Birth of the RS

First announced with very little fuss in 1990, April’s 1991 Christophorus carried a preview, and set out some of the reasoning behind the car. Originally called the N/GT the purpose was to provide a customer car with close ties to the Cup Carrera. N/GT was a homologation group for near-standard Grand touring vehicles. Homologation required 1000 units to be built and then allowing only very minor changes. The N/GT project at Porsche was launched in .1990 which meant if 1000 units were produced by the end of 1991 then the car would be eligible from the beginning of 1992.

When the original RS was produced in 1973 the logic was similar to gain homologation for what was then Group 4. However the first RS wasn’t just bought for competition but by those who enjoyed driving such a competition focussed car on the everyday roads. This is what influenced the name change to RS and the decision to offer the car to a wider range of customers. The driving report in Christophorus goes on to give a more detailed specification than the sales brochure highlighting the changes and making it clear that not everyone would want this car, shorn of even the basic comforts as it was. The car tested was very early in the series wearing 225/45 front tyres instead of the final production versions 205/50 and having the standard Carrera rear bumper. Steering precision was praised, so was the spring/damper setup, it was certainly hard, and bumps were felt through the thinner seat padding but “you never reach the pain threshold”. In the end the conclusion was that this was a car developed for competition and therefore it would be senseless to water it down, ultimately it would not be right for everybody but Christophorus ends by hoping that at least as many would be built as were built of the 1st RS. If that is the measure of success then given the final numbers the RS was certainly a success!

The specification held closely to that of the preceding Cup cars. Wheels were down in width by 1/2″ seats were leather covered not Nomex and the interior was fully trimmed (albeit with lightweight materials). There were a few other less obvious changes, the rear bumper centre section, in common with the contemporary Turbo was cut away above the number plate the DME was relocated and the heating system had the normal continuous running fan in the engine bay rather than the simple bye-pass pipe on the Cup cars.

The specification of the lightweight was the same for markets, the variation being that RHD cars retained the PAS from the Carrera as no RHD manual rack was available. The car never made it to the US or Canada although Porsche did in 1993 provide the RS America -less focused than the RoW RS this was more a de-spec’d Carrera, losing some of the weight but not gaining things light the alloy bonnet, seats or Magnesium wheels standard on the RS. The Touring on the other hand took the RS back to Carrera 2 levels of equipment (and weight, nearly) but kept the engine (though with dual mass flywheel), suspension and fabulous brakes.

The car was launched to the press at Zolder, a circuit of long straight, fast sweeping curves and brake punishing chicanes. Maybe the launch was a sign of things to come; it certainly showed the car in its best light. Brian Laban writing in Performance Car saw it as blending the technical brilliance of the 964 Carrera with the more raw appeal of earlier 911’s. His verdict was that it was exactly what a performance car should be and he concludes by saying “…the new RS brought some long-remembered seldom repeated feelings flooding back. If it’s as good on the road as it is on the circuit – and there’s nothing at all to suggest it won’t be – it has every chance of going down as one of the all-time greats.” But when tested on UK roads there were dissenters – Roger Bell writing in Car didn’t enjoy it at all, citing appalling ride and abominable road noise. Jeremy Walton for Motorsport tested it back to back with the new turbo – complained of the noise and the hard ride but then the last paragraph is rather telling ” If you believe the whole Porsche creed and nothing but the Porsche creed the RS is for you. The RS lightweight is a truly memorable driving experience in a world full of increasingly bland motor cars. Don’t take passengers. This is a truly selfish car that delights in shattering both road distances and any occupant.”

Paul Frere in his definitive history compares RS and the turbo S (the rarest and most performance orientated version of the turbo) he concluded that his ideal road car of the period would have been a slightly less harshly sprung lightweight Carrera RS.

So at the time of its launch the car received mixed reviews from the press many thinking it flawed but notable defenders were Brian Laban and Paul Frere. What everyone did agree on was the cars stupendous track ability and its phenomenal brakes. As time went by this became part of the RS legend – great track car, too harsh for road use. The cars however did sell, it was only built for the 1992 model year but final production numbers were 1992 lightweights and touring and 290 N/GT’s. The N/GT’s were LHD only and available only in Germany, conversely (or perversely) the Touring was never sold in Germany. None of these cars was available in the US or Canada who had to wait until ’93 for the RS America – or one of the few American spec Cup cars which made it to the road after the proposed US Carrera Cup was shelved.

N/GT apart the original market was often collectors or those who could afford a ‘Sunday fun’ car of this nature. Gradually this owner profile changed. To those in the know this was the factory built ‘shopping’ racer. Ok, the ride was certainly firm but you could use it every day, you could race it, sprint it hammer it round the Nurburgring, all in the knowledge the car could take it – here was Porsche’s race expertise and legendary reliability in the £20k price bracket. Then gradually trackdays developed out of clubs running driver training events and groups of individuals hiring circuits. This brought the RS to the attention of those who wanted a competition car but didn’t want to compete. For these people the RS delivered the precision handling, with brakes that didn’t wilt after half a dozen laps and an engine and transmission that could keep doing it.

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2 responses to “Birth of the RS

  1. Ragnar Joensen

    Hi, Under collectables You mention a broschure wide track/rear end option for the 928 GT. I have had a 1989 928 GT with the option XC1. Is this the option You refer to ?

    • Hi Ragnar,
      I’m afraid I don’t know – the brochure is buried away in storage at present, but from memory there were no option numbers quoted – this made it difficult to confirm spacer size etc. sorry I can’t be ore help.

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