recalls the days when his Carrera RS was looked down upon by fellow road users and workmates alike
It’s all true. Everything that you read about the Carrera RS is true. It was in its day and for many years afterwards absolutely sensational and although in terms of out and out speed it has long been surpassed, in terms of driving pleasure it remains today as rewarding as it was in 1973.
I could have and should have bought my RS sooner than I did but with four less than perfect 356s to contend with it wasn’t until January 1981 that I finally took the plunge. It was my first 911 and it remains the only 911 that I have owned – and I still own it. I had been racing my Speedster in HSCC events and shortly after buying the RS I had it too prepared for racing by Paul Edwards, who rebuilt the engine and gearbox, lowered the suspension, fitted lower profile tyres, a bucket seat for the driver and a rollcage.
I did a couple of sprints in it, at Goodwood and spent a day thrashing it around Brands Hatch but as it was my everyday car, and having ‘kissed the Armco’ in my Speedster, I eventually decided against getting involved in any ‘real’ racing in deference to my limited skill and its rapidly appreciating value. (For younger readers, classic car values went ballistic throughout the 1980s before the bubble burst around 1990.) That did not of course stop me driving it fast on the road. And, boy, could one drive it fast!
Needless to say a white Porsche with red wheels and red script down the side was a magnet for the traffic Police. I seemed to get ‘pulled’ all the time irrespective of whether I was exceeding the speed limit or not. I was even stopped one night for going ‘suspiciously slow’! I could never quite work out if the boys in blue simply wanted to give a flashy Porsche driver a bad time or simply have a closer look at the car.
I must confess, however, that a few of my pulls were perfectly justified, including one on the M1 when exploring the upper limits of the Carrera’s performance, which almost cost me my licence. Up before the beak for a verbal spanking and a heavy fine, that was, with lesson learnt, the last occasion on which I exceeded 100 mph on the road in the UK.
The red script was also like a red rag to the easily incensed road-rage susceptible bull-in-a-hatch-back. I still tremble at the recollection of the rush-hour morning I had to lock myself in to prevent dismemberment by a red-eyed foaming monster who had leapt from his car and onto the Carrera, spitting venom at some perceived highway sleight while we negotiated a roundabout – at walking pace.
One aspect of the Carrera RS phenomenon that hasn’t filtered down the years is that in its day not just ‘raging bulls’ but also a very large proportion of the population thought that whoever was behind the wheel had to be a d***head! For the first 20 years of its history, Porsche had built cars that were so understated and sold in such low numbers that they barely impinged on the consciousness of the man in the street – or the man on the road. Even after the 356 was replaced by the 911, a Porsche remained an esoteric choice, but then something started to change and the 911 morphed into an ‘in yer face’ piece of automotive bling.
As the 70s dawned, those that wanted to show they were kings of the Kings Road, a 911 in Viper Green, Signal Yellow or Signal Orange was just the ticket. And then came the Carrera RS with its absolutely outrageous sign painting and strange ‘ducktail’ wing, all confirming that Porsches were no longer discreet. By the time I bought my RS the Porsche brand had become the car of choice for the much-maligned ‘hairdresser’ and the emerging and even more reviled ‘yuppie’.
At the time, I personally worked in the almost equally despised world of advertising – I was indeed a ‘Mad Man’, just like the TV series. But even within that world of Armani-suited flash, where Porsches were ten-a-penny (well, ten-a-few grand), the RS was perceived by my colleagues as being a little on the loud side. Many hours were spent vainly protesting that I was a ‘genuine enthusiast’ of many years standing and not a Johnny-come-lately to the world of Porsche. Explaining that I had bought my first Porsche straight from art school in 1967 only made matters worse as the then prevailing Porsche image was applied retrospectively and only confirmed what my automotive critics thought – I was always a flash git.
Of course the rewards the Carrera offered far outweighed the criticisms that had to be endured and amongst those who knew, it was admired with genuine awe and appreciation. Ah, yes. The aforementioned rush-hour. That was the miracle of the RS. I used it for years as a daily commuter into central London – and it protesteth not. Not even once. It would crawl through the traffic for hours at barely more than tick-over but, at the sight of an open stretch of tarmac, flooring the throttle would spin up the flat-six into that glorious banshee wail and hurtle you towards the horizon at adrenalin-pumping speed without even a milli-second of hesitation. They were, indeed, glory days. DM