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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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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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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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Turbo v Carrera: 964 RS v Turbo II

Less is more. Or perhaps more is more. After an unforgettable day with two iconic 964s, I’m still struggling to decide. Both cars are Midnight blue,
and both will set you back around £200,000, but there the similarities end. As driving machines the Carrera RS and Turbo 3.6 could scarcely be more different.

I rendezvous with Editor Lee at Hexagon Classics, where the 911s are waiting outside. I’m drawn to the RS first: its neat, narrow-body lines and just-so stance look purposeful yet achingly pretty.

The Turbo is almost cartoonish by comparison, with swollen flanks, dished alloys and a mighty rear wing. If the former appeals to connoisseurs, the latter is an unashamed crowd-pleaser.

Driving either Porsche around London would, frankly, be like eating a Michelin-starred meal in a motorhome, so we set a course for rural Buckinghamshire, me in the RS and Lee in the Turbo.

As we join the gridlocked North Circular, though, I’m already beginning to regret my choice. The Rennsport’s cabin is so spartan it borders on masochistic. Indeed, it’s more useful to list what it doesn’t have: items binned include the sunroof; air conditioning; electric front seats, windows and mirrors; rear seats; radio and cassette player; heated rear window; central locking and alarm. 

This isn’t what carmakers euphemistically term ‘decontenting’, however. The reborn RS also has a seam-welded bodyshell, aluminium bonnet, thinner glass, shorter wiring loom, virtually no soundproofing and no underseal.

Porsche’s standard ten-year anti-corrosion warranty was cut to three years as a result. On the plus side it weighs 120kg less than a 964 Carrera 2 in Lightweight spec, as tested here.

Hemmed in by towering SUVs as we approach Hanger Lane, I have only the coarse clatter of the single-mass flywheel for company. Even at idle the RS sounds austere and combative, the fluctuating churn of its flat six transmitted to my ribcage via hard-shell Recaro seats.

Its ride is rock solid, too, amplifying every ripple in the road. Thank 40mm lower suspension derived from the Carrera Cup racer, larger 17-inch alloys and solid engine mounts.

Filtering onto the A40, a national speed limit sign finally hovers into view. The Turbo is up ahead and I watch its haunches squat as Lee lights the fuse. I slip the stubbier gear lever into third and give chase.

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Turbo v Carrera: 930 3.0 vs 2.7 MFI

After the swing of the 1960s, the 1970s are often lambasted, wrongly viewed as a decade of energy crises, political upheaval and scandal. The reality is that while the 1970s might have been a turbulent decade, they were also arguably a turning point in the modern world. 

Those energy crises did raise global concerns over consumption and, unsurprisingly, the car was in the firing line, particularly in the US. Increasing legislation for fuel economy and emissions, as well as safety, demanded change. That created problems for Porsche with the 911.

The 911s of 1970’s America would feature detuned engines to pass economy standards, EU and RoW cars largely escaping those, though those US regulations would have a pronounced impact on how the 911 would look. 

From 1973 onwards US domestic and imported cars had to survive a 5mph collision without any damage to the headlights, engine or safety equipment. The 911’s bumpers had to change, with the US regulation demanding innovation.

The G-series bumpers were born, revolutionising the 911’s look and ensuring it would pass not just the 1973-onwards regulations, but also the later zero-damage standards that would come into force over the next decade. 

Porsche evidentially thrives on the challenges posed by regulation, and those US rules forced the company’s hand changing the 911’s look. The styling department is credited as being responsible for those iconic bumpers, under then-director Anatole Lapine and a team consisting of Wolfgang Möbius, Dick Söderberg and Peter Reisinger. 

In contrast to so many rivals’ hastily devised, somewhat awkward efforts, Porsche’s solution to the regulations was beautifully integrated and simply engineered. Larger, higher, body-painted bumpers with neoprene rubbing strips were adopted, to which functional ‘bellows’ which compressed on impact were fitted.

The bellows were a neat solution which allowed the bumpers to move as much as 50mm, and were attached to collapsible steel tubes on European cars and hydraulic shock absorbers on US cars. The new bumpers were instrumental in the relocation of the battery, too, the now single battery being located in the luggage compartment in front of the left-hand front wheel, improving the weight distribution.

The rear would see a similarly styled wrap-around bumper hung off a complex aluminium extrusion, the lightweight metal adopted to keep additional mass at the rear to a minimum. Above the rear bumper Porsche adopted a reflective red band, joining the rear lights in with a styling element that’s largely pervaded the 911’s rear visual signature ever since. 

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