Race-bred Porsches

Porsche was cre­at­ing race-bred 911 vari­ants long be­fore the ar­rival of the 993-era GT2. An­drew Frankel charts the blood­line right back to 1967’s 911R

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

From 911R to 993-era GT2

Spe­cial 911s are al­most as old as the 911 it­self and the first was, in some ways, the most spe­cial of them all. Though many 911s raced through­out the mid-1960s, the 1967 911R was Porsche’s first at­tempt at do­ing its own, in-house rac­ing ver­sion which, as per the vogue at the time, was also road le­gal.

So it fit­ted its mad­dest engine – a 210bhp, 2-litre flat-six from its pro­to­type 906 Le Mans car – and set about one of the most ob­ses­sive weight-sav­ing pro­grammes in his­tory. By the end, the front badge be­came a sticker, the door hinges were made out of alu­minium and even the wheel cen­tre caps were deleted. The re­sult was the light­est 911 there has ever been – a yowl­ing, howl­ing, 850kg air-cooled mis­sile. Sadly, Porsche only built 20, and were one to come up for sale to­day, its value would best be counted in mil­lions.

Un­til re­cently, you could pay close to £1 mil­lion for a 1973 Car­rera RS 2.7 so long as it had ex­actly the right spec and prove­nance, though hap­pily prices have eased back a lit­tle more to­wards san­ity of late. This is the archetype, the 911 con­sid­ered to be the best the breed could be. Why? First, be­cause it was a gen­uine ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial, so had com­pe­ti­tion pedi­gree. Sec­ond, with a 210bhp 2.7-litre mo­tor, var­i­ous weight-sav­ing mea­sures and a beau­ti­fully balanced chas­sis, it was won­der­ful to drive. Third, it was still suf­fi­ciently civilised for own­ers to want to use them – they were not just re­cre­ational toys. Fi­nally, with its iconic lit­tle kicked-up ‘burzel’ duck­tail spoiler, it looked gor­geous. Was it as good as its rep­u­ta­tion sug­gests? I think it is a great 911, an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple of its art. Whether that quite makes it the icon its rep­u­ta­tion sug­gests is an­other mat­ter.

By con­trast, I feel the Club­sport of 1988 re­mains an un­der-rated clas­sic. It wasn’t de­signed to race, didn’t cost a for­tune (in fact, it was cheaper than the Car­rera on which it was based) and hardly looked any dif­fer­ent from the stan­dard car. But it was a beau­ti­fully judged up­grade, aimed squarely at those who just loved to drive. It was lighter to the tune of 50kg thanks to the dele­tion of the near-use­less rear seats and items such as the elec­tric win­dows, sun roof, cen­tral lock­ing and so on.

No ex­tra power was claimed, but the en­gines had a new ECU, a higher red­line and, it was said, only the best mo­tors were used. Dif­fer­ent dampers, a stan­dard lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial and stiffer engine mounts com­pleted the pic­ture. The re­sult didn’t feel trans­formed, merely op­ti­mised, and when the start­ing point was as good as the Car­rera, a true clas­sic was born.

Which are not the words I used when I road tested the 964-se­ries

The 911R of 1967 was a howl­ing, 850kg, air-cooled mis­sile

Car­rera RS back in 1991. I seem to re­mem­ber giv­ing it a bit of a kick­ing. It was light­ened and stripped out, stiff­ened up and even given an­other 10bhp. I should have loved it. In the event and on the road at least, I found its sus­pen­sion set­tings so un­com­pro­mis­ing I ended up hat­ing it. Only years later when I drove one around the Nür­bur­gring did I un­der­stand what ev­ery­one else saw in it: it felt like a rac­ing car and, on the track, was as wondrous as it had been off-putting on the road.

The won­der­ful thing about the 993-se­ries of Car­rera RS that went on sale in 1994 is that it didn’t force such com­pro­mises upon you. It had a be­spoke 3.8-litre engine, all the light­weight mod­i­fi­ca­tions and the enor­mous ben­e­fit of the 993’s multi-link rear sus­pen­sion. But it didn’t shake you to bits on the road. On the con­trary, it rode rather well, bet­ter by far than a stan­dard 993 on Sport sus­pen­sion. On the track it was in­dul­gent and in­volv­ing, if ac­tu­ally lit­tle quicker than the 964 de­spite its con­sid­er­able power ad­van­tage. It hardly mat­tered: this was a spe­cial 911 of the clas­sic kind, a mod­ern 2.7 Car­rera RS that was not only fab­u­lous to drive but us­able too.

Which are not words you’d use to de­scribe the GT2 ver­sion it spawned. This was as close to a road-go­ing Le Mans car as you could get in the mid1990s with­out buy­ing a Mclaren F1. It had 430bhp, which doesn’t sound like much to­day, but in a su­perlightweight shell with cave­man throt­tle re­sponse, it was more than most who drove it cared to han­dle. This was a very scary car to drive fast which, com­bined with its rar­ity, is prob­a­bly why it is so revered to­day. Just 57 road cars were made, one of which sold last year for £1.85m.

Porsche’s tem­plate for pared-down 911s was set back in 1967

The Car­rera RS 2.7 com­mands a huge price tag these days

road... The 993-era 911 GT2 was fe­ro­cious on the Car­rera RS 964 was bet­ter suited to the track than the road ...but the Car­rera RS vari­ant was fab­u­lous

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