Talk to any 911 nut, and sooner or later the conversation is likely to involve the legendary ‘Mezger’ engine – likely in the context of their first experience of it in a 996 or 997 GT3. In truth the name is a strange one – it refers to the M96/72 engine fitted to 911 GT3’s up until the introduction of the 991 generation but its anonymous creator – Hans Mezger – has been designing Porsche engines since the 1950’s!
A little, first of all, about the man behind the myth. Hans Mezger first worked for Porsche in 1956 working on the complicated Fuhrmann-designed Carrera 4-cam flat 4. After a stint working on the 804 flat 8 forums 1 engine Porsche was developing he was drafted back to complete the first 911 production flat 6. This was to become the work that defined him as he continued to develop Porsche’s air cooled flat 6 throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Mezger was the lead engineer as Porsche began to implement turbocharging, later taking lessons learned in the development of the monstrous 1100hp 917/30 in 1973 and applying them to the 911 turbo. He retired in 1994, but the Mezger DNA could be traced forward to the water cooled M96/72 engine, and this is perhaps why it bears his name.
The M96/72 powerplant takes components and design influences from some of the most famous race engines Porsche has ever produced. The initial design, for example, comes from the twin turbocharged 911 GT1 Le Mans car. It’s a true dry-sumped design, ensuring the engine stays lubricated even during the most aggressive of cornering – something the GT3 has always had at the forefront of its driver experience! The cylinder heads, too, are a modified version of those fitted to the 959, albeit heavily modified to fit the increased cylinder size of the naturally aspirated M96/72. In addition, due to the radically different block design borrowed from he 911 GT1 race engine, the ‘Mezger’ never suffers from the IMS bearing failures that have sadly dogged the M96 and M97 engines.
The final swansong of this heroic 6 pot was in the 997 GT3 RS 4.0. Gone, but never forgotten, the bellowing thrust provided by the mighty ‘Mezger’ has helped position the 911 GT3 as the preeminent drivers’ weapon of its day. A niche still occupied by the current GT3…