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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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Ride Onboard With The Legendary Walter Rohrl As He Puts A 718 Cayman GT4 Through Its Paces

Though he’s now a septuagenarian, Walter Rohrl hasn’t slowed down much. He’s as wiry as he was in his prime, and he still takes every outing on track—even one with a passenger sitting shotgun—very seriously. Yes, a smile occasionally breaks across his stern visage, but his focus never fades.

His famously precise driving is the result of five decades behind the wheel of a racing car. Unlike most of the driving we see automotive journalists indulging in, Rohrl’s driving is smooth and devoid of big slides. Accurate and understated, there isn’t much in the way of opposite lock. This is the style of driving we can expect from a man who spent much of his career avoiding cliffs, trees, and oblivious rally fans.

Cool and detached, he uses every inch of Knockhill’s surface, and enters some of the blind corners with the sort of confidence most can’t muster. Some of that composure has to be attributed to how nicely the Cayman sits over curbs and elevation changes. Though Rohrl is renowned for hating rally stages with lots of jumping, he’s virtually sedated as he climbs over Knockhill’s crests and clouts the curbs. A car that inspires this sort of confidence is something quite special.

Being the a seasoned veteran and straightforward German he is, something would be amiss if he didn’t make one critique. As we’ve established before, the gear ratios in every iteration of the GT4 are frustratingly long, and we can hear how the motor falls out of its sweet spot in the second-gear hairpins (3:09), but it’s on-song most everywhere else. It’s a stellar car with a legend behind the wheel—so sit back and enjoy this masterclass, which despite the speeds, is strangely soothing.

The most emotion you see from the steely Rohrl is a sly smirk after Catchpole cracks up sitting shotgun.


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15 years of the Porsche 997.1

A new model of 911 is always controversial. Porsche enthusiasts tend to get so used to the current version that they can be almost resentful when it is replaced.

Indeed, the arrival of any new 911 is usually at least slightly controversial, and with over half a century of history, examples abound: the 964 disappointed for resembling its aging predecessor so closely; the 991 shocked some with its considerably larger dimensions and, for more conservative types, the 992 was not only wider still, but a daunting tech-fest.

Then, of course, there was the 996, Porsche’s imaginative and brave attempt to translate the 911 into the 21st century idiom. Such was the outcry that it was hard to distinguish whether it was the styling or the water-cooled engine which upset diehards more.

The original 901 attracted more curiosity than outright admiration, but in 1963 nobody knew what the future 911 would be capable of. 30 years later and the 993 was mostly favourably received, if still seen as quaintly old fashioned outside Porschedom

By contrast there was one 911 for which praise was unanimous when it appeared, and that was the 997. Here, Porsche managed to combine tradition and progress as never before or, for many people, since. Allow us to take you through the 997’s history, tech, and current standing.

Planning dictated that the 996 would run out six years after its launch, and preparations for that successor began within a year of the 996 appearing in the showrooms. In response to market and press reaction, ideas for its successor were already taking shape.

Two things became clear: if aesthetically modern, the 996 was a little too radical. The Carrera was seen as a shade too refined-looking, lacking a certain aggressive element.

If the Aerokitted versions partly addressed this, in reality they still looked too much like aftermarket modifications. The cabin, too, was not quite right: certainly it was more spacious, and ergonomically it addressed the classic faults of the old 911 cockpit, with its scattered and not always logical switchgear.

But the 996 interior’s curves were, for many observers, overstylised. There was also the matter that the 996 shared not just its cabin, but the entire body from the doors and A-pillar forward with the much cheaper Boxster. 


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Anyone with even a passing interest in Porsche’s motorsport activities can’t fail to be aware of its history at Le Mans, one that encompasses a record 19 outright victories. The last of those appearances on the winner’s rostrum was in 2017 with the dominant 919 Hybrid, but two decades previously, the 1990s was a more barren affair at Le Mans for Porsche.

The 15th win had been achieved in 1994 with the Dauer 962, a racer that was capable, but showing its age. It would take until 1998 to chalk up the 16th victory, and that would come courtesy of an entirely new, 911-derived design – the Porsche GT1.

Porsche knew that it needed something fresh to remain competitive, and that its new racer needed to look like the 911, so with Norbert Singer at the helm, it set to work on the GT1 to compete in the BPR GT Series.

Tony Hatter began drafting a design in 1995, one that borrowed pretty much the entire front section of the 993 – rather apt as he’d designed the car originally – but with the body cut behind the driver and with a new steel section grafted on behind to carry the engine and transmission that had been turned through 180 degrees and mid-mounted. 

After a 2nd and 3rd place at the 1996 Le Mans the car was updated for the 1997 season, becoming the GT1 EVO and gaining 996-style headlamps, among other developments. There was no finish at Le Mans that year, but despite outright victory remaining elusive, Porsche’s engineering director Horst Marchart was persuaded by race team boss Herbert Ampferer to stick with the project, and for 1998 what amounted to a completely new car was developed.

Effectively a clean-sheet design that shared almost no parts with the road cars, there was little pretence of remaining close to the production 911, despite the Board’s wishes – this was essentially a prototype, and in fact the FIA regulations required just one ‘Straßenversion’ road model to be built. 

The GT1 marked a number of firsts for Porsche, one of which was the use of a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, with the sections and panels constructed by English specialists, CTS. Talented engineer Horst Reitter had designed the carbon tub and he had plenty of experience, having also been responsible for Porsche’s first racing monocoque for the 956.

There was another key difference in that it was also designed entirely on computers, with no full-scale model produced, Singer adopting a new method to develop the aerodynamic package. 

A quarter-scale model was tested in the wind tunnel, with the data transferred to CAD computers for production of the final, full-sized car; that was then checked a second time in Weissach’s wind tunnel, many further hours being devoted to honing the final shape.


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UK Porsche 993 road trip across the USA

Sometimes in life you need to jump and have faith things will work out. Having covered many thousands of miles in the States, I’d long wondered what it would be like to drive across this great country in one of my own cars.

One winter’s day last December I booked a couple of flights to Nashville without clearing my six-week travel plans with my colleagues at work. It would also mean my partner, Renée, who I planned to take with me, would face a similar predicament. We decided to take the plunge.

I found very little information to help take my own British-registered, C16 993 Carrera S to the States. Others had asked the question on forums before, only to be ridiculed, the perplexed wondering ‘why?’ It’s not for everyone, and certainly not without risk.

Think about things that could happen: an accident, theft, breakdown. With a rental, you simply call a number and someone else sorts your problem. At worst, you’ll be inconvenienced a day – that was my experience when I wrecked a BMW in Death Valley a few years back. Taking my own car would expose these risks and more, so my appetite for adventure had to match my love of Porsche. 

You can rent a Porsche 911 at LAX, but even booking months in advance you’ll be lucky to get availability, and are limited to collection and drop off at the same location. If you can get one, you’ll pay $1,800 a week for the privilege, and when you return with 8,000 miles added to the odometer there will be an extra $4,000 to pay. This was never my plan, exploring the options a way to justify the end.

Old 911s are great cars for covering distances in. They’re reliable, small, usable and intoxicating to drive. The world has long woken up to how good they are, and they’re in demand, many of us becoming cautious of piling on miles or even getting them wet.

Yet driving them is where the real value will always be. There was something distinctly appealing about shipping the 993, that familiarity of taking a faithful companion along for the trip of a lifetime and the sense of occasion an air-cooled 911 always delivers

The process has taught me it takes organisation, patience and a lot of form filling. There are two main shipping options: a roll-on-roll-off service, or a container, either with just one car or shared with other cars. I did a mixture, RORO outbound and a container inbound.

Costs were £4,000 including collection from Tennessee and transportation by road to Charleston on our return. You need to allow extra time for shipping delays; my car was over a week late arriving, luckily factored into the dates.


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