1978 Porsche 911 SC Safari #14 Pilots: V. Preston Jr. / J. Lyall Team: Martini Racing Porsche System Engineering Race: 2nd overall at the East African Safari Rally in 1978 Spark - S4019 (resin)
By the late 1970s, Porsche was synonymous with racing. With four wins at Le Mans and many other prestigious road races, Porsche was at the top. However, in rallying Stuttgart’s fame was not very extensive, far from it in fact. The 911 did win a few races, yet Porsche never came remotely close to winning a World Rally Championship (WRC). However, one way to improve a brand’s reputation was racing in Africa. The East African Rally (or just Safari Rally) was at the time one of the most brutal races in the WRC. Porsche had raced the Safari Rally before, yet only achieving a second place finish in 1972 and 1974. In 1978, for the 26th edition of the race, Porsche wanted to try again. So in March 1978, Porsche arrived in Kenya with 9.5 tons of equipment and three cars. The cars? A special 911, the SC Safari.
For the tough African race, Porsche used the 1978 911 SC (Super Carrera) as their starting point. The engine was the SC’s original 2993 cm³ flat-6. Race-tuned for the unusual circumstances, it delivered 184 kW (250 hp), allowing 230 km/h of top speed. Moreover, the rest of the car was heavily modified into “Safari specs”. The SC Safari had a reinforced chassis, floor and body, and 280 mm of ground clearance thanks to raised suspension. It also carried a 110-liter fuel tank along with 16 liters of water and 20 liters of oil. It also received a bullbar at the front and extra rally lights for night driving. Despite the race modifications, mechanically the 911 SC Safari wasn’t much different from a regular road-going 911 SC. With that, the SC Safari only weighed 1250 kg – quite impressive, since the normal 911 SC weighed 1210 kg.
On the morning of March 23, 72 cars left Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The race consisted of 5016 km with 75 control points, through the country’s savannas, semi-deserts, rivers and highlands. And as expected, the 1978 race was as brutal as always. To the point that, on March 27, only 13 cars crossed the finish line. The 911 SC Safari #14 (chassis #9118301474) was on the lead for most of the race. However, at the end of the race, while crossing a river, a rock damaged the drive shaft. Unfortunately though, despite the hard effort from drivers and mechanics, the time lost meant a second place finish. Porsche’s second car, SC Safari #5, finished in fourth place. The 911 SC Safari #14 still exists to this day. After the race, Porsche took it to their Stuttgart Museum and restored it, where it is part of their exhibition.
The 1978 race was Porsche’s last participation in the Safari Rally. Stuttgart’s cars would only return to Africa in the 80s, for the Paris-Dakar. I have the feeling that the 911 SC Safari was a case of “what if”. “What if we put a regular 911 in a really rough rally race?” Well, the SC Safari almost did it… If that is true or not, the fact is that the 911 could have been a decent rally platform. Of course, that would demand a HUGE investment and rally racing was not a priority for Porsche. Nonetheless, like the later 953, I find the SC Safari quite interesting. A regular 911 running in the dirt and crossing rivers in Kenya?!? Definitively gets my attention. So for a Porsche fan boy like me, Spark’s 911 SC Safari #14 sounds awesome. And as a model, it’s really really nice.