953 Paris-Dakar AWD transmission, mechanically variable differential lock controls, D-90 magnesium wheels, Carrera RS seam welded body shell, sport steering wheel, aluminum body panels, Matter cage, lightweight glass, fire system, with a very low body weight of 1,100 kg. M64/01 engine which produces an 300hp.
Excerpt from Porsche 911: Excellence by Design
From Chapter 6
In late 1988, customer sports department manager Jürgen Barth proposed to competition director Peter Falk the idea of building two or three rear-wheel drive 964 RSR racers using 3.4-liter engines to enter in the 24-hour endurance race at Nurburgring. Porsche sales were seriously depressed due to the world exchange rates. This affected customer race cars sales as well and Barth sought a project to develop. Years earlier, Norbert Singer had created a graphic presentation clearly demonstrating that when Porsche raced, sales increased. With that ammunition, Barth got a tentative approval for that idea and a second project as well. His back-up plan was to create a strictly customer car on the new platform that would use up some exotic spare parts Weissach had sitting around.
Typically, when Porsche builds a new-technology race car, it doesn’t merely construct the few examples that other competitors and the public see. For the 1986 Paris-Dakar 953s, Porsche had assembled three cars. Yet there were about 30 sets of all-wheel drive running gear. With its high clearance, the 953 strictly was an off-road works entry. But Barth envisioned constructing perhaps half-a-dozen new cars with lower ground clearance, possibly for circuit racing.
Barth had been at Porsche as it created the 1973 911 RS Carrera 2.7s and successive 2.8- and 3.0RSR versions. He knew all about Ferdinand Piëch’s 911Rs. These cars had fit rules, skirted them, or existed entirely outside of them. Current competition regulations meant there wasn’t anywhere for this all-wheel drive racer to compete, however Barth had watched Porsche’s influence operate in the past. He knew if the company pushed it, venues and series would open up. However, these were different times, better times, and worse times. It was the accident of timing that made this car interesting, its story relevant, and its lessons important.
In the U.S. and throughout the world, those who weathered the 1987 stock market crash without needing bankruptcy protection looked for new ways to work their money. Successful businessmen always have collected trophies and though Porsche’s dealers had trouble selling cars for $60,000, “investors” with no racing interest or experience were buying 908s for $400,000 one week and selling them for $700,000 a week later. Prices, if not values, were soaring. On golf courses and in gym locker rooms, speculators showed snapshots of their latest deals instead of bragging over recent stock transactions. Legitimate racing cars, even those with no competition history, became the new investment target.
One more element made Barth’s idea timely. In Washington, the EPA and DOT had clamped down on the grey market auto industry in 1987, enforcing rules they previously had treated less vigilantly. Red flags went up because an increasing number of 1973 RS 2.7s came into the country as race cars. These didn’t look like race cars, they seemed to have full interiors, they had trunks, and not every one had a roll bar. This had tripped up PCNA’s efforts to import 959s and got red flags waving around the sight of any Porsche. As Californian Kerry Morse put it recently, “You can’t bring a car into the U.S. with a seventeen-digit serial number, a roll bar, and air-conditioning and call it a race car. The folks at the EPA and DOT are not stupid.” Unwittingly, however, they contributed to the racing car investment frenzy.
Morse knew the federal agency people well, having owned, raced, imported, and brokered countless modern and historic racing cars throughout his career. He had witnessed the recent price jumps and understood the two significant features that motivated speculators: These cars were purpose-built with ultra-limited production that easily could be verified. As such, they were importable. Kerry Morse also knew Jürgen Barth, calling on him on every visit to Germany and frequently staying at Jürgen’s home. On a trip in mid-1989, Morse asked his host what was knew?
Barth explained his idea to gut the 964’s interior and body of all possible excess weight, install 953 running gear and, in essence create a 964RS. Morse asked how large a run Barth was considering. Six, eight, twelve? Morse immediately committed to take the first one. Neither of them had a solid idea of its price but Barth estimated it might be 200,000DM, about $110,000 at the time. With a solid order, both men knew it was easier to move a project forward.
Helmut Flegl, at that time number two in engineering behind new director Ulrich Bez, got involved and questioned the project in early July. As co-developer of the new 964 Carrera Cup model with Roland Kussmaul, Flegl wondered where this 964RS was to fit in competition. Barth answered each inquiry and pressed ahead, ultimately removing close to 350 kilograms, 770 pounds, of weight from the cars. He replaced doors and front and rear deck lids with thin aluminum, and side windows with Plexiglas. A roll-bar clung to the sterile interior that was set off by two large knurled knobs on the instrument panel. Porsche racers recognized these as turbo boost controls on 935s. But this engine was normally aspirated, not one fitted with twin turbochargers. For this car, now called the Carrera 4 Leichtbau, or C4 Lightweight, these two matching controls directed differential bias from front-to-rear and left-to-right. Barth fitted a stainless-steel dual exhaust system that delivered a deafening 107dB at 4,500rpm, making it one of the loudest Porsche race cars ever. There was no engine noise protection, no air filter, and no heater fan. Modified electronics and the improved exhaust increased engine output to 265 horsepower, up from the production 250. It got a single-plate sintered-metal clutch, short-ratio five-speed transmission, and an ultra-lightweight flywheel “for racing purposes.” It made a potent package at about 2,430 pounds, about 1,105 kilograms. Visually the car appeared stock and quite tame. It ran on stock-width tires and wheels, sixes in front, eights in the rear. It had neither flares nor modified bodywork. Barth had gotten some things accomplished in making his unusual car. Flegl and others in management vetoed others. All this work took months. As the first one neared completion, it got one other essential specification that Morse recommended and Barth pushed through.
“After the situation with dozens of 1973 Carrera RS 2.7s with their full serial numbers, and the 959 debacle,” Morse explained, “almost anything Porsche did was going to get serious scrutiny from U.S. EPA and DOT. Race cars have six-digit serial numbers. These cars could not come into the U.S. with a serial number beginning WPOZZZ…. Barth pushed hard for it and he got it done. He started with 964001 rather than 964101 so the cars would seem more like factory works cars than customer series.”
Word spread quickly through the small world of Porsche race car devotees: This was something that might not ever race but it would be rare and it was available. The run expanded to 21 cars and sold out quickly. The first car went to a collector in the United States. The initial four emerged between September and November 1990, as 1991 model year editions. Zuffenhausen delivered raw body-in-white shells to Weissach which painted them in the race department and installed their modified engines and running gear. Internal politics drove the price upward from Barth’s hoped-for 225,000DM to 285,000 as some decision makers saw an opportunity to let this odd marketplace pay extra for its exclusive toys. Cars went to England, Japan, and France, others remained in Germany, and several came to the U.S. Because the EPA and DOT decided only to admit these cars as racers following individual inspections of each one, U.S. buyers had to take delivery at the factory. This added another 39,000DM in VAT, value-added tax, to their purchase price. They could recover this upon leaving Germany with the car, but suddenly these cars cost more than $200,000 U.S. This figure was hard to swallow when any one of 70 starting-flag-ready 964 Carrera Cup cars for which a series in Europe and the U.S. already existed sold for 123,000DM or $73,650. Some people wondered aloud if 953 running gear was worth the extra $120,000? C4 Lightweight deliveries continued through 1991 but the collector car world was approaching critical mass.
When the balloon burst in 1992, its fallout scattered everywhere. Prices for Ferrari GTOs had reached $25 million, figures formerly reserved for Monet oil paintings or medium-sized islands in the south Pacific. Porsche 908s changed hands for $1 million and deals for 917Ks approached $5 million. Prices had swollen to four times life size just as the sharpest speculators jumped to the next trend. This left hundreds of amateur players holding cars attached to ruinous loans. It affected racing dramatically; the 24 Hours of LeMans, which typically counted 50 to 60 entries through the 1980s, had just 28 cars start in June 1992. Barth had to send letters to buyers reminding them of their commitments.
The last car left Weissach in late 1992. The project made money as Jürgen Barth’s projects virtually always had done. It had cost Porsche nothing extra to delete sound insulation or to add running gear and a fixed rear wing that it already had in stock. The legacy of the C4 Lightweight would live on, reiterating as it had done, that special limited editions including the 1973 RS or even the 1989 Speedsters had strong appeal to loyal enthusiasts. Perhaps not at the nearly 30-percent exclusivity-markup that some in Porsche’s management cynically had applied, but Porsche now knew that its customers would dig deeply in order to be the only one in town with something unique. It was a lesson Porsche would neither forget nor ignore.
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