RS America: street 911, track attitude

August 5, 2011

At the 1992 Porsche Club of America Parade in San Diego, Fred Schwab — head of Porsche Cars North America at the time — said of this car, “If you like to autocross, this is your car. If you are a time-trialer, you need this car. If driving is for fun, this is your car…”

Who am I to argue? I point the headlights away from the Pacific Ocean and start up Latigo Canyon. Los Angeles traffic delayed our start by over an hour and, in dwindling light, there isn’t time to bag any photographs tonight. But there’s still enough dusk illumination for one run up the snaking canyon road in a Fly Yellow 1993 RS America.

I’m getting accustomed to the controls, the rhythm of the road, and the give-and-take of the Porsche’s suspension on un­even pavement when a gentle admonition comes my way from the passenger seat, “May I make a small suggestion?” It’s a rhetorical question, as there is insufficient time left for response. “The car will be happier in second gear rather than third here.”

I’m not sure whether the suggestion is for the benefit of the car’s happiness or mine, but owner Keith Verlaque is right. Second gear keeps the revs north of 4000 rpm, the point at which this 3.6 hits its sweet spot. And what a sweet spot it is!

Among Porsche’s non-GT 3.6 variants, has there ever been one with more scintillating power delivery than the original? I think not. As the big “4” on the tach is reached, there is a forward lurch — almost turbo-like in voracity — and it doesn’t relent until the “6” is eclipsed. Having owned one of these cars, one with mild performance modifications, I wonder aloud whether this powerplant is making more than the advertised 250 hp.

“I can show you the dyno sheet. It’s 249 at the rear wheels,” claims Verlaque, crediting custom exhaust work and a freer-breathing K&N air filter. The “unplugged” exhaust system contributes to an aggressive growl that Verlaque likens to a flange effect on a midi synthesizer. And he’s right: The increasingly raspy note seems to turn inside out when the power rushes on at 4000 rpm.

The front suspension is light and lithe without being darty or vague; it transitions and sets quickly, staying nicely un­derneath me. With this street setup, Ver­laque has dialed in just the right hint of understeer for this road, and the back end complies with everything thrown at it; I always feel it, but it never threatens. The Bilstein PSS10 coil-overs are set soft to soak up the significant bumps, dialed to 1 of 10 in front and 3 of 10 in the rear (Verlaque auto­crosses the car at 5 and 7).

“Within the last six months, I had the suspension installed,” he mentions. “I was getting photographs of the car, and I could see that, in a turn, the outside of the car looked like it was going to scrape the tarmac. And the inside…you could fit your fist between the tire and the fender.”

Verlaque also installed a H&R 24-mm five-way adjustable front anti-roll bar and an 18-mm, three-way adjustable rear anti-roll bar. Incidentally, these same bars appeared on the 964 Carrera RS, a model not to be confused with the RS America.

Not available on this side of the pond, the rest-of-world 964 Carrera RS was a high-performance edition built to homo­logate competition-grade 964s. It featured a stiffened, seam-welded tub, a ten-horse power advantage, 40-percent stiffer suspension, thinner glass, and the deletion of niceties like electric window lifts. The RS America, on the other hand, was born with a different intent.

The story begins at the dawn of the 1990s, with Vic Elford and some bad weather. Elford was running the Porsche Owners Driving School at the time. “We were conducting one of the PODS events at New Hampshire’s Loudon track and had a complete day washed out with torrential rain and storm conditions,” begins Elford. “To keep everyone happy, I turned most of the day into an open forum.”

During the discussions that ensued, the dichotomy of attendees hit home for El­ford. “There were two types of Porsche owner: those to whom ownership announced their status in their community or their chosen profession…(and) the second group, (who) owned Porsches because of their love of a performance car that they enjoyed driving hard and fast and which had already proved its worth in competition around the world.”

Also from Issue 195

  • Ruf CTR3
  • 9ff GT3 Biturbo
  • Class-winning 911L at '69 Daytona 24
  • 2011 GT2 RS vs. Pikes Peak
  • 1972 911: Slide-valve stunner.
  • The 48 Hours of Le Mans
  • 996 Turbo: Cheap speed
  • 2011 Panamera Turbo
  • Interview: Chad McQueen
  • Smart Buy: 2000-2002 Boxster S
  • Buyers Guide: 911 Turbo
  • Tech Forum: Q & A
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