Flat-out in Porsche’s most extreme air-cooled 911 Rarity. Uncompromising performance. End-of-era air-cooled mastery. This 911 993 Carrera RS Club Sport stakes a claim as the 911’s zenith – time to put its exalted status to the test. Words Ivan Ostroff. Photography Glen Lindberg.
Taming a rare 1995 Porsche 911 RS Club Sport 993
Is This Peak 911?
Firing up the Porsche 993 Carrera RS Club Sport – the aircooled 911 at its purest. But is it too much for the road?
Any 911 Carrera wearing the RS moniker on its rump is a special thing, denoting roots in the frantic, uncompromising world of RennSport. But this Riviera Blue 993 possesses some extra graces that aren’t spelt out as a moniker. A ripcurling front splitter and manually adjustable biplane rear wing mark it out as a Club Sport – a harder-edged semi-competition machine that wears its numberplates with obvious reluctance.
This example was originally supplied new to Japan, but in 1995 the UK list price for an RS Club Sport was £71,500 when a Carrera 2 was £58,995 and a regular Carrera RS £65,250. For that £6250 premium, your RS interior would be relieved of many of its comforts, and bestowed with a body-coloured rollcage in return. With just 227 examples built, adoption rates suggest the value proposition wasn’t rated highly – but it’s for this very reason that the passage of time has turned that on its head. Today, a Carrera RS Club Sport might fetch upwards of £250,000 on the rare occasion they come up for sale. But is that down to its rarity and a good dose of post-latent-market hype, or does the Club Sport possess some tangible added value? Only a drive will reveal.
‘The cabin is awash with Riviera Blue; in fact it’s a borderline flood’
Sitting on its lowered suspension and huge Carrera Cup-style three-piece Speedline alloy wheels, even its Smurf-like hue can’t stop it looking utterly mean. I open the door, climb over the diagonal side brace and lower myself into the galvanised steel office. To call the interior Spartan is to overembellish the work of the Ancient Greeks; this level of paring-back could only come from Modern Zuffenhausen. We’re talking grams saved by exercises like removing the heating element for the rear screen, ditching the intermittent function of the wipers, and reducing interior lighting to a sole lamp in the footwell. But it’s plenty bright enough in here.
The cabin is awash with Riviera Blue; in fact it’s a borderline flood. The full rollcage that frames the cabin is finished in the same colour as the seam-welded RS bodyshell; there are no carpets, no headlining, no trim on the pillars and no sound deadening material whatsoever, leaving painted metal exposed at every turn. The only soft furnishings to be found are lightweight PVC doorcards that conceal the side impact protection beams, and seat faces that are designated a skimpy covering of cloth; even the seat shells are exposed in body colour. Both driver and passenger have a choice of how to securely they wish to be clamped into their seat – by full five-point Schroth harness or the traditional three-point belt.
Once your eyes have acclimatised to the over-saturation of colour, you’ll find grounding familiarity in the dash shape that remains similar to the previous 911 964 model, albeit with a smaller knee roll and an absence of a glovebox underneath. A full set of surprisingly sombre black dials are laid out before me, enlivened only by orange needles. Most notable are the VDO tachometer extending to 7600rpm, with a redline starting at 6800, and a speedometer that reads to 300kph – approximately 180mph, which provides a surprisingly unambitious amount of headroom above the Club Sport’s 172mph claimed top speed. If you were left in any doubt about how serious this Porsche’s intentions are, there’s a battery kill switch and plumbed-in fire extinguisher system.
I take a moment to settle myself into the helm properly, sliding the seat forward a tad – the rake is fixed. There’s not much padding in these racing buckets, but they’re comfortable enough and provide excellent lateral grip. In the reflection of the teardrop side mirrors I can see the air intakes either side of the rear spoiler, through which air will be rammed into the induction system. I twist the key, the starter motor spins and is followed almost instantly by the tangy bark of the flat-six behind me. The air-cooled motor, enlarged from 3600cc in the standard Carrera to 3746cc for the RS, ticks over steadily without drama and once it reaches temperature and I am satisfied that all is well, I select first gear. The 993 was the first 911 to boast a six-speed version of the G50 gearbox, which weighed the same as the 964’s five-speed unit. As I move off I enjoy a short-throw action that’s precise, seamless, silent and oily smooth. The clutch is hydraulically assisted and as a result is lighter than you’d usually expect from track-biased machinery.
With my hands resting at ten-to-two on the leather-trimmed, airbag-less steering wheel, the driving position feels just perfect; being a left-hand-drive European-spec car, the pedals are not as offset as on a right-hand-drive British example. I’ve not driven a Porsche for a while so it takes some time to adapt my heel-and-toe technique to work with the floor-hinged pedal layout, but it soon becomes comfortable to roll the side of my right foot over on to the throttle pedal while the ball of my foot modulates brake pressure.
Pulling away and accelerating hard, it’s quickly apparent that this engine is eager to go, thanks to the Varioram induction system introduced by the Carrera RS. By lengthening the inlet tracts it spreads the torque down the rev range, then beyond 5000rpm a sliding sleeve reduces the length of the intake pipes in two phases to optimise the airflow into the combustion chambers; the end result is a confident surge and a symphony that sounds better than Strauss. It’s not a turbo-like whack-in-the-back-after-a-yawning-pause; the torque is always there and it’s a linear process, but there’s certainly a renewed vigour to the rapid progress you’re making.
Grabbing second, the flat-six bellows its guttural roar and I can feel my body being pressed back into the negligible seat padding as the car passes through 60mph in just five seconds. The progressive tachometer sweep inspires a feeling of confidence, allowing me to worry about other threats to life. Through 6000rpm and there’s still so much there, the flat six’s growling exhaust note hardening into a dry metallic scream as it strives to deliver its 300bhp with the intake pipes in their shortest manifestation. I remember the words of Jonathan Sturgess, who looks after this car, ‘The higher up the rev range you change up, the easier it will be to keep it in the power. In fact, it is best to get close to the red line to keep it on cam.’ The weather is dry and the road is perfect, so it’d be rude not to oblige.
With a bend approaching I brake hard, giving the drilled and ventilated all-round disc brakes their first real test. Equipped with a pressure-compensating valve to spread the servo-assisted love to all corners, they haul off speed progressively while maintaining excellent feel through the firm-feeling pedal. The car yields to my right foot without displaying any front end dip; I roll my foot across the throttle and slip down a gear before turning in. The movement of the gear lever across the gate is pleasingly precise but there’s no Ferrari-like snack-clack here; this is more like swapping cogs in a VW Golf than a wild street racer.
Thanks to stiffer track rod ends and a front strut brace, turn-in is crisp, the servo-assisted steering weighting up nicely but retaining a beautifully communicative tactility. The lack of body roll is remarkable; the front anti-roll bars are adjustable through five settings, the rear by three. As I reintroduce some throttle and the weight transfers to the back end, the 911 enters its happiest phase. The chassis is so rigid that squat is almost imperceptible as the car exits the bend like a slingshot.
For the 993, Porsche binned the 964’s semi-trailing arm rear suspension and introduced the LSA (Lightweight-Stable-Agile) multi-link arrangement first seen on the 928. It was a costly investment but offered improved ride quality and less susceptibility to the lift-of oversteer that had previously dogged the 911. Used as a basis for the honed setup in the Carrera RS, this addressed the two major criticisms of its predecessor, the 964 Carrera RS of 1992.
It bestows the 993 RS with a tremendous sense of control, and one of the beauties of this car is that the setup is fully adjustable – camber angles, ride height, spring and damper stiffness – so it can be configured to suit all driving styles. But the way it is at the moment suits me fine – it’s obviously stiffer than a regular 993 and is more precise and responsive, yet the ride isn’t jarring and there’s no wandering when the front end encounters camber changes. Exiting a tighter corner I give it a bit of a squirt and through the seat of my pants I sense 300bhp overwhelming the mechanical grip of the 265/35×18 tyres.
I flick the wheel about a third of a turn to collect it, careful to fight my instincts to back out of the throttle; the car balances up nicely and I now know where its adhesion limits are. The fancy rear suspension might have tamed the beast, but there’s still the basic physics of a 300bhp lump hanging out over the back axle to contend with. Lift and the tail will wag the dog and the car will bite hard. In a 993 there are no electronic nannies, bar ABS, to prevent you from making a wally of yourself.
Although the Club Sport was built with a view to being weaponised on the circuit, those intent on serious competition were better served by no-compromise purebreds such as the Turbo-based GT2 or the 911 Cup 3.8 RSR – whose engine the 993 RS homologated. Comparable homologation specials included the Ferrari 348GT Competizione (1993-1995), Venturi 400GTR (1994-1996) and Lotus Esprit Sport 300 (1992-1995). As thinly-disguised race cars sold with numberplates to satisfy the FIA production requirements, these were fast but also brittle. They couldn’t match the 993 RS Club Sport’s build quality or breadth of ability as a road car.
The Club Sport’s appeal was its ability to be enjoyed where its performance limits could be approached – be that a track day or a well-sighted stretch of public highway – then negotiate town traffic with a surprising degree of tractability so its owner could pick up some groceries on the way home. Today, values mean most are tucked away in private collections and see neither such extremities of use, but it’s still best enjoyed when given its head. Bury the throttle, and the air-cooled audio bouncing unhindered around the baremetal driving chamber as 300 wild horses are let loose in a 1230kg sports car is addictive. It has solid engine mounts, it’s noisy, bangy and thuddy, but the driving experience is sublime. You can trundle along at low engine speeds without any hunting then when you want instant power, drop a couple of cogs and off you go.
Most chose the fully-trimmed haven of a Carrera RS and optioned the Club Sport aero kit, but I’ve decided where I stand and it’s shoulder-to-shoulder with the crazy full-whack Club Sport gang.
Tugging at the door pull – a bright blue strap – to alight provides a reminder of how extreme this road car is. It deserves its place in the pantheon of great 911s, not only as an engaging machine to drive, but also a perfect example of less being more. Who needs a shouty boot badge?
As the purest variant of the final aircooled 911 generation, is this peak 911? Ivan needs to try a GT2 just to be sure. The Sachs limited-slip differential gives 40 per cent locking on drive and 65 per cent on deceleration. Single-mass flywheel helps the M64/20 rev with more immediacy than dual-mass equipped regular RS. The 3.8-litre flat-six will wail all the way to a dizzy 6840rpm Only the crammed engine bay received sound deadening Floor-hinged pedals require some acclimatisation Body stiffness was increased 40 per cent by Matter rollcage. Porsche had to roll the RS’s inner wheelarches to avoid the tyres fouling them at peak suspension compression. Choosing the right body colour for your Club Sport was crucial – it would follow you inside.
Thanks to Paul Stephens (paul-stephens.com)
1995 Porsche 911 (993) RS Club Sport
Engine 3746cc air-cooled horizontally opposed six cylinder, ohc, Bosch Motronic sequential fuel Injection
Max Power 300bhp @ 6500rpm
Max Torque 262lb ft @ 5400rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Steering Rack and pinion
Suspension Front: independent lower wishbones, MacPherson struts, coil springs, dual tube telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar; Rear: independent, multi-wishbone axle, coil springs, dual-tube telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated and drilled discs front and rear
Max speed: 172mph
Cost new £71,500 (UK list price)
Classic Cars Price Guide £185,000-£275,000
OWNING A PORSCHE 993 CARRERA RS CLUB SPORT
Jonathan Sturgess of Autostore (autostore.co.uk) in Cambridgeshire looks after this Club Sport and says, ’I love these cars and run a fully trimmed RS. The 993 RS is smaller and less powerful than current RSs, so you can thread it down country lanes and play with it at less antisocial speeds.
‘The Club Sport has no real ownership issues. Engines can leak oil in dormant cars but changing seals is straightforward and inexpensive. Worstcase scenario is removal of an engine to reseal everything and perhaps a top-end rebuild costing £6000. They’re cheap to own and service; a low mileage car will cost £350 a year, with a major £750 service every four years. Consumables aren’t expensive – the tyres are small compared to modern cars and the brakes are simple traditional materials.’