Classic Sports Car
The911mustbethe world’s most ubiquitous supercar. But what if you prefer your prime Porsche to come with a dose of rarity?
Charting the Porsche rare breeds that offer exclusivity as well as excellence
Their individual numbers are highly limited, but there’s no shortage of super-rare Porsches to pick from, whether that’s motorsport homologation models or limited-edition specials. All examples of Porsche’s first car, the 356, are now coveted, but arguably the most desirable (and least 356-like) of all is the Carrera GTL Abarth, produced from 1960-’63. Conceived to keep the ageing 356 competitive in racing, it exploited FIA rules allowing entirely new bodywork so long as the weight remained within 95% of that of the base car. Some 20 bodies by
Scaglione were fitted to 356B chassis under the guidance of Carlo Abarth, reducing both drag and weight – the latter by 45kg. Three Le Mans class wins underline its motorsport credentials.
The 1954 550 1500 RS Spyder pre-dates the Abarth, and it picked up where the first 356 developmental prototype left off by placing the engine in the middle, a Porsche production first. Although developed specially for racing, 550s were also road-legal, and clothed a tubular steel frame and four-cam boxer engine in delicate aluminium bodywork, for 110bhp and just 590kg (1300lb). Only 90 were produced, one of which was infamously destroyed in fledgling Hollywood star James Dean’s fatal accident.
The 904 Carrera GTS that followed in 1964 used closed-cockpit glassfibre bodywork penned by ‘Butzi’ Porsche (who also sketched the 911), and was fitted with four-, six- or eight-cylinder engines of up to 240bhp. One of the most beautiful Porsches ever, it was the last created purely for competition yet still road-legal. Prices for all of the above are strictly POA, BTW.
Sticking with the mid-engined theme, but long before the Boxster and Cayman, the 914 was Porsche’s everyman mid-engined model, developed in partnership with Volkswagen using either flat-fours or, in the case of the 914/6, a detuned flat-six. Neither was rapid, so the 916 was conceived to take that further.
Along with a special one-off built for Ferdinand Piëch with a 2.9-litre 345bhp ‘six’, 10 more prototypes were produced, featuring a steel roof in place of the 914’s removable panel, plus chassis reinforcements, flared arches and either a 190bhp 2.4-litre flat-six or a 2.7-litre version with 210bhp. The project was canned to spare the 911’s blushes, but the prototypes went to Porsche management or were sold privately and still occasionally reappear – Piëch’s prototype fetched $1,094,000 in 2019.
Where to start with rare 911s? Well, if the 1973 Carrera RS is too ubiquitous, how about the ‘911T/R’ as it’s come to be known, a factoryprepped road-legal racer based on the 911T?
The T was the least powerful, least luxurious 911, but also the lightest at a homologated 923kg (2035lb, when an S weighed 975kg or 2150lb). Crucially, FIA regs allowed the T numerous upgrades, including the more powerful 160bhp S motor, some 50bhp pokier. The factory Sportskit2 raised that to 186bhp with uprated carb jets and hotter cams, adding a close-ratio ’box and LSD. Total numbers are believed to be in the low 30s. Then there’s the 23 (or 25, depending who you ask) 2.3- and 2.4-litre S/TS.
The 930 turbo Flachbau (for ‘flatnose’ or ‘slantnose’) was no homologation special, but it was still inspired by an ingenious workaround of the rules – namely Porsche’s 935/78 ‘Moby
Dick’ racer, built to Group 5 Racing silhouette rules while radically altering, well, the 911’s silhouette. It did that at the front by making the racing car’s ‘bumper’ (which could legally be altered) its entire front end. By 1986 you could get a similar and now highly prized shovel-nose look with pop-up lights via Porsche Exclusiv Manufaktur as an option. An estimated 948 Flachbaus were produced and Porsche GB even ran one on its press fleet for a while. The concept resurfaced to mark the end of the following generation 964 era, with a Flachbau turbo S, this time of fewer than 100 units.
Porsche also has a history of marking the end of each era of 911 production with Speedster derivatives – a reference to the 356 model built for the US market in the 1950s, with its hot-rod windscreen and bare-bones soft-top spec. Porsche harked back to that with the Carrera 3.2 Speedster in 1989, with a lower and more steeply raked windscreen and Quasimodo-style plastic ‘speedster humps’ to stow a lightweight, manually operated soft-top. Even Stuttgart acknowledged that this was a fair-weather car, with the hood not so great at keeping out wind or rain. More than 2000 were built, most with the wider ‘Turbolook’ body, though you’ll find narrow-body cars and even flatnoses, too.
The brilliant Boxster Spyder is similar in concept, available first with the 987 generation in 2010. A very fiddly roof is the bugbear, but it atoned for that with the lightest kerbweight in the Porsche range of the time, at 1275kg (2811lb), plus a fizzy 3.4-litre flat-six. We’ve seen them for around £60k, making the Spyder the most affordable scarcity on this list.
If you’re thinking that a rare 924 could be cheaper still, you’re out of luck. The 924 gave Porsche its first water-cooled model and an entry to the sports car market at a third of a price of a 911 in the 1970s, but the Carrera derivatives are a different matter. Take the 924 Carrera GT, of which only 406 were homologated for Le Mans in 1980. It used a 210bhp version of the 924 turbo 2-litre ‘four’, but the GTS pushed that to 245 or even 275bhp in Club Sport trim. Derek Bell’s deal to drive at Le Mans 1980 included a GTS road car, which he says he’ll never sell. RM Sotheby’s sold one for $212,750 last year.
Porsche closed the chapter on front-engined forced-induction rarities with the 968 turbo S, a road-legal version of its turbo RS racer. Based on the more familiar (and naturally aspirated) Club Sport, it added an uprated chassis and a 3-litre version of the eight-valve ‘four’ from the 944 turbo, producing 305bhp. You’ll spot it by the NACA ducts in the bonnet, and just 14 were made. That makes the 911 GT1 Strassenversion that came only slightly later sound positively commonplace – still, just 25 of these street-legal racers were produced to get the car on to the grid at Le Mans, a race it won in 1998.
In the modern, water-cooled 911 era, two models arguably stand out above the more obvious (if still brilliant) GT models. The Sport Classic is the peak of purity and rarity for a 997 Carrera-based 911 before the incoming 991 matured and added electric steering. Essentially a 3.8-litre Carrera S with the 402bhp Power Kit, rear-wheel drive and a manual ’box plus uprated chassis and brakes, it added a wider-hipped Carrera 4 body distinguished by pastel grey paint, Fuchs alloys and a ‘ducktail’ reminiscent of the 1973 RS 2.7. Just 250 were produced, and at £137,529 they were pricier than a 911 turbo.
If the Sport Classic was a kind of ‘Carrera Plus’, the 911R that was offered for the following 991 generation was a GT3 RS dialled back towards Carrera territory. It retained the same astounding 4-litre naturally aspirated flat-six, but with the embarrassingly wild aero banished and a manual gearbox reinstated. It’s a car to enjoy on the road rather than smash out Nürburgring lap times. Just 991 were sold (at £136,901 each), and prices soon went silly – £500k-plus silly at one point, before the bubble was partly burst by Porsche offering the largely similar GT3 Touring model to stick it to the speculators (and to sell more cars). Don’t expect to haggle too hard, though.
There are no real bargains to be had when it comes to super-rare Porsches, then, but at least you’re spoilt for choice.
‘The Sport Classic is the peak of purity and rarity for a 997, with the Fuchs alloys and rear “ducktail” hinting at the 1973 RS’