1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Hunter

1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Hunter

The Hunter RS. Working with the 2.7 RS from new in 1973, Josh Sadler has forgotten more about the halo longbonnet 911 than the rest of us will ever hope to learn. Total 911 joins the fabled RS expert for an afternoon of Porsche chat surrounding the first 911 Rennsport. Written by Kyle Fortune. Photography by Daniel Pullen.

The RS hunter

2.7 RS guru Josh Sadler charts the rise and rise of Porsche’s first 911 Rennsport ahead of its 50-year anniversary

“It’s a turbo, right? They’re all turbocharged now. PDK? It’s not, really? There’s hope yet…” laughs Josh Sadler. He’s tickled that the 991 Carrera T I’ve just arrived in is a manual, and his natural inquisitiveness has him asking me to open the engine cover, such as it is on a 991. He laughs again when there’s nothing really to see, instead dropping to his knees like a man a quarter of his age to have a look underneath. Sadler’s curious, and he’s never happier than when in the company of 911s. His name is inextricably linked with one particular model, the 2.7 RS. Sadler jokes he’s an “expert on jubilee clips on '73 RS engines,” though states that given the market for them now, there are others who know more.

Porsche 911 RS 2.7

That’s improbable. I’d suggest that Sadler’s forgotten more about 2.7 RSs than most people know, but it’s clear when talking to him that he’s never forgotten anything, particularly in relation to his specialist subject. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Sadler on several occasions, borrowing cars from his old firm, Autofarm, for stories in these pages and, indeed, having bought a 993 from Autofarm while he was still in charge. That car’s since been sold on to a good home, but discussing it, it’s Sadler who names its previous owner and the car’s specification, his recall being quite staggering.

1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Hunter

Photographer Pullen and I are at Sadler’s house, or more truthfully his workshops, the outbuildings having clearly been the motivation behind buying his home some 25 years ago. Not just for Sadler, but his wife Daisy too, who has some Belgian Draft and Clydesdale horses, which have hauled her the length and breadth of the UK with her wagon in tow. Sadler’s horsepower is mechanically produced, and not just from 911s. Indeed, his mix of machinery is certainly eclectic: there is an Austin 7, an Allard, a Land Rover Discovery, Jaguar X-Type estate and a Reliant Rialto van, of which Sadler says, “If you want a fun car then get one of these, you cannot go out in one in a bad mood. They’re hilarious, but you need a passenger, as they’re very tricky on left handers without one.”

1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Hunter

Sadler is officially retired from his old business but still pops in occasionally, being inescapably linked with the firm, which he started back in '73 with business partner Steve Carr. The pair worked together at Glacier Bearings in Wembley, London; Sadler and Carr share a passion for motorsport, with Sadler racing a Clubman U2 and Carr rallying a Hillman Imp. Looking for ways to fund their exploits they started buying cars, repairing, and selling them. The one that was instrumental in the start of their business though was a '68 911L that was initially bought as a write-off.

Parts were difficult to come by, Porsches being exotic things back then in the UK, Sadler describing comprehending the size of today’s Porsche marketplace like “trying to conceive the end of space”. In what was then infinitesimal by comparison, and far more difficult, rather than let the lack of parts beat them the duo made a trip to Germany in a Transit van to visit Porsche dealerships. Arriving in Duisburg at a Porsche main dealer, before they’d even managed to get to the parts department, the owner’s son had stopped them to practise his English on them. Upon hearing what they were after he sent them down the road to Tebernum Autoteile, a dealer in second-hand Porsche parts. “The business started standing in the doorway at Tebernum,” says Sadler, adding: “We got into 911s very quickly, and with it being 1973 when we got going we kind of grew up with RSs, just like if you’d started 10-15 years ago you might be a specialist in GT3s.” Even so, as Sadler admits, they were specialist cars back then, appealing to a particular, enthusiastic audience, not least because they cost about twice the price of an E-Type. As such, Sadler knew pretty much every RS in the UK, including the lightweights, and he kept records, knowing which cars had ‘colourful histories’ or which were hardly used. His knowledge of parts is vast, pulling out an original twin plug Marelli distributor cap for a 2.8 RSR, explaining how it was much the same pattern as a V12 Jaguar and only used for one year on the RSR (first fitted to the 906 in '66) before a Bosch contactless one was fitted – the Bosch one being used right through to Porsche’s racing with the 935s.

The RS’s roots in competition meant that Sadler witnessed many 2.7 RS head over to Ireland for rallying, Autofarm having a useful business in supplying parts for them. Years later Sadler helped re-unite the correct engines and chassis of all those Irish RSs as the values started rising, his near unique position in knowing everyone in what was a relatively small, enthusiastic community allowing him to do so. Their value, if not monetary at points in time, had always been appreciated by those who owned and drove them. As Sadler recalls, “We had great fun in the late ’80s, around ’87, getting the original engines back with the original cars, because in Irish rallying so many of the RHD lightweights had gone there. Many Tourings had been converted, and the engines had been switched around, but they’d never gone very far.”

One car in particular had an interesting life, recalls Sadler: “There was a RHD Lightweight that had done 5,000 miles, but the engine had gone into rallying, so when we got around to re-building it we had a 5,000- mile car and a completely knackered 100,000-mile engine, but we got the original engine back with the original car. It wasn’t a particularly good commercial enterprise, but it was fun.”

It’s not surprising then that among his cars he has a few 911s, the most modern being a 996.2 with Autofarm’s 3.9-litre conversion in it, which he describes as more than enough for the road: “I have absolutely no desire to update it to a more modern one, it’s an absolutely stonking car.” There’s a black and gold 3.5-litre RS 3.0-look car he uses to go hill climbing in, having driven it to and from an event only a few days previously, as well as a pair of 2.7 RSs. Of course Sadler has an RS, but two?

He’s owned the orange RS for over five years, and he’s not precious about it, as he’s happily sitting in with his mucky feet while Pullen points his camera at him. “It’s only mud,” he laughs. He uses it regularly, too, but he admits he’s unsure whether he’ll keep it, having come about the second yellow RS in his workshop a little bit by accident. Only in Sadler’s world are RS purchases accidental, but don’t think that’s because he’s got the unlimited finances of most RS buyers these days, it being more a case of people coming to him with interesting cars. “I’m conflicted about the orange car, because I wasn’t intending on buying the yellow one, it just happened that way. The orange car has a proper value, it’s a car with an interesting history, and at a certain value that my pension fund needs as I slowly fall off my perch,” says Sadler. Given he’s just jogged back over to us having just parked it up, he’ll likely be safe on that perch for many, many years to come.

The backstory to the orange RS underlines Sadler’s status in the world of 2.7 RSs, and other rare Porsche models. He was one of several specialists involved in the estate sale of a collection of the one-time French Porsche Club President, Philippe Aunay, who died in December 2004. Sadler bid on a number of Aunay’s cars for Autofarm. He’d pretty much ignored the Gulf orange 2.7 RS, as being the first ‘nice’ 911 the previous owner had ever bought, the family had put too an ambitious reserve price on it. Aunay originally picked it up in 1986 when he was 50, and it had a huge mileage on it, over 200,000km, before he sent it to be rebuilt by Louis Meznarie.

“Meznarie is a very well-known preparer in Porsche circles. He had Meznarie go right through it, its colour changed to Gulf orange – from Sepia brown – and has rebuilt the engine on a new crankcase, and it also had an exchange gearbox from the factory,” explains Sadler, adding that it “had bigger wheels on it, sports seats and a simple roll cage. With the owner it did a couple of Tour Autos and stuff like that, but it was mainly his weekend car as far as I can find out.” Sadler’s thoughts about it in that sale weren’t wrong, as while the rest of the collection, including cars like a 964 3.8 RSR, 993 GT2, an RS 3.0, among others, sold very well, the orange RS didn’t meet its lofty reserve. Sadler was contacted by them again, offered it at “the correct money” and came to what he describes as “a sensible agreement.”

It’s been his ever since; but Sadler has also since procured the yellow car, one that, having a less significant history and having been re-shelled in its lifetime, is a car that Sadler admits he’s likely to keep, and enjoy. He says: “It’s had a bit of a mercurial life bouncing about, it’s been re-shelled – but somebody, when they set about it, absolutely threw their wallet at it. The engine’s built on a new crankcase, it’s just an interesting car.” That re-shell is instrumental in the yellow RS’s position in the market, Sadler saying most buyers would “be scared rigid, and rightly so, if you are talking about half a million quid, but I can have huge fun with it. It’s got new HTP (Historical Technical Passport) papers on it and I picked it up at the right money, so it’s a no-worries car.”

Sadler’s pragmatism about these cars is obvious, saying, “We are but custodians,” and it being likely that he’ll move the orange car on sometime – he says that the 2.7 RS models, not just his own, “have been good friends to me.” Their value he describes as a mixed blessing, because now you can buy any part you want for one thanks to the fact that a lot of them are in collections and the values are so high, and that means people can justify restoring them and parts become available.

He has countless stories of cars he’s bought and sold, and he’s recognised globally for finding RSs, cars like the Trinidad RS and the Beirut RS being the stuff of legend among RS aficionados. The story behind the Beirut car, admits Sadler, he struggles to tell without getting a lump in his throat because its discovery and eventual sale paid for two ambulances for the Lebanese Red Cross. The genuine blue on white, non-ducktail RS was famously recovered from under rubble in the basement of a bombedout building of the original rally-driving owner who was killed years previously, while volunteer driving an ambulance in one of the many wars out there. It speaks volumes to Sadler’s character and standing that his intervention stopped the family accepting a £15,000 offer for it – a buyer paid the right money for it, which the owner’s family subsequently donated to pay for those ambulances.

Sadler has extensive files and photo libraries on his computer for all the cars he’s known and helped discover, the latest being a car that has been parked up in Munich since 1981. Bought in '75 by a couple who’d used it for a few years before having a small bump in it in 1981, it ended up being put in a lock-up. Their daughter Pamina was subsequently given ownership of the car and didn’t really know what she had, so made contact with Sadler after asking around. Sadler explains, “We suddenly had a situation where we ended up having a pen friend, conversing with a young lady in Canada (having subsequently moved there from Germany). She sent me a photograph of the chassis plate; the panel the chassis plate lives on at the front usually corrodes, the originals had a lip at the front that held the water, so it rusted out very quickly. So they modified it later in '73 with drain slots in it, well, she sent me these photographs and I spotted it had an original lip on it and it looks mint. That’s interesting I thought… the chassis number fitted, it was a first series car.”

Josh Sadler

That car has disappeared to a private buyer in the USA, but Sadler’s still in contact with Pamina. There’s an image in his files on the car, a small faded print, that depicts a young Pamina sat on the RS’s ducktail. Sadler sent the print to a photographic restorer and had a large print made, which he framed and returned to the mother, Sadler saying a couple of times when discussing his work that “it’s people, not cars, that matter,” and his connection with RSs has allowed him to meet some fascinating people.

Sadler, too, more than any other, has witnessed the peaks and troughs of 2.7 RS values, saying: “There were several RSs racing in the early ’80s and the low point in values was the late ’70s early ’80s, when you could pick one up for five grand.” In 2003 Sadler bought a car (a white-with-blue Lightweight) at £60,000, though moved it on for £110,000 after working on it, steam cleaning the underside of its underseal by lifting it with a tractor and forklift. He says that some cars, the very best, matching numbers and with racing pedigree are “established investments,” though he does state that the market has currently gone a little soft, without actually falling. As such he says a car like his orange one would be in the £350,000 sphere, because it’s not really an investment car, having had a new crankcase put in it during its life, but one that, instead, is a car for using.

Owners do use them too, admits Sadler, perhaps not with the frequency he does himself, though he says Silverstone Classic is always an event where there’s a large ‘Porsche carpark’, where you’ll usually find half a dozen or more RSs parked up. “Obviously they have their characteristics and idiosyncrasies compared to modern cars, but when you drive them and you think this is something that is nearly 50 years old, the performance envelope… you can still run rings around traffic if you’re that way inclined on these crowded roads, they were stonking cars in their day and remain so today,” says the RS Hunter.

1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Hunter

BELOW Sadler is happy to share some of his 2.7 RS insider knowledge.

RIGHT Sadler’s intent on driving and enjoying his own 2.7 RS as much as possible.

ABOVE RIGHT Sadler shows Fortune the car known as the ‘Beirut RS’, while Sadler’s farm remains a treasure trove of spare 2.7 RS and other parts.

“We had great fun in the late ’80s getting original engines back with the original cars… many Tourings had been converted, and the engines had been switched around, but they’d never gone very far”
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