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Total 911

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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Porsche 991 hybrid test drive

The internal combustion engine doesn’t realise it’s there,” says Chuck Moreland, owner of Elephant Racing. You might know the company – it’s a specialist in Porsche suspension – but here Moreland’s talking about the flat six in an early 991.1 3.4-litre Carrera.

Specifically, he’s talking about the Vonnen Shadow Drive, Vonnen an Elephant Racing offshoot that’s developed a hybrid 911 before Porsche itself. If it was going to be done anywhere outside Weissach, then it’s hardly surprising it was here.

Vonnen is in California, specifically Silicon Valley, the absolute global heart of innovation and technology. Moreland explains how it happened: “It was a case of us sitting around talking among ourselves and thinking, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be great if…’. And then we started exploring different ideas of how you might hybridise an existing 911 platform.”

That was three years ago. Today we’re standing around an engine and gearbox, looking at the axial flux electric motor that Vonnen has developed with a European supplier, sandwiching it between the two.

If that sounds familiar, it’s exactly what Porsche will do with the 992 to hybridise it, only it’s left space inside the gearbox to do so. With the 991 there’s no such luxury, so Vonnen had to get clever with the space it had.

It’s been a quick development cycle, especially considering this wasn’t Vonnen’s first solution. Initially Vonnen tried pushing electrically generated drive back into the gearbox via the front-axle output shaft on a 996 Carrera 4.

Moreland says: “That was more a proof of concept, but we learned a lot from it, and we recognised that there was real opportunity for improving. The biggest issue was that the torque was being added on the output shaft of the transaxle, so we weren’t taking advantage of the gear-reduction capabilities from the gearbox.”

Buoyed by the potential, Moreland went all in, saying: “Okay, cost be damned, what if we wanted to make this thing rip? What would we do?” And so we went back to the drawing board and this is what we dreamed up, and it basically addressed all the issues that existed with this car. And that’s how we got where we are.”

Squeezing an electric motor between the engine and transmission adds 26mm in length. That’s required some modification of the structure fore of the gearbox to allow clearance, the electric motor replacing the flywheel, as well as the starter motor,  and taking over all the functionality of it, including stop-start, if fitted. The batteries powering it are situated in the luggage area, robbing it of some space. 

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Speedster generations

“I took a 911 Cabriolet off the line and drove it to my hot-rod shop,” admits Preuninger. That car became a mix-up of Gen1 GT3 and that Cabriolet.

The result of the GT boss’ work was first shown to a select group of customers as far back as 2014 alongside the 911 R concept, which the Speedster shares a lot of DNA with. This new Speedster is a GT department model, a car which, if you take Speedsters at their most elemental, it always should have been. 

Even so, Preuninger admits: “We didn’t focus on every last gram and we’re not concerned about lap times.” While that might be true, a kerbweight of 1,465kg is just 52kg more than a manual GT3.

The Speedster, like the R, is exclusively manual, with no PDK being offered, saving 17kg in weight and pleasing the driving purists among us. There are the same 911 R carbon-fibre front wings, the underbody at the rear being R-derived, while PCCB is standard too.

Those early customers who saw it liked the idea of a properly raw Speedster, doing without any roof, but Preuninger and his team denied them that, fitting a hood, in part to ensure that owners actually use them rather than park them away with delivery miles in collections. And the 1,948 Porsche will build? That’s the year when the first Speedster was built. 

Opening the low, neat roof is simple enough – a button unlatches the hood at the top of the lower windscreen and unclips the buttresses which then spring up from the large clamshell. The clamshell lock is released too, and the huge carbon-fibre panel – the largest Porsche has ever made, and weighing just 10kg – lifts out and back on struts, the hood simply pushed into its stowage area underneath.

Pop down the cover and the Speedster is open, as it should be, the slightly steeper rake and lowering of the screen, as well as that rear, fundamentally changing the look of the 911. It’s very reminiscent of original 356 Speedsters, losing the sometimes-uncomfortable, heavy-looking rear of later 911 Speedster models. There’s also a hint of Carrera GT in its proportions, particularly that rear three-quarter view.

The black stone guards on the flanks fore of the rear wheels were a late – and necessary – addition, admits Preuninger, breaking the visual length while harking back to the G-series models.

You don’t have to have them, and if you’re after an even more retro style then there’s the Heritage Pack plus a numbered, customised Porsche Design timepiece, as is the norm these days.

Forget those, though. Preuninger leans in, says to press Auto Blip and the exhaust button and go and drive it. I argue I’ll do the footwork myself and leave the Auto Blip off, Preuninger laughing and saying: “It’s better than you,” before adding, “and me…”

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RUF CTR Anniversary driven

“The Yellowbird is a car that made us internationally renowned from one day to another. We were the world’s fastest car – all the big companies were slower. No matter if it was 20 years ago, ten years ago or just yesterday, everybody talks about this car.” These are the words of Marcel Ruf, who talks with passion and pride when I ask him to describe what the RUF CTR of 1987 did for his father’s company.

It was that 3.2 Carrera-based ‘Yellowbird’ which put RUF Automobile on the map. A real-life David versus Goliath moment, it was faster than Ferrari’s F40 and Porsche’s 959, inspiring an entire generation of automotive fanatic. Those three letters responsible for building it became an alluring brand synonymous with engineering precision and purity henceforth.

We’re here on Rufplatz to celebrate 80 years of a company which has been integral to the culture surrounding the 911, a sports car we all – RUF included – admire greatly. RUF has always found a way to improve on Porsche’s recipe, consistently evolving the 911 years ahead of Zuffenhausen.

It led to RUF becoming a certified manufacturer in its own right by the German authorities in 1981, and since then we’ve been on the road to this very moment, a dream Alois Ruf Jr has harvested for decades: to build a complete sports car from scratch. That car is the new RUF CTR.

Revealed in 2017 – 30 years since the original – the latest CTR has undergone further testing, tweaks and even a name change. The CTR Anniversary, as it is now known, is at last approaching the finished article, and is a fitting way for this family-run business to celebrate its 80th birthday.

Putting the festivities to one side, this new CTR is arguably the most important RUF creation in years. Times have changed, and now there’s much stiffer competition for ultra high-end, Porsche-inspired craftwork, most notably from a well-known company some 5,000-miles away in north Hollywood.

Looking more inwardly too, the fact this is the first RUF to be built completely from scratch carries a significant cost. Company sources tell me it could be between €12 to 15 million to develop the CTR, all of the investment coming directly from RUF itself. It’s a statement of confidence to say the least, the carbon fibre monocoque at its centre forming, we are told, the basis of RUF cars of the future as well as now.

On paper the CTR Anniversary’s credentials (we’ll come to those later) have well and truly resonated with the uber wealthy, so much so that all 30 cars of the initial build run were sold within a week. I say initial build run, as off-the-bat demand for the CTR Anniversary caught out not only RUF itself, but owners of the first CTR, too, who simply didn’t react quick enough to bag the latest example.

“We felt it was important that those owners of the original CTR were given the opportunity to have an Anniversary, so we spoke with the 30 buyers of the new car and asked how they felt about us increasing production to 50 cars to solve the problem. Thankfully they gave their blessing, so we were able to offer the extra 20 spaces only to those who had a CTR1,” Marcel Ruf explains. A potential sticking point dealt with efficiently and calmly – how typically German.

Production of the CTR Anniversary is set to run until 2022 (by which time the company will also have started building its new, naturally aspirated SCR) with deliveries beginning later this year. A handful are very near to completion, these being assembled by hand on the factory floor during our visit. However, sitting outside and resplendent in the house colour of yellow, there’s an example ready for the road – and we’re going to be driving it.

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