which will be next to go on the road. I like Sport Contacts on the 911, but tend to lean toward Michelins as my overall tyre brand of choice: they drive so well, right down to the wear bars. All that will go out the window if you can now get P7Rs to fit the 911, as they are soooo s-e-x-y.
Track day fans on my 911 forum at impactbumpers.com use a load of different non-N-rated tyres on long road trips and pretty intense driving conditions and no big problems reported there. Bridgestone S-02s have long been a good choice for spirited ’74-’89 911 driving if you can get a set to suit: you can still buy 205/55 and 225/50 16s in Porsche N3 rating from places like Camskill, but I don’t think 245s are easily available.