This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
The installation of a rear spoiler, or tail, is one of the more popular additions to the 911. Even more popular is having an outspoken opinion about them. Some owners love them, and some hate them. Surprisingly enough, the number of owners who want to remove them from their cars is sometimes equal to the number who want to add them to their cars. Therefore, a healthy market for used tails exists, and you can usually find one at a local swapmeet for a reasonable price.
Not counting the fiberglass aftermarket spoilers or tails, there are four different factory tails that were installed on the production 911. The first spoiler was called the duck tail, because of its relatively short upwards stroke on the rear of the car. This tail was originally fitted to the 1973 911RS Carrera and then later adapted for production cars.
In 1976, Porsche introduced the 911 Turbo, with a wider body supported by flares, and a large spoiler that was immediately dubbed the whale tail. This spoiler kept the style and flair of the original engine grille, while incorporating a large flowing wing on the rear. These tails are not very common, and were only installed for two years, 1976 and 1977. This tail has a smaller square grille section.
In addition to the Turbo tail, there is an uncommon early Carrera tail. This tail is very similar to the first turbo tails, but doesn't have the additional square engine grille of the turbo.
In 1978, Porsche introduced another version of the turbo whale tail. This later style whale tail is by far the most popular of all the tails. The tail consists of a large fiberglass enclosure that bolts onto the rear decklid. The engine grille is parallel to the ground, and the rubber of the tail surrounds the outside with an upper lip that resembles a tea tray.
In 1984, Porsche introduced the 911 Carrera, and with it another version of the tail. This Carrera tail is similar to the late-model turbo tail, except for the fact that it's a bit smaller and more subtle. The fiberglass enclosure is less expansive than the turbo tail, and the rubber is contoured more towards the horizontal. To the unsuspecting eye, the late-model turbo tail and Carrera tails look very similar. It is important to note, however that because of the different sizes of the enclosures, the mounting holes for these two tails are different.
So which one should you put on your car? It all depends upon your individual taste. For the early cars, it's most common to fit a duck tail or an early whale tail. For the later cars, either the late-model Carrera or turbo tail will be an appropriate match. You may even opt for an aftermarket tail that was never originally installed on a factory car. The choice is yours.
The first step in installing the tail is to find the parts. New aftermarket fiberglass late-model turbo tails can run about $400 for just the fiberglass enclosure. The rubber lip can sometimes cost just as much, bringing the total to about $700. A good reproduction duck tail can run about $300, and usually replaces the entire rear decklid. Carrera tails are the most expensive, running about $700 for a good aftermarket package, or around $900 for a Porsche original tail.
With the high price of tails, buying a used one at a swapmeet is a good idea. The factory original tails can be determined by the words 'PORSCHE' cast into the center outer rear of the fiberglass, just under the rubber lip. The rubber lips can also be OEM or aftermarket, with the former having a Porsche crest molded into the rear of the rubber. Either way, inspect both the tail and the rubber for damage. Most of the damage that occurs to the tails happens on the way to the swapmeets, and not when they are installed on the back of the car. Make sure that there are no scratches in the rubber, and that it's not torn or pitted in any manner. Check the fiberglass enclosure for cracks and breaks: these will have to be repaired at a later date. Good used aftermarket tea tray tails with OEM rubber can be found for about $400. OEM tails sell for around $550.
In addition to obtaining your tail and rubber, I recommend that you purchase a used rear decklid to mount the tail on. This will increase the value of your car, because not everyone who might purchase your car will want the rear tail installed. Having the original decklid is a huge bonus, because it can easily be removed and reinstalled at any time. You will need to have the tail painted to match your car anyways: painting the new decklid will not increase that cost too much. Sometimes you can find a decklid that previously had a tail attached. Since these are already drilled, their value is usually less than a normal decklid. You can sometimes find one of these less-expensive lids, and save yourself some drilling time.
Once you have your tail and rubber, you need to line it up with the decklid and drill the mounting holes. The late-model turbo tail and the Carrera tails did not have the same mounting holes. Therefore, if you do purchase a predrilled decklid, make sure that it is drilled properly for the tail that you would like to install. Note that a decklid drilled for the late-model turbo tail will not work for a late-model Carrera tail.
In order to drill the holes for the tail, take the rubber off of the fiberglass (it's simply bolted on), and line up the fiberglass enclosure with the tail. Depending upon the tail, there might be at least one hole on the tail that will correspond with a hole on the decklid. Slip a bolt through this hole, and then make sure that the tail is aligned properly with the sides of the decklid. Reaching through the fiberglass enclosure, carefully mark the hole on the surface of the deck lid with a permanent marker. Remove the enclosure, and drill the holes in the decklid.
Drill the holes in the decklid to be the same size as the ones in the fiberglass enclosure. Make sure that you use a very sharp drill bit, and don't press down on the decklid too much, or you might dent it.
Now, take the fiberglass enclosure, the decklid, and your gas flap cover to your local body shop. The gas flap cover is used to match the color of the paint used on the tail to the color of your car. The flap is easily removed using a Allen key wrench. Have the paint shop repaint the entire tail, including the top black grille. Sometimes if you bring a six-pack with you to the shop, your stuff will surprisingly get done sooner.
When you get the tail back from the shop, it's time to bolt the whole assembly together. Take the fiberglass enclosure, and bolt it to the decklid with the rubber lip attached. The turbo tail base seal should be appropriately placed in-between the tail and the decklid. Make sure that you use new mounting hardware, and nuts with nylon inserts. When you are bolting the tail and the decklid together, don't use too much force, or you might break the fiberglass on the tail, or dent the decklid.
After the tail is attached to the decklid, it's time to install it on the car. Carefully remove the bolts that hold the old decklid to the car. If you have an A/C evaporator attached to the rear grill, carefully remove it and place it on top of the engine. With the help of an assistant, install the new decklid/tail assembly onto the car. Reconnect the A/C evaporator to the rear of the decklid, using longer bolts if necessary.
At this point, it's a wise idea to install the dual hood shock kit required to keep the extra weight of the tail up in the air. Refer to Project 81 for more information on this procedure.
If you install a rear spoiler on your car, the factory literature says that you must also install a front mounted spoiler to aerodynamically balance the car (Pelican Technical Article: Installation of a Chin Spoiler). Failure to do so may make the car handle poorly.
Here are some examples of tails that have been installed on 911s over the years. In the upper left is the duck tail, first seen in 1973 on the Carrera RS, and then later adapted to street models. The upper right shows the tea tray turbo tail, probably the most common tail for owners to add to their car. The lower left shows the late-model Carrera tail, which is basically a modified version of the turbo tail with a sleeker rubber trim. The Carrera tail also doesn't extend as far back on the engine grille as the traditional tea tray turbo tail. In the lower right a very early Carrera tail, similar to the early 911 Turbo tail. This tail was used on some of the early Carrera cars in the 1970s.
Here are all the parts required for installing the tail. Shown here is the tail, the decklid, and the gas flap that is used for color matching. These parts are about to be shipped off to the body shop for painting. Make sure that you repaint the black inner portion of the tail, otherwise the paint job on the outside will look sharp and fresh, and the inside will look worn and tired.