PS Le Mans Clas­sic Club­sport

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune Pho­tog­ra­phy by ali Cu­sick

Paul Stephens’ hotrod ded­i­cated to the Le Mans Clas­sic is tested on UK roads

If you only go to one race in your life, make it Le Mans. La Sarthe’s bat­tle of man, ma­chine and time is some­thing every­one should ex­pe­ri­ence at least once. It’s a race that’s in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to Porsche, many of the com­pany’s most fa­mous vic­to­ries taken over two com­plete loops of the clock’s face. Paul Stephens for one is a fan. He’s been go­ing as long as he re­mem­bers, to the main event and the Clas­sic, which in 2020 will be cel­e­brat­ing its tenth run­ning. Stephens came back from his last visit with the seed of an idea… a limited-run 911 wear­ing the Le Mans Clas­sic badge. Use­fully, Stephens has the means to cre­ate just that.

No solo homage ei­ther, over months of ne­go­ti­a­tion and some creative in­put from both sides of the English Chan­nel, Stephens built a cel­e­bra­tion of Le Mans with the back­ing of the or­gan­is­ers of the Le Mans Clas­sic race. The re­sult is the Le Mans Clas­sic Club­sport, which can be had in ei­ther

M471 Light­weight or M472 Tour­ing ver­sions.

Stephens ad­mits the ma­jor­ity of in­ter­est has been in the Tour­ing, the Light­weight per­haps a touch too ex­treme for most in be­ing pared back in the ex­treme, do­ing with­out un­der­seal, a pas­sen­ger-side sun­vi­sor, glove­box lid, light­weight car­pets, Lexan rear win­dows, man­ual winders and the loss of some sound dead­en­ing.

Choose that and you’ll save 100kg over the

Tour­ing, though at 1,070kg it’s not ex­actly portly, its spec­i­fi­ca­tion best de­scribed as cov­er­ing the essen­tials. That’s part of its ap­peal and, in­deed, true to the Clas­sic badge it wears. Stephens is quick to point out that it’s not a back­date in the con­ven­tional sense. Yes, its looks in­evitably and de­lib­er­ately evoke vin­tage 911s, but the de­tail­ing adds some neat nods to moder­nity, not least the fit and fin­ish in­side.

Its base is a 3.2 Car­rera, specif­i­cally a 1987 to 1989 car with a G50 five-speed trans­mis­sion. The goal with the en­gine is to make it rev-hun­gry, re­quir­ing its driver to get the best from it, as with Porsche’s lower-ca­pac­ity units. To achieve that Stephens added Mahle bar­rels and pis­tons with machined Rs-spec camshafts, a light­ened and bal­anced crank and con-rods. It’s dry sumped with a front-mounted oil cooler, while there’s elec­tronic ig­ni­tion and machined in­di­vid­ual throt­tle bod­ies with a GT3 plenum. The ex­haust is a full, equal-length sys­tem with in­di­vid­ual heat ex­chang­ers.

The re­sult of all of that is 300hp, that peak right up near the 7,900rpm rev limit, torque too peak­ing fairly high up the rev range. On fir­ing the 3.4-litre, Stephen’s am­bi­tion for a racy en­gine is clear, it flar­ing with in­tent be­fore set­tling into a pur­pose­ful idle.

Even in the Tour­ing there’s clearly not a great deal of sound dead­en­ing, while the lug­gage box in the rear seems to work as a res­o­nance cham­ber, am­pli­fy­ing the evoca­tive sounds from the 3.4-litre flat six.

All that sound isn’t enough to de­tract from the at­ten­tion to de­tail ob­vi­ous in the in­te­rior. Stephens’ team of builders has spent count­less hours pro­to­typ­ing new in­te­rior trim parts, build­ing new dash struc­tures and de­sign­ing their own door cards, cen­tre con­sole and kick plates to cre­ate an in­te­rior that’s ex­act­ing in its de­tail but sub­tle in its ex­e­cu­tion. The seats, fixed back with Hound­stooth cloth, grip you per­fectly; the in­stru­ments are painted green be­hind a dished Momo 360mm steer­ing wheel; the 24-hour clock an amus­ing nod to the race that the Club­sport cel­e­brates. The door kicks and the cen­tre con­sole are fin­ished in black leather, the mil­lime­treper­fect stitch­ing in con­trast­ing green beau­ti­ful, so too are the green seat­belts. The foot­plates around the ped­als un­der­line the at­ten­tion to de­tail, Stephens de­ter­mined with this Le Mans Clas­sic Club­sport that he’d do things a bit dif­fer­ently, cre­at­ing unique trim rather than re­plac­ing, re­cov­er­ing or restor­ing.

The panel fit in­side is ex­em­plary as a re­sult, feel­ing like the new build it is rather than a restora­tion. Stephens ad­mits there’s still some fin­ish­ing to do with this early pro­to­type, pro­duc­tion cars gain­ing later 964 wind­screens with their

flusher rub­ber fit­ting which will help with the aero look that’s gen­er­ated by the de-gut­ter­ing and tiny – but use­ful – aero door mir­rors on the out­side. The Car­rara white is a mod­ern hue, the black and green stripes that run from the bon­net to the back bumper be­ing painted, that not an in­signif­i­cant task for even the most tal­ented of painters.

There are stud­ded 16-inch Fif­teen52 001 wheels fin­ished in clas­sic satin, be­hind which are vented discs grasped by four-pis­ton Brembo calipers fin­ished in Le Mans Clas­sic green. It looks pur­pose­ful, yet there’s re­straint, only the moder­nity of the head­lights jar­ring a touch against the other­wise clas­si­cal hotrod­ded 911 lines. They’d un­doubt­edly light up the road con­vinc­ingly, but as we’d be un­likely to be do­ing full-speed runs down Mul­sanne in the small hours, a dif­fer­ent light set-up might look bet­ter. Be­ing French, per­haps some yel­low lenses…

Enough of the de­tails. There are some crack­ing and fa­mil­iar roads around Stephen’s Es­sex show­rooms and work­shops, and Cu­sick’s done shoot­ing the static shots so I can fi­nally drive it. De­spite Stephen’s as­ser­tions that it’s tuned for in­ten­sity, it’s rea­son­ably tractable at low revs. The ag­gres­sive cams do mean there’s a slight flat spot at about 2,600rpm, but it’s en­tirely man­age­able – and for­giv­able – par­tic­u­larly once you’re past it. Get the nee­dle swing­ing around that green tacho and the Club­sport flies. Thank the sig­nif­i­cantly lighter fly­wheel fit­ted, it cre­at­ing a won­der­fully crisp re­sponse, the revs ris­ing ea­gerly, the lighter in­ter­nals help­ing with the lack of in­er­tia from the en­gine. It sounds great at high revs. The cabin fills with the rasp­ing blare of the en­gine, every heel-and-toe down­shift some­thing to be savoured, the brake pedal’s height and ini­tial travel cre­at­ing the per­fect plat­form with which to roll your foot over to blip the throt­tle, the G50 ‘box shift­ing with ease whether you’re stand­ing on the brake and drop­ping a cog, or chas­ing the road and adding an­other to the mix. The brak­ing per­for­mance is never in ques­tion, the Brem­bos hav­ing no trou­ble wash­ing off the pace.

Just over a tonne isn’t much for 300hp to be shift­ing, the Club­sport feel­ing won­der­fully light and dev­il­ishly rapid. It’s ex­ploitable, too, thanks to the com­pact, nar­row di­men­sions, the Le Mans Clas­sic Club­sport mak­ing the most of the tight, quick roads. The steer­ing’s weight is nicely judged. It’s light and quick on the move, heav­ier at slower speeds, but not so much that it’s a chore. There’s real de­tail at the steer­ing wheel, the rim rich in in­for­ma­tion about the sur­face rolling be­neath, the grip avail­able, the turn-in sharp, the rear hand­ing on doggedly, the lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial help­ing the Le Mans ex­ploit its per­for­mance in the bends with mighty trac­tion.

While the cabin is filled with rich notes at high en­gine speeds, there’s a trade-off at more se­date pace with some blare from the ex­haust. Stephens is aware of it on this pro­to­type, and has a qui­eter so­lu­tion for the pro­duc­tion cars – of which there’ll be ten built.

Grip lev­els from the Yoko­hamas is never in ques­tion, the Club­sport able to carry huge speed with real con­fi­dence, it cer­tain to be an ab­so­lute blast if you took it to a track. If any­thing it grips a bit too hard. It’ll move around un­der­neath you, but you need to have some pretty big num­bers on the speedome­ter to do so. The com­bi­na­tion of those rel­a­tively tall side­wall pro­files and nicely judged sus­pen­sion brings as­sured con­trol with com­pli­ance that means the Club­sport’s not kicked off-line by the many road im­per­fec­tions that make up a typ­i­cally Bri­tish road.

It’s a car that re­wards the driver, a car that’s en­gag­ing and in­volv­ing, de­mand­ing and en­dear­ing, in the best tra­di­tion of clas­sic driver’s cars. A fine and fit­ting trib­ute to a clas­sic race, just make sure if you or­der one you take up the op­por­tu­nity to have it de­liv­ered on the start line of Le Mans Clas­sic in 2020 and give it ev­ery­thing down the Mul­sanne. It re­ally does de­serve it.

“Get the nee­dle swing­ing around that green tacho and the Club­sport flies”

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