Porsche's RS Legacy : Part 1

Porsche's Renn Sport Vision

Porsche's collection of RS models are not just marketing gimmicks. These cars are real FIA homologation specials, because Porsche seriously wanted to get into racing or keep on racing. No other manufacturer has had such a series of RS models.

The Air-Cooled RS Brigade

Looking back at this group of RS Porsche variants today, it seems so evident now what Porsche had envisioned back in 1972, but at that time, it was never always so crystal-clear.

It seemed like a bolt out of the blue when Porsche first announced the Carrera 2.7 RS. The press reported it was meant to be a homologation special as Porsche wanted to race the 911 to raise awareness of its status as specialised automaker. Porsche was a very different company back then compared to the mega company it has become today.

The ten years prior to the infamous “Ducktail” revealed no evidence of something so focused as a Renn Sport for the masses. The confusing mish-mash of 911 models using alphabets to differentiate models never quite pulled the range together as it all seemed far too diffuse, much like what Audi was ten years ago.

Porsche used suffixes like E, L, T and S but nothing focuses the brand like the double-barrel RS, or maybe it was because of the triple strength 'R+S+Carrera'?

The RS formula needed to bring together several ingredients: Homologation Special, Race or semi-race spec interiors, hotter bespoke engines, lowered sports/race suspension, weight reduction, body strengthening, racing-success, focused handling, tuned by experts like Walter Rohrl, and of course, limited production numbers.

Of course, the special element that tied all these early RS models together was their use of the air-cooled boxer flat six, or horizontally-opposed 6-cylinders.

Compared to today's RS units, their specific power outputs per litre pales in comparison. These days, 210 bhp from 2.7L or 260 bhp from 3.6L or even 300 bhp from 3.8L can't quite compare with the 450 bhp liberated by the 2010 GT3 RS' 3.8L water-cooled engine.

What it does offer in mitigation is Soul. The characteristic air-cooled wail was not as appreciated back then as it is now after Porsche removed it when it went water-cooled.

The glorious cacaphony of the valves clattering and the ringing of the cooling fins made for a noisy engine; compared to the Italian exotics, the Porsche exhaust and other associated engine noises seemed so agricultural.

The thermal capacity is limited somewhat but more importantly, it was stricter emissions requirements that finally killed them off.

As they say, you won't know what you are missing until its gone.

October 1972 to July 1973
Back then limited numbers of the Carrera 2.7 RS (901) meant limiting sales and hence profits so was a big red flag. How could the engineers convince the sales and marketing people? Success was a chicken or egg situation in the early days as nobody could predict the outcome of the RS exercise.

“Only 500 Real Men Will Ever Drive It” – making this advertising claim, Porsche introduced a new top model in 1972 destined to leave everything else in the market far behind: the 911 Carrera RS.

This model designation alone followed the motto of “nomen est omen”: Ever since the days of the 356 A, Porsche’s most powerful models with the top engine have borne the name “Carrera” (Spanish for “Race”) supplemented by the abbreviation “RS” (RennSport or Racing Sport). And this was no exaggeration, since the Carrera RS with its 210 hp engine gave the 911 Carrera RS all the qualities required for homologation in motorsport.

Available both as a relatively comfortable Touring and as a purebred Sports model, the 911 Carrera RS, particularly in its racing version, was built so consistently for lightweight construction with its thin body panels and thin glass that the unladen weight of the car was only 960 kg or 2,116 lb.

The most striking features of the 911 Carrera RS with its fast-revving 2.7-litre power unit were the plastic front spoiler and the rear lid with its characteristic “ducktail”. The equally striking “Carrera” model designation at the side also emphasized the car’s outstanding performance, with acceleration to 100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds and a top speed breathtaking at the time of 245 km/h or 152 mph.

The 911 Carrera RS was a genuine winner not only in its performance, but also in sales: With 500 units planned originally for homologation, production of the 911 Carrera RS ulti mately added up to 1,525 units sold.

Fortunately Porsche desperately wanted to continue racing and racing rules state at least 500 copies had to be made and sold (as per homologation requirements).

The final tally for the 2.7 RS? A whopping 1525 in total with the vast majority of owners using the cars for just everyday driving, albeit sporty everyday driving. (want one but cant get one? build one)

October 1973 to December 1974
Of course in 1974 Porsche continued with a small (109) number of “evolution” 3.0 RS (G-Series) to continue competitive racing that was referred to as the “G Series”, the Porsche 911 received a new look in September 1973 retained until the late ‘80s. And the 911 Carrera RS 3.0 presented at the time was introduced right away as the street-legal competition version of this upgraded 911. Like its predecessor, the RS 3.0 came with a lightweight body featuring thin metal plates on the roof and doors. This consistent lightweight policy reduced the unladen weight of the car to just 900 kg or
1,985 lb.

Through their looks alone, the flared wheel arches, a plastic front spoiler complete with an integrated oil cooler, as well as the even larger rear spoiler highlighted the primary mission and purpose of the Carrera RS 3.0: motorsport.

In the interest of even greater reliability, the flat-six power unit enlarged in size to 3L came with an aluminium crankcase – and reflecting the increase in engine power to 230 hp, the new model featured Porsche’s four-piston fixed-calliper aluminium brakes carried over from the Porsche 917.

This very special RS was to be admired only rarely on the road, since most models were used by private customer teams exclusively on the race track.

With total production of the 911 Carrera RS 3.0 amounting to just 110 units, 50 were con verted
into even more powerful RSR versions.

January 1984 to April 1984
The very rare 911 SC/RS (G-Series)
In autumn 1983 Porsche presented another exclusive motorsport variant of the 911: the 911 SC/RS. The objective was to build just 20 models for homologation in Group B, all of which were finished in white and sold in Germany as the 911 SC/RS at a list price of no less than DM 188,100.-.

Although at the time Zuffenhausen was already building the new 911 Carrera 3.2 in series production, this homologation model came with the three-litre power unit of the 911 SC. With its higher compression ratio, forged pistons, Kugelfischer fuel injection and cylinder heads from the Porsche 935, the new power unit boasted no less than 250 hp offering an easy time with the 911 SC/RS weighing just 1,057 kg or 2,331 lb on a full tank. And accelerating from 0-160 km/h in just 11.7 seconds, the 911 SC/RS specially set up for rally racing left behind virtually all of its street-legal competitors.

Focusing on the suspension and brakes of the car, Porsche’s engineers carried over technologies
already proven on the 911 Turbo, with further lightweight components such as plastic bumpers, aluminium parts and thin glass serving to save further weight.

The 911 SC/RS in the livery of cigarette maker Rothmanns brought home its first laurels in its very first event, Saeed al Hajri winning the first 6,000 kilometres of the 1984 Qatar Rally for the Middle East Championship.

But obviously that figure did not impress the bigwigs as the RS project was put on a lukewarm cycle as the next RS (964) only reappeared on the radar in 1991, some ninteen years after the introduction of the 2.7 RS.

If you were a Porsche owner/buyer during this lull period you would have guessed the RS name had gone extinct, a one-off like the 959. In 1983 Porsche did introduce a very small number(20) of 911 SC RS for the Rothmans racing team but it was not for mass consumption.

November 1991 to December 1992
The 964 Carrera RS was the first inkling that the Porsche soul was still alive even as worldwide sales were falling like a rock. The 964 was the first “new” 911 for a long long time but the marketing boffins wanted to claim a victory by introducing the all-wheel drive 964 Carrera 4 before the Carrera 2 versions.

Presented at the 1990 Birmingham Motor Show, the new version of the Carrera RS was to
homologate the 964 version of the Porsche 911 for Group N/GT racing. Like its RS predecessors,
this new version was trimmed to even lower weight by the engineers in Weissach,
10 per cent lighter than the regular model and thus weighing only 1,220 kg or 2,690 lb.

To achieve this reduction in weight, the front lid was made of aluminium, the rear and side
windows came in thin glass, and both noise-dampening as well as underfloor protection were
cut back for reasons of weight. Even the power steering and the two-mass flywheel were
dropped in order to optimise the weight of the car.

At the same time the most important welding points were reinforced to give the 911 Carrera RS
an even stiffer body allowing very sporting driving behaviour in conjunction with the very hard
chassis and suspension lowered by 40 mm or almost 1.6”.

Power was provided by an upgraded 3.6-litre delivering 260 hp and featuring stiffer rubber
mounts replacing the usual hydraulic engine bearings.

The Porsche 911 Carrera RS came in three different versions: the purist base version with
bucket seats, the comfort model with sports seats and electric window lifts, as well as an
N/GT racing version complete with a rollcage for racing on the track.

This anomaly allowed the skunkworks at the motorsport department to cobble together the 964 RS. Later in 1993 Porsche does a small run of "evolution" 3.8 RS and RSR to further their competitive racing.

The 3.8-litre version of the Type 964 offered in 1993 was a particular highlight in the evolution
of the 911 Carrera RS. Built in a small series of just 90 units (including the RSR version),
this very special car was produced by hand by Porsche’s Racing Department in Weissach-
Flacht.

The most striking features of the 911 Carrera RS 3.8 were its Turbo-wide body, additional
spoiler winglets at the front, as well as the dual rear wing adjusting to no less than six different
positions. In the words of Ferry Porsche, the car “offered outstanding driving pleasure
not through comfort on the road, but rather through exactly the opposite”, particularly the
interior being limited to the bear essential: no airbags, no rear seats, no side panels at the
back.

This was lightweight construction at its very best, with overall vehicle weight of just 1,210 kg
(2,669 lb). Fitted at the rear, the 3.8-litre flat-six delivering no less than 300 hp ensured
supreme driving pleasure further underlined by the very stiff suspension.

The colour range was reduced to just a handful of particularly sporting colours such as
Grand Prix White, Indian Red and Speed Yellow.

With the 911 Carrera RS being homologated not just for the USA, the 911 RS America was
built specifically for the US market and was delivered as standard with its rear wing fitted
in position as well as 17-inch Cup wheels. The series colours in this case were Black, Indian
Red and Grand Prix White, the emergency seats at the rear were replaced by a luggage shelf,
and the lightweight door linings came from the Carrera RS.

Total production was 2282, Touring version approx 76 (only 15 RHD were ever made!) , RSR racing version 290, all others were Sport verion.

1995

Porsche makes the last air-cooled RS, the 993 Carrera RS. The short period since the last one in 1991 meant Porsche boffins finally realize the value of the RS model. The previous 3.8 RS engine goes into the 993 body and the boys at the Motorsport department do their thing again, seam welding and removing 100kg from the body to create the last air-cooled masterpiece.

The Carrera RS version of the 993 model series again offered sporting performance of the
highest standard: Right from the second model year of the new 911 model series, Porsche
proved clearly in 1995 that the 911 was remaining loyal to its sporting DNA. Powered by a 3.8-litre delivering 300 hp and featuring a Varioram intake system, this very special 911 Carrera RS accelerated all the way to 277 km/h or 172 mph, reaching 100 km/h within just 5.0 seconds.Once again, the secret behind this supreme performance was consistent lightweight technology reducing the weight of the car, unladen, to just 1,270 kg or 2,800.lb.

Built in a small production run of just over 1,000 units, the 993 version of the 911 Carrera RS
stands out from the start through its front section with special spoiler winglets at the end
as well as the low-slung rear spoiler.

The 911 Carrera RS was also available as an option in Clubsport trim featuring a large front
and rear spoiler. Further highlights offered on this model were a rollcage, a suspension dome
support, six-point seat belts, a main battery switch, a fire extinguisher, and cloth-covered
bucket seats.

Total production was 1014, RSR race version 100. This would be the end of the air-cooled era..

 

see Part 2

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