Reader’s 997 Sport Clas­sic in­spired RPM CSR meets the real thing

911 Porsche World - - Contents - Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy: Antony Fraser

One of them you can drive to your heart’s con­tent, as fast and ram­pa­geous as you like, while the other, more than likely, has only the life of a garage queen to look for­ward to. We’re pre­sented with a cou­ple of ex­quis­ite 997s, one a re­fined rebel rouser, the CSR Retro cre­ated by RPM Tech­nik and the clos­est thing to a pro­fes­sion­ally-made out­law 997; the se­cond is a lim­it­ededi­tion fac­tory-built spe­cial, the Sport Clas­sic, quite the most beau­ti­ful and un­der­stated ex­am­ple of the 997 line-up, if not the en­tire range of ear­lier wa­ter-cooled 911s. And here’s the is­sue: are Porsches for driv­ing or hoard­ing? The for­mer, surely, no ques­tion. Even the Porsche Mu­seum makes a good fist of air­ing price­less ex­hibits, so you’d hope that the same phi­los­o­phy ap­plies to cars like our 250-off Sport Clas­sic; in­deed, it can be: in the past I’ve been handed the keys to two of them by their gen­er­ous col­lec­tor-own­ers.

Their tweaked and per­son­alised spec­i­fi­ca­tions re­flect a de­sire to chal­lenge the con­ven­tional, yet, given the su­per­fi­cial sim­i­lar­i­ties link­ing them, the moot point is not about their re­spec­tive aes­thet­ics, so much as rel­a­tive val­ues. The 997 Sport Clas­sic is a won­der­ful car, suf­fi­ciently rare so as to com­mand a £quar­ter-of-a-mil­lion price-tag, min­i­mum, while RPM Tech­nik’s 997 CSR Retro is more like £50–60K de­pend­ing on spec, for which you get a be­spoke 911 that you don’t feel in any way in­hib­ited about us­ing as your daily driver. There’s the rub: the 997 Sport Clas­sic loses value the more it gets used, while the beauty of the 997 CSR is that you can revel in its us­abil­ity.

We’ve come to Lake­side Clas­sics, based in the glo­ri­ous Shrop­shire coun­try­side near Shrews­bury, who have one of the three 997 Sport Clas­sics cur­rently avail­able in GB (as far as on-line ads would have us be­lieve). It’s one of only 33 con­fig­ured in right-hand drive, and

it’s done amere 3000 miles, so we’re not about to add a great deal to that. Con­versely, Phil Churchill – he of the rac­ing Boxster fea­tured re­cently on these pages – has driven up to meet us in his freshly-fin­ished RPM Tech­nik 997 CSR Retro, “which we’ll take for a run up on Shrop­shire’s spec­tac­u­lar Wen­lock Edge.

Let’s take a look at Phil’s car first. It’s based on a 997 C2S, with up­grades – cus­tomis­ing if you like – to en­gine, sus­pen­sion and body­work. RPM Tech­nik launched their CSR pro­gramme in 2010 with aview to pro­duc­ing more fo­cused, be­spoke ver­sions of the wa­ter-cooled Porsche range; their first ef­fort was a 986 Boxster S, by co­in­ci­dence newly re­turned to their Hert­ford­shire premises with 175K miles on the clock and still go­ing strong. Hav­ing tin­kered with my Boxster and 996, it’s a pas­time I am to­tally in ac­cord with. Apart from cos­met­ics, RPM’S CSR Boxster 986 fea­tured KW sus­pen­sion, short-shift kit, light­weight clutch and fly­wheel and a mod­est ECU up­grade. It’s like cre­at­ing and ex­pand­ing on your car’s per­son­al­ity. RPM’S CSR fac­tion has its own ded­i­cated web­site, and they’ll de­liver the mods on the 981 Boxster/cay­man CSR, 996 CSR, 997 CSR, as well as Retro ver­sions of both the 996 and 997 CSRS. Cost-wise, a ‘donor’ 997 could have a price tag of £25K, plus an­other £25–£35K for RPM Tech­nik’s CSR con­ver­sion. The dif­fer­ence in the price bracket is driven pri­mar­ily by level of in­te­rior re-trim­ming. How is that ex­pense dis­bursed? On the en­gine side, the air fil­ter and ex­haust are ex­changed for op­ti­mised CSR ver­sions, with Evans wa­ter­less coolant and low tem­per­a­ture ther­mo­stat in­stalled. As far as the driv­e­line is con­cerned, there’s a light­weight clutch and fly­wheel, lim­it­ed­slip diff and short-shift kit. Sus­pen­sion up­grades on the gen 1 997 CSR means swap­ping ac­tive dampers for coil-overs and con­se­quent dele­tion of PASM, which is in­com­pat­i­ble with hunkier af­ter­mar­ket gen 1 coil-over sys­tems. Per­for­mance discs and pads are em­ployed, plus new lower arms and Poly­bush joints are fit­ted, along with polyurethane en­gine mounts, and, fi­nally,

It’s like cre­at­ing and ex­pand­ing on your car’s per­son­al­ity

ge­om­e­try set-up with cor­ner weight­ing is car­ried out. Set­ting the whole thing off, wheels are HRE al­loys shod with Miche­lin Pilot Sport, or 2s for track days. Body­work re­vi­sions in­clude three front bumper op­tions with cus­tom run­ning-light set-ups, CSR car­bon duck­tail en­gine lid, Cs­r­car­bon front lid, and retro graph­ics pack. Cabin re­fine­ments in­clude Re­caro bucket seats, Al­can­tara dash, steer­ing wheel and gear­lever shroud, Cs­r­rev-counter , and coloured seat belts. The flex­i­bil­ity of this pro­gramme means you can either place a donor car in RPM’S hands and have them get on with the Csr trans­for­ma­tion, or get them to source you one, or you can have it wrought on your own car over time, bit by bit, as funds al­low. Phil Churchill took the first route, so his Me­tal­lic Basalt 997 emerges with its orig­i­nal hue in­tact plus the body­work mods and graph­ics, and the sus­pen­sion and en­gine work done. De­pend­ing on how keen you might be to em­u­late the 997 Sport Clas­sic or an­other star from the Porsche fir­ma­ment, you’d have to fac­tor in a re­spray – or equally ef­fec­tive spray-wrap. Phil’s take on the CSR theme for his 997 is highly per­sonal: ‘It’s re­ally been about piec­ing to­gether bits I’ve seen on other cars,’ he says. ‘I saw a 996 with tinted rear win­dows which I thought looked quite good, so I did that. And then the GT2 smile vent; I’ve got speed bumps down my road, so I wasn’t sure how low I could go with the front end, and do­ing that prop­erly would have been a few £ thou­sand, so, cost ef­fec­tively, I put the smile vent on and the split­ter and we’ll see how we get on. The GT2 smile di­vided opin­ion, but I can get rid of the split­ter if it gets trashed. All in-house stuff, and it’s got the short-shift gearchange and light­weight fly­wheel, which makes the car feel so much more alive. And the ge­om­e­try, you find your­self chang­ing lanes be­fore you’ve even thought about it. CSRIS more of a brand, so you get a chas­sis num­ber, and if you scan that you can pick up the spec of the car. Mine is Chas­sis 023, and these are gen­uine 19in fac­tory Fuchs wheels, and Miche­lin Sport Pilot Cups, 235/35s front and 295/30s on the back. It’s got dual-valve sus­pen­sion so it’s stiff when you lean on it, but there’s some give with the pot­holes. I’ve got the red rev-counter and the Cs­r­mats ty­ing it all to­gether.’

We’ll see how it all stacks up on the road in a minute, but first let’s have a re­sume of the 997 Sport Clas­sic, which pro­vides the other side of the coin, so to speak. It sets out to evoke, if not recre­ate, Porsche’s il­lus­tri­ous his­tory, rather like the newer 991R. The one at Lake­side Clas­sics is num­ber 169 out of the 250 cars built. The model was in­tro­duced at Frank­furt in 2009, on sale from Jan­uary 2010 and priced at £140K in GB. At least dou­ble that to­day. Most ob­vi­ous ref­er­ences to an era that’s by no means by­gone are the duck­tail en­ginelid spoiler, the pair of retro rac­ing stripes over the roof and front lid, the Za­gato-style (Car­rera GT) dou­ble-bub­ble roof, while the front panel is bereft of split­ter, but re­tains min­i­mal lower air scoops sculpted from the valance, plus black grilles. Lake­side pro­pri­etor Henry Thomas ad­mires the Sport Clas­sic. ‘I do love clas­sic Porsches,’ he de­clares, ‘and one of the most dis­tinc­tive

hall­marks for me is the duck­tail, and that’s why I went for the back­dated 2.7 RS look for my own car. I know we live in a world where it’s all about orig­i­nal­ity, es­pe­cially for in­vest­ment pur­poses, but a fair num­ber of com­pa­nies are tak­ing their favourite as­pects of Porsche and blend­ing them to­gether to make the per­fect 911, so in this re­spect the Sport Clas­sic rep­re­sents al­most an out­law 997, done by Porsche them­selves, which makes it orig­i­nal. They have taken the most iden­ti­fi­able char­ac­ter­is­tics of the 911 and blended them to­gether with a frankly un­likely colour com­bi­na­tion that’s in­cred­i­bly sub­tle. The fact that it’s a 2S, as op­posed to a 4S, yet it still has the wide body at the back, makes it unique in that re­spect, too.’ So, the bodyshell is 44mm broader-beamed in that re­spect, and the aero­dy­namic pro­file of the sills is dif­fer­ent from stan­dard. There are vents be­hind the rear whee­larches to dis­burse hot air from the brakes, while lights are sub­tly dif­fer­ent from nor­mal front and rear, and the stone guards on the lead­ing edges of the rear wheel arches are in match­ing grey. The fuel cap pur­ports to be clas­sic al­loy, and the doors are also in alu­minium. The Sport Clas­sic runs on 19in fac­tory-made Fuchs al­loys, shod with Pirelli P-ze­ros, 235/35 ZR 19 on the front and 305/30 ZR19 on the back, con­sol­i­dat­ing the pe­riod look. Its 3.8-litre Car­rera S flat-six de­vel­ops 23bhp more than stan­dard, giv­ing 403bhp, achieved via mods to the in­take man­i­fold and air­flow, and a spe­cial ex­haust sys­tem with split twin tailpipes. It's cou­pled to a short-shift six-speed man­ual gear­box rather than an overly mod­ern PDK ’box, en­abling a top speed of 187mph, while 0–62mph takes 4.6sec. Un­der the duck­tail lives a car­bon air-in­take box that’s la­belled as the Porsche Ex­clu­sive Power Kit. Anachro­nisms are all very well, but the Sport Clas­sic is fit­ted with dis­tinctly non- clas­sic ce­ramic com­pos­ite brakes. It’s also equipped with a lim­ited-slip diff, and sus­pen­sion fea­tures PASM with 20mm lower ride-height and wider rear track. Beau­ti­ful and dis­tinc­tive, it’s the bour­geois belle com­pared with the rac­ing bias of its con­tem­po­rary 997 ex­clu­sive, the 4.0 GT3 RS. The Es­presso brown and hound’s-tooth wo­ven leather and tweed cabin is also

” agree­ably dif­fer­ent to stan­dard fare, and the Re­caro seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, while the bas­ket weave up­hol­stery is echoed in the door pan­els, so the im­pres­sion is of a largely brown in­te­rior. The paired grey rac­ing stripes are echoed on the gear lever knob and the rev counter, too. Sur­pris­ingly, the dinky rear seats are present as well, and the 911 Sport Clas­sic

The Sport Clas­sic is al­most an out­law 997, built by Porsche

leg­end is em­bossed in the head­rests, scripted in chrome on the door sills, while the glove­box lid re­veals its nu­mer­i­cal ID.

We’ve de­ferred to Lake­side’s re­quest that we don’t drive the car, sim­ply be­cause they don’t want any more miles on it. But I have driven a cou­ple of Sport Clas­sics in Europe, and I can re­count what they felt like be­hind the wheel. You get a su­perb driv­ing po­si­tion, arms bent and close to the wheel, a taut ride, though not bounc­ing overly on the bumps, and pre­dictable be­hav­iour. From the out­set, it’s beau­ti­fully re­spon­sive on the throt­tle, ac­cel­er­at­ing with­out drama but still go­ing hard, and there’s a dif­fer­ent ex­haust note when notch­ing up and down through the gears. On a stretch of du­alled A-road where it can be opened up it proves to be se­ri­ously fast, a fab­u­lous car, with co­or­di­nated looks, er­gonomics and con­trols, of­fer­ing daz­zling per­for­mance and pre­dictable han­dling. No hot-rod, this; it feels like a favourite arm­chair, un­pre­ten­tious and enig­matic in ap­pear­ance; the con­cept’s right, and it’s easy to see why some­one would want to repli­cate it. But why did they make just 250? Is it cyn­i­cal to sug­gest it was al­ways des­tined to be un­af­ford­able to the ma­jor­ity of us? Now, if there were 25,000, or 250,000, per­haps we’d all be in with a chance. As it is, we have to do our own thing; dare to be dif­fer­ent, eh!

And here’s where RPM Tech­nik come in. Phil’s 997 ver­sion has that pur­pose­ful stance of a low­ered 911, and it looks – and sounds – like it means busi­ness; the ex­haust is cer­tainly way fruitier than the Sport Clas­sic. The acute steer­ing feed­back man­i­fest on the road is a ge­om­e­try thing – they’ve not put a quicker rack on it – it’s a com­bi­na­tion of ride height, ge­om­e­try set up, and new KW springs and dampers. RPM’S Com­mer­cial Direc­tor Dar­ren An­der­son tells me, ‘We’re go­ing to be stan­dar­d­is­ing the CSR sus­pen­sion with KW coil-overs. This de­ci­sion was driven by the qual­ity and di­ver­sity of their prod­uct, and our abil­ity to cre­ate be­spoke CSR products based on their off-the-shelf sus­pen­sion pack­ages.’

What about the donor car? It’s a 2005 gen 1 997 C2S, with sun­roof. ‘The price of gen 1 997s has picked up so there are not quite so many cheap gen 1s avail­able,’ says Phil, ‘and if you haven’t got to­tal con­fi­dence in the en­gine then you have to fac­tor in an en­gine re­build. It took me al­most a year to find this car.’ How­ever, he views the CSR as ‘be­ing a bit more cost­ef­fec­tive than buying a later model, which is quite a fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment, which I’d then have to spend out on to get it how I want it.’ Phil’s CSR has a low tem­per­a­ture ther­mo­stat, which is seen as an en­gine preser­va­tion mea­sure. His en­gine hasn’t been re­built, be­cause it is a Porsche re­place­ment unit, ex­changed un­der guar­an­tee prob­a­bly be­cause of borescor­ing. ‘It had a bore in­spec­tion when I bought it, and was found to be ab­so­lutely fine, so I just left it well alone, but RPM gen­er­ally rec­om­mend hav­ing an en­gine re­build if it’s a gen1 unit, though they re­gard the gen 2 as be­ing more reliable.’ There’s at­ten­tion to de­tail in the cabin, of course. ‘I think with both the 996 and the 997, the in­te­ri­ors are what lets them down, be­cause they are not like an old air-cooled 911

where the patina just gets bet­ter the older it gets. The 996 in­te­rior is be­gin­ning to age quite nicely, but all of them get worn out, be­cause the ma­te­ri­als aren’t bril­liant. If you take out worn out and slightly scuffed items and put lovely new things in, it lifts the whole thing.’ In Phil’s case, de­tailed up­hol­ster­ing choices were made based on trim sam­ples sup­plied which Phil se­lected from, pick­ing up a ri­otous sym­phony of red and blackin the ma­te­rial. As for the ex­te­rior, panel fit is im­pres­sively tight. ‘I could have had a lac­quered car­bon-weave CSR en­gine lid,’ says Phil, ‘but I wanted it to looka bit more stockso I elected to have the top sur­face painted black. It hasn’t had a com­plete re­paint, they just did the front bumper and bon­net, and the stripes, and the rest has just been pol­ished.’

Out on the Shrop­shire moor­land roads it’s a hoot. Im­me­di­ately I sense it feels beau­ti­fully poised. There’s a pos­i­tive taut­ness about it, and it en­tices you to revel in its perk­i­ness. It pulls sharply in ev­ery gear, a gain fa­cil­i­tated by the light­weight fly­wheel. Im­me­di­ately the chas­sis feels stiff and the steer­ing in­put is di­rect, and as for the ride, well, you feel all the un­du­la­tions in the road, es­pe­cially up on the moors, but then that’s par for the course with fine-tuned sus­pen­sion set-ups. The ef­fect of the light­weight fly­wheel means that I do have to ap­ply slightly more revs than I would per­haps oth­er­wise do to avoid stalling on take-off, but it does get up and go ex­tremely rapidly. Throt­tle re­sponse is ab­so­lutely on the but­ton, and turn-in pre­cise; it drives ex­actly where I guide it, while the steer­ing also feels light, and it’s a beau­ti­fully bal­anced com­bi­na­tion. In the driv­abil­ity stakes, the CSR is more like a GT3, whereas the Sport Clas­sic is a rather softer propo­si­tion.

In con­clu­sion, the rare 997 Sport Clas­sic is an art ob­ject, while RPM Tech­nik’s no less dis­tinc­tive 997 CSR Retro is a us­able thrill ma­chine. No ques­tion: much as I like the Sport Clas­sic, the cost fac­tor points me straight to the CSR. Plus, I’ve al­ways loved mod­i­fy­ing cars – my last three Porsches tell the tale – and the RPM Tech­nikroute is more my thing than buying a ready­made that the fac­tory has al­ready done the tin­ker­ing with. Now, where’s that cus­tomis­ing cat­a­logue? PW

Out on the Shrop­shire moor­land roads it’s beau­ti­fully poised

Phil Churchill’s RPM CSR build was very much in­flu­enced by the Sport Clas­sic look, hence the sub­tle stripes and, of course, the ‘duck­tail’ style rear wing

The 997 Sport Clas­sic was Porsche’s own take on the whole retro 911 vibe

Phil Churchill’s CSR is based ona gen 1 997 C2S, which is a more cost ef­fec­tive 997 en­try level, but riskier in­terms of en­gine is­sues. Phil’s car had al­ready had a re­place­ment en­gine from Porsche, prob­a­bly due to bore scor­ing

Red trim de­tails and CSR di­als lift the in­te­rior. 997 in­te­ri­ors can­suf­fer from wear and tear, but re­plac­ing and re­new­ing the odd scuffed and worn piece of trim can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence

As good as a 997 Sport Clas­sic? Well, it’s cer­tainly 90% there, we’d say and each CSR build is unique to its owner’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion

Fac­tory 19in Fuchs are es­sen­tial to the whole retro look, as Porsche re­alised it­self, with the Sport Clas­sic. Tyres are RPM faves in the form of Miche­lin Sport Pilot Cup

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