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Porsche 964 RS 3.8: the rarest Rennsport

If, like us, you’ve a keen eye on 911 values and auction results in particular, RM Sotheby’s recent Amelia Island sale would have made for a fascinating watch. While many Porsche struggled to build on their lower estimates, lot 167 reached well into seven figures before its frantic end, the sale transporting us back – momentarily, at least – to the explosive heyday of the Porsche auctions of 2014 to 2015.

The car in question was a 964 RS that set a new record for the model by fetching an eye-watering $1.65million. This wasn’t any ordinary 964 RS though, but the rare, wide-bodied, 3.8-litre 964 RS. Achingly desirable having covered just 800km and looking stunning in Paint-To-Sample Ferrari yellow, the car is just one of 55 examples ever built by Porsche.

But what do we really know about Porsche’s rarest road-going Rennsport? It’s worth a reminder of the car that sired this very special Neunelfer, and that model was the 3.6-litre 964 RS. Appearing in 1991, it was born from Porsche’s need to go racing in the Carrera Cup – a series that had been conceived by Roland Kussmaul and talented engineer, Helmut Flegl – and pared a mildly fettled flat six producing 260hp with an obsessive focus on weight saving. The result was a 911 that exhibited a purity of focus not really seen since the seminal 2.7RS.

Naturally, Porsche felt the need to take things a step further, and it would again be motorsport that lay at the heart of their decision. More specifically, it was the desire to race an RSR variant in the bigger-engined GT-category, and the result was the car you see here. Constructed by the racing department at Weissach and only available by special order from them, there has tended to be some dispute around the actual numbers made, although our information tells us that just 104 examples of the 3.8 RS were built and, of those, just the aforementioned 55 were for road use. The remainder were RSR racers, and of the total production all except two were left-hand drive. 

But anyone thinking this was little more than a warmed-over 3.6 couldn’t have been more wrong, and by the same token if Porsche had set a budget for this project, then it seemed the engineers had ignored it. For one thing it differed markedly in appearance, being based on the wider Turbo body shell and featuring a more extreme aerodynamic package that encompassed a deeper front spoiler and a biplane rear wing that was both adjustable and formed in one piece with the engine lid. The shell was also strengthened over the 3.6 and contained additional welds, while aluminium was used for the doors and luggage compartment lid. Along with lighter glass, and a cabin stripped of all extraneous trim and equipment, Porsche quoted a kerb weight of 1,210kg, made all the more impressionable given the larger brakes, body and wheels.

Whatever the actual numbers, it could still be considered extremely lithe compared to any other 964 variants (the 320hp Turbo was a positively porky 1,470kg), and then there’s that engine. The M64/04 unit gained its extra capacity via an increase in stroke from 100mm to 102mm – the bore remained at 76.4mm – although that was just the beginning. Developing 300hp at 6,500rpm and 360Nm of torque at 5,250rpm – both notably higher crank speeds than required by the 3.6 – the new motor featured a raft of careful developments, including an increase in compression ratio (up from 11.3:1 to 11.6:1), a revised intake with individual throttle butterflies to sharpen the throttle response and tweaks to the engine-management system. Bigger inlet and exhaust valves were fitted, too, with sizes increased to 51.5mm and 43.5mm respectively, and gas flow improved with polished ports.

For the full, in-depth article on Porsche’s rarest Rennsport, order your copy for delivery direct to your door here, or download the digital issue to your Apple or Android device. 

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Is Porsche about to release a GT3 Cabriolet?

Total 911’s spies have captured what looks like a Cabriolet version of its 991.2 GT3 on test in southern Spain, leading to speculation the company could be making a proper soft-top version of its widely heralded GT3. Porsche has this week been testing final pre-production prototypes of its forthcoming 991 Speedster just outside Granada, Spain, ahead of the car’s expected world debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, as well as the forthcoming 992 Carrera.

However, a particular mule caught our eye: a genuine Cabriolet-topped car (with windows behind the front seats, as opposed to the Speedster which only has windows for each door, see picture below) in a GT3-spec body. As you can see from the picture, the door card of the mule also reflects that of a production Carrera Cabriolet model, while a more pronounced Gurney flap appears on the active rear wing at the back. After the success of the road-biased GT3 Touring, could Porsche be about to pull the ultimate surprise with a GT3 Cabriolet?

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Porsche 991.2 GT3 RS v rivals

It won’t be under seven minutes,” said GT director Andreas Preuninger when I asked him about a Nürburgring laptime at the 991.2 GT3 RS reveal in Finland earlier this year. He was wrong: it is, and comfortably so, the Lizard green RS lapping the ‘Green Hell’ in 6 minutes 56.4 seconds in the hands of Porsche works racing driver Kévin Estre. That’s 24 seconds faster than the previous GT3 RS, which is little short of incredible.

It underlines the changes to the second-generation car, revisions which, on paper at least, look relatively insignificant. The engine is now that of the current GT3, albeit featuring a differing intake and exhaust. Its power creeps up – not leaps up – to 520hp, it revving to the same, glorious 9,000rpm. The increase is just 20hp over the GT3 and the Gen1 GT3 RS, Preuninger suggesting in Finland that the extra power would only account for a second or so worth of improvement.

Aerodynamic revisions, the immediacy and intricate control of the engine, the electronic differential, rear-wheel steering and PDK transmission and, crucially, the suspension would play their part, too. The new car borrows heavily from its GT2 RS sibling, that means 991 Cup in Nürburgring specification-derived, solid-mounted suspension, with spring rates double that of the outgoing RS, but softer dampers and anti-roll bars. It’s here that Preuninger suggests the biggest gains have been made, and on the road there’s no denying they’re revelatory.

If the 991.1 GT3 RS felt the most distinct departure from its mere GT3 relation previously, then the 991.2 shifts the RS genre into a different area again. The changes on the road are scarcely believable. Had you told me a 991.1 GT3 RS could be so comprehensively out-pointed I simply would not have believed you. The most familiar element is its engine, Porsche’s naturally aspirated 4.0-litre unit a masterpiece, previous experience of it in the standard GT3 underlining that. In the RS it’s sharper, even more immediate and sounds absolutely incredible. The GT department has worked extensively on the systems controlling it, indeed, the entire GT3 RS project defined by adding precision and accuracy to every single element of the car’s controls.

You notice that as soon as you brush the accelerator, the enthusiasm to spin up to its redline even more apparent than with the GT3. The differing intakes, the titanium exhaust and the loss of some carpet and sound deadening give it a clearer, more evocative voice, too, the mechanical sound not raw, but cultured with edge. Peak power’s at 8,250rpm, but just try and avoid chasing that redline at 9,000rpm. There is no let-up as you do, the reward not just the evocative notes the flat six creates, but the continued rush of acceleration across its entire rev-range.

We’ve not got the Nürburgring at our disposal today to explore that, instead we’ll make do with the de-restricted country roads around the Isle of Man. The RS can stretch its legs here, though it might not be able to do so were it not for the sophistication of the suspension. It’s here, specifically, that the GT3 RS takes an evolutionary leap over its predecessor. The GT2 RS-derived set-up allows incredible control and composure, despite tarmac that’s about as far removed from a racing track as it could possibly be. Imperfections on the surface are the norm, smooth tarmac here evidently anomalous, which makes it even more incredible to think that the bike racers who call these roads home during the TT races carry so much speed down these same roads.

For the full group test against the 996 and 997.2 GT3 RS, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 166 from the shops now or order it direct to your door here. You can also download to any Apple or Android device. 

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How to buy a project Porsche 911

How brave do you feel? Buying a project 911 isn’t for the faint-hearted; we’ve all heard tales of running repairs that snowballed into fully-fledged rebuilds. But for those with sufficient time, patience and money, restoring a car can be an edifying and enjoyable experience.
Here we round up what you need to know and look out for, with help from Autofarm founder Josh Sadler and his 911 2.7 Sportomatic.

Money is, of course, the elephant in the room. Parts availability for classic (1964-1989) 911s is at its best since the late 1990s – one positive side effect of rising values – but many components are expensive, and some still need to be custom made. Also, since most of us don’t possess the skills to restore a car ourselves, the task usually involves paying a specialist. With labour rates typically around £60 to £100 per hour, costs soon escalate.

It’s therefore best to approach most projects as a labour of love: a chance to save an ailing 911 from the scrapyard, rather than a business opportunity. Unless the car you plan to restore is a special model, such as an RS, you may find it hard to make a profit – even in the current, still-buoyant Porsche market. Work out how much you’re willing to invest before you start, not forgetting the cost of the car itself.

Josh’s 1976 2.7 Sportomatic is a perfect example of a project-in-waiting. On the plus side, it’s a very original, three-owner UK car with a verifiable MOT history and no obvious structural rust. Less positively, it’s covered 183,000 miles and hasn’t run since 1999 due to an undiagnosed engine problem. Josh wants £30,000 for the 911 and estimates it would cost a further £30,000 to fully restore. 

 

ENGINE

The engine is nominally the most complicated part of a classic 911, yet frequently the easiest to fix. “They’re a great big Meccano kit,” says Josh. “There are very few electronics to worry about compared to a modern car, and engines are potentially good for 200,000 miles if looked after properly. That said, I’d usually factor the cost of a rebuild into any project.”

The air-cooled flat six doesn’t suffer a pivotal, defining fault like the IMS issue that plagues early 996s. However, it evolved hugely over the years, so later cars are markedly more reliable. Josh singles out the final evolution of the original 911, the 1984 to 1989 model year Carrera 3.2, as having “a very solid and sorted engine”. 

One persistent problem that was fixed for the 3.2 concerns the timing chain. As 911 engines got bigger, torquier and lower-revving, more strain was put on the chain tensioners, partly with emissions in mind. These were pressurised in the 3.2, and many older cars have these upgraded tensioners retro-fitted – including Josh’s 1976. “Ironically, if you rev an early 911 hard, you get dynamic tension in the chain,” explains Josh. “So if you want your Porsche to be reliable… drive it like hell.” Advice we’ll happily adhere to.

Some oil seepage from the engine is almost inevitable, but oily cylinders are bad news. Look carefully at the crankcase: the O-ring seal around the crankshaft nose bearing expires, meaning the entire case needs to be removed and opened up. Cylinder head studs are problematic on earlier 911s with magnesium crankcases and also the 1978 to 1983 SC, as they can pull out or rust. Porsche partially solved this issue with coated studs for the Carrera 3.2, but the best replacements are 993 studs or ARPs.

For the full guide on how to buy a project 911, with specialist advice for engine, chassis, interior and body, plus our ten golden rules to consider before purchasing the project, get your copy of Total 911 issue 165 in shops now or available for direct delivery here

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Magnus Walker book tour: Sprechen Sie Porsche

Stuttgart, the birthplace of Porsche, is also the chosen city for one of the world’s largest classic car shows. The spectacular ‘Retro Classic’ hosts hundreds of cars and thousands of enthusiasts every year. Like proud grandparents, the people of Stuttgart never miss a chance to show off cars from their local marque. The monster-sized halls were filled with dozens of pristine, factory-correct 356s, 911s and 912s. However, there was a definite shortage of Sheffield-born Californians sporting dreadlocks, tattoos and beards.

Flying the flag for this very niche category was Magnus Walker. His recent best-selling book, Urban Outlaw – Dirt Don’t Slow You Down, has raced round the globe capturing the imaginations of Porsche fans and inspiration-seekers alike. At the Retro Classic, he was doing two book signings that would eventually take several hours longer than scheduled, due to the massive fan turnout.

Some celebrities could have hastily chewed through both snaking queues in barely an hour, but that isn’t how Magnus works. Old, young, German, English, a toddler with an Urban Outlaw cap, even a fan from Croatia had turned up and every single one of them returned home with a signed book, a photo with Magnus and a glowing smile on their face. Magnus spent time with each individual, chatting about their car, what they thought of the show and creating a special moment for every one of them. All without speaking a fluent word of their language.

Talking with Magnus afterwards, I asked how he felt the tour had gone: “I would say it went extremely well, super-well organised, of course.  The turnout at the events was surprising, some were even bigger than on the UK tour in 2017. The highlight for me was the kickoff at Leipzig where I got to tour the amazing facility and drive on the iconic track. The support has been overwhelming, with some phenomenal events.”

Also at the show was legendary Porsche name and designer of the 993 Turbo, Tony Hatter: I asked Tony why he believed Magnus has such universal appeal: “He has an enthusiastic emotion for his cars that people pick up on. Also, the ease with which he builds these cars is incredible. Some people spend years trying to find the correct bolt but Magnus just thinks, I’ll put this engine in that car and those wheels on that one… which makes him very different,” Hatter said.

Back with Magnus, I asked him why he thought so many people had bought into his story: “There is a common bond and language which we all speak, I jokingly refer to it as, ‘Sprechen Sie Porsche’. We might be English, German or Japanese, whatever, but Porsche is a universal language that brings us together.”

The book’s life isn’t finished yet, either: “A Japanese edition is coming out and I’m really hoping to see it translated into Spanish. The plan is to just keep the book rolling – I hear reading is making a comeback. It’s all about spreading the Outlaw word and hopefully telling my story,” Magnus said. Regardless of where you’re from, it seems we’re all connected by the language that is Porsche…

This story was written by 15-year-old Alfie Blue for Total 911 magazine

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