The Porsche Carrera 911 RS 2.7: Fifty Years of Perfection
Imagine, if you will, that you are in Paris, France, in October 1972. There is an automobile show, a fairly large one, currently happening at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles convention center, and all the big names you know of are there. Renault, Peugeot, Ferrari, Aston Martin, the whole lot, including Porsche. Of course, they had the iconic Porsche 911 on display, celebrating 10 years of production and sales.
You wander over to the little stage area that is beside the Porsche stand and see a car that looks to be a 911 under a cover as the MC of the day lists off all the reasons that the 911 is one of the best sports cars in the world. Just imagine, then, that he then yanks the cover back and reveals not just any 911 but the Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7.
The 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7: One of the Greatest Cars Ever Made
So what makes this one of the greatest 911s? To understand that, you need to look into the history of Porsche through the 1960s. Their prototype race cars and 911 race models were winning pretty much everything under the sun, from the 12 Hours of Sebring to the Targa Florio, even managing to sneak in a Formula One victory in 1962.
This was during the era of “see it on Sunday, buy it on Monday” motorsports, when the racing version of a car was just a modified road car. It is on this basis that the Porsche 911 sold so well in its early years.
Of course, part of racing, especially with prototype racing with cars like the legendary Porsche 917, is research and development. Better aerodynamics. More powerful engines. The beginnings of truly understanding downforce.
Throughout the 1960s, Porsche had been bringing lessons from the race track to their 911 cars, which continued through to the 1970s and culminated, or so everyone thought, with the 1973 Porsche 911S 2.4, an amazingly powerful and capable car that felt like a race car on the road.
Yet, the 911S 2.4 didn’t really shout and scream about itself, staying perfectly in line with Porsche’s “understated but capable” thought process. Imagine, then, the shock of seeing the massive ducktail spoiler, the low, aggressive front air dam, and the bulging rear wheel arches on the 911 Carrera RS 2.7. This was a Porsche that not only had technology from the race track but also looked like it belonged on one!
That leads to exactly why the RS 2.7 was such a revolutionary car and one of the greatest ever. After so many years of manufacturers going wild with special parts and engines for their race cars, many of the big racing sanctioning bodies like the ACO and the FIA introduced homologation rules.
To race a car in certain classes (Porsche wanted to take on the Ferrari Daytonas in FIA Group 4 racing), one needed to have 500 road models of the car that used the same parts, engines, aerodynamic surfaces, and the like.
Enter the 911 Carrera RS 2.7. The 2.4L flat-six from the 911S was bored and stroked to 2.7L and retuned to maximize the power gain, resulting in a 210 HP air-cooled flat-six. This meant that the rear wheels had to be shifted outwards slightly, which was also necessary since there were wider tires used in racing.
So as not to disrupt the airflow, the bugling wheel wells were introduced. Since downforce was starting to affect racing (and was also starting to be understood), Porsche whacked a great big wing on the back of the car that took the flow of air from over the car and shot it sharply upwards.
The gearbox was race-grade so that it could be homologated for use in the race cars. The brakes were drilled and ventilated discs. There was no excess put in the cabin, as well as barely any sound deadening—just enough to make it road legal. In truth, when you bought a Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7, you were literally buying a race car that had been made road legal… just barely.
Why the RS 2.7 Is Still Remembered Today
Fast forward from that Paris Auto Show in 1972 to 2022—and even now, seeing a RS 2.7 gets the heart beating faster, your pupils dilating to take in the shape and grace of the car, your ears perking up as its legendary air-cooled note sings through the air. It doesn’t really compute for us in 2022 that Porsche was actually really nervous about selling the RS 2.7 in 1972 and 1973.
At the time, Porsche thought that no one would buy one because of numerous factors. Chief among them was that since it was a homologation car with race-grade parts, it was not cheap in the slightest. In fact, its original list price approached $12,000, while the 911S 2.4 was listed for just a little under $11,000 ($78,138 and $71,626 in 2022 dollars, respectively).
Another reason that Porsche was nervous about selling the RS 2.7 was that they didn’t think anyone would want to buy a stripped-out, barely road-legal car. Because of that, there was an option to add a “Touring Package” which put some of the sound deadening, upholstery, and creature comforts back into the car for just under $900 ($5,860 in 2022).
For needing to sell 500 cars, Porsche could never have imagined that at the 1972 Paris Auto Show alone, 51 deposits were placed. News of the new “race car for the road by Porsche” spread like wildfire around the world. This led to Porsche dealerships getting inundated with calls and walk-ins from those interested in buying one, and the entire 500 car run was sold out within 7 days of the closing of the Paris Auto Show.
In fact, demand was so high that Porsche decided to release another 500 RS 2.7 models, this time charging an extra $300. That run sold out within 7 days as well. When the last RS 2.7 rolled off the factory floor, sales had far exceeded what was expected, and a total of 1,000 models had made it into customer’s hands.
This was significant, as it allowed Porsche to reclassify their race car to Group 3 specs, which were much more powerful. This led to the Porsche 911 2.8 RSR, a pure race car without need for a direct homologation model, but because there were those out there willing to buy, they released 55 units of the 1973 Carrera 2.8 RSR at $22,500 per, or $146,500 in 2022.
Today, we look back on the era of homologation specials, with some amazing cars coming out between 1970 and 1990—including some of the other greatest cars ever made, such as the Ferrari Daytona and the Audi Sport Quattro. Among them all, however, it is only the Carrera RS 2.7 that was so perfectly proportioned, each line the brush stroke of a master painter, the sound from the flat-six a symphony to rival the greatest from Mozart and Beethoven, and the experience of driving it so raw and connected that it rises to the top.
This isn’t just blustering about the car, either. You can find Ferrari Daytonas and Audi Sport Quattros at auction, fetching tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars if they are in excellent condition. A mint condition, low mileage 911 Carrera RS 2.7, however, fetched $1.022 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018.
Not only is the car beautiful and almost flawless in execution, it is also a collectible car that, due to Porsche’s knack for overengineering the hell out of everything, will still run today as if it had just left the factory floor.
The 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic: A Tribute to the Original
Just a week or so ago, Porsche unveiled the 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic. Much like the original 2010 911 Sport Classic, this model heavily references all the greatest bits and pieces from all of the greatest cars that Porsche has ever made. It’s when you get to the side profile of the car, however, that you notice the following: not only does it have the ducktail spoiler and the bulging rear wheel arches, but the car sits much like how the RS 2.7 does, and even pays homage to it with a redone front air dam.
As well, unlike some other Porsche tribute or heritage cars, the Sport Classic, much like the RS 2.7, has a “powerful enough” flat-six engine that gets the car going at a rapid clip but doesn’t overload the car or the driver with too much power. The Sport Classic, being based on a Type 992 Turbo S, doesn’t aspire to increase the 543 HP to any ridiculous level, instead leaving it be as it is—as stated, “powerful enough.”
While other 911s get referenced with the Sport Classic, such as the Type 997 Turbo-style front radiator intakes, the bulk of the car references the 1970s. Even the exhausts are positioned to resemble the double exhausts that were part of the RS 2.7 Touring Package. The seats inside are combination leather bolsters with a houndstooth-pattern cloth body, just like many of the second generation 911s had.
To be honest, we’re just happy that the ducktail spoiler has not been lost to the vestiges of time. There is something about the way it just completes the line of a Porsche 911 that is timeless. That original ducktail on the RS 2.7 influenced a lot of the designs that came after, including the whale-tail and the double-decked wing spoiler of the recent GT3 and GT3 RS special models, with the lower spoiler flicking up like a ducktail.
However, as good as the 911s are today, after so many decades of engineering and designing around a flat-six behind the rear axle, there is something that not even a Sport Classic can capture. The 911 Carrera RS 2.7 is perfect because of the thing that all 911s are built for: to be driven. It’s the one time that we can all agree that for the RS 2.7, the sound, the vibration through the body, the bite of the tires, and the feedback through the shifter, your feet, your butt, and your hands all create a certain magic that has yet to be duplicated.
It’s also why the Sport Classic can be an amazing car, but the best it can manage to be in comparison to the original RS 2.7 is a really well-performed cover song. Fact is, the original band sang it better.