What’s your favourite 911?
It’s a difficult question to answer, especially when you’re in the enviable position of being exposed to 911s, old and new, day in and day out. Also, the perfect 911 one day may be a complete nightmare the next – that RS 3.8 is great fun on a dry sunny day, but rather a handful in the snow and ice, where a Carrera 4 suddenly comes into its own. Of course, the ideal solution is to own several 911s. Perhaps a 997 Turbo S for cross-continent tours in all weathers, a 964 RS for trackday fun, and maybe an SC Cabriolet for cruising around on summer evenings. But few people are in the enviable position of being able to do that, so is the solution to have a jack-of-all-trades 911? A 996 or 997 Carrera 4, maybe – something that can do duties as an everyday car, each and every day. Or should the 911 be kept for special days, while you have a lesser car as a daily driver? Keep a Carrera 2.7RS tucked away in the garage for treating yourself when the conditions are right. Some, on the other hand, would argue that even a classic 911 should be used and abused every day and not swaddled in a centrally heated garage. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s whatever suits your lifestyle and we’ll continue to argue with each other and ourselves about which is the best Porsche 911. At the end of the day, though, perhaps Alisdair Cusick answers the question most succinctly – the best 911 is the one with your name on the V5 document. Very true.
Nick Bruce – Racer’s Group 996 GT3 RS
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some memorable experiences driving 911s over the years. Experiences like being handed the keys to a 993 GT2 at Millbrook Proving Ground and told to ‘go have fun’. It scared the bejesus out of me to start with, then I fell utterly in love. In contrast, I’ll never forget the sadness I felt when I had to hand back the 997 Carrera 4S that had taken me halfway around Australia. Parting with that car was like saying goodbye to an old friend. However, my favourite 911 is the 2002 Le Mans-winning Racer’s Group GT3 RS. Its provenance and the fact it was my first drive in a proper race car made it memorable enough, but what made the car so special was how intoxicating and intuitive it was to drive. I remember the day so vividly; the nervous anticipation, the sickening heat of the cabin and the thrill of unleashing that howling flat six down the back straight. But it wasn’t the speed that impressed; the way it stopped and turned was like nothing I’d experienced before, while the level of feedback it offered made road-going GT3s feel numb by comparison. It was raw and intense, yet so safe and easy to drive. It epitomised everything that I love about 911s.
Alisdair Cuisick – (his) 964 Carrera 4
My favourite 911 isn’t a rare limited edition, nor is it a 200mph hero chariot that can scorch a track. I’m in the perhaps rare position of having been in virtually every production 911 from 1968 to date, yet I’d not choose any of those cars, because they are all lacking something. My favourite 911 is my own 964 Carrera 4, chosen for one very rare feature – it has my name printed on the V5 registration document. As humble as it may be – if any 911 can be called humble – the very fact the Porsche is mine means it is the best 911. Every time I do something to, or with it, I get satisfaction. Cleaning it, fettling it, planning a drive, even looking at it is always a spectacle, because of what it represents – the realisation of my own dream. I’ve no problem with people hankering after a Carrera 2.7RS, or a 3.8 RSR, but I’ve been in them, I’ve ‘done’ them. No, for me, I would much rather grab the keys, pop the family in and go for a drive in the country, in the best 911 of all.
Phil Raby – 964 Carrera RS 3,8
Someone once described the 964 Carrera RS as the perfect car to replace a Caterham Seven. How true; it never ceases to amaze me how, by ditching some weight and firming up the suspension, Porsche transformed the standard 964 Carrera 2 into one of the most nimble and communicative Porsches ever. But for me, there’s a car that transcends the mighty RS; and that’s the Carrera RS 3.8 that followed briefly in 1993. Pumped up with a wide Turbo body, massive rear wing and split-rim alloys, the RS looks mean and muscular, whereas the standard RS is petite and delicate. To drive, the 3.8 takes the RS experience and magnifies it – massively. There’s more power, firmer suspension, more noise, more feedback and, ultimately, more fun. It’s a car that encourages you to drive it hard; especially because the peaky engine needs to rev so you need to work the gears to keep within the 300bhp power band. At the same time, though, it’s a surprisingly refined and forgiving machine and works with you, not against you. And despite the extra bulge of the Turbo body, it feels as light and nimble as a standard RS. Only about 90 RS 3.8s were built and that rarity adds to its appeal. Legend is an overused word when it comes to 911s, but this car comes close to deserving that label.
Iain Kuah – 1973 2.8 RSR
Every story you will ever read about the Carrera 2.7RS eulogises this seminal lightweight early 911 for its speed and balance. While I do not dispute this, it is only when you have had the good fortune to drive a 2.8 RSR that you realise the full potential of this generation of 911. Weighing 135kg less than its 2.7-litre brother, the wider arched and better-braked RSR was endowed with 308bhp, rather than 210bhp, and a superb single-throttle-per-cylinder induction system. Rather than delivering its power with revs, the horses practically explode from the engine, accelerating the RSR with a vigour that leaves the RS feeling rather flat. Today’s punchy 997 GT3 RS engine has some of the bald aggression of the RSR’s, but although the 997 is certainly a faster car in the real world – thanks to chassis, tyre and aerodynamic development – the back-to-back numbers are most telling. Here, 308bhp and 840kg plays 450bhp and 1,370kg, while the superior throttle response of a single throttle-per-cylinder setup of the older Porsche delivers a sharper cutting edge whose effect on perceived throttle response is magnified by the RSR’s much lower mass.
Charles Goddard – 935
It’s the 935 that pushes my buttons. Okay, by the end of its life it resembled a road-going 911 in not much more than the position of the engine, but for me Porsche is synonymous with racing and this is the greatest racing 911. Introduced in 1976 as a successor to the RSR, it began with a 560bhp iteration of the turbocharged 3.0-litre flat six and weighed a flimsy 900kg. Toward the end of its career, power was reaching 800bhp and it epitomised the glorious insanity of the Turbo era; acres of unpredictable, explosive energy delivered to the track only by mechanical grip, delicate footwork and the power of prayer. In 1978 The ‘Moby Dick’ 935 was an amazing 15 seconds quicker round Le Mans than 935s just two years before! The 935 was driven to over 150 victories worldwide, including outright wins at Le Mans, Nürburgring, Daytona and Sebring. Arguably, without the experience earned from the 935, Porsche never would have gone on to dominate Group C racing with the 956 and 962. Statistics are useful for making a point but the 935 fires the senses, too. The flatnose, louvred panels and massive wings may not be graceful but they conjure up a time when drivers had to tame their machines rather than simply point them at corners. All that’s left is to relish the violent, guttural bark of the flaming exhausts and the experience is complete.
John Glynn – Carrera 3.0
The first time I saw my car was on a forum. A Swiss member had posted pictures of his lightweight 911, with a flat engine cover and a smoothed-out rear bumper. It was a 1976 Carrera 3.0 in Continental Orange. A year later, it happened. George, who owned the Carrera and a 930 in Kiln Red with an olive green leather interior, put both cars up for sale. This gave me two big problems. At the time, I had an immaculate Grand Prix White 1983 911SC Cabriolet. I had recently married and the SC was the wedding transport. It had carried little brother and I on some special continental trips, and was a rust-free joy to behold. If I bought The Orange, the SC would have to go. The second problem was the purchase price; more money than I had ever paid for anything in my life. Could I justify sticking that into a car for high days and holidays? I showed pictures of the 911 to Mrs G; not a fan. Little brother wasn’t sure either. But, as Stirling Moss said, “to achieve anything, you must be prepared to dabble with disaster.” George and I agreed a deal and Mrs G and I went to fetch it. As George opened the barn doors and revealed our adopted orange Porsche, Sarah’s first words were, “Now that is sexy”. I call that a win.
Kevin Hackett ¬– 1973 IROC 3.0 RSR
It was being sold at Specialist Cars of Malton on behalf of Lord Mexborough and it was expensive, being the only surviving IROC 911 outside the USA. Only 15 were made for the International Race of Champions, each painted a different colour. The one I drove was finished in a vivid lime green, which was shocking enough, but the car looked positively brutal with its massive arches, deeper than deep Fuchs alloys and massively wide tyres. That machismo was backed up when the 3.0-litre flat-six engine erupted. Pedestrians would stare in disgust at the racket; in disbelief that a car could look this outrageous. The exhausts spat flames on the overrun, the bellowing sound inside the stripped cabin was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced and, yes, it did feel like it wanted to tear my head off and then march round to execute my relatives. It was epic fun. A few months after my day in it, I was back at Malton on another job. The photographer wanted to get some stock shots done during the long summer afternoon, once our paid job was over. I looked over at the RSR, looked at Malton’s boss, John Hawkins, and he threw me the keys. Five hours later I returned, knowing for certain that this was the greatest 911 I would ever drive.
This was taken from issue 71, for all Total 911 back issues visit Imagine Shop