Porsche 911 Old + New: 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 + 2010 997 Sports Classic

By: Michael Browning, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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The 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 is one of the most collectable 911s of all time. Back in 2011, we matched one against a modern challenger, and it's a classic too

 

Porsche 911

It was her perky RS end that caught my eye. Jutting cheekily out of the car wash and lovingly caressed by whirling blue brushes, she brashly introduced herself as she emerged from her bath via the lurid blue Carrera script on her flanks that contrasted with her virginal white livery. Then they tossed me her keys for the night – or the whole dirty weekend to be exact.

From Unique Cars issue 320, Jan/Feb 2011

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The evolution of Porsche’s iconic 911 shape is evident from any angle. Sport Classic is an homage to the real classic – the ’73 RS

Up to that point, my Porsche experience had been restricted to a passenger ride in a four-cylinder 912 and a two-kay, traffic-bound drive in a 911T Sportomatic coupe in Melbourne. Now I was offered carte blanche in snowbound southern Germany in the fastest and most feral road-going Porsche ever produced!

It would have been a die-for drive today, but in May 1973, the 911 Carrera RS 2.7 – to give her the full nomenclature – was more like a loose lady than the legend she has since become.

| Read next: 1971 Porsche 911T

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Uncompromising, meanly equipped and harsh riding (thanks to the lightweight glass, panels and lack of undersealing that pared her weight to under 1000kg), the RS in M471 Lightweight specification was an homologation special built for GT racing.

In place of the 140kW flat-six that powered the then top-of-the-road-range Porsche 911S 2.4, the newcomer boasted an enlarged 2687cc version producing 154kW, delivering 0-100km/h in just 5.8 seconds – performance that is still impressive today.

| 2019 Market Review: Porsche 356/911/930 (1957-87)

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However, it was its ski-jump engine cover lid that gave it real road presence. Setting a new motoring style and coining a new term in the automotive lexicon, the RS’s signature ‘ducktail’ spoiler was the first serious aerodynamic appendage fitted to a production 911 and established a pattern followed by all high-performance Porsches since.

I clearly remember the stares of German motorists and the hair-raising rasp of its tinware as the new air-cooled six cleared its throat at 5000rpm and howled its lungs out towards its 7500rpm redline.

| 2019 Market Review: Porsche 911/993/996/Boxter (1986-2008)

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Unabated by sound deadening and relayed to the driver through a thinly-padded Recaro rally seat and stiffer suspension, the RS Lightweight was, however, a beast that relatively few Porsche customers were prepared to suffer regularly off the racetrack.

So it was hardly surprising that the six new RS 2.7 road models that came to Australia in 1973 were all specified in Touring trim, which meant that they were built with the full-weight, more luxurious cockpit trim and rust-resistant undersealing of the 2.4S model.

| Read next: 2019 Porsche 911 Carrera T review

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Since then, the Carrera RS 2.7 in either Lightweight or Touring trim has become one of the most collectible road-going Porsches ever built, with good original examples today pulling over $400,000.

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery and the limited-edition 2010 911 Sport Classic flatters the original ’73 RS immensely.

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Different generations of flat six – one cooled by air, the other by water. The ’73 RS has 154kW, the ‘10 SC a chunky 300kW

It’s not officially an RS tribute, though. Officially, it’s a niche 911 that cleverly combines top-end options with exclusive bodywork and other design features to showcase Porsche’s Exclusive department in the twilight of the current 997 range. And unlike the original RS, Porsche had no racing homologation program to justify its creation. But to view it as a cynical marketing exercise would be to do the 911 Sport Classic a major injustice.

It’s not the standout 911 variant that the RS was – we’ve been Stuttgart-shocked by too many Carreras, Turbos, SCs, GTs and RS variants since – but it’s still a crowd stopper in its own subtle way.

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Enthusiasts worldwide rushed to snap up all 250 on its launch, three of them Aussies who considered its asking price of $498,200 a worthwhile investment.

The first thing that hits you about the Sport Classic is its unique double-dome roof, specially sculptured by Porsche Exclusive for the model. It’s subtle and reminds you of Zagato’s signature styling on Alfas, Astons and Lancias of the late-50s and early-60s. Then, as with any voyeur, your eye takes you straight to the 911 SC’s 44mm wider bum, crowned by a fixed rear spoiler that’s an unashamed copy of the ’73 RS’s ducktail.

The shapely rear end is balanced up front by the jutting Sport Design apron with its unique spoiler lip, while custom 19-inch wheels that resemble Porsche’s famous Fuchs forged classics on the RS and the other fastest 911s from 1965-89 are another visual highlight.

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Then there’s the colour: Sport Classic Grey – the only colour. I can’t imagine it being the first choice of many owners (if they had been given one), but in the metal it flatters the sculptured bodywork and is the perfect match for the car’s exclusive, Espresso (read Burgundy) leather interior.

Walking the mechanical middle ground between the Carrera S and current GT3, the Sport Classic is powered by the same 300kW 3.8-litre flat-six now installed in the latest Carrera GTS, but its output is well short of the 331kW boasted by the latest GT3 RS and, similarly, can only be exploited via a six-speed manual gearbox.

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Porsche Ceramic Brakes, sports suspension that lowers the car by 20mm and a mechanical rear axle differential for more sporting handling are all from the Carrera options list, but the sum of their parts is a car with near-GT3 performance, but Carrera S refinement.

The interior is stylishly understated. The adaptive sports seats are comfortable and upholstered in supple, fine-grain burgundy leather, but closer inspection of the fine weave inserts reveals not cloth but leather, painstakingly formed from leather strips and woven yarn.

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Both dashes are clean, dial-focused, easy to read

Polished stainless steel door-sill plates and an engraved dash plaque featuring the car’s build number further remind you that you are inhabiting a special place. Otherwise, the cockpit delivers a familiar, but classier 911 Carrera experience.

Our photo location was Lake Mountain, just up the road from fire-ravaged Marysville northeast of Melbourne, and getting there via Healesville provided the perfect opportunity to compare the two Porsches.

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The engine in the 911 Sport Classic is a darling – smooth and sweet thanks to its ported and polished cylinder heads and balanced combustion chambers – and it just loves to rev. It immediately feels muscular and urgent as we wind our way up the Black Spur, but the delicious rasp of the following RS’s air-cooled flat-six is ever present as the soundtrack. The Sport Classic feels quick, but not exceptionally fast, which is more a compliment to its sophistication than a criticism.

As you would hope from a naturally-aspirated 911, the SC’s exhaust note is pitch-perfect all the way from its throaty idle through to its 7500rpm cut-out, and it’s a joy to explore the full rev range through the perfectly weighted manual gearshift and clutch on this glorious, winding road.

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Fat tyres, even fatter brakes; those perky bums; something exclusive for the weekend, sir? ’Espresso’ cabin adds a welcome shot of caffeine to 911 basics

The Sport Classic handles beautifully, its lowered suspension and PASM combining to weld the car to the bitumen, while providing sufficient compliance to cope with varying surfaces. But it’s time for a trip down memory lane so I swap into the ’73 RS.

After the SC, the RS is a reality check that instantly places you in touch with the road. No power steering, a heavier clutch, no ABS brakes, no traction control and no air conditioning.

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Owner Tattos prepares to launch his Sport Classic towards the horizon, propelled by its 911 GTS-spec 300kW direct-injection 3.8

But there’s something about any pre-1998 air-cooled 911 that makes it instantly feel right. Gordon Murray, who created the original McLaren-BMW F1 supercar, reportedly took his basic dimensions from the 911 that remained virtually unchanged for 35 years.

Add the RS’s wonderful air-cooled engine, its lithe chassis and unique character to those nice numbers and you have a vehicle that feels like no other to drive and engenders an unmatched level of blinkered owner loyalty.

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While the modern 911 filters the driving environment, the classic RS delivers the brew in double short-black shots, reminding you of the special experience in driving a classic sporting vehicle without the safety blanket of modern technology.

By the time we reach the Lake Mountain summit and the two 911s are parked side-by-side, it all becomes clear.

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The RS deserves its place as a classic road-going 911, but the SC is far closer to its character than we might of expected from a company that is now forging towards 150,000 cars a year. Porsche has not lost its mojo. Its DNA runs deep.

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I OWN ONE

1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7

Ian Henderson didn’t want a Carrera RS 2.7 back in 1973 when he visited a London Porsche dealer to enquire about buying a car on Tourist Delivery.

"They offered me an RS but I thought it was too lairy," he said. "So I ordered a 911S – one of my poorer motoring decisions!"

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In 1998, he atoned for this automotive error by purchasing one of the six original Carrera RS 2.7 Touring models that landed in Australia in 1973.

Henderson knows his RS will remain a Porsche classic. "It was a turning point for the company," he says of the car that today is worth 15-20 times its original price of $17,000. "With due respect to modern 911s like the Sport Classic, they just don’t make them like this any more."

2010 Porsche 911 Sport Classic

Steve Tattos wanted a special car and a Porsche 911 was always on his short list. He was smitten as a teenager by the original Carrera RS 2.7 but he wasn’t looking for a classic.

"The GT3 was too track-focused," he said. "I liked the 997 Turbo but I wanted a 
naturally-aspirated car."

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He considered having a car built through Porsche’s ‘Exclusive’ program or by a European aftermarket specialist. Then the Sport Classic was announced.

"It ticked all the boxes. It had the wide body, more powerful naturally-aspirated engine and a number of exclusive body and trim features that made it an instant classic," Tattos said.

In early August, 911SC, number 182 of 250, was his.

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1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 specs

Engine 2687cc air-cooled flat 6, SOHC, 12v, mechanical fuel injection
Power 154kW @ 6300rpm
Torque 255Nm @ 5100rpm
Gearbox 5-speed manual
Weight 1075kg
Wheels 15 x 6.0-inch (f), 15 x 7.0-inch (r)
Tyres 185/70VR15 (f), 215/60VR15 (r)
0-100km/h 6.3sec (Touring model)
Top speed 240km/h
Price $17,000 (1973)

 

2010 Porsche 911 Sport Classic specs

Engine 3800cc water-cooled flat 6, DOHC, 32v, direct fuel injection
Power 300kW @ 7300rpm
Torque 420Nm @ 4200-5600rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manual
Weight 1426kg
Wheels 19 x 8.5-inch (f), 19 x 11.0-inch (r)
Tyres 235/35ZR19 (f), 305/30ZR19 (r)
0-100km/h 4.6sec
Top Speed 306km/h
Price $498,200 (2010)

 

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