3.2 Clubsport: a collector’s dream? Porsche didn’t offer a Rennsport 911 in the 1980s – but it did give us the Clubsport. We assess its spec, value and rarity It might lack the legend of a Rennsport, but the Clubsport is no poor relation. Drive-My uncovers its story and assesses its collector credentials today Written by Chris Randall Photography by Daniel Pullen. Written by Chris Randall. Photography by Daniel Pullen.
CARRERA 3.2 CLUBSPORT!
Full history, stats and track review of the 1980s lightweight rarer than an air-cooled Rennsport
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 roadgoing 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.
“It’s faster and more rev-happy. It feels alive compared to a 3.2 Carrera”
There was certainly space in the Carrera range of the time for something a little more focused, and with the Porsche 911 964 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 Drive-My 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. Whatever the case, those that dismissed the new model were missing out on a very special Neunelfer.
So what did ticking the option box marked ‘M637’ actually get a buyer for their £34,389? Well, a peek beneath the engine lid wouldn’t have revealed much other than the same 3,164cc flat six that propelled the regular 3.2 Carrera, although the sharp-eyed might have spotted the letters ‘SP’ stamped on the crankcase and cylinder heads. That denoted a motor that had been specially tweaked for the Clubsport, one that now utilised lighter, hollow intake valves and a Digital Motor Electronics system that had been reprogrammed to raise the rev limit from 6,520rpm to 6,840rpm. The latter didn’t contribute to any performance improvements, but it certainly allowed the flat six to sing that little bit longer, and that would always be welcome. Forged pistons remained, as did a 10.3:1 compression ratio, but the engine had also been blueprinted, so it might have come as a surprise to peruse the spec sheet and discover that power and torque appeared completely unchanged at 231bhp and 284Nm respectively. Porsche’s natural understatement at play? Probably, because units that were later dyno-tested reportedly boasted power of closer to 245 to 250bhp, an improvement that contributed to half a second being shaved from the official 0 to 60mph time, with 0 to 100mph despatched in 13.1 seconds.
Both the engine and transmission utilised stiffer mountings borrowed from the 911 Cabriolet, and there was a lighter starter motor and simplified wiring loom. The gearbox itself was the same Getrag G50 unit as the Carrera, driven via a hydraulic clutch, but for its new application it featured a shorter shift and revised ratios for the upper gears. A ZF limitedslip differential was standard, and aside from stiffer Bilstein dampers, recognisable by their green paint, the suspension was borrowed wholesale from the regular production 3.2. That was no bad thing as the firmer damper tune didn’t really harm the ride, instead just adding a further degree of handling bite. The brakes were also carried over, more than up to the task given the newfound lightness. There was one departure, though, the Clubsport fitted with 16-inch wheels from the outset that were shod in broader and lower profile rubber: at 205/55 and 225/55 front and rear respectively, it was a small change, but one that would have made the most of the new model’s agility.
Mechanically the changes could be viewed as modest in the extreme, but that would be to ignore the Clubsport’s true raison d’être. Demonstrating that the weight-saving ethos was alive and well, Porsche proceeded to strip all manner of equipment from its new model, binning the likes of fog lamps, headlamp washers and the rear wiper. The ‘Carrera CS’ script on the decklid was a sticker rather than a badge, and there was much less underseal, which resulted in a corrosion warranty of just two years rather than ten.
Inside you’d have searched in vain for electric windows, central locking or air-conditioning – even the automatic heater controls made way for a simpler arrangement – while the passenger sun visor and lids for the door storage compartments had also disappeared. The cabin also did without some of the sound deadening and a few trim panels, while the most obvious difference was the deletion of the rear seats. The fronts were manually adjustable and eschewed leather for lighter leatherette or pinstripe cloth. It seemed like a typically thorough approach to weight saving, one that officially shed 50kg, although it was probably a little more than that. There were a few contradictions in this approach to weight saving, though, the Clubsport shedding a few trivial ounces in some areas only to retain items like the standard steel panels and impact bumpers, although without the shock-absorbing mechanisms. Equipment could also be added back in via the options list too, which did rather defeat the object, much like that of a Carrera T today.
Clearly Porsche could have gone further, and the fact that it didn’t perhaps played its own part in the slightly lukewarm reception to the Clubsport at the time. At least the colour scheme adopted for the Clubsport stood out, the vast majority of examples finished in Grand Prix white with red ‘Carrera CS’ script on the doors, the Fuchs wheels finished with India red centres. US models, however, did without the door script, and instead had the option of a special decal on top of the left-hand front wing. A limited number of other colours were available, too, which brings us rather neatly to the car you see in our pictures. A 1989 model, it’s in flawless condition and also has less than 50,000 kilometres on its odometer, but what really catches the eye is the unique paintwork. In Lintgrün metallic with the Fuchs wheels in the same colour, it’s a Clubsport like no other. Originally ordered in Germany, the car was later exported to Japan before returning to Europe around 2010 or 2011.
There’s no doubt that the Clubsport is a fascinating part of the 911 story, a model that sought to evoke the spirit of the fabled RS cars, but within a motoring world that had changed substantially since the 1970s. It’s admirable that Porsche sought to provide an alternative to the luxurious and hugely popular 3.2 Carrera, and when you consider the number of examples made, this is a car that sits among rarefied company. Only a relative handful of models have production figures in this range, and it’s no surprise that the rarity and purity of purpose increase desirability – nowadays, at least – and value, the latter especially pertinent when compared with the Carrera. Could Porsche have gone even further down the lightweight path? Purists would almost certainly argue that particular case, but even as it stands the modest improvements in power and weight endowed on the Clubsport result in a transformational effect on the driving experience. The changes imbue the car with a sharpness that’s absent from the standard Carrera, while the limited soundproofing adds to the aural drama. And even if its on-paper performance seems little-changed, well, there’s rather more to an entertaining drive than mere statistics, this car’s owner, Johan Dirickx, commenting that “it’s faster and more rev-happy. It feels alive compared to a 3.2 Carrera, which is more sluggish.” If ever there was a Neunelfer that represented more than the sum of its parts, this is probably it, and while the enthusiasts of three decades ago might have needed a little convincing of its charms, the same certainly isn’t true today. In an age where the headlong rush for complexity and sophistication seems unstoppable, this rather simpler approach is more desirable than ever.
RIGHT Official performance stats were the same as the 3.2 Carrera, but the Clubsport’s flat six was fettled for an increase of around 20hp. ABOVE Rear seats were removed altogether, and front seats ditched both their leather finish and electric adjustment. The G50 gearbox meanwhile boasted a shorter throw.
Clubsport: What do the experts say?
The experts in question are Hexagon Classics’ Jonathan Ostroff, and Colin Belton from Ninemeister, and both take a very positive view of the Clubsport. Both also agree on the current values, an original example with around 50k miles on the clock likely to fetch in the region of £100,000 to £125,000. In the current market that’s twice what an equivalent 3.2 Carrera might realise, which gives some idea of how the lighter variant is viewed, although it’s worth pointing out that a 964 RS would command an additional £40k-50k. They also point out that the very best could easily approach £200,000, Jonathan adding that values are very mileage-sensitive.
So that’s values, but what about desirability? Again our experts are in agreement, Colin describing the Clubsport as “greater than the sum of its parts dynamically, and very rewarding to drive”. Being a genuine, limited-numbers 911, that’s always something that’s going to appeal to collectors, adds Jonathan. There certainly doesn’t appear to be any shortage of interest among those that covet rare and focused Neunelfers, and while it would be a tall order for this car to approach the reverence (and values) afforded the likes of the 2.7 and 964 RS, it’s a fine thing in its own right. Persuading an owner to part with one might prove a challenge, as they already know its worth…
Model 1987 Porsche 911 3.2 Clubsport
Compression ratio 10.3:1
Maximum power 231hp @ 5,900rpm
Maximum torque 284Nm @ 4,800rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Front MacPherson struts; torsion bar springs; anti-roll bar
Rear Semi-trailing arms; telescopic dampers; torsion bar springs; anti-roll bar
Wheels & tyres
Front 6×16-inch; 205/55/VR16
Rear 7×16-inch; 225/55/VR16
0-62mph 5.1 seconds
Top speed 152mph