12 Jan Icons – Porsche 911 RS, the unlikely legend
Porsche 911 RS, the unlikely legend
To call the Porsche 911 2.7 RS 1973 an icon is pretty much a pleonasm. It is THE early 70s 911 to own– if you’re lucky and got the money.
For the rest of us it is the car to admire from a distance. You know it has to be great, when Jeremy Clarkson chooses to make fun of this specific version of the 911.
But the Porsche 911 RS 1973 is also the story about a car that took Porsche by a bit of a surprise. Because originally it was never intended to become one of the most sought after 911 versions ever.
We can thank FIA for its existence. After the 1972 racing season, they changed the regulations and ended the Porsche 917’s three-year reign over the World Sportscar Championship. So Porsche looked to the 2.4 liter 911S for a replacement.
It became the basis of their new Group 4 GT-class entry in the shape of the Porsche Carrera 2.7 RS. “RS” is for Rennsport – German for motor racing – and the Carrera name was borrowed from the 356 model to evoke the Carrera Panamericana race.
Originally Porsche intended to just build the 500 cars needed for race homologation. Many in the sales department argued that the car would be a failure because it was too stripped and could not be sold as a road car in the US – a prime Porsche market. They were as wrong as brown shoes with black trousers.
To make the sales people less anxious, Porsche only produced 200 of the all-out lightweight versions. The remainder were sold with a “touring package” that gave the upholstered and trimmed interior found in the 911S – along with a radio, steel rear bumpers and a sunroof if you were mad enough to ask for it. Even then Porsche was concerned they couldn’t sell all 500 cars. So Porsche management members had to take an RS.
But the RS had a good start. An encouraging total of 51 orders were taken when it was presented at the 1972 Paris Auto Show opened October 5. A then a surprising thing then happened: The RS generated so much buzz and excitement at the show that the entire run of 500 cars was sold out a week after it closed. Many claim they saw a Porsche representative with what looked like a smile.
With orders holding up, Porsche manufactured a second series of RS models over the winter. They also upped the price, but no-one really seemed to mind. Porsche discovered that RS buyers would pay a premium to be part of the small group who owned an RS.
The 1,000th RS was finished on April 9, 1973. Numbers vary a bit, but a total of 1,560 or 1,580 RS models were built by the end of the 1973 model year. The additional sales let Porsche reclassify the car for the Group 3 Grand Touring race category, where its performance brought numerous wins.
So what is all the fuzz about?
Well, basically the 911 RS is just a stripped down 911S with fuel injection, a larger bore engine and a funny looking back. But that’s like saying diamonds are simply pressurized coal. Because Porsche engineers took an already very light and nimble car and turned it into a true super star.
The interior was trimmed to a minimum, with rubber floor mats replacing carpets, and the clock, passenger sun-visor, and rear seat were deleted entirely. Lightweight Recaro seats were fitted for both driver and passenger. There was no weight-adding sound insulation. Door panels were flat and plain, with a pull cord instead of an inside door handle. There also was no undercoating, doorsill trim, glove compartment lid, coat hooks or springs to counterbalance the front trunk cover. The car body was built with lightweight steel and the windows replaced with thinner glass by Glaverbel of Belgium.
When they were done, the Porsche 911 2.7 RS light-weight model weighed in at 100 kg less than its fellow touring model.
To propel it forward the 2.4 liter air-cooled, flat six of the 911S received larger, 90 millimeter pistons and nikasil-coated cylinders, bolted to standard forged 911S connecting rods and a forged 78.4 millimeter crankshaft within a magnesium alloy engine case. Displacement was increased to 2,681 cubic centimeters. With 8.5:1 compression and Bosch mechanical fuel injection, this type 911/83 engine produced 210 horsepower at 6,300 rpm. With the car weighing in at just 960 kg the Porsche 911 RS would become the very definition of power-to-weight ratio.
Next Porsche looked at mechanical and aerodynamic grip. The wheel arches were extended to allow wider wheels, six inches in front and seven at the rear, which could be further extended by two inches for racing. The suspension was upgraded, and extensive wind-tunnel testing resulted in the distinctive “Burzel” (ducktail) rear spoiler, which drastically reduced rear-end lift at high speeds, and it remains the car’s visual signature today.
Prices for the Porsche 911 RS 1973 keep spiralling upwards. But they have not entered la-la land yet. So it is still within reach for those of us who do not own a small third-world country or Apple. You could of course also modify a tired old 911 to look the bit. But please don’t just slap on Carrera script and duck tail and stop there. Throughout the years hundreds of great replicas have been built. You can see a few of them here.