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Lee Sibley

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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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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997 GT3 v GT3 RS: Sharkwerks 4.1s

Engine displacement is everything in the US. The home of the Hemi is also the land where big V8s are shoehorned into just about everything, whether it’s for the school run or the race track. Bigger is supposedly better when it comes to cars, this a heavily enriched ideology ingrained into many aspects of general US society.

However, in the world of Porsche, superior engine size has never formed part of the agenda. While Lamborghini’s first car in 1963 was the 3.5-litre, V12 350GT, for example, Porsche’s original 911 had a measly 2.0-litre flat six. Lamborghini still uses the V12 in its Aventador today, while Audi’s R8 is powered by a 5.0-litre V10, and Ferrari’s V8 and V12 powerplants are considered legendary among the wider car enthusiast population. Despite this the plucky 911 sports car has continued to battle successfully against its bigger-engined rivals on circuit, sticking fiercely to its winning recipe of a robust flat six and an exquisite chassis.

It is this approach which Alex Ross, owner of Californian Porsche tuners SharkWerks, has always found favour with. British born, his extracurricular indulgence in Lotus is therefore forgiveable, but the overachieving 911 has always been the primary source of his motoring aspirations. This, fused with a hint of that ‘bigger is better’ American way, is what has given us the SharkWerks 4.1.

Long-time readers of Total 911 will already know of the prowess of the one-of-four Gulf-inspired Rennsport in our pictures, which we first featured
in early 2015. Acquired in 2011 before being ‘run in’ with a 2,600-mile jaunt across the USA, Alex 
and the SharkWerks team found tuning potential in its 3.8-litre Mezger engine, this becoming the trailblazer for its pioneering 4.1-litre programme. It all started before Porsche had even released its own 997 GT3 RS 4.0 – we told you the States does it bigger and better.

The fruits of more than five years of development includes a partnership with EVOMS to produce a race-spec, lightweight billet 80.44mm crank, CNC machined from billet 4340 high-alloy steel and tested to more than 9,500rpm, as well as a 104.5mm bore piston and cylinder set. The cylinders use steel liners and the pistons are Teflon-coated with anti-wear skirts and titanium wrist pins, saving 20 grams per piston and wrist pin combo against factory. In terms of top end, SharkWerks’ engine has ‘Hammerhead’ Shark-spec headwork along with race-style valve guides for longevity and cam adjuster strengthening, with everything balanced and blueprinted. A custom multi-indexed rotary-style oil pump is used, and the camshafts are SharkWerks/EVOMS spec.

The engine case has been race-prepped with, among other things, improved oiling techniques according to SharkWerks’ own wizardry. This is all partnered to EVOMSit ECU tuning; an RS 4.0-litre clutch pack, though Alex says the original factory set-up does work; a choice of SharkWerks lightweight street or track exhaust, and a host of chassis upgrades including Brembo GT brakes, Bilstein Clubsport double adjustable coilovers, RSS rear adjustable links, bump steer kit, thrust arm bushings and lower control arms, plus some aerodynamic adjustments.

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Porsche 911 on safari

Did you know the Porsche 911’s first ever race was, in fact, a rally? The year was 1965, and Huschke von Hanstein, race director and Porsche PR officer, was keen to show off the dexterity of the company’s new sports car, which could be driven on the road and raced at weekends. Herbert Linge and Peter Falk were thrust into a 2.0-litre 911 for the legendary Monte Carlo rally, driving the car from Bad Homburg, Germany, to the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, finishing a creditable fifth overall. A 911 would win the notorious event outright in 1968 in the hands of ‘Quick Vic’ Elford, the first of many key rallying successes which forms an important part of the 911’s 30,000 overall race victories to date.

Meanwhile, alongside the sport kits which formed the basis of Porsche’s famous Sports Purpose manual in 1966, the company offered a rally kit – option 9552. Comprising of a pair of Recaro seats, roll bar, a 100-litre fuel tank with front hood filler, adjustable Koni shock absorbers plus subtle engine modifications, the kit was intended for customers who wished to participate in long-distance rallies.

Notable success on the rally stage has continued throughout the 911’s history. Who can forget the heroics of the factory-supported Prodrive SC RSs in the 1980s, a precursor to the 1984 Paris-Dakar-winning 953 and, later, the 959, which was built for the very purpose of rallying before the demise of Group B just before its release. The air-cooled 911 remains a regular participant in global regulation and speed rallies, with most notable success courtesy of British Porsche specialists, Tuthills. They have campaigned all manner of classic 911s in various rallies of considerable magnitude right around the world, with the late, legendary rally maestro Björn Waldegård often found at the wheel right up until his death in 2014. Current works driver Romain Dumas, meanwhile, developed his own 997 GT3 RS R-GT which competed alongside a rival 997 – again from Tuthill – in the 2015 WRC, with Porsche itself testing a Cayman GT4 Clubsport R-GT in 2018 with a view to joining the WRC series. As you can see, rallying isn’t a mere offshoot of the Porsche 911 – it’s forever been part of its DNA.

Meanwhile, safari 911s have well and truly captured the imaginations of wider enthusiasts in the last two to three years, catapulted into the limelight by pro racing driver and Porsche enthusiast Leh Keen’s imaginative safari builds. Others have since joined the market with their own off-road expressions of the 911, but what are these cars really like to drive? Today we’re going to find out, thanks to an invite from Makellos Classics to test their most remarkable project to date. Matt Kenyon, owner of the San Diego-based company, explains: “Safari cars are popular right now so we wanted to try our interpretation of it. Some cars have the look, but we wanted to build a car that you could legitimately take off-road.”

The 911 in question is a 1978 European SC, which Makellos acquired in April 2018 with 125,000 kilometres on the clock. As Matt describes, its spec was perfect for the project at hand: “When we came across this 911 SC it had a pretty cool factory spec. It had sunroof delete, lower console delete and radio delete. It just screamed at us to build a rally spec 911.” Work started in May and was completed by mid-September, an incredible feat when you consider this was a passion project which Matt, manager Greg Bartley and the rest of the Makellos team had to fit around a busy stream of paying client jobs.

After a strip down the team began with crucial fabrication work to the 911’s chassis, which entailed custom bracing all over the car as well as reinforcement of the rear strut towers. The front strut towers were custom braced, and custom front and rear skid plates were added too.

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1974 2.7 911: the new standard

The year 1974 represented great change for Porsche. After a decade of constant fettling of its 911, where it witnessed increases in wheelbase, model designations, engine capacity and specification options, Zuffenhausen decided to ring the changes in what was the first major refresh of the car’s now famous history.

Most notably from the outset, those slender lines associated with Butzi’s initial 911 design were altered by Tony Lapine and his team, the addition of impact bumpers at both the front and rear of the car a regulatory necessity rather than a creative endeavour. The 911 needed to adopt impact bumpers to satisfy US crash-safety regulations, and though their presence unquestionably disrupted the flow of the 911’s appearance, it truly was a case of adapt or die. The latter was out the question, as it had by now gained an envious reputation as a robust sports car capable of outgunning its bigger motorsporting rivals.

The engine too was updated, the entire line-up ditching the 2.4-litre engine capacity of the F-series cars in favour of the 2.7-litre capacity used by the 1973 Carrera RS. Black window trim was retained from that first 911 Rennsport for the top-spec cars, with door handles and mirrors also now finished in black instead of chrome. There were minor upgrades to the interior too, including the incorporation of headrests into a one-piece seat for the first time.

Aside from changing the body and engine, Porsche also took the opportunity to revamp its entire 911 model line-up. Three cars would remain – until, of course, the Turbo arrived a year later in 1975 – but the top-spec 911S of the F-series replaced the doomed 911E as the middle offering, while the 911 Carrera became the new jewel of Porsche’s showroom. At the other end the T was scrapped entirely, the entry-level car now simply referred to as the base 911 for this new chapter of Neunelfer.

However, while the pre-impact bumper 911T is a fairly sought-after classic today for the purity of its lines, its successor in the 2.7 911 isn’t generally looked at with a similar fondness. At face value this is understandable. The base 2.7 car may be more powerful than the 911T by 25bhp in US-spec, but it’s heavier by around 50kg too, largely cancelling out any straight-line performance advantage, and the G-series cars just don’t possess the purity in appearance of the early, pre-impact bumper models. However, there are fewer 2.7 911s on the planet than 911Ts, with a quoted 9,320 2.7s built in both Coupe and Targa body styles over the 1974 and 1975 model years, while the 911T was produced 16,933 times between 1972 and 1973.

Despite this, the base 2.7 has largely been forgotten in the classic marketplace, it considered less desirable than the T before it or indeed the cars succeeding it, such as the heavier SC or 3.2 Carrera. It’s not like 1974 is an unpopular year of production either: the top-of-the-range 2.7 Carrera is revered as a genuine collector’s car for its credentials as a ‘secret RS’, the 3.0-litre RSs of the same model year generally considered to be a superior car to the halo 2.7 RS. It’s fair to say though the mid-spec 911S has suffered a similar fate to the base 911 in being largely forgotten. Has an injustice been served?

 

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