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Paul Stephens Le Mans Classic Clubsport driven

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 millimetre-perfect 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.

 

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rise of the Porsche 997

The classifieds can be a dangerous place to spend time. It never used to be so easy, either. As a kid I’d scour the Sunday Times, latterly Auto Trader and Top Marques, though the internet’s killed that. I don’t look too often, but writing here it’s an occasional, occupational hazard.
A potentially dangerous one, too. I’ll happily admit I’d missed how much of a bargain the 997 is these days. As a strong advocate of the 996, I’d pretty much ruled its successor out. Not because I’m not a fan – quite the opposite – just that I was under the impression it is still too new to be affordable, at least in my world. Editor Sibley’s call to write this somewhat changed that.

As I type this, on my other screen there’s an advert for a 2005 997 Carrera 2 manual Coupe for a fiver under £22,500. When did that happen? That’s the first one I’ve found, and I’ve not even looked that hard. While I and plenty of others have been banging on about hoovering up 996s while they’re still cheap, the depreciation curve’s turned the 997 game on its head. Want one? I sure as hell do.

Not to take away from the 996, but the 997 moved the game on significantly. The 996’s close association, both visually and technically, with the Boxster did it no favours among many. That it introduced water to the mix only made its task more difficult. The 997 reasserted the 911 as a more distinct offering after the 996 had softened the blow of the manner by which the 911 is cooled (technically by water, but then that water is cooled by air…).

The 996 was a necessity, creating the format from which the 911 line would follow to this day. That the 996, and in particular 996.2s, have been creeping up in value in recent years underlines a growing acceptance, though we’re at a point now where the 996 and 997 prices are converging, and in many cases the 997 is cheaper. It’d be a staunch 996 owner who’d assert their preference over the newer car. On looks alone the 997 has the 996 licked, but underneath it’s a significant step up technologically.

For for full story on why the 997.1 is the best-value 911 you need to buy right now, get your copy of Total 911 issue 171 in shops now, or get it delivered to your door. Alternatively, you can download the issue to any digital device. 

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996 CSR EVO: Evolving the Carrera

There’s a very nice 996.2 GT3 sitting in the RPM Technik showroom when I arrive early on a Wednesday morning. There’s a track booked, but the GT3 will be staying here. Instead RPM Technik’s commercial director Darren Anderson hands me the keys to the company’s CSR EVO. The CSR name has been around since 2010, RPM offering the CSR as a package of upgrades on 996 and 997s which can be done at once or over a period of time, depending on budget and expectations.

With the EVO the focus is more on track driving, it obviously a more hardcore, adjustable car that offers the serial track day enthusiast something they can drive as a daily, yet track mercilessly. As Anderson himself says, the EVO “has the broadest remit of any CSR”.

RPM Technik admits that to qualify as a CSR there has to be a minimum of work done to give the name its due. Obviously the Merlin purple demonstrator, build number 22, has the full EVO package on it, but if elements don’t chime with your desires or needs then you don’t have to have them. Add all the EVO changes up and you’re looking at around £55,000, which is a not-insignificant amount, especially as you need a 996.2 Carrera base car in the first instance. Indeed, that pushes the CSR EVO into the league of that aforementioned 996.2 GT3.

That’s perhaps a moot argument as, regrettably, the likelihood of buyers walking into RPM’s showroom, buying a GT3, chucking a lid and some Nomex clothing under the bonnet and heading to a track day are past. Blame the speculative nature of the Porsche marketplace for that, and in particular the ‘value’ of the GT cars.

The CSR EVO represents an opportunity: this is a car that a genuine enthusiast can buy and use as they like, that indeed being a significant part of its appeal. That it’s based on the 996 only makes it more interesting, a car that the market’s traditionally described as unloved. I’ve never subscribed to that – a good 996 delivers a wonderful drive, yet as with any car there’s scope for improvement, which is where RPM comes in.

The list of changes on this CSR EVO is lengthy. It’s very obviously purple, which is deliberate given its demonstrator status, Anderson wanting it to stand out among other cars. The likelihood is CSR EVO customers will leave their cars in the standard hue, though RPM will be only too happy to take on a colour change. Overt colour aside, the bodywork changes are relatively subtle. There’s a vented CSR EVO front bumper with ducting behind it feeding an additional third radiator, a carbon ducktail and sideskirts and rear bumper with vented inserts, and a central exit for the twin exhaust pipes. There’s a carbon bonnet, upon which there’s a stickered Porsche badge, in keeping with the lightweight ethos.

That carries over to the inside: there’s a lower dash delete, RPM moving the window switches up from between the seats to the centre dash, the ashtray also being removed. Out of that neater tunnel between the Recaro Pole Position bucket seats is a longer gearstick attached to a modified linkage for an improved shift, while ahead of you is a deep-dished, leather-rimmed MOMO wheel with a yellow strip…

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Rare Ruf cars to star at upcoming Porsche sale

A delectable duo of extremely rare, highly exclusive RUF sports cars are to be among the lots at Silverstone Auctions’ 2018 Porsche sale. Established as a highlight of the calendar year, the 2018 Porsche Sale in association with Porsche Club GB takes place on 28th September at a new premises at the Dallas Burston Polo Club. The sale of all things Porsche takes on added significance in the midst of the company’s 70th year celebrations, though two lots which caught our eye hail from the production line of revered German manufacturers and Porsche tuners, RUF Automobile GmbH.

This 996-based 2002 RTurbo, resplendent in Speed yellow, was formerly used by RUF as a Nürburgring press car, featuring in the promotional ‘RUF RTurbo Nurburgring Lap’ video while also appearing on the front cover of Marc Bonger’s book ‘Porsche and RUF Sportscars’. Equipped with 550hp, a six-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel-drive, the RTurbo hails from a private collection and boasts just under 30,000 miles on the clock. Its estimate is £180,000-220,000.

Silverstone Auctions are also pleased to announce a 993-based BTR2, one of just 15 produced, will also be presented for sale on 28th September. Estimated at £150,000-200,000, the BTR2 produces 420hp, races to 62mph from standstill in just 4.1 seconds, and powers on to a top speed of 191mph. Finished in Arctic silver, the car has returned to Rufplatz every 12,000 miles for servicing, with other maintenance work carried out at OPCs.

“RUFs are a very special breed of vehicle. When you take a car as well respected as a Porsche and try to improve it, it can lead to some incredible results,” says Harry Whale, classic car specialist at Silverstone Auctions. “The pair of RUFs on offer at the Porsche Sale are truly impeccable examples, one from a single ownership and a vendor who has clearly cared for the car dearly, and another which is famous around the world for appearing in RUFs own promotional material, taking on the legendary ‘Green Hell’, the Nurburgring. We couldn’t ask for two better examples of RUFs unbeatable engineering prowess and skill.”

For more information on the Porsche sale and to browse the lots ahead of auction, visit silverstoneauctions.com.

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project gold: Porsche remakes one-off 993 Turbo

Porsche has today taken the extraordinary step of remaking a ‘one of one’ special edition 993 Turbo more than 20 years after production of air-cooled 911s ceased at Zuffenhausen. The car, code-named ‘Project Gold’ in teaser videos released by the company in the run-up to its revelation, has been put together by Porsche Classic, with its styling and gold paintwork evoking that of Porsche’s current 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition.

Painted in Golden Yellow Metallic from Porsche Exclusive’s 991, the body of this collector’s item is ‘based on’ an original 993 body shell, with side air intakes present from the Exclusive 993 Turbo S, which was also available as an option on the regular 993 Turbo. Porsche says a brand new 3.6-litre 993 Turbo engine was installed into the car, its quoted output of 450hp suggesting the motor comes fitted with the X50 Powerkit option available at the time through Porsche Exclusive.

Project Gold took one and a half years to build, relying on a pool of over 6,500 genuine Porsche Classic parts, with Studio Porsche responsible for contemporary styling based on the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, which includes black leather seats with gold piping, gold detailing on the tachometer, and carbon detailing inside and out.

Porsche says the car is a ‘one-off production’, which will be auctioned at RM Sotheby’s Porsche-only sale at PEC Atlanta on October 27, 2018, which itself will mark 70 years of Porsche sports car production. However, the winning bidder will not be able to enjoy this 993 on the public road: not road registered, Porsche says the car is “limited to use on private tracks.”

You can see Project Gold for yourself at Rennsport Reunion, Laguna Seca, on September 27, where the car will make its world debut. For the most in-depth report on Project Gold ahead of its appearance at auction, keep an eye out for Total 911 magazine issue 171, due out October 3.

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