Currently reading: Porsche symmetry: a 911 road trip to the A911
We drive a 911 - with the numberplate A 911 - along the A911, before (with good reason) diverting 120 miles north to Aberdeenshire
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6 mins read
15 August 2021

Autocar has form with the idea that underpins this trip. Back in the 1990s, Colin Goodwin wrote a memorable story about driving across France using minor roads that shared their numbers with Porsche models, an approach that led him to several exceptional bits of Tarmac.

The idea lodged in my head and I often thought of it when passing British roads that shared their numbers with famous models. Never more so than on my semi-frequent journeys along the A90 in Scotland and passing the turn-off for the A911. Could this be the start for a similarly numerically appropriate road trip?

The other impetus for this story came when Porsche put one of the ageless numberplates it rotates around its press fleet onto a nearly option-free Carrera 2 that it built to prove how good the basic, unadorned 992-generation 911 is. That created the opportunity to drive a 911 wearing the registration A 911 on the A911. You’d need a stouter heart than mine to resist that one. The logic may be skewed and the rationale silly, but I’m a great believer in random road trips. Many of my more memorable journeys have come from going to out-of-the-way places by unorthodox routes. Or even just by getting hopelessly lost, something that’s increasingly hard to do in the always-connected world.

So that’s how I come to be on the A911 in this particular 911. But it soon transpires there is a good reason the A911 isn’t mentioned when people list Scotland’s greatest driving roads. The western stretch is pleasant enough, beginning in the small town of Milnathort and then heading past a scenic castle and along the north of Loch Leven. But it is unexceptional by Scotland’s high standards, without demanding curves and crests or a stunning backdrop. It’s busy, too, and it’s raining.

Nor, it soon transpires, are we pioneers. We pause at a pub in the village of Balgedie so photographer Max Edleston can grab a picture of the Porsche with an appropriately angled ‘A911’ sign. The landlord pops his head out to see what we’re doing, clocks the 911 and shrugs. “You’re not the first, boys – and you won’t be the last.”

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Things get worse as we carry on, traffic building along with the number of potholes. Glenrothes is the only substantial town on the road, and it does a nice line in floral roundabouts and timid Hyundais. But apart from what look to be a couple of concrete hippos, its architectural merits are well hidden.

Fortunately, the 911 has the happy Porsche trait of seeming to enjoy slower progress and lacking the sense of straining at a leash that many performance cars have when trundling. But when the PDK gearbox’s low-speed refinement and the crispness of the non-upgraded audio system become the most notable features, you know you’re not in a driving paradise.

The A911 continues for a few more miles, stopping abruptly at a roundabout in a village called Cameron Bridge. Edleston braves the rain to record the moment for posterity and I circulate steadily in the 911, to the bemusement of other road users. The A911 is a bust. We urgently need a plan B.

A convenient car park next to the roundabout gives us the chance to come up with one, with a quick consultation of the god-sent SABRE website. The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts may not seem like the most glamorous of motoring organisations, but its claim to have a more comprehensive listing of British roads and their history than the Department for Transport is reflected in some spectacular detail. But the bad news is that the former B911 no longer exists.

Lateral thinking and mild desperation broaden the criteria to Porsche model codes. There are plenty of these, including the A991, A993 and A996 – but there isn’t an A992, which is the one we really need in this car. But what about B-roads? More anxious browsing brings the welcome revelation that there is indeed a B992… but it starts 117 miles away in rural Aberdeenshire. In for a penny, in for a pound.

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The 911 condenses the journey north impressively well. It doesn’t feel basic, even though it lacks toys compared with its pricier and plusher siblings. There isn’t a rotary driving mode selector on the steering wheel, or power-operated seats. But it has navigation, Apple CarPlay and climate control, even two-stage adaptive shocks and the ability to prompt me to select ‘Wet’ mode when the rain gets heavier.

We pause briefly in Dundee to see what SABRE says is the only remaining part of the one-time B911, now a car park overlooking the mist-covered Firth of Tay. The city’s inner ring road is the A991, if anyone with a slightly earlier 911 wants to visit. But the journey north from there is at a cautious pace under the eyes of endless average speed cameras. The days when the A90 was treated as a race track by cashed-up oil workers are long gone.

Past Aberdeen, we’re into what immediately feels like more natural Porsche country, which is reflected in the road numbers. The A944 carries us west and we pass the junction for the B993 before reaching the equally minor turn for the B992, signed towards the mighty conurbations Keig and Insch. The road looks narrow. Is it going to be another damp squib?

Fortunately, no. Within the first mile, it’s clear that this is not only an extremely fine bit of Tarmac, but also one that suits the Porsche almost perfectly. The initial stretch of the B992 is open, well sighted and empty enough to let the Carrera stretch its legs, even in the sodden conditions.

Even more appropriately, it’s a road that suits the base 911 better than it would one of its faster siblings. The 3.0-litre flat six’s 380bhp can be put to full use and the limitations of rear-wheel drive and a slippery surface become a challenge rather than a limitation. The Porsche feels light and wieldy, its dampers in perfect control of its mass over bumps and crests. It is keen to change direction, and with chatty feedback getting past the light assistance of its power steering, but it never feels wayward. Traction remains good in the rain. Yet it is also throttle steerable in a way that few other cars are, the fineness of the balance between grip levels at each end being adjustable with just small inputs as mass tips forwards and backwards.

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There’s much of the same all the way to Insch and an old-fashioned railway level crossing that is still guarded by a magnificent Victorian signal box. Having taken in Insch, the road gives a few more miles, with a staggered crossing over the A96, but then it gets narrower and the corners, negotiating angular fields, become more acute. The B992’s best driving is at its southern end, yet the junction with the A920 that marks its conclusion definitely feels like a worthy end point for such a madcap trip. The rain is even slackening as we turn around to experience the road in reverse.

Although it’s a fine way to spend half an hour, the B992 is barely more likely to find itself on a list of Scotland’s finest roads than the A911 is. It’s more in the ‘hidden gem’ category, the sort of road you’d plot a diversion to experience if you were passing through the area. Yet the journey here has been proof of the power of the accidental adventure, and much more memorable than an out-and-back trip to a better-known bit of the map would be.

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Just Saying 15 August 2021
You just don't need to spend mega money on a car.
The 911 ticks so many boxes IMO at a fraction of the cost.