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Buyers’ guide

3.2 Carrera Clubsport: the lightweight special

The proliferation of GT models over the last few years means we’ve arguably become a little spoilt when it comes to the concept of more focused, pared-back 911s. It was a rather more novel approach back in 1973 when the legendary 2.7 RS burst onto the scene, a model Porsche followed a year later with the much rarer 3.0 variant.

The SC RS continued Porsche’s burgeoning Rennsport tradition at the start of the 1980s, but the reality is it cannot be considered in the same vein as its predecessors. Just 21 were made, but it was also a pure competition car, unlike the homologated RS 911s of the 1970s. 

It would actually take until 1991 for the Rennsport badge to make a comeback on the decklid of a road-going Porsche 911 as we know it, this time attached to the 964.

That meant nearly a 20-year gap between these air-cooled homologation specials so coveted by enthusiasts today. There was, however, an attempt by Porsche between 1987 and 1989 to plug that gap with a lightweight special: the Clubsport

There was certainly space in the Carrera range of the time for something a little more focused, and with the 964 waiting in the wings it could be considered a fitting last hurrah before increasing modernity swept away many elements of 911 tradition. Even if it isn’t quite the real RS deal, this is a model that had more than a dusting of Rennsport magic, and today it’s a Total 911 favourite. 

Work on a prototype designated by Porsche as ‘911 F22 prototype sports package 2’ had begun in 1984, and it appeared on the road the following year featuring glass-fibre bumpers and the older 915 transmission, neither of which made it to the production version that would make its debut at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show two years later.

Initially aimed at those with an urge to participate in club-level racing and other track events, it would go on to make for a magical road car, albeit a rare one. Of the 340 made, just 53 would come to the UK, with a further 28 examples heading Stateside – yes, this is a lightweight special that was permitted for the American market. The majority of Carrera Clubsports – 169 – were produced in 1988.

Numbers like those should have ensured instant desirability, but rather to Porsche’s surprise the reality proved slightly different. Despite actually being cheaper than the 3.2 Carrera upon which it was based – not a strategy you could see Weissach embracing today, where less very much costs more – early sales were something of a struggle.

The reasons for this have never been fully explained, although it’s conceivable that the somewhat austere specification didn’t really chime with the period of 1980s excess, a time when the well-heeled wanted to flaunt their financial status with luxury cars. So what did ticking the option box marked ‘M637’ actually get a buyer for their £34,389?

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Porsche 993 Carrera RS road test

“You must push it,” says this 993 Carrera RS Clubsport’s owner, Omar. That’s fine for him to say, but the paradox of driving cars like this is exactly that – driving them.

Just 227 993 Carrera RS Clubsports were ever built. I’m sat in one now, a genuine 993 Carrera RS with the under-bonnet sticker containing the essential 003 code. That signifies Group N GT1 Carrera RS, simply ‘Clubsport’ or, in some markets, ‘RSR’.

My surroundings confirm that: the interior is devoid of anything other than the bare necessities, which means three pedals, a gearstick and a steering wheel. It feels pure race car, because that’s what it is.

A little bit more deciphering of those codes reveals that when ordered it came with a 197 88Ah battery, 459 strut brace, 471 Carrera RS Sports spoilers, 564 no airbag, 567 graduated tint windscreen, 573 air conditioning, 657 power steering and 990 cloth seats.

All came with most of these, the air conditioning optionally (and sensibly) added, as has a powered passenger window, the switch for it located in front of the gear lever in the middle, usually a blanked-off switch position in these. As a C11 model it was originally supplied to Austria, is left-hand-drive and finished in L39E Riviera blue, that bold colour covering every bit of the RS’s beautifully exposed bodywork. 

There’s plenty of it: the rear-view mirror, sat beside a sole sun visor, is filled with the stunning hue, the criss-crossing cage that fills the rear and braces down the door apertures as well as the entire rear area being covered in the bright finish.

There’s no carpet anywhere, save for a couple of mats in the front footwells. The lightweight, fixed seatbacks weren’t a stranger to the spray gun either, the lack of anything even as ‘luxurious’ as headlining means the colour is on the roof above, too.

You’d have to have been intent on really using the Clubsport as intended to pay the additional £5,250 it added to the regular RS’s £62,250 sticker price and, really, like the colour you picked, because there’s no escaping it when you get inside. 

For that additional outlay you lost equipment, the Clubsport binning the RS’s luxuries, such as they were, for an even more purposeful specification. It existed as a means to homologate the Carrera for the BPR GT3 and GT4 categories and is based on the Carrera Cup car, as well as giving more track-focused customers an even more focused machine.

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Porsche 993: the 911 that had to succeed

In retrospect, it’s easy to say Porsche’s mistake was its decision to keep the G-series 911 in production for 15 years, but from the company’s point of view, through the early 1980s the 911 was selling ever more strongly.

Regular updates and revisions ensured it remained at the top of the performance stakes. The robustness which made it a car you could count on day after day meant that despite its archaisms, it was still the ultimate road and track sports car.

However, within Porsche it was also a source of frustration to many of its engineers and designers keen to modernise it, dispensing, for example, with the torsion bar suspension and introducing assisted steering and a less idiosyncratic ventilation system. Journalists in other respects always well disposed towards the 911 observed it was becoming increasingly an enthusiast’s car, lacking broader appeal and depriving Porsche of a wider market.

The 928 launched in 1977 was supposed to address the GT segment of the market, but by the time the Vorstand had approved the next 911, Typ 964 in April 1984, sales of the 928 were already in decline. The 964 itself was a radical step in engineering terms – a completely new chassis and suspension which allowed fitment of ABS and assisted steering, a larger and more potent flat six, and four-wheel drive.

A conservative board, however, would not permit the designers to change anything above the axle line, which meant the 964, despite its revised front and rear bumpers, looked remarkably similar to its predecessor. Moreover its four-wheel-drive, such an innovation when Audi introduced the Quattro in 1981, was no longer a sensation, and early 964 buyers were able to confirm what the magazine testers had found, that Porsche’s fixed 2:1 rear/front torque split made the latest 911 an uninspiring understeerer.

The rear-drive C2 911 appeared a year later, but by then the damage had been done: in a generally morose market, and one which had halved in the US, clearly the 964 would not be the model to rescue an increasingly beleaguered Porsche.

A rolling of management heads saw new blood brought into the company. A former Weissach R&D engineer named Ulrich Bez was enticed from BMW Tech to become engineering boss, and he appointed his chief designer at BMW, Harm Lagaaij, another ex-Weissach man, to reinvigorate Porsche styling. These two were the impetus behind the next 911: the 993.

Bez was particularly critical of the 964’s crude ride and the C4’s handling, and Lagaaij’s remark when he arrived at Porsche’s design studios in October 1989 that there was “nothing going on” has gone into the history books. Work on 911 Typ 993 would start within weeks of the 964 C2 reaching the showrooms.

This time, a chastened Vorstand, which had pensioned off its managing, engineering and styling directors in short order, was prepared to offer Bez and Lagaaij more licence, and the pair took as much advantage as their still-constrained development budget permitted. 

Nevertheless, the new 911 represented a challenge: how could the new 993 retain its defining ‘Neunelfer-ness’ yet be endowed with a more modern appearance and wider appeal? 

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Fast Porsche Speedster

“The engine was the spare, well, it was what became the spare engine; it had been the primary engine in HR2, the 962 which I raced. It was the Daytona engine,” says Bruce Canepa.

It isn’t every shop that has such an engine going spare, and when Las Vegas casino owner Gary Primm contacted Canepa about the disappointing 1989 911 Speedster he’d just had delivered, the stars aligned.

Primm had driven his Speedster about 100 miles and found it lacking, calling Canepa to ask: “What can we do with this thing? It’s boring, and slow,” Primm and Canepa having collaborated previously on an AMG build.

It didn’t take Canepa long to figure out what to do with the Speedster. He admits: “They were pretty underwhelming. They had no power, they had a Turbo chassis, which was almost too much car for the motor, and they were flexy.”

He thought for a while before fixing on the idea of a 934 for the road. “Really, the nicest thing about Primm and a lot of my customers is he just let me build what I want,” says Canepa. “He didn’t really know what a 934 was. I said ‘we’re going to put on 934 flares; they look cool. We’re going to make it look like a Porsche race car, but with no roof on it.’”

The result is sitting in Canepa’s showroom in Scotts Valley, California. I’ve been poring over it for over an hour. Even here among Porsche rarities of
the like you’ll seldom see outside Porsche’s own Stuttgart Museum, the Speedster is a knockout.

G1 Guards red, because that’s how it was delivered to Canepa (all of Primm’s cars are red), the build is so beautifully executed it could easily be a factory car, albeit a very special one.

The deep front splitter has its outer cutouts filled by running lights behind Perspex, and the remaining three large intakes are pure 934 race car. In the unlikely event that the front bumper left you guessing, this is a Speedster unlike any other. Those 934-proportioned flared arches front and rear, covering 17-inch, three-piece BBS alloy racing wheels, leave little doubt.

Those punctured rear wings feed intake air into the engine, this Speedster taking the idea of a Turbo-bodied Speedster to its ultimate incarnation. Only unlike the standard cars, the visuals are more than matched by the mill…

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Open-top classics: 964 Targa v Cabriolet

These days the 964 is an almost universally popular generation of 911. Endeared to the hearts of many for its near-perfect blend of modernity and classic purity, most would stick a 964 in their five-car 911 garage – though that 964 would likely be a Coupe.

However, with 964 Coupe prices – particularly for the Carrera 2 – now off the scale, and in an air-cooled Porsche marketplace that’s slightly unpredictable, for anyone wishing to get behind the wheel of a 964 at a reasonable price point perhaps the Targa and Cabriolet versions of 964 are worth considering?

I admit I am with you with a preference for the Coupe. A 964 Carrera 2 Coupe is always the perfect choice, so would you really consider the two runts of the litter: a pair of Carrera 4 964s, one a Cabriolet and the other a Targa? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

Drive both across the bumpy, undulating B roads of the North Yorkshire Moors in the bitter cold of March, on a week when the UK is being battered by winter gale-force winds. Sounds perfect.

If we’re going to do this, we had better do it properly. That means no sheltering underneath the canvas; topless is the plan. It’s actually a bright,
sunny day despite the gale-force winds, and as photographer Chris says: “You won’t see the howling wind in the pictures.”

Removing the roof of both cars differs significantly. The Cabriolet is simple: sit in the driver’s seat, and push and hold the button. Wait 20 seconds or so. Done. Okay, so it’s not quite as snappy as a modern convertible Porsche, though it’s perfectly acceptable. For me, convertible cars of any make should be driven top-down whenever possible.

I always offer a disapproving frown to anyone I see driving anything with the hood up in the sunshine, so making the process as simple as possible is a vital element for me. 

The Targa is different. First off you’ll need to rummage in the glovebox for the two levers needed to release the latch above the windscreen, then faff about inserting them before swinging them through 90 degrees. That releases the front edge.

Now you have to climb out and figure out how to lift the entire roof section clear, with the catches at the front combining with two steel pins at the rear to secure the section. If you’re like me and have a giraffe-like physique, you can use your leverage and self confidence to lift it clear, a small voice in your head saying, ‘don’t drop it, don’t drop it…’. Humans with lesser leverage may need assistance.

Once you’ve lifted the top clear, what do you do with it? The stubborn male in me refuses to do the obvious thing and read the manual. After a few more moments of fiddling I discover the over-centre crank that gives the Targa section its shape and rigidity and allows the whole assembly to fold down, suitable for storage in the front luggage area. Assuming you haven’t already filled it with luggage. 

Fast and easy it is not. However, as I stand and look at the two cars, there’s no doubt in my mind which one is the better looking with the
roof configured for sunshine. The Targa is the more attractive of the two. I have always loved the rollover hoop section and, while the rear screen isn’t the classic Coupe shape, I do actually like the wrap-around curvaceousness of the one-piece rear glass.

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