New 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic most powerful 992 manual available
The second of four new limited-run Porsches to be released under the manufacturer’s Heritage Design banner, the new 992 Sport Classic takes heavy influence from the Carrera RS 2.7 and the more recent 997 Sport Classic. All three are linked by massive desirability and factory-fit ducktails...
Words Robert Smith
DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER
Presenting the new 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic.
NEW 542BHP 911 SPORT CLASSIC MOST POWERFUL 992 MANUAL AVAILABLE
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the911 Carrera RS 2.7, one of the most influential sports cars of all time. Pretty much the epitome of ‘race car for the road’, the RS sports a prominent spoiler conceived to reduce high-speed lift at the rear. Subject to functional development at the instruction of Porsche engineer, Peter Falk, and subsequently refined by factory stylist, Anatole Lapine, the resulting ‘ducktail’ has gone down in automotive history as being as iconic as some of Porsche’s most celebrated cars. Not bad for an angled bit of plastic.
THE NATURAL GRAIN CAN BE FELT BY INQUISITIVE FINGERTIPS, PROVIDING AN EXTRA LEVEL OF SENSORY INVOLVEMENT
Surprisingly, prior to development of the RS’s front airdam and rear spoiler, Porsche had conducted little work in the field of aerodynamics. Granted, a few years earlier, the 917 race car had been tamed, transforming it from a Porsche which factory drivers refused to climb into (on the grounds of massive instability at high speed), to a multiple Le Mans-winning machine respected the world over, but even this work was largely the responsibility of John Wyer Automotive, the Gulf-sponsored outfit enlisted by Porsche to take over the running of its 917 Le Mans programme after disappointing results in 1969. So the story goes, Wyer’s engineer, John Horsman, noticed a pattern of splattered bugs all over the 917’s bodywork, revealing the flow of air around the car.
Its long tail, however, was relatively clean, indicating air wasn’t flowing its way over the back of the 917 as well as Porsche thought. Immediate modification resulted in what would go on to be recognised as the 917 K (Kurzheck, meaning short tail), delivering a huge amount of extra downforce, ultimately resulting in a version of the sports-prototype works drivers were confident wasn’t hellbent on killing them.
With the Carrera RS 2.7, the 911 suddenly boasted 210bhp and a lighter chassis, hence the need to tame the beast through improved aerodynamics. The ducktail — also a feature of the RS’s successor, the G-series Carrera 2.7 ‘MFI’, as featured in last month’s issue of 911 & Porsche World —has since gone on to become a staple of the restomod scene, not only for same-age 911s built to RS specification, but also much newer 911s, including those from the water-cooled era of production. Indeed, carbon-fibre aftermarket ducktails have become a popular add-on for modified examples of the 996 and 997. Porsche itself even got in on the act, equipping the 997 Sport Classic with a newly fashioned ducktail, along with other retro styling features, such as flat paintwork and classic-style staggered Fuchs rims with black centres and polished lips. Limited to just 250 units, the 997 Sport Classic is now one of the most collectible 911s ever produced.
FORCE OF NATURE
Truth be told, we’re talking about a 911 which is something of an acquired taste. While the motoring world is universal in its praise for the Carrera RS 2.7, the 997 Sport Classic is, well, a bit ‘Marmite’. The second-generation 997’s rear lights haven’t aged well and the Sport Classic’s overall styling is a viewed by many marque enthusiasts as being too cartoonish — the model’s battleshipesque Sport Classic Grey paintwork (introduced when every other car seemed to getting a lick of Audi Nardo Grey or the near identical Lamborghini Grigio Telesto), large-look wheels and Dodge Viper-like twin stripes do little to flatter the 997’s gorgeous shape. The Sport Classic’s desirability, so it seems, is largely down to the model’s rarity. Nice ducktail, though. Second time lucky? Porsche has just announced the release of the 992 Sport Classic, the next in a quartet of low-volume production 911s to roll out of Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur wearing the Heritage Design badge. The first, as featured on the cover of our October 2021 issue, was the 992 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, a corduroy-trimmed semi-open-top 911 taking styling cues from Porsche’s past and marrying them with the mechanical wizardry of its present. The 992 Sport Classic is a similar proposition, though ups the ante by delivering the most powerful 911 currently available with a manual gearbox. We’re talking a cool 542bhp, people.
“The Heritage Design models represent the most emotionally driven concepts of the current Porsche product strategy,” says Alexander Fabig, Vice President of Porsche Individualisation and Classic. “This unique approach sees the Style Porsche design department working with Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur to reinterpret iconic 911 models and equipment from the 1950s through to the 1980s, whilst reviving design features from those decades.” At first glance, this amounts to Turbo widebody (fifty millimetres wider than standard), a ducktail, fivespoke wheels and a ‘double bubble’ roof. There’s grey paintwork (a metallic version of Sport Grey, inspired by the 356’s Fashion Grey) and twin stripes strewn nose to tail, too. Not a million miles away from 997 Sport Classic specification, then? No, but the 992 pulls off the look far more convincingly than the older 911.
It’s interesting to note how the distinctively styled roof prevented the 997 Sport Classic from being sold in the USA, further contributing to the decision to keep production volume low. Long story short, the change required specific tests to be carried out to ensure the panel’s integrity met Stateside highway safety standards in the event of a roll. Porsche deemed the tests too expensive for the number of sales it expected off the back of the Sport Classic project. Fast-forward to now and the 997 Sport Classic has become one of the most coveted collector 911s in the US.
“For the 992 Sport Classic, we wanted to achieve a smooth sculptural shape, matching the wide Turbo body with uninterrupted curves,” says Boris Apenbrink, lead on the 997 Sport Classic project and present-day Director of Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur. He’s referencing the new Sport Classic’s rear quarters, which Style Porsche designer, Grant Larson, was adamant should be manufactured without the Turbo’s side air intakes. “We couldn’t run up millions in development costs, which is why we had the idea of further developing and using experimental 992 pre-production tooling. It was an unusual approach, but one which made the impossible possible,” he reveals, candidly. Larson looks sheepish. “Are we allowed to say that?” he laughs.
The increased size of the 992 over the 997 — and let’s not forget how much bigger the 997 is in comparison to the Carrera RS 2.7 — helps carry exaggerated bodywork far more convincingly. Don’t like grey? You can option solid Black, Agate Grey Metallic, Gentian Blue Metallic or run riot with Paint to Sample (sans stripes), though Style Porsche Vice President, Michael Mauer, would prefer you didn’t. “Grey is never boring,” he tells us. Neither are racing numbers, though as was the case with the Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, these can be left off, with a white circular sticker remaining on each door, presumably for you to apply your own numbers at a later date, should you see fit.
HALF THE WORLD AWAY
This time around, Porsche is producing 1,250 units of the 911 Sport Classic, though we don’t yet know the number of right-hand drive examples destined for the UK. Whatever the quota, you stand far more chance of getting hold of a 992 Sport Classic than you did its 997 predecessor, a 911 now fetching in excess of £250k as a pre-loved Porsche. A new 992 Sport Classic, meanwhile, will set you back £209,450 in any of the standard colours, saving you more than enough cash to buy one of the model’s accompanying Porsche Design chronographs. European deliveries will begin in July, with additional markets receiving their allocation thereafter. Having said all this, the new Sport Classic’s plus points are more than skin deep. Where the earlier 911 carrying the same name made use of the 997 Carrera S’s familiar 3.8-litre flat-six, this fresh 992 features a unique (for now) 3.7-litre twin-turbocharged boxer, allied to a seven-speed manual gearbox. As expected, auto-blip is included, something we enjoyed during our time in the 991 Carrera T (see our August 2021 issue), which utilises the same number of ratios in a manual cog swapper. Put simply, auto-blip compensates for differences in rpm between gears by introducing brief bursts of revs when shifting down. A specially tweaked sports exhaust adds even more excitement to proceedings.
992 Sport Classic suspension is based on that of the 992 Turbo and GTS models, switching damper rates at lightning speed via Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Ride height is dropped ten millimetres over standard. Purists will be delighted to learn rear-wheel drive is the order of the day, despite the Turbo The 992 Sport Classic’s interior is a fabulous blend of Cognac leather, colourcoded twin stitching and seat centres finished in houndstooth fabric. Piano black accents and brushed aluminium also play their part in presenting a delightfully retro-feel cabin, which comes compete with wooden strips running the width of the dashboard, along the door cards and around the centre console. “From 1964 to 1967, Porsche offered its cars with a natural matte-finish mahogany veneer for the instrument panel cover and the steering wheel rim,” says Larson’s Style Porsche colleague, Chris Holzinger. “We wanted natural materials for the new Sport Classic. Consequently, in addition to leather, paldao wood is used.” Paldao — often mistaken for walnut — features an ‘open pore’ veneer. Thanks to Porsche’s use of a super-thin layer of lacquer, the natural grain can be felt by inquisitive fingertips, providing an extra level of sensory involvement.
“We built the millionth 911 as a tribute to Ferry Porsche’s air-cooled Irish Green example and trimmed the new car’s interior with a mix of houndstooth fabric and wood. The latter is seldom seen in modern 911 cabins,” Holzinger muses. “Considering how well it works in the 992 Sport Classic, however, I’m convinced the wonderful appearance and feel of paldao will encourage Porsche customers to consider a new 911 featuring wood as a key interior material from this moment onward.”
Houndstooth (Pepita, as Porsche refers to it) was originally offered an option during 356 production, but was only occasionally requested. It was officially mentioned for the first time in a 911 equipment catalogue published in 1965. Today, houndstooth is one of the most popular Porsche fabrics. This combination of old and new made it a no-brainer for the interior of the new 911 Sport Classic.
BRING IT ON DOWN
The typeface and green accents of the early 911 and 356 dashboard dials have also been carried over to the new car. “The numbers were green in the 356 and the 911 until 1967. The technology was simple back then,” says Larson. “The numbers and needles were treated with green phosphorus, much like glowin- the-dark toys or the second hand of old watches. There was an offset gap between the chrome ring, glass and the dial, through which the phosphorus was illuminated.” Backlighting wasn’t an available feature, which is why green phosphorous was used to generate visibility for night-time driving.
As attractive as the material looks, there’s an obvious flaw to this approach. “I remember sitting in a historic Porsche and hardly being able to see instrument readings. Of course, if the phosphorus no longer works as intended, then nothing glows anymore,” shrugs Apenbrink, quick to emphasise how Heritage Design green clock accents are a good example of technical innovation and tradition merging to great success. “Phosphorus hasn’t been used in Porsche production for a long time, of course,” Larson points out, presumably to reassure anyone thinking about using the new Sport Classic in the dark.
Introducing the 992 to retro styling cues harking back to the Carrera RS 2.7 is an understandable move from Porsche during the air-cooled model’s anniversary year and, perhaps, explains why it has taken two years for a new Heritage Design model to be released into the wild. One of the biggest compliments to the classic Porsche’s period engineering, however, isn’t the fact the RS is being celebrated, but how its ducktail has endured, to the point it is considered suitable for inclusion at the rear of a new 911 five decades later.
Aerodynamic testing is, of course, a major aspect of modern vehicle production, but the Carrera RS ducktail’s lasting influence on Porsche thinking can’t be overstated. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel when the first 992 Sport Classic lands on British shores. And we don’t care if it’s grey.
Below Apenbrink with a roll of Pepita, which originally appeared on the classic 911’s options list in 1965. Above Holzinger with the Sport Classic’s paldao wood inserts, which are only lightly lacquered, allowing the grain of the wood to be easily felt.
Above New 911 Sport Classic is the second of four releases from Porsche’s Heritage Design programme, which brought us the gorgeous Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition in 2020.
Above Grant Larson (Director of Special Projects at Style Porsche), Chris Holzinger (Colour and Material Design) and Boris Apenbrink (Director of Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur Vehicles) gather to talk about the new 911 Sport Classic.
Above When penning the new 911 Sport Classic, Grant Larson used the 997 carrying the same name as the starting point for his design work
Below Carrera RS 2.7 ducktail remains an integral part of Porsche’s identity and continue to influences new product designs some fifty years after the part’s introduction
DON’T LIKE GREY? YOU CAN OPTION SOLID BLACK, AGATE GREY METALLIC, GENTIAN BLUE METALLIC OR RUNRIOT WITH PAINT TO SAMPLE