Porsche 964 RS: Driven

The ever-expanding balloon that is air-cooled 911 values shows no signs of deflating. And so I draw breath and add a lungful of my own. Because the cost of a drive in this rather special 964 RS lightweight is complicity in the hype that results in a Silverstone Auctions reserve of around £250,000. Almost exactly 10 times what a neighbour of mine sold a similar example for not so very long ago, before the likes of us started belatedly hyping it as The Best 911 Ever and values went silly.

Bidding finger twitching?
Bidding finger twitching?
So this is my way of getting the 'full disclosure' bit out of the way first. Upfront, the keys to this RS were dangled before us because it's going under the hammer at the Silverstone Classic and they clearly see the value in getting a star-struck fan boy to add another eulogy. Kerching!

Is a quarter of a million for an RS really that silly? Supply and demand, simple as that. And once a car reaches a certain level of desirability it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy and - ta da - a car that seemed pricey at half this amount just a year ago can still double its money in the blink of an eye. That this has happened to a car completely shunned and overlooked when new just adds to the rags to riches mystique. Unless you're my neighbour, for whom the platitude 'better to have loved and lost...' may seem a little raw.

Special measures
Is the RS really that special though? Annoyingly yes. You can try and rationalise it and say building a ground-up replica from a ratty old 964 Carrera would give you just as much fun. But even suitable donors for that kind of project are getting expensive now. And, loath to admit it, the exclusivity of having a 'proper' one is the kind of hoop the likes of us will jump through. They don't get much more proper than this one either, apparently the first factory built lightweight to ever be sold. According to Silverstone Auctions it was originally a gift from Porsche to loyal racer Ulrich Richter as enticement to return to the competition fold. He obliged, taking a podium in a 911 RSR at the 1994 Daytona 24-hour having moved the car on the previous year. That it was supplied to its owner outside of the regular retail network and - it's claimed - is the first production N/GT Clubsport (full club racer spec rather than the road-oriented Touring and standard cars) is aiding that burly estimate but even without it's not hard to see why the auctioneers are rubbing their hands.

Does all the old 911 things on the road - good
Does all the old 911 things on the road - good
Because stripped of the hype it is just a lovely, lovely thing. Showing just over 106,000km I've been told not to add even double digits to that total. So with the freshly repainted Maritime Blue glowing in the summer sunshine and an enticing squiggle of Surrey B-road to play with I'd best make 'em count.

In this league originality is of course paramount but this RS has the patina of a car that's been enjoyed by those lucky enough to have spent more time behind its wheel than me. The paint is fresh and the magnesium wheels look perfect. But the 888s they wear, the aftermarket air filter in the engine bay and the sweat-stained harnesses all suggest a car that's been used properly. Whatever it sells for you have to hope the new owner does the same.

Chuntering away to warm the fluids I pace around, chivvying snapper Tom to hurry up with the details so we can crack on and drive. Like all serious 911s the tickover is lumpy and off-beat, the car seemingly quivering with similar impatience to hit the road. Clambering through the cage and into the minimal Recaro seat there are the remnants of a familiar 964 interior in terms of a dash, basic switchgear and regular gearshifter and spoiler switch. But everything else is gone, leaving bare painted metal, exposed wiring and ventilation ducting in the footwells.

No distractions whatsoever, in other words.

Not that fast by modern standards; oh well...
Not that fast by modern standards; oh well...
Blink and you'd miss it
The fact the RS is one of the most hardcore roadgoing 911s the firm has ever sold and yet appears deliberately as similar as possible to a plain vanilla Carrera is likely one of the reasons it was so misunderstood when new. Back in the day Carrera stickers, ducktails and engorged arches set ruder models apart from regular 911s. And there's little chance of mistaking a modern RS for a boggo Carrera. But even the 964's steering wheel looks like a standard item, albeit smaller and with its own RS logo in the centre.

The illusion doesn't last long when you drive it though. The diff clanks and protests as you manoeuvre, the clutch feels stiff and the lack of inertia in the single-mass flywheel makes it very easy to stall. The smaller wheel means the unassisted steering is He-Man heavy at low speeds and if the exterior looks like a road car the interior is pure racer. So far so predictable.

What about that ride, pilloried as borderline undriveable on the road back in period? Maybe tastes have changed but it doesn't feel it now. Who knows, maybe we'll be saying this about the Alfa Romeo 4C in a few years time but that infamous stiffness and camber sensitivity feels like a beacon of sensitivity and communication compared with modern performance cars. The front wheels do like to sniff out the textures of the road and the wheel requires a firm hand but it's nuanced feedback rather than hysterical shouting. And for all the slammed ride height there's a pliancy in the (I'm told) standard springs and dampers that I'd describe as firm but fair.

You would if you could, right?
You would if you could, right?
It's not a car to pussyfoot around in though. Like all 'proper' 911s you have to know when to be subtle and when to grab it by the scruff of the neck and the more assertive you are in your inputs the better the RS gets. It all feels absolutely bulletproof too, from the short-throw and mechanical feeling gearshift to the massively powerful brakes and beautifully zingy engine. By modern standards it's not actually that fast, or at least not in a straight line. A well driven modern hot hatch would probably leave it standing. What it gives you is a thrill that comes from more than just outright speed though - it's the challenge of achieving it, of maintaining it, of savouring every last thrilling mile that passes under the wheels.

The cloud of that six-figure value never quite leaves you be but as a car to enjoy it's simply wonderful. Who knows, maybe those who had them when they were 25-grand cars that could be ragged without thought to future investment value really did have it better? I'll ask my neigh- ... actually, no I won't.

3,600cc flat-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 260@6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 240@4,800rpm
0-62mph: 5.4 sec*
Top speed: 162mph*
Weight: 1,230kg* (Lightweight version; Comfort 1,300kg)
CO2: N/A
Price: £250,000 (auction estimate)
*Figures for road-spec car

Photos: Tom Begley

[Sources: Silverstone Auctions, 964RSDatabase, Specialist Cars of Malton, Carfolio]

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (118) Join the discussion on the forum

  • fastgerman 14 Jul 2015

    Gosh I'd take a Singer for that price

  • nicholasm 14 Jul 2015

    Dan, did your neighbour recently post this advert?


  • belleair302 14 Jul 2015

    Prices on these cars is going up as with anything that carries NO capital gains tax...when you sell all of the profit is yours. A risky way to tie up your money however and sadly many of these collector cars will now never be driven.

  • g7jhp 14 Jul 2015

    The 964 (as the 3.2 Carrera) before it were a lovely size 911 you could just thread down the road.

    The 964 RS in Maritime Blue is stunning, but £250k is a silly amount when you could pick up a C2 for a fraction of thee price. But they're a finite resource and I'm sure someone will snap it up, it'll be a shame if it gets put away in a collection and not driven as intended.

  • WCZ 14 Jul 2015

    will go for more than 250K

View all comments in the forums Make a comment