It’s the last air-cooled 911 to get Porsche’s fabled ‘RS’ initials stamped to its decklid. What’s the 993 like to drive in hardcore Clubsport spec? Written by Kyle Fortune. Photography by Dan Pullen.
Celebrating the last air-cooled 911’s quarter-century milestone, featuring the 993 development story and a road test of the RS Clubsport
“You must push it,” says this 993 Carrera RS Clubsport’s owner, Omar Lupin. That’s fine for him to say, but the paradox of driving cars like this is exactly that – driving them. Just 227 993 Carrera RS Clubsports were ever built. I’m sat in one now, a genuine 993 Carrera RS with the under-bonnet sticker containing the essential 003 code. That signifies Group N GT1 Carrera RS, simply ‘Clubsport’ or, in some markets, ‘RSR’. My surroundings confirm that: the interior is devoid of anything other than the bare necessities, which means three pedals, a gearstick and a steering wheel. It feels pure race car, because that’s what it is.
A little bit more deciphering of those codes reveals that when ordered it came with a 197 88Ah battery, 459 strut brace, 471 Carrera RS Sports spoilers, 564 no airbag, 567 graduated tint windscreen, 573 air conditioning, 657 power steering and 990 cloth seats. All came with most of these, the air conditioning optionally (and sensibly) added, as has a powered passenger window, the switch for it located in front of the gear lever in the middle, usually a blanked-off switch position in these. As a C11 model it was originally supplied to Austria, is left-hand-drive and finished in L39E Riviera blue, that bold colour covering every bit of the RS’s beautifully exposed bodywork.
“The 3.8 absolutely devours revs, the ferocity of its response translating into exploitable performance”
There’s plenty of it: the rear-view mirror, sat beside a sole sun visor, is filled with the stunning hue, the criss-crossing cage that fills the rear and braces down the door apertures as well as the entire rear area being covered in the bright finish. There’s no carpet anywhere, save for a couple of mats in the front footwells. The lightweight, fixed seatbacks weren’t a stranger to the spray gun either, the lack of anything even as ‘luxurious’ as headlining means the colour is on the roof above, too. You’d have to have been intent on really using the Clubsport as intended to pay the additional £5,250 it added to the regular RS’s £62,250 sticker price and, really, like the colour you picked, because there’s no escaping it when you get inside.
For that additional outlay you lost equipment, the Clubsport binning the RS’s luxuries, such as they were, for an even more purposeful specification. It existed as a means to homologate the Carrera for the BPR GT3 and GT4 categories and is based on the Carrera Cup car, as well as giving more track-focused customers an even more focused machine.
The Clubsport added a fully welded-in Matter roll cage which, combined with the RS’s seam-welded shell, increases the body’s stiffness by 40 per cent over the standard Carrera. That adjustable suspension strut brace was standard, the top mounts for the suspension being ball joints, the front suspension sitting 30mm lower at the front and 40mm at the rear. The RS also gained 23mm front and 19mm rear anti-roll bars.
Every element of the suspension is adjustable for track set-up, the lower ride height necessitating Porsche to roll the inner wheel arches to allow clearance for the wheels when the suspension is in full compression, as it might be through Parabolica, Eau Rouge or the Karussell. There are stiffer track rod ends in the steering linkage, power steering being standard, improving turn-in response and feel. The wheels are 18-inch, three-piece split-rims with their evocative ‘Speedline for Porsche’ script etched on the outer rim opposite the valve caps. They are eight inches wide on the front axle, ten at the rear, wearing 225/40/ZR18 front and 265/35/ZR18 rear tyres. Behind the wheels, red 993 Turbo-derived, four-piston aluminium brake calipers grasp 322mm cross-drilled and ventilated discs all round.
There’s thinner glass, no electrically cleared rear window, even the intermittent function on the wipers having been binned, the washer bottle too being reduced in size from 6.5 litres to 1.2 litres. Aluminium body panels are added, the lightweight bonnet being held up by a simple lightweight spike, rather than the gas struts of conventional 993s. With no roof trim at all the interior lighting is taken care of by a single light in the footwell, this borrowed from the 964 Speedster. In standard trim the RS weighs in at 1,279kg, the Clubsport, even with the addition of that cage, is said to reduce that by around 50kg, which given the quoted 1,100kg for the Cup car seems entirely plausible.
Outwardly the Clubsport gained a more aggressive and effective aerodynamic package. The bi-plane rear spoiler replaces the less overt whale-tail-style wing on the standard RS. It features intakes integrated into the upward struts, these filling the rear-view mirrors to give a unique vista, the top element of the wing adjustable between 0-12 degrees, or replaceable with a significantly higher and wider banana-style RSR wing if you were really serious about track work.
The front aero with the Clubsport is more overt too, the splitter running the entire front of the car; it’s deeper, rolling up fore of the front wheels to help balance that greater rear wing’s downforce. Along the flanks the Clubsport wears the same black lower valance as the regular Carrera RS, its contrasting colour maintaining the 993’s neat proportions, yet subtly lowering it visually. If you want a more aggressive-looking 993 you’ll need a 993 GT, with its pugnacious riveted arches, but to many, myself included, the Carrera RS in Clubsport guise is among the most visually appealing of all 993s, it full of purposeful intent without being too overt.
It’s compact, too, it always surprising how petite a 993 feels. Sitting in the fixed-back bucket, punctured by the red Schroth six-point racing harnesses anchored to the interior and cage, the lack of any trim changes everything. When I hear myself talking to Lupin and photographer Pullen there’s a rasping metallic note to my voice, that thin roof panel and the lack of any soft surfaces, save the seat covers and RS door cards, creating a resonating sound chamber which would more usually be absent thanks to the deadening effect of a helmet. There’s a Japanese Porsche immobiliser to negotiate before starting the engine, it the only button needing pressed in the otherwise naked interior.
The engine, like the standard Carrera RS, is the 3.8-litre, M64/20 unit, which grew in capacity from 3,600cc to 3,746cc. The increase is achieved by a 2mm increase in the bore, the stroke remaining at 76.4mm. The lighter, forged pistons with lower height and relocated wrist pins were covered in a special coating called Grafal to help reduce noise, the intake system strengthened and enlarged, with intake and exhaust valves growing to 51.5mm and 43mm respectively.
Unsurprisingly those bigger valves were lifted by slightly larger cams. The RS famously introduced Porsche’s variable-length intake system, VarioRam, to the flat six, the engine controlled by Bosch’s Motronic electronics. The output is rated at 300hp at 6,000rpm and 355Nm at 5,400rpm, the maximum engine speed being 6,840rpm. That’s modest by today’s standards, but more than enough in reality.
All this drives through a G50/32 six-speed manual transmission with a vented clutch chamber, the ratios shorter for acceleration over standard Carreras, the RS coming with a Sachs limited-slip differential with 40 per cent locking on drive and 65 per cent on deceleration. The 003 Clubsport specification further benefits from the addition of a single, rather than dual-mass flywheel.
Starting the engine, after some immobiliser frustrations in this case, is something to be truly savoured. Without any sound deadening the 3.8-litre flat six fills the naked interior with a purposeful sound, the combination of its off-beat tones and the rattling of the clutch release bearing enveloping the cabin with racing intent. It’s loud, but not overbearing. Something to be enjoyed rather than endured, the immediacy with which the engine revs – thanks to that flywheel – is initially surprising. It’s not difficult: the clutch is light and easy, there no low-rev recalcitrance or judder from the transmission as it slips into first and the clutch releases. Sounds and that immediacy aside, it’s no more tricky than a regular 993 Carrera to pull away in.
Driving down some sighted, fast country roads in Cambridgeshire the Clubsport’s 3.8 absolutely devours revs, the ferocity of its response translating into exploitable performance at speeds that aren’t antisocial. Every gearshift is a joy, the six-speed unit crisp and quick, the clutch light, the throttle so perfectly poised and eager to please on heel-and-toe downshifts. The brakes provide a perfect platform to do so. Firm and responsive, they’ll remove speed as quickly as the engine produces it; a roll of your foot over to blip and the revs flare with alacrity.
The suspension, racer in its focus yet remarkably composed on the road, reveals it’s working from a much stiffer platform. It’s the control on offer that is remarkable, that translating to effortless speed, even on what passes for a road in the UK. Again you feel that deftness of touch and the improvement that it brings to the driving experience. There’s no slack, just pure responses, the steering alive with feel, its power assistance meaning it’s light, and quick. Turn the wheel and the nose reacts instantly. Yes, there’s a touch of push on understeer if you’re a bit optimistic at turn-in, but otherwise it’s so precise and faithful that it feels unlike any other 993. There’s still the weight out the rear to exploit, the mighty mid- and corner-exit traction on offer, the engine’s 300bhp feeling particularly healthy.
It’s flexible, too, the combination of the bigger capacity and that trick VarioRam meaning you can, if you wish, use taller gears and low revs. To do so is madness, particularly with an engine that’s so damn enthusiastic at its upper reaches. It’s linear in its power, yet those final few thousand revs are so giving that there’s never a moment where you’re not aiming to exploit them, Lupin’s assertion correct, even if it’s not actually necessary to make good progress. What’s so appealing is that it’s all so exploitable. Even this stripped, most focused, naturally aspirated 993 can be enjoyed on the road, its performance such that it’ll enthral without taking you into the realms of lunatic speeds, the rich and intoxicating engagement, the other-worldly feel and response what defines it, not a set of numbers.
I’ve often argued that the mid- to late-1990s was the defining era for enthusiasts, a period where performance, scale, grip and engagement worked beautifully in union – with the benefit of modern tyres and some safety equipment – all while denuded of the needless distractions of buttons, screens and configurability of later and current performance cars. The 993 is the perfect example of that, and dialling it up to the maximum is this 993 Carrera RS Clubsport. You don’t need anything else, you really don’t, which makes it not only peak 993, but arguably peak Porsche. It’s really is that good – and by good I mean absolutely sensational.