A LIVING LEGEND / #Porsche-911
The life and times of the most successful Carrera RS competition car ever. Calling any car ʻthe most successful of all timeʼ is quite a claim, but in the case of #AUI-1500
, the ex- #Cathal-Curley
1973 RS, it is perfectly true: no other similar Carrera can match this legendary Porscheʼs competition history. After a hard life and an exacting restoration, it is now back on the road thanks to the exhausting research of marque specialist, Mark Waring. Words: Mark Waring. Photos: Antony Fraser and Mark Waring.
AUI 1500 is immortalised in Mark Copelandʼs book, The Porsche 911 in Irish Rallying, as ʻThe most successful 2.7 Carrera RS of all timeʼ. In my research of over 1200 records of Porsches in rallying, I concur. There is quite simply no other RS that has achieved anywhere close to the success AUI 1500 has enjoyed in rallying without any modification, straight off the showroom floor.
AUI 1500 is unique in winning three international rallies outright – The Circuit of Ireland, The Donegal and The Manx – against the stiffest opposition found anywhere in the world, competing against fourteen other RSs, at the same time ending the dominance of the works-backed Ford Escorts. This achievement was nothing short of sensational, but AUI 1500 is also a very special car due to its continuous competition history and miraculous survival.
Registered initially as OM 77, the last RS with Sport Equipment delivered to the UK, this car was the highest placed Porsche in the RAC Rally in 1973, winning the Team prize driven by 1972 Motoring News Rally Champion Harold Morley. Only a few other RSs have ever completed this gruelling world rally championship round in period out of the 11 that have tried.
By 1975, most RSs were entered as Group 4 cars with at least 2800cc and utilising other homologated parts, such as twin brake cylinders and larger brake discs. To succeed without these modifications proved to Porsche and the world a standard RS was a winner at a time when Porsche was, regrettably, concentrating on other forms of motorsport deemed more important for impressing the American market for which the RS was not eligible.
In 1974 AUI 1500 won events in three different formats, among them the Circuit of Ireland. This is the third oldest rally in the world and the jewel in the crown, for nowhere else was there a round of the European Rally Championship lasting five days and covering 1200 miles, of which 600 were stage miles. Two of those days, the rallying continued through the night and AUI 1500 won by a margin of 5 minutes 48 seconds, a record that still stands today. Its pilot Cathal Curley followed this with a win on the threeday June Donegal Rally, and the September Castrol Manx rally, beating the great Roger Clark at the peak of his career into third place in a works-backed Escort.
The first international rally win for a 1973 Porsche 911 RS came at the hands of Jack Tordoff in 1973 on the Circuit of Ireland. He was one of three foreign drivers to return after it was cancelled in 1972 due to the political situation. His direct competition came from one other RS and a 911S. Adrian Boyd, driving a Ford Escort, led then retired on the penultimate stage, leaving the way clear for Tordoff. The following year eleven RSs entered the Circuit of Ireland. The touch paper had been lit and was to burn for six more years, lighting up fierce competition between the Porsches.
AUI 1500 changed hands several times after 1974, returning to England and eventually competing in over 42 rallies, fourteen of which were at international level. When homologation finally ran out for its eligibility as a rally car, it was subsequently sold to a buyer in South Africa. Briefly rallied again, it was converted to an RSR with parts supplied by Porsche that included a full 3.4-litre twin plug ʻwerksʼ engine. AUI 1500 evolved from a Group 3 2.7 RS to Group 4 RSR.
For three years, from 1984 to 1987, commercial property developer Albert Van Heerden raced the car in the Rolo Motors Historics Championship and PSCA events, by all accounts proving to be a very quick driver. In its last race, he achieved pole at the old Kyalami Formula 1 racing circuit, but in a 155+mph accident, the car hit the wall separating the circuit from the town of Johannesburg.
The ensuing impact caused the car to cartwheel, ending on its roof with the engine running and on fire. Albert escaped unhurt but was so traumatised by the experience he never raced again. #Porsche-911-AUI-1500
ʼs long career as a competition car effectively ended, as it was deemed uneconomic to repair. The ʻwerksʼ engine and gearbox survived, however.
A private Porsche collector bought the damaged car and stored it for 23 years unbeknown to anyone save two of his closest friends. A private man, he wishes to remain anonymous but without his intervention AUI 1500 would have been lost forever. For that, every Porsche enthusiast should be eternally grateful.
And so began the rebuild. There is nothing original about a successful competition car. The legal identity of a vehicle is defined by its original chassis number for that is the process the registering authorities identified the car in period as meeting the type approval for its use on public roads. I bought the entire damaged shell, so in that respect I had no concerns. But there was little else of the original car that survived.
The due diligence I carried out revealed the gearbox had been damaged on the second attempt on the RAC rally in 1978, and the right hand front strut on the Scarborough Stages in 1979. Front spoilers were damaged and replaced rally to rally, and several sets of wheels were used, both Fuchs and Minilites. The ducktail frame was replaced later, due to corrosion.
The tired engine was not suitable, or required, for an RSR and found its way into a 912 and, latterly, a 2.4T. It was rebuilt before, finally, the crankshaft broke – it was irreparable. I inspected the damaged cases but the engine number did not appear original, and were magnesium not siluminum alloy cases, as expected.
I located 911/83 crankcases and rebuilt an engine of the correct type.
To complete the transformation to RSR, the bodywork had been replaced with wider arches to cover 9J and 11J wheels, the front inner wing and struts modified for coil-over shock absorbers and holes cut for brake cooling ducts. Both battery boxes were removed, and a front oil cooler installed. Instruments were necessarily replaced due to the increased top speed and rpm.
In the accident all the glass was broken, the engine loom was burnt and the roof damaged. My trip to South Africa was successful, though, as I purchased from the first owner the two original seats and a prototype rally navigation aid trialled in the car.
On the matter of authentication, before restoration began the VIN numbers were inspected by Porsche AG and a new alloy chassis plate reissued. A letter was received stating all the requirements for doing so were met in full. The MD of Porsche Cars GB and the Register Secretary of the Porsche Club GB both wrote letters supporting the car and the reunification with its registration number AUI 1500.
The first task was to straighten the ʼshell and after seven days of pulling and relaxing the metal, the car was sitting once again on a factory-spec jig. To ensure I had all the correct style of panels, I bought a very late M-registration accident-damaged RHD 2.4T which provided common parts; most critically it was a rare non-sunroof model.
The dials bearing the correct dates required only to be refurbished and the speedo and tacho recalibrated to read 150mph and 7200rpm, respectively. Three of the 6J wheels were also in date range, so were ideal. Everything else was correct and most probably manufactured in the same batch, or close to the manufacturing date, as everything originally fitted to AUI 1500. Clear glass I sourced along with the – unusual for an RS – two-stage rear screen that had originally been ordered for AUI 1500. A thinner front screen without manufacturerʼs marks was purchased new because of safety issues, and is complete with Glaverbel identification.
The roof from the ʻTʼ was removed, leaving all the factory welds in situ, and reattached using stronger invisible welds on the RS chassis. A third-series RS would not have been fitted with any thinner panels, so the donor roof was perfect.
Alternatively, I could have bought all the individual roof panels from Porsche and assembled a new roof but without the appearance of an original, and that was never going to be acceptable.
Regrettably, the floor of AUI 1500 had been modified with twin brake master cylinders and seat braces, and had been the subject of numerous repairs. It was impossible to straighten the battered floor, but a new RHD floor panel has not been available from Porsche for twenty years .
I received a tip-off suggesting Porsche had two new old stock RHD floors lost somewhere in its warehouse. With an appropriate part number they could be located, but which one? I ordered every superceded part number from 1973 until 1976 until I hit the jackpot. I bought them both!
The inner rear wings were more difficult. Only 1990s versions were available and required extensive modification. The 2.4Tʼs inner rear wings were corroded beyond use. I was determined to fit new old stock wings and when I did locate a pair they were initially not for sale, but nine months later the owner changed his mind. It was game on!
Planning the restoration was helped by an improving market, but even in 2010 there was no guarantee costs would not exceed the ultimate value. Despite increased knowledge, better technology and improved parts availability since 1987, it still took a year in the planning as nothing of this magnitude had ever been undertaken before. What followed was executed with military-style precision and is almost certainly the most extensive and sympathetic restorative work carried out on a 1973 RS completed by a private individual.
The principle of restoration was a simple one, to reuse as much of the salvageable metal from the original damaged shell as possible. To establish this every panel was removed piece by piece and before long I had a full-scale ʻAirfix construction kitʼ of an RS on the floor in front of me!
Decisions had to be made about what metal to cut in order to leave factory welds on the panels I was going to reuse. The floor, for example, was cut 10mm from the edge and the metal ground away from behind the inner sills to leave them intact.
Refitting the panels was achieved by drilling holes in between the factory welds and welding panels together with a weld in the new hole, then grinding these flat. This resulted in only factory welds being visible, and a stronger chassis.
Where new panels were used, we counted the old welds and their position, and replicated them. This approach was necessarily much more time consuming and the bodywork took two years to complete.
My sanity was questioned, especially after fitting the perfectly good inner rear wings and then instructing my bodywork specialist to cut a third away and reinstate the original metal we had saved. I can honestly say the people that built AUI 1500 would not be able to tell their work from ours as we even copied their less than perfect work that had been original to the car!
With the bodywork complete, a factory-manufactured ducktail was fitted, along with a rare front bumper. The car was then finished in Glasurit Grand Prix White. A periodcorrect date stamped wheel and rear half cage were installed, the latter extended as it had been in 1974 to a full cage, with period-style fixings.
The exterior is as it won the Circuit of Ireland, complete with alloy sill covers, which are immediately recognisable in photographs. Unlike the original full undertray, they are for show only and attached with industrial Velcro, thus avoiding making any more holes in the bodywork. The rally equipment is period-correct and mounted on a removable board utilising the original mounting holes under the dashboard.
Finished in April 2014, AUI 1500 was unveiled in a special ceremony at Porsche Centre Isaac Agnew in Belfast. I had promised Cathal Curley throughout the four year restoration he would be the first person to see the finished car. Joined by navigator Austin Frazer the car was kept under cover whilst the waiting press and invited guests turned their back as it was unveiled. The following day it was photographed on the start/finish ramp of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland, which celebrated 40 years winning the event.
Returning in June for the Donegal International Rally and the Manx Rally in September, I was honoured to be invited to drive as a ʻDouble Zeroʼ car ahead of the rally on several stages before being photographed on the start/finish ramp of both events. No other RS has ever received this accolade.
AUI 1500 gained high level sponsorship after winning the Circuit of Ireland, when Porsche Cars GB provided a full engine rebuild kit, offering to carry out the work. Porsche AG sent a letter of congratulations and an unexpected cheque equivalent to £1000.
So impressed were they by mechanic Patsy Donaghy that they flew a representative over especially to offer him a job. Patsy was looking after eleven RSs at the time, had just got married and bought a new house, so turned down the offer.
I visited the garage where he rebuilt the engine and we drove the test route he used. Even when AUI 1500 raced in South Africa it managed to obtain the patronage of importers, Lindsay Sakers, providing service and mechanical support. AUI 1500 became quite the media star. An RS rarely appears in adverting, Pirelli being the exception, but AUI 1500 appears on rally tyre sponsor Dunlopʼs advertising campaign, plus Porsche direct advertising. There is little actual film of any Porsche RS in rallying in the 1970s but when it was recorded, it was courtesy of the BBC/RTE. As the winner of three events there is naturally footage of AUI 1500, affectionately described thus or simply ʻAUIʼ. This footage can now be seen on five different DVDs.
The most iconic photo ever of an RS rallying is arguably AUI 1500 landing from three feet high and appears on the front cover of Marc Copelandʼs book in which several pages are dedicated to the driver and car. Motor magazine, one of several that covered the continued success of the car, depicts AUI 1500 in a water splash, and most popular motoring press reported all the wins with accompanying photos.
Bizarrely, AUI 1500 was also the inspiration for a pop song! Written by longtime friend and fellow Porsche rally driver Phil Coulter, ʻHey CBʼ chronicles the struggle by fellow competitors to keep up with ʻCʼathal ʻBʼrendon Curley and his car. ʻHey CBʼ was released on vinyl by ʼ70s pop sensations The Bay City Rollers. Phil Coulter wrote two Eurovision Song Contest winning songs, ʻPuppet on a Stringʼ and ʻCongratulationsʼ, performed by Sandy Shaw and Sir Cliff Richard, respectively.
In 2014, AUI 1500 joined by special invitation a selection of Porsche factory Museum cars performing display laps at Brands Hatch. It has recently been filmed at the same circuit for a TV programme and displayed at two Porsche Centres and various club events.
In a re-enactment in Ireland April 2016, AUI 1500 joined 172 rally cars on six special stages and was displayed in the hotel headquarters at the gala banquet. Both Cathal Curley and co-driver Austin Frazer drove the car before a delighted and enthusiastic public. AUI 1500 has now covered 2000 miles, mostly on Irish and Isle of Man stages, including a special lap of the TT circuit with seventeen-times side-car champion, David Molyneux.
As owners we are just custodians of the cars we cherish and, by restoring AUI 1500, I hope I have preserved a legacy of Porsche that will endure for ever. AUI 1500 is now a permanent reminder of what Porsche could have achieved in rallying with the car most collectors now consider the most iconic 911 ever produced. But in hindsight, with the Suez Crisis in 1973 affecting European sales, it was the correct decision by Porsche to focus on the US market with the impact bumper model, thus ensuring the companyʼs survival.
Undeniably AUI 1500 is a very special RS. It is a testament to Porsche of the quality of a car built so well 43 years ago that it survived to be restored, and throughout its life protected its drivers from injury. It proved its versatility as a Group 3 and 4 car but should be remembered most for what it achieved straight off the showroom floor, doing exactly what Professor Porsche designed it for. Most of us could never afford an RSR but we all could have owned this car and thatʼs probably why we all identify so much with the 1973 2.7 Carrera RS. For more photos and details visit www.porschers.com
Thanks to: Esler Crawford, Leslie Ashe, Fergus McAnallen, Robin Parkes for the period photos; my wife Sarah and all like her who enable enthusiasts like me to enjoy and realise our dreams; Chris Craft, Managing Director PCGB; Joe Duggan for his unequalled depth and knowledge of rallying history in Ireland, and for being a true and valued friend; Fred Hampton, PCGB; Richard Clarke for pushing himself to achieve work at the highest level; Paul Robe of Parr for help finishing the car in time for Ireland; all my friends (you know who you are) for the unstinting support and belief in my abilities during the challenging moments of the restoration, and help sourcing parts; Porsche AG for continued support and making a great car in the first place – and for making available the parts to repair it; Carl Russell, MD Porsche Belfast, for hosting the unveiling, vacating half his showroom to display the car at short notice during the week of the Macan launch; the 1000s of rally enthusiasts in Ireland and the UK that have made me and the car so welcome.
Engine was rebuilt using correct 911/83 cases – AUI 1500 was mechanically stock, although prepped to withstand the rigours of international rallying Driver/navigator list reads like a whoʼs who of Irish rallying in the 1970s.
“AUI 1500 BECAME QUITE THE MEDIA STAR…” “ATTENTION TO DETAIL REIGNED SUPREME…”
Original seats were purchased from its former South African owner. The restored AUI 1500 is a timecapsule, perfectly capturing the golden years of rallying in the 1970s. If only Porsche had stayed in the game, but the US market was deemed more important, and promotion of the ʻimpact bumperʼ models took priority.
AUI 1500 is testimony to the exhausting research carried out by Mark Waring (left) who refused to let this legendary RS die. No wonder he looks pleased to be behind the wheel!
01. On the final stage of the 1974 Circuit of Ireland
02. Flying high! Greatest photo ever of AUI 1500 – Circuit of Ireland 1974
03. Cathal Curley hits the watersplash on the 1974 Manx Rally
04. To the victors, the spoils: celebrating victory in the 1974 Circuit of Ireland
05. Tarmac stage on the Donegal International Rally
06. Life as an RSR in South Africa in the hands of Albert van Heerden at Kyalami
07. 1974 Circuit of Ireland
08. After the big crash, AUI 1500 ends its first life…
09. …before beginning its resurrection in the hands of Mark Waring
10. The guts of a legend – an immortal one at that
“THAT WAS NEVER GOING TO BE ACCEPTABLE…”
Cathal ʻCBʼ Curley
Cathal, or ʻCahalʼ Curley, as he is also known, was Ulster Rally Champion in 1968 and 1969 in a Ford Cortina and won the Galway international in 1971 in a Ford Escort Twin Cam. In 1972 he won three more rallies in a lightweight BMW, including the inaugural Donegal International Rally, and changed the BMW in 1973 for the ex-Ronnie McCartney Dalmatian Blue RS Touring, taking delivery in the car park prior to the 1973 event.
Complaining that it didnʼt handle after the first stage, he soon changed his mind when informed he was already leading by ten seconds! He went on to win the Donegal Rally in June 1974 for the second time in a row. It was the first RS Touring to win an international rally outright. Jack Tordoff beat him to the first International win in an RS by two months. In April 1974, Cathal Curley won the Circuit of Ireland International Rally in AUI 1500, when eleven RSs were entered, and returned to the Donegal International Rally in June, winning for the third time in a row.
Cathal also led two other rallies before retiring the cars. Using AUI 1500 in 1975 and leading the Galway International Rally, he slid into a ditch and the car rolled onto its roof. He sold it shortly afterwards and, after a brief spell in a Lancia Stratos, which he described as ʻhandling like a cat walking on wet linoʼ, he led the Donegal Rally for the fourth year in a row until damaging a rear trailing arm after hitting a rock. Both cars were supplied by London dealer Chequered Flag.
He did, however, win the Cork 20 Rally in 1975 (upgraded to an international a year later) with the 3.0RS. His total international rally wins in three different RSs was four, all in period against the stiffest opposition, by then over 15 different RSs. Only two other drivers achieved an outright win at international level in period in an unmodified RS in Irish rallies, matched by only three drivers on mainland Europe. Only one other driver achieved three, but not against the same level of competition.
Cathal also won the Ulster Rally in 1976 one year before it was upgraded to an international rally and was second twice in the Manx in 1973 and 1976. He is without doubt one of the greatest Porsche RS rally drivers, a fact overlooked by Porsche who had by that time turned its focus away from rallying, the discipline that earned its reputation as a world leader in sports car manufacturing.
Porsche was about to dominate Prototype racing for years to come. The 956 era was dawning.
“HIGHEST PLACED PORSCHE IN THE ’1973 RAC RALLY…”
Photos courtesy Mark Waring AUI 1500: A LIFE WELL LIVED