Porsche Carrera 3.8RS (964) ~ 1993-1993

The RS 3.8 has road-presence by the bucketful. The gleaming Cobalt Blue Metallic paintwork of this example suits the car down to the ground. Which is a good job because that’s just where it is – the suspension is set very low indeed. And 964s, perhaps more than any other 911, look best when they’re low.

The Turbo body makes the car look mean as well as low. Yet, there’s none of the bulkiness associated with the Turbo – this car looks lightweight, somehow. The massive Speedlines add to the effect – remember that 964s came with 16-inch wheels as standard, so the extra two inches makes a noticeable difference. Without doubt, the best view of the Carrera RS 3.8 is from the back. That massive wing (complete with 'RS 3.8' moulded into the side pieces) perfectly complements the wide track, to give one of the most impressive rear ends this side of a 959.

The front end is somewhat less dramatic, but air-cooling ducts for the brakes and an additional lip spoiler distinguish this car from lesser 964s.

It's a good job the 3.8 RS is so good-looking because admiring its lines lets you delay getting into the thing. The Club Sport spec (this is one of eight so finished) includes a welded-in full Matter rollcage, with bars going right across the door apertures. Incidentally, the Club Sport package also included a fire extinguisher, racing harnesses, harder brake pads and the option of a racing clutch.

Actually, getting into the cabin is much easier – if somewhat maladroit – than it looks. Once you've dropped into the lightweight and firm bucket seat, you fumble around to recover the buckle of the four-point harness which you’ve unavoidably sat on. But before restricting your movements by strapping yourself in you take a moment to check out the immediate surroundings.

It’s all very much RS Lightweight stuff. The doors are clad with flat panels, and there are simple pull-straps (partly obscured by the rollcage) for opening and closing the doors. Windows are wound up and down with flimsy handles.

There's no roof lining – just the metal panel which is painted blue, as is the rollcage. The inclusion of the cage, incidentally, has meant the cutting away of some of the trim around the ends of the dash and door tops, which has been done none too neatly.

There's no radio, of course, just a thin plastic panel covering the aperture. The petrol-filler flap release is just a simple loop of wire, as is the battery kill switch, and there’s a gorgeous three-spoke RS steering wheel.

So there's no doubt whatsoever that car is a road-going racecar. Nothing more, nothing less. Which means it would be rude not to have some fun with it.

Batten yourself down with the bright-red harness (after remembering to close the door first – you can’t reach it otherwise) and turn the key. The engine fires up and sounds almost disappointingly refined. It does, though, settle to a rather lumpy idle. Blipping the throttle reveals a higher-pitched exhaust note than expected – this is not a car that'll have the ground shaking.

The engine actually feels more like a 993 than a 964 unit. Which, in many ways makes sense because it’s a sort of halfway house between the two. In fact, a similar 3.8-litre engine was later offered as an option to 993 buyers. It’s very free-revving – no doubt due in part to those six throttle-body valves. Which is a good job because you don't hit maximum power until 6500rpm, which calls for some nifty use of the slightly notchy gearbox – the redline is just above at 7100rpm.

At such high revs the engine really does scream behind your head. Again, though, it's not a deep, throaty sound, more a mid-range howl. It certainly sends shivers down your spine. This is not a dramatically fast car (it’s geared for acceleration, not top speed), but 300bhp in such a light body gives stunning acceleration, which is undoubtedly better than that of the 3.6-litre-engined Carrera.

Torque peaks at 265lb/ft at 5250rpm, but the engine lacks the low-down torque of the 3.6 engine, so again, you’re making good use of the gearbox – this is not an engine you can be lazy with and pootle along at low speed in a high gear.

But then this isn't a car you’d want to be lazy with. Everything about it urges you to drive it hard. It's a surprisingly easy car to drive, too. The suspension set-up makes the car less skittery and more forgiving than a standard RS and it’s a remarkably compliant ride, too – firm, but not teeth-shatteringly so.

The compliance inspires you with the confidence to push hard through corners, safe in the knowledge that the slightest bump isn't going to knock you off line. The car feels extremely surefooted because of this and maybe the wider track and those enormous tyres help as well. It’s funny, in a Turbo of this age, you're always aware of the extra bulk. Not so the RS 3.8. It feels as compact and nimble as the standard RS, but at the same time noticeably more refined. Porsche’s chassis development had certainly moved on in just a couple of years.

The 3.8 RS offers a sublime driving experience. It's involving and raw, yet refined at the same time. Porsches don't come much better than this. !

 
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