The £1.5 million RS
Every Porsche bearing an RS badge is special, but none for the road are rarer than this one. With Total 911 in the presence of true greatness, we explore the ultimate 964
It broke records at the Amelia Island sale, so here's what makes the 3.8-litre 964 RS special
If, like us, you’ve a keen eye on 911 values and auction results in particular, RM Sotheby’s recent Amelia Island sale would have made for a fascinating watch. While many Porsche struggled to build on their lower estimates, lot 167 reached well into seven figures before its frantic end, the sale transporting us back – momentarily, at least – to the explosive heyday of the Porsche auctions of 2014 to 2015.
The car in question was a 964 RS that set a new record for the model by fetching an eye-watering $1.65million. This wasn’t any ordinary 964 RS though, but the rare, wide-bodied, 3.8-litre 964 RS. Achingly desirable having covered just 800km and looking stunning in Paint-to-sample Ferrari yellow, the car is just one of 55 examples ever built by Porsche.
But what do we really know about Porsche’s rarest road-going Rennsport? It’s worth a reminder of the car that sired this very special Neunelfer, and that model was the 3.6-litre 964 RS. Appearing in 1991, it was born from Porsche’s need to go racing in the Carrera Cup – a series that had been conceived by Roland Kussmaul and talented engineer, Helmut
Flegl – and pared a mildly fettled flat six producing 260hp with an obsessive focus on weight saving.
The result was a 911 that exhibited a purity of focus not really seen since the seminal 2.7RS. Naturally, Porsche felt the need to take things a step further, and it would again be motorsport that lay at the heart of their decision. More specifically, it was the desire to race an RSR variant in the bigger-engined Gt-category, and the result was the car you see here. Constructed by the racing department at Weissach
and only available by special order from them, there has tended to be some dispute around the actual numbers made, although our information tells us that just 104 examples of the 3.8 RS were built and, of those, just the aforementioned 55 were for road use. The remainder were RSR racers, and of the total production all except two were left-hand drive.
But anyone thinking this was little more than a warmed-over 3.6 couldn’t have been more wrong, and by the same token if Porsche had set a budget for this project, then it seemed the engineers had ignored it. For one thing it differed markedly in appearance, being based on the wider Turbo body shell and featuring a more extreme aerodynamic package that encompassed a deeper front spoiler and a biplane rear wing that was both adjustable and formed in one piece with the engine lid. The shell was also strengthened over the 3.6 and contained additional welds, while aluminium was used for the doors and luggage compartment lid. Along with lighter glass, and a cabin stripped of all extraneous trim and equipment, Porsche quoted a kerb weight of 1,210kg, made all the more impressionable given the larger brakes, body and wheels.
Whatever the actual numbers, it could still be considered extremely lithe compared to any other 964 variants (the 320hp Turbo was a positively porky 1,470kg), and then there’s that engine. The M64/04 unit gained its extra capacity via an increase in stroke from 100mm to 102mm – the bore remained at 76.4mm – although that was just the beginning. Developing 300hp at 6,500rpm and 360Nm of torque at 5,250rpm – both notably higher crank speeds than required by the 3.6 – the new motor featured a raft of careful developments, including an increase in compression ratio (up from 11.3:1 to 11.6:1), a revised intake with individual throttle butterflies to sharpen the throttle response and tweaks to the enginemanagement system. Bigger inlet and exhaust valves were fitted, too, with sizes increased to 51.5mm and 43.5mm respectively, and gas flow improved with polished ports.
The result was a 964 that dipped below five seconds in the sprint to 62mph and would carry on to 170mph, both notable improvements over the 3.6 RS. Although the gear ratios in the G50/10 five-speed transmission were unchanged, it was fitted with steel synchromesh for greater strength, and power was delivered to the road via a limited-slip differential with a more aggressive 40 per cent locking factor. And the upgrades kept on coming, the 3.8 variant featuring uprated, cross-drilled brakes borrowed from the Turbo S, along with the fitment of split-rim Speedline wheels measuring 9x18-inches at the front and a steamroller-sized 11x18-inches at the rear. Those brakes retained the ABS and high-pressure hydraulics found in other 964s, and the lowered, uprated suspension mirrored that of the 3.6 RS, although the power-assisted steering gubbins had been junked, both to save weight and to provide the driver with the ultimate in feedback.
As for price, you could hardly expect a car boasting this level of engineering and motorsport input to come cheap, and the RS didn’t disappoint. Had you held the necessary sway with the racing department and been one of those lucky 55 then Weissach would have relieved you of DM225,000, which was just a little north of £90,000. And had you intended to go racing, DM270,000 would have secured an RSR that needed no further readiness before taking to the track. It’s fair to say that the sum of all these parts added up to a devastatingly capable road weapon, but the thing that really mattered to Weissach, what had driven the project from the very beginning, was what the 3.8 RSR achieved on track, and here it was to prove its mettle straight away.
It was back in 1988 that Jürgen Barth had originally proposed the idea of a 964 RSR to competition director, Peter Falk, so it was fitting that Barth (along with co-drivers Dominique Dupuy and Joël Gouhier) was behind the wheel when the new model won its
GT class first time out at the 1993 Le Mans 24 hours. And that was just the beginning; successes went on to include class victories at 24-hour races held at both Spa and the Nürburgring, proof, if any were needed, that Porsche had thoroughly nailed the 3.8 RS brief. But, having spent time exploring the beginnings of this magnificent Rennsport, it’s now time to turn our attention to the example you see in the pictures.
Up close, the blend of compact 964 dimensions – even with that swollen Turbo body – and barely contained racing intent is really quite breathtaking, and knowing that it is one of so few built only adds to the sense of occasion. According to the factory records it was completed at Weissach on 27 October 1993, although its first owner, a P Gonsoir who was based in Altdorf, didn’t take delivery until 5 April
1994. Leafing through the list of options reveals that this M004 model (the code that denoted a roadgoing 3.8 RS) benefitted from little that would have detracted from its focus as the ultimate in lightweight 911s. Codes M384 and M385 show that leather bucket seats were specified, while anti-theft locks for the wheels (M455) and the 92-litre fuel tank (M545) also featured. And in the spirit of keeping weight and complication to a minimum there were no air bags for driver or passenger.
You’d also like to think that Gonsoir intended to enjoy the delights of the RS in all weathers, as he also had a digital VDO outside temperature gauge installed in the centre console. That last item aside, this particular example is just as it left Weissach a quarter of a century ago. By the time the car was sold in July 2005 to its present – and only second – Belgium-based owner it had covered just over 20,000km, and its use since has been sparing. A couple of longer trips included one to the home of
Ruf but, more interestingly, it was driven for an article by none other than Gijs van Lennep, who came to the conclusion that the 3.8 RS was a better car to drive than the 3.6. Coming from someone that had twice won Le Mans at the wheel of a Porsche, that’s high praise indeed. But with our time in the company of this amazing car almost up, all that’s left is to ponder on what Porsche achieved.
There’s no doubt that its status as the rarest Rennsport earns it a place among the pantheon of great Neunelfers, but it’s more than just a production number that impresses. The 3.8 RS underlines Porsche’s commitment to the pursuit of perfection when it comes to achieving motorsport success and, for a company built on the legend of racing victories, that makes this car special indeed.
They could have relaxed, congratulating themselves on a job well done with the 3.6 RS, only such an approach just isn’t in their DNA. Instead, they took a car that seemed to represent the zenith of the 964 generation and then applied all of Weissach’s engineering prowess to produce something of true excellence. Those victories at Le Mans, Spa and the ‘Ring are testament to that, and if any reinforcement of the Rennsport ethos were needed, then you’d find it right here.
LEFT Wide body, fixed wing and Speedline wheels visually mark the 3.8-litre RS from the 3.6