1990 Porsche 911 Carrera RS N/GT 964 prototype
Following years of speculation surrounding its identity, this recently restored 964 has been confirmed by former Porsche factory engineer and legendary works racing driver, Jürgen Barth, as being one of two surviving N/GT prototypes assembled under his watch back in 1990…
Words Dan Furr
Photography Dan Sherwood
A restored 964 Carrera RS N/GT prototype
For many 911 enthusiasts, the 964 is as good as it gets. Granted, the 993 was the ultimate evolution of Porsche’s original air-cooled 911 concept, and there’s no denying the technological developments this ‘last hurrah’ brought with it, but the 993 carries a softer design than its predecessor, a Porsche which strikes the perfect balance of performance, reliability and that quintessential classic 911 aesthetic.
If we ask you to pick any readily available 964 to park in your garage, there’s a strong chance you’ll opt for a Carrera RS (painted Rubystone Red, right?!), but did you know this highly desirable Rennsport came in varying flavours to suit different applications? As a case in point, we present the 964 Carrera RS N/GT, Porsche’s truest race car for the road as the 1990s got underway.
RECARO BUCKET SEATS WERE TRIMMED IN FLAME-RESISTANT NOMEX FABRIC AND LOADED WITH SCHROTH SAFETY HARNESSES
Before we get up close and personal with the magnificent Maritime Blue N/GT in our photographs, a history lesson is in order. Let’s wind the clock back to the early 1980s. Porsche achieved huge success in the FIA’s Group C motorsport category, a formula introduced in 1982, primarily for the World Endurance Championship (WEC), its pinnacle being the 24 Hours of Le Mans. From the off, the ground-breaking 956 sports-prototype proved dominant. Its successor, the 962, was just as formidable. In fact, following a win for the 936 driven by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell in 1981, the 956/962 won top honours at every 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1982 and 1987.
PORSCHE CLASSIC WAS STILL FINDING ITS FEET AND HAD YET TO INTRODUCE MANY 964 PARTS TO ITS CATALOGUE
As the close of the decade drew near, the series was verging on eclipsing the popularity of Formula One, not least because of the colossal performance achieved by participating cars and the fascinating efforts of teams to keep these exotic speed machines planted to the asphalt. Development objectives were advanced aerodynamics for maximum speed, the least possible weight and, crucially, optimum stability, enabling each car to withstand constant maximum stress over punishing races of long duration.
With cars exceeding 250mph along the Mulsanne Straight, however, came the very real danger of frontend lift, a worry which would be realised in the GT1 era, when two of the three AMG-Mercedes CLRs entered into the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans became airborne (Mark Webber’s number four car during qualifying, Peter Dumbreck’s infamous number five CLR during the race). In the wake of Team Welter Racing’s Peugeot WM-P88breaking the Le Mans speed record by registering an astonishing 253mph in 1988, the FIA promptly decided to rewrite the Group C rulebook, effectively restricting the performance of competing cars. The organisation’s hope was to encourage development of a new formula series, but the changes only benefited teams making use of then new 3.5-litre Formula One engines, putting privateers in charge of race cars assembled to earlier Group C specification at immediate disadvantage, primarily because of the severe cost of converting Group C racing metal to conditions satisfying the revised regulations. Unsurprisingly, the class swiftly dropped in popularity on account of a lack of entries, resulting in the 1993 Group C championship being cancelled before it began. That said, as some small consolation, qualifying cars were permitted to enter Le Mans in 1993 and 1994, albeit with restrictions negatively affecting performance.
By the time rule changes for Group C were implemented, Porsche’s longserving Technical Director, Helmuth Bott, had retired. He was replaced by the ambitious Ulrich Bez, who was returning to Porsche after a spell at BMW, where he led the team responsible for the Z1 roadster. With the demise of Group C and Bott’s exit from Porsche came a desire for the company to focus its motorsport programme on GT racing, beginning with development of the Carrera Cup series, which was established following the success Porsche enjoyed with the 944 Turbo Cup, the manufacturer’s first single-make championship. In 1990, the Carrera 2 version of the 964 was revealed following successful launch of the Carrera 4 in 1989. Bez turned to factory motorsport engineer, Roland Kussmaul, to draw on his experience working on the 911 SC RS. He was asked to produce a Cup version of the 964.
By mid-1990, a limited run of 964 Cup cars was already in the works, but with little in the way of headline sponsor interest for the new race series, not to mention Carrera Cup being a closed competition, Porsche needed a new privateer-friendly racing 911 capable of garnering wins, thereby heightening brand visibility in a range of series worldwide. At the time, Kussmaul’s colleague at Weissach, Jürgen Barth, was in charge of devising new methods of constructing production sports cars and their racing counterparts. Porsche recognised it desperately needed a 911 eligible to compete in both Group N (slightly deviating from production specification) and GT racing categories. With this inmind, using the recently devised 964 Carrera Cup as a starting point, Barth was asked to develop the 964 into a stripped-out, road-legal homologation special.
Featuring a lightweight narrow-body free of creature comforts, the resulting 964 N/GT was a pure 911 driving machine — gone were the fancy electrics, heaps of sound deadening material and passenger sun visor. In came thinner windows, seventeen-inch magnesium five-spoke wheels, lightweight bumpers, the option of a bigger fuel tank and carefully placed seam welds to stiffen and strengthen the chassis. Wooden footboards replaced carpets. The familiar Recaro bucket seats were trimmed in flame-resistant Nomex fabric and loaded with Schroth multi-point safety harnesses. Twin fire extinguishers and an engine kill switch also took up residence in the cabin.
READY TO ROLL
As had been the case with Porsche competition machines for some time, a fully integrated Matter roll cage wrapped itself around the N/GT’s sparse cockpit. Effectively a road-legal version of the 964 Cup, but equipped with basic RS suspension and top mounts, this was the epitome of the 911 clubman race car and required no further preparation for eligibility into the competitions it was designed for. Once the planned run of 290 production units began rolling off the assembly line, the N/GT quickly became recognised for the being the most focused example of a new Porsche capable of being driven on the public road to a race circuit before being let loose in a competition environment and subsequently driven home again.
The N/GT was powered by a 260bhp 3.6-litre flat-six mated to a five-speed close-ratio Getrag G50/10 transmission with a limited-slip differential and steel synchros. The correlating 964 Carrera RS was already 155kg lighter than the Carrera 2, but the N/GT took Porsche’s blueprint of adding power and shedding weight to a new level, resulting in an air-cooled, road-legal race car now considered an essential entry in Porsche’s fruitful portfolio of true performance products. Given factory option code M003, the N/GT was placed third in a sequence featuring M001 (Carrera Cup) and M002 (RS Lightweight).
That’s the backstory taken care of, but what makes this particular N/GT so special? Enter Des Sturdee, a lifelong 911 fan who counts five RS-badged 964s among the forty-plus Porsches he’s owned to date, starting with a 911 E 2.4 bought for him as a gift from his father more forty years ago. Des is also the organiser of Porsche Club Great Britain’s Modified register and was lucky enough to previously own a Mint Green 964 N/GT. He first encountered the Maritime Blue example on these pages almost twenty-five years ago.
“At the time,” he recalls, “I was Assistant Secretary for the 964 Carrera RS register, a role which involved inspections and valuations of club member cars. I was asked to visit the workshop of GT Classics in Hampshire, where company boss, Paul McLean, was in the custody of a 964 N/GT owned by a 911 enthusiast curious to know the true identity of his car after it had been labelled a fake.” The accusation concerned the presence of a Carrera 2 chassis number. “It didn’t make sense to me that anyone would convert a standard 964 to this specification when, back then, the difference in price between a Carrera 2 and a Carrera RS was about five grand. It would have cost more to source a set of magnesium wheels, let alone the rest of the equipmentI was looking at. There were so many idiosyncrasies. Consequently, I urged the car’s owner to get in touch with the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart with a request to hunt down the car’s factory build records.”
His advice fell on deaf ears and the car changed hands. Repeatedly. In fact, Des lost track of its whereabouts until 2004, when he returned to GT Classics to collect a 964 Carrera RS Lightweight he’d bought. There, parked in Paul’s workshop, was the Maritime Blue 964 suffering an identity crisis. It was also available for purchase. “Having just bought the RS Lightweight, I wasn’t in a position to buy the blue 964 outright, which is why I joined forces with my good friend, Paul Ward, and secured joint ownership. We reasoned this particular Porsche would make an excellent club racer for the pair of us to enjoy on track days. Of course, as the car’s new co-owner, I was more interested than ever to discover the story behind the build.”
The then available Certificate of Authenticity from Porsche Club Great Britain didn’t reveal anything particularly helpful (“it confirmed the car as a Carrera 2 with a limited-slip differential”), unlike the now defunct online service from Porsche spares retailer, Suncoast Parts, which returned detailed build information relating to each entered Porsche chassis number. It proved to be the best ten dollars Des ever spent.
“My earlier suspicions were confirmed,” he beams. “There, in big, bold lettering, the car was listed as a 964 N/GT.” What about the ambiguous chassis number? “The document highlights this particular N/GT’s status as a prototype with a build date of July 1990.” Not only does this give the car status as a Porsche of historical significance, it also marks it as one of the rarest 964s ever assembled — just eleven N/GT prototypes were built (this being the sixth), but only two are known to survive to the present day. One is based on a Carrera 4 chassis and currently resides in the Porsche Museum, the other is the very 911 you see here, formerly Porsche’s N/GT demonstrator, going on to star in the period’s 964 Carrera RS promotional literature. Realising they’d found themselves in charge of a super-special 964, Des and Paul promptly changed their plans to hammer the car around race tracks.
A painstaking process of restoration was the preferred course of action, but not before the leading authority on N/GTs provided extra reassurance regarding the Porsche’s origins. “In August 2015, Jürgen Barth was in the UK for Porsche Club Great Britain’s National Event, hosted at Althorp Castle,” Des explains. “He kindly agreed to inspect the car at the show and confirmed it as one of his prototypes. Even so, although we had his hugely important endorsement and the Suncoast Parts-supplied build sheet, what we really needed was ‘meat on the bones’, which is why we were thrilled when Jürgen offered to trawl through Porsche’s archives to provide all information about the car held at the factory.”
In a letter addressed to Paul, Jürgen describes the car as “an original, the Porsche 964 Carrera 2 RS pre-series prototype N/GT”. He goes on to confirm “this car was used for all press and catalogue photos of the 964 Carrera RS from Porsche’s sales and marketing department.” He also confirms the car’s ‘matching numbers’ status, marrying chassis WPOZZZ96ZMS400701 with engine 62MO154BH and gearbox 2M00716. “Road registration in Germany took place on 6th August 1990,” he wrote. “Porsche AG in Stuttgart was owner from then until 12th September 1994. The car’s first Great Britain registration number was H624 BGN.”
Led by Technical Director, Ollie Preston, the restoration team at Hertfordshire-based independent Porsche specialist, RPM Technik, was given the task of bringing the blue belter back to its best. It was a mammoth undertaking lasting more than five years. “Ollie and his team did a brilliant job,” Des smiles. “The car was stripped to a bare shell and rebuilt from the ground up. The engine, transmission, suspension and brakes were completely overhauled, but to ensure accuracy, we brought in Jürgen as a consultant to offer advice every step of the way, thereby ensuring the result of RPM Technik’s efforts matched how the car was configured in period.” Only components matching this particular N/ GT prototype’s original specification were used. Among them was a Cup fuel tank, but the use of genuine parts was easier said than done at a time Porsche Classic was still finding its feet and had yet to introduce many 964 parts to its catalogue. “The wait for genuine body panels was one of the biggest hurdles we faced,” Des sighs. “One of the rear quarters took two and a half years to source. Additionally, the more parts Ollie removed from this 964, the more wear and tear he discovered. We don’t know much about the history of the car, but it was plain to see it had been used in anger.”
The Schroth harnesses working their way around the Nomex-trimmed Recaros are new parts commissioned by Des and Paul specifically for this project. Matching harnesses originally fitted by Jürgen back in 1990 (“modified from the original version, but correct”), they demonstrate just how important attention to detail has been to this car’s obsessive owners. The results, of course, speak for themselves and were approved by Jürgen — winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans no fewer than four times — during a visit to Porsche Centre Hatfield, one of the UK’s Porsche Classic Partner centres and the site proudly exhibiting the finished restoration following completion of the work at RPM Technik.
“Paul and I had a great time with Jürgen during his last visit to meet us,” Des grins, remembering how impressed the former works driver was with the finished restoration. Moreover, a short film was captured at the Hatfield dealership during Jürgen’s visit. Published onYouTube, the video sees the Porsche legend confirming this amazing 911’s history and shows him scribbling his signature on the Maritime marvel’s roof. “This Porsche is as close to a new 964 N/GT as you’re ever likely to see,” Des assures us. “It really is box fresh. Following the rebuilt engine’s first service, however, Paul and I considered our original intention for the car and, after much deliberation, agreed it needed to be passed on to a new owner.”
Due to the Porsche’s significantly improved financial worth (largely a consequence of Jürgen confirming details Des learned from the information supplied by Suncoast Parts), this is a 964 neither co-owner was comfortable to drive in the manner anticipated at the time of purchase. “The enjoyment we were able to get from this project was the honour of being able to rejuvenate an undeniably significant 911 facing the very real prospect of being lost in the wilderness through uncertainty surrounding its identity. We’d done our part. It was time for someone else to take care of this rare 964.”
Enter Kev Kivlochan, a Porsche enthusiast familiar to regular readers. This renowned historic motorsport participant is a regular at Goodwood and the Le Mans Classic. Among his varied collection of cars resides one of the first five-hundred Carrera RS 2.7s, a first-generation 997 GT3 RS and, significantly to the Classic Porsche fraternity, the 993 featured in last month’s issue of the magazine. Taking the form of a 993 GT2, the car is, in fact, a 993 Turbo converted to GT2 specification after leaving the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen and being delivered to Porsche Italia at the behest of a wealthy industrialist. The car’s conversion was carried out to an exacting standard at a cost of twelve million lira. Kevin has the reams of paperwork to prove as much.
Kev is clearly a man of some discernment, hence his decision to buy our star 964 N/GT when it was advertised for sale at GT Classics a couple of years ago. “As a lover of classic cars and historic motorsport, I was fascinated by this Porsche’s backstory,” he tells us. “Of the eleven 964 N/GT prototypes built, all but two have been lost or destroyed. This is an exceptionally rare 911 and I was keen to experience ownership, if only for a short time,” he adds, alluding to the fact the car is currently being offered for sale through premium sports car dealer, Cottingham Blue Chip London, a company dealing in high-value classic road and race cars for more than twenty years. “It’s the definition of ‘analogue’ driving perfection,” suggests company founder, Jeremy Cottingham. “The 964 N/GT matches a narrow body with tactile steering and a characterful normally aspirated engine, making for a wonderful driving companion on today’s roads, providing you’re up early enough to beat traffic. The reality is this compact, beautifully balanced 964 offers pure undiluted, driving thrills at sensible speed. Modern supercars, burdened with electronic driving aids, simply cannot match what’s available here.” He’s not wrong. Representing the apex of 964 desirability, this fabulously restored and documented Porsche prototype promises its next owner a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to enjoy a serious piece of 911 history. As good as it gets? You’d better believe it.
THIS FABULOUSLY RESTORED PORSCHE PROTOTYPE PROMISES ITS NEXT OWNER A ONCE-INA- LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY
Above Thought to be only one of two surviving 964 N/GT prototypes, this fantastically presented 911 is now looking for a new home. Above and below RPM Technik carried out an exacting restoration, with Jürgen Barth brought in as consultant to offer advice helping ensure the finished build matched the specification of this special 964 when new.
Above Along with Rubystone Red and Mint Green, Maritime Blue is one of a handful of colours predominantly associated with the 964 Carrera RS, but also available on the same-age 944 S2.
Above All mechanical components, including the 260bhp flat-six, are original to the car, a point reinforced in a letter penned by Jürgen Barth.
Above and below Interior is exactly how it left the factory, although the seat belts are bespoke reproduction parts.
Above You’ll struggle to find any 964 Carrera RS variant as clean as this N/GT prototype.