Fact & Fiction
Fact & Fiction
Writer, curator and art dealer Kenny Schachter deciphers fact from fiction in the art world

The unknown Porsche Carrera RSH

14.03.2014
Porsche 2.7 Carrera RSH (1972)
Porsche 2.7 Carrera RSH (1972)

Written by Johnny Tipler

The girls from the Cambridge University rowing club, here on Putney Embankment for a dawn race down the Thames, lower their boat into the water. Lean and slender, their eight’s shell is constructed from carbon fibre, and is the lightest, fleetest vessel of its kind. We landlubbers are also here with a racer that’s equally spartan: a 2.7-litre Carrera RSH.

We’re all familiar with the Rennsport suffix, but the ‘H’ in this codicil stands for homologation, meaning it’s one of just 17 RSs constructed from lightweight panels, and possesses even fewer creature comforts than the RS Sport version in order to fulfil the FIA’s statutory requirements for homologation as a competition car. Pared to the bone, it’s even lighter than the RS Sport, and better still, few have really heard of this oh-so special 2.7-litre RS, let alone seen one.

The Porsche racing department’s on-track expertise in the late Sixties and early Seventies focused on the 908 and 917 prototypes, but when new WSC regulations made the 917 redundant in 1972, Porsche selected the FIA’s production-based Groups 4 and 5 categories within the 1973 GT Championship as arenas to pitch the 911 into. Up to this point, our favourite Coupe had raced at international level as the 911R, T/R and S/T, but while these variants ran chiefly in the GT/ GTS class, Porsche’s new tack meant getting the incoming RS homologated – that’s to say, certified as complying with the more stringent Group 4 regulations. It also required a minimum of 500 units to be built during the course of a year, since the racecar had to be based on the production model. The original RSH was deployed on Stuttgart’s municipal scales, where it weighed in at a certified 960 kilograms (2,117 pounds), and a further 16 cars were assembled to the same minimal weight during the RS’s two-phase build programme. When the initial RS production run was snapped up in the wake of the 1972 Paris Salon – each tagged at a lofty Dm33,000 (£14,000) – a further 500 units were approved for production, with a further Dm1,000 (£425) added to the price. And in ’72, that was serious money. The final production figure for the 2.7-litre Carrera RS was 1,580 units, comprising the 17 RSH homologation specials, 1,308 of the more civilised M472 Touring version, 200 bleaker-specced M471 RS Sports – differentiating cars intended for fast touring, as opposed to potential competition work – plus 55 that represented the ultimate example of the model, the M491-designated 2.8-litre RSR.

The differences in weight are quite striking: in Touring guise, the RS weighs 1,075 kilograms (2,370 pounds), and in lightweight trim it’s 100 kilograms lighter at 975 kilograms (2,150 pounds), thanks to thinner gauge steel for the roof and door panels, plus thinner Belgian-made Glaverbel glass. Like the RS Sport, the RSH is also bereft of nonessentials like underseal, sound insulation, rear seats, carpeting, the clock and glove box lid, while door liners are flat cards with pull-straps and no storage bins or map pockets. Even the front bonnet and engine lid latches are left out. Yet the RSH is 15 kilograms lighter than the Sport, and further omissions on those 17 homologation cars include door caps, a luggage compartment carpet, glove box door, passenger seat, both sun visors, coat hooks, tools and hydraulic bonnet props. They run on 15x6- inch Fuchs all round, shod with 185/70/15 tubeless tyres on the front and 215/60/15 tubed tyres on the rear, and the steering box cover is in plywood. It’s equally possible that some of the 17 RSHs were ‘upgraded’ to RS Sport or even RS Touring standard depending on customer whims, though changes in spec were rife even in the factory, with few cars being exactly alike. Among the RS legends is the one that claims some factory race cars were fabricated entirely in lightweight panels, and that later RSs came with regular 911S panels because all the thin-gauge ones had been used up. Indeed, with the Gen2 RSs, normal-thickness Sekurit glass took over from the less substantial Glaverbel panes.

The VIN numbers of all 17 RSHs are documented, and most have a period racing history. Two were elevated to 2.8-litre RSR spec by the factory (numbers 02/17 and 03/17), but the other 15 stayed in their original RSH form. There are ten white cars, two light yellow, two Viper green, two light ivory and just one in Signal orange, which just happens to be our feature car.

It belongs to London-based intercontinental art dealer and classic 911 connoisseur Kenny Schachter, an ebullient New Yorker who once displayed a pair of 2.4s in his Hoxton Square-based Rove Gallery, and now keeps the RSH, his pride and joy, in his Fulham office. “I was born a Porsche fanatic he laughs. “I was hooked when I was about 13, when the first 930 Turbo came out.” Kenny bought the 2.7-litre RSH number 14 in Monaco in 2012, and although he has no plans to compete with it, it’s still very much a high-days-and-holidays car; Kenny’s not one to mollycoddle his 911s. Its homologation number is 14/17, VIN number 1429, chassis number 9113601429, engine number 663 1397. It’s unique in being the only orange-hued RSH, and Kenny concedes that the bodywork has had a little TLC, though nothing major: “It’s an all-original panel car, and somebody has cleaned it up a bit, because it ran in long-distance rallies and had quite an aggressive racing life for a while, but it’s pretty much what it would have looked like in period.”

The Carrera logos on the car’s flanks are prototype graphics, reflecting the rawness of the project, and that Porsche was still feeling its way with the inception of the model in 1972. “I believe that’s the sticker they used for prototype cars before they settled on the one that’s on the production cars,” says Kenny. You won’t find any reference to the RSH in Jürgen Barth’s authoritative tomes. In fact, Kenny is slightly cynical about the ‘homologation’ tag: “I think the RSH label was stuck on by Konradsheim in his RS book (the author also owned RSH number 17) because they were basically just stripped-out cars, and then it all becomes about rarity and marketing; it’s not any better or worse than any other of these great cars.”

 RSH number 14 was delivered new to Porsche’s Frankfurt main dealer Otto Glöckler Sportwagen GmbH, the business founded by early Fifties Porsche racer and specials builder Walter Glöckler. The race history of RSH 14 lasted just three years, but included at least two important international events. The Glöckler dealership sold it in June 1973 to Frenchman Jacques Diebolt (now 85-years old), and he immediately entered it for the Tour de France for himself and J-P Vast-Coulon. The pair also did the Rallye Route du Nord and Rallye Jeanne d’Arc in the same year, and the 7ème Rallye de Lozère in 1974. Then, RSH 14 was sold to Belgian Bernard Mordacq and, amazingly, he and co-pilot Jean-Luc Bret won the 1975 24-Heures de Ypres, a round of the European Rally Championship, which was almost certainly this particular RSH’s finest hour.

From 1980 to 1990 it belonged to Philippe Derouen, and was treated to a light restoration in 1992 when it passed on to Kenny’s source in Monte Carlo. “I had never heard of the RSH before it came to my attention,” muses Kenny, “but that’s what I love about cars – which they share with art – that it’s a constant educational process and you are always learning more about the cars and their history, and that adds a nice dimension to it.”

In terms of art, Kenny deals in everything  from Picasso to Christopher Wool, and rattles off a name-check of some of the young generation of up-and-coming art stars he rubs shoulders with, such as Eddie Peake, Alex Israel, Wade Guyton, Sterling Ruby, Tauba Auerbach and the more established Rudolf Stingel. “And especially Sarah Lucas,” he goes. “I love her work, and she is wildly undervalued!”

The art business also ensures Kenny has strong views about the car market. “The most expensive cars sold at auctions tend to be Ferraris, and there is not one Ferrari that really defines the Seventies; right now, the 250GTO holds the record for the most expensive car ever sold, but when you think of the Seventies, the 911 is really the most iconic model, and I feel that Porsches are very much under-appreciated and under-valued in relation to Ferrari, because they are much more very easily on a daily basis. But as people that were in their teens in the Seventies come into money, I think the 911 will be more sought after, partly because the RSR defines that era due to its racing history in endurance events like Le Mans and the Targa Florio.”

Cars are for driving as far as Kenny’s concerned, and he’s critical of hoarders. “The money thing makes RSs alluring to investors, but it almost ruins the relationship when things become too precious. In a way, that very much parallels the art world, because when paintings get so expensive, people lose sight of what they are looking at, and the herd mentality takes over; people are no longer interested in the image, the value becomes the essence of the thing, and that’s depressing.”

Given his discerning eye, it’s no surprise that Kenny also views the 911 as a work of art, having owned as many as 30 of them: “I love classic 911s, and they come and go. I also have a 3.2-litre 1988 Targa now; they are such a joy and so easy to live with, and they function so well. For me it’s mostly about the shape; it’s the most simplistic, elegant and effective design. The lines of the car are pure and perfect, and it’s such a small car; perfect for a city, it’s such a small footprint, so it’s absolutely the most exquisite thing. I always come to it as a piece of industrial design first and foremost, and I don’t think there is anything parallel in the motor industry, it’s so evocative, and the wild colours of Porsche are so fabulous. I don’t really consider it in the traditional notion of it being a car: for me, it’s somewhere between a painting, a sculpture and a piece of furniture. When you’re driving a car you don’t actually see it, and then when you park it you leave it behind, but for me it’s such a visual experience, so that’s why it lives in my office: so I can absolutely adore it.”

Our towpath eulogy is interrupted as more and more crews arrive to heft their pencil-thin craft into the black waters. It’s around 7.30am, and a rosy-fingered dawn is beginning to silhouette Putney Bridge, but it’s amazing how many scullers are already gliding by. Mostly girls, too: their dedication (insomnia?) almost matches our own. Post-rush hour, and we’re done here. We fire up the 911s – his and mine – for the dash out of the suburbs to clearer country roads. Our assignation is consummated in Surrey’s sunny lanes. The RSH is a trifle noisier than other 2.7-litre RSs I’ve driven, shrill blare from the revvy flat-six penetrating the undressed cabin, but its on-road behaviour is just the same: it’s sprightly, with delicate steering, a light touch guiding the gearstick from notch to notch. It’s compliant, nifty, and plays no tricks as I tip it through the bends, and it’s nimble and unfazed over the undulating blacktop cambers, perched on its narrow tyres and serving up rushes of speed whenever pressed. It oozes attitude at a standstill, but on the move it really comes alive. It’s a saucy seductress at every level, this orange squasher.

Kenny feels the same: “It’s the greatest car I have ever had, for sure. It’s not technically different from the other ones, but it is the essence of the 911 in its most drivable and usable form, and I feel lucky to have one.” Considering the car’s exceptional exclusivity and tag as the unknown RS, we can only agree.

 



 

Tags: Porsche, classic cars

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"Die Kunstwelt ist wie eine Mafia, es gibt ein ungeschriebenes Gesetz des Stillschweigens", sagt Kenny Schachter. Auf seinem Monopol-Blog bringt der britische Kunsthändler Licht ins Dunkle und macht die Mechanismen des Marktes transparent. In englischer Sprache
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