Porsche’s 1973 Carrera RS has become one of the most sought-after sports cars to emerge from the fabled German automaker. Having retired its hugely successful and Le Mans-winning Type 917 Prototype program of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Porsche needed another racing venue to further bolster its competition image. When the FIA created a new series for production-based sports cars, Porsche pounced on the opportunity. Not only would a successful racing program continue Porsche’s presence in competition, but it would also hopefully boost sales of its normal production cars as well.
The goal was to prepare an all-out campaign in the new European Grand Touring Championship Group 5 with a 911-based model called the RSR. To meet the FIA’s production requirements, Porsche would have to construct at least 500 examples of a Group 4-legal model with a 2.7-litre engine that could be enlarged to the Group 5 maximum of 3.0 litres.
Using the 911 S coupé as a starting point, the Competition department created two different versions of the Carrera RS. The Sport model, also known as the Lightweight (option M471), was intended for competition use and would be largely stripped of its interior. The Touring version (M472) offered some of the Lightweight’s features but was much more civilized and trimmed for comfortable road use. Many were also equipped from the factory with 911 S accoutrements, including sunroofs, full carpeting, and an entertainment system; some also featured air conditioning.
The basis of the car was the 190-horsepower, 2.4-litre engine, but it was enlarged to 2.7 litres through the utilization of new 90-millimeter cylinders, and its bores had been coated with a new low-friction material called Nikasil, which has since become commonly used in high-performance cars. The engine was equipped with the reliable Bosch mechanical fuel injection and could develop 210 horsepower at 6,300 rpm. Torque was a strong 188 foot-pounds at 5,100 rpm. The suspension was also upgraded, and the wheel arches were broadened six inches at the front and seven inches at the rear to fit wider lightweight Fuchs wheels. However, the Carrera RS’s most defining feature was its burzel (ducktail) rear spoiler. Finally, its curb weight was reduced to a feather-light 2,370 pounds, which only added to the car’s performance. Needless to say, this was a very quick car. It was capable of sprinting from 0–60 in just 5.5 seconds and reaching a top speed of 150 mph, which are impressive figures, even when compared to modern production cars.
When the prototype was shown to the company’s directors, Porsche’s Sales department declared that the company could never sell 500 examples of this expensive homologation special. However, Competition department head Ernst Fuhrmann thankfully prevailed, and when the Carrera RS made its public debut at the 1972 Paris Auto Show, orders flooded in. Porsche not only sold that first series of 500, but also a second series—and then a third. While most were delivered in Grand Prix White with contrasting “Carrera” graphics, the cars were also offered in Porsche’s eye-catching and popular “Jelly Bean” colours.
By the time production ceased, 1,590 examples had been built: 1,308 road-ready Touring models, 200 Lightweights, 17 RSH prototype and development cars, and 55 RSRs.