Author: Gary Barnhill

Title:  RS America Story

Part I: How I Came to Own an RS America (The Long Version)
Or: Friends say I change cars more often than underwear.

In the summer of 1958 at age 22, I finish Air Force Pilot Training and get assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany flying the F100C Super Sabre.  It’s the aviation equivalent of being handed a GT3R with an unlimited race budget.  Balls-out dogfights and 600 knot treetop buzzing.  Starting our landing descent from 20,000 feet off the Heidelberg radio beacon, we adorable smart-asses would transmit: “A pair of Slick and Shinny Silver Supersonic Super Sabre C’s Slipping Smartly down the Slot.”

The squadron pilots were mostly wet-behind-the-ears types like myself trying desperately to hide pimples and post adolescence insufficiencies.   This thinly veiled façade took form by owning a sports car plus the full on pursuit of Air, A** (anatomy) and Alcohol.

Most guys had 356’s, but clever boots here bought on color, a 1958 fire engine red Alfa Romeo Guilleta Spider.  The Alfa left the road, qualifying for sports car heaven, during an unsuccessful assault on the squadron speed record from Ramstein to Paris.

Thence a 1960 yellow two-liter Alfa Romeo Gran Turisimo Spider, which overheated half way around the 14 mile Nurburgring.  Not to worry, I still managed to put it in the bushes coming out of the Karussel.  The best information at the time was: flat out until mid corner then hard on the brakes.  Who knew?

Next was a 1957 black 12,000 mile Gull Wing which lasted ten days before getting inverted around 2am Saturday night in a rural farm ditch.  “Hey, Barnhill, how does your Mercedes Benz?” roared some toad at beer call. 

Account my history of speeding tickets and bent metal, the CO demands any new purchase not exceed 100mph.  He’s thinking VW Beetle.  I’m plotting sports car.  So, I drove a 1961 white 356 Coupe off the showroom floor in Holland for $2,300.  It would make 99mph downhill with a tail wind. 

A 1966 blue 912 replaced the 356, back in Kansas City where I was maturing, mellowing and pursuing an airline career with Try Walking Awhile airline. 

The prominent birth control characteristic of sport car’s probably accounted for remaining a bachelor past age 30, until smitten by one of Kansas City’s society set.   I reckoned that Guards Red 1968 Sportomatic 911E down at the local dealer would divert attention from my shortcomings and help win the day.  Both the marriage and the Sportomatic were unparalleled disasters and I came alone to California driving a 1972 BMW 2002.

Fast-forward past 30 years of non-Porsche ownership.  My new neighbor is a certifiable Porsche nut garaging a 1973T, 1986 Carrera and 1997 Carrera.   The car thing is contagious and I come down with an acute case of Porsche pangs.

In the next 18 months, I am accepted into the royal family.  Well, actually someone said my Porsche questions had become a royal pain in an unmentionable piece of anatomy.  I go through a couple of Boxster’s and a couple of 993’s and lots of teasing. 

Then there was the Honda S2000, which I ran in slalom/autocross and lapping days at Willow, Buttonwillow, and Laguna Seca.  The S2000 is a racecar right off the showroom floor with a stiff suspension, 240 ponies, a magnificent six speed tranny, 50/50 weight distribution and a screaming 9,000rpm redline.  The S2000 could exceed my fun quota forever if only it had a proper roll bar and a Zuffenhausen badge. 

If it appears I am a person of means, let me correct this false impression.  I’m simply squandering my 401K.  Why not?  After three involuntary hospital cardiac unit visits last year, I no longer practice procrastination. 

Having driven a dozen PCA autocrosses and one POC Slalom I decided to attempt PCA/POC Time Trials.  “Attempt” being the operative word.

Part 2: Why I chose the RS America for Time Trials 
Or: Thinking You Are Ready to Run With the Big Dogs.

After much floundering, I chose the RS America for Time Trials.  Having been upside down in both airplanes and cars, I kinda like the roof idea.  Porsche made only 701 RSA’s over the 1992-1994 model years.  RS stands for Renn Sport or Race Sport and is reserved for the highest performance Porsches. 

Professor Porsche was fond of saying that he began the company with the notion of “Building a few cars for my friends, who were very demanding drivers.”  That is why Porsche has always provided superb “feedback” to the driver through the steering, the suspension, the throttle, the brakes, and even the seat.

The RSA is basically a 964 C2, made 77 pounds lighter.  The weight savings came from no air conditioning (45 lbs.), no sunroof, no power steering (15 lbs.), no radio, no rear seats, lightweight carpeting and a fixed tail that is lighter than the C2 powered spoiler.  Porsche says an experienced driver can feel the spoiler’s effect as low as 50 mph.  Numb-nuts here can’t feel it at 120mph.  The inner door panels are lightweight with cloth pull open straps.  No storage bins.  Sound deadening insulation was removed from the firewall and rear quarter panels.

Standard RSA equipment included black corduroy Sport Seats, 17-inch 7 & 8 wheels with 205/255 tires and 030 sport chassis consisting of stiffer springs, 22mm front sway bar, 20mm rear sway bar and performance shock absorbers.  A carpeted shelf with storage bins underneath replaces the rear seats. 

Standard exterior colors were Black, Guards Red, and Grand Prix White.  Optional colors were Polar Silver Metallic and Midnight Blue Metallic.  The pull strap and safety belts could be ordered in black, red or blue.  All interiors were black.

The 3.6 liter 247 HP at 6100-rpm engine provides 0-60 times of 5.4 seconds and top speed of 162.  Torque is 228 ft. lbs. @ 4800 rpm.  Redline is 6700 rpm.  Curb weight is 2,954 lbs.  Weight distribution is 41/59% or 1,202 lbs./1,752 lbs.  CD is 0.34.

The unboosted rack and pinion steering has pristine accuracy with precise feedback from the front wheels.

I was lucky to find a fully race prepared and sorted 13,000 mile RSA track car in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Seller, Dr. Carl Fegahli, a PCA/POC Cup Racer won 14 of 16 races in the car.  After instructing me a few laps at Willow, suspension guru Steve Alarcon observed the car handled very nicely, confirming suspicions that I had a purchased very good car.

Part 3: What I Learned Searching for an RS America
Or: Let the Hunt Begin

The perfect track RSA is a total delete-option car (for minimal weight) with only Limited Slip Differential.  The LSD is important to keep the inside wheel from spinning through corners.  An LSD or Quaife can be added but it’s expensive.  Many RSAs were ordered with air, sunroof and radio, adding some weight back in.  Total delete-option cars like mine are rare, in fact, I haven’t seen another one.

The RSA resale market is strong, perhaps because of its track potential.  It is possible to upgrade an RSA to near European Cup Car standards at a cost of  $20-30,000 but that does not include fuel cell or air jacks.

For racing, best value is to purchase an RSA someone else has upgraded for track work.  Four recent examples sold quickly for $42,000, $43,000, $49,000 and one very specially prepared car was rumored to sell for over $60,000.  Considering you’ll pay close to $40,000 for a good example, and then put upwards of $20,000 or more in upgrades, those prices look attractive, if in fact, the upgrades are well done.  Additionally, consider the sellers spent years getting the parts installed and the cars sorted.

Track cars have various upgrades including exotic suspensions with adjustable sway bars, headers, mufflers, chips, ring and pinion, brakes, rotors, 8 & 9 lightweight 17” wheels, rollbars or roll cages, race seats, 5 point harness, fire extinguisher, lexan windscreen, reduced weight, second oil coolers, electrical cutoff, improved engine and transmission mounts, improved air intakes, brake cooling ducts, lighter flywheel, improved clutch, camber truss, stainless steel racing lines, and distributor factory cooling upgrade.   Some have 100 octane custom-built race chips bringing the horsepower to 280-285. 

If you race, you’re going to want most of those upgrades.  Although, the RSA, with just street tires, is an impressive track car.  Slalom requires only the stock seat belts.  Just add five point harnesses and fire extinguisher to run in Time Trials.  San Diego’s Gregg Smith clocks 1:36 at big Willow in an absolutely stock RSA with Hoosiers.  With the expert guidance of instructors Matt McFadden, Steve Alarcon and Ross Clardy, I managed a 1:41.6 at Willow on street tires my first RSA event and my first ever Time Trial.  While not impressive, it was a 21 second improvement from my first day’s 2:03 run session and I avoided the agricultural excursions favored by the testosterone set.

If you purchase an RSA for the track and the car comes with two sets of 8 & 9 width 17” wheels, that’s $4-5000 you won’t need to spend.  More if those two sets of wheels have useable tires.  If the RSA has H&R height adjustable coil-over, or similar suspension, that can save $2-4,000.  Two quality installed race seats can save a $1,200.  Properly installed five point seats belts can save several hundred dollars. .  If the car doesn’t have LSD option 220, you could spend $2,000 installing a Quaife.  

My point is that one evaluates racecar upgrades differently than a street Porsche.  

In my judgment, both street and track ready RS America’s will hold their value, making ownership very cost effective compared to newer depreciating car models.
 
 

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