Lord Mexborough's 911 3.0 RSR IROCThis 3.0 RSR is truly a shocking 911. If the lurid green color scheme doesn't have you reaching for the Alka Seltzer then perhaps the thunderous cacophony that erupts once its engine is alive will. Blip the throttle and flames shoot out of each big-barrel exhaust pipe. It's the stuff dreams are made of: looks to kill and a soundtrack worth laying down your life for. Could this be the ultimate air-cooled 911? It's a question that's been asked a thousand times, isn't it? Which is the ultimate Porsche? Well, right here, right now, this beastie is it as far as I'm concerned.
As far as special 911s go, this one is unique in the U.K. It's one of the hallowed IROC RSRs from 1973 and was used to level the playing field in the quest to find the world's greatest driver. All the other survivors live Stateside, and even if it was a bag of bits it'd be worth reporting on, but the fact is that this RSR is properly sorted and, as we're about to find out, road-legal. It's Armageddon on wheels and my palms are starting to sweat with anticipation. Oh my.
It's all very well having a road-legal race car, but to actually head out onto the highway in a vehicle that was designed and built for one express purpose-to compete on a race track-could be seen as foolhardy at best. By their very nature, racing cars are difficult to drive and while we're glad to have race-inspired track-day weaponry available, such as the GT2, GT3 and GT3 RS, an actual racer is a completely different animal. Drive one of these to a track and you're likely to be too knackered to drive any more.
This RSR doesn't look like it'll be an easy drive. It's practically saying, Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough-and I do know my limitations.
It sits outside the dealership where it's for sale, coughing, spluttering, trying to singe my leg hair, desperate to be let off the leash and do what it was meant to do: race. So I'm heading for some wide-open moorland, where I should be able to get the measure of this hallowed machine and do it justice for these very pages. Game on, let's go.
It's all pretty familiar cabin architecture here. The seats are built for people smaller in frame than my lardy self, but I still find them comfortable enough. The four-point Luke racing harnesses are a pain, but then inertia-reel seatbelts would never look right in here, would they? Behind, there's a welded half roll-cage and some thin black carpeting over the space usually occupied by the kids' seats. The real indicator of how brutal this car is happens to be dead-center in the instrument panel: a 10,000-rpm tachometer with no redline. Nice.
People unfamiliar with the allure of classic 911s often complain about the pedals being off-set but here they're even more so. It means my legs need to be at an angle that's way more extreme than most, but I guess that's part of the appeal. Nothing is going to be easy about this car. Nothing.
Revs, more revs and even more revs. The RSR wiggles its substantial hips as I blip the throttle and local wildlife scurries for cover after a rude awakening from hibernation. More revs, more flames, wider grins all around. Time to engage first and head for the hills. Revs, more revs, trying to keep the engine alive, keeping petrol coursing through its veins. With a violent jerk I'm off, moving, revving, ears bleeding. But I'm smiling.
Races have been won in this car. This is the soul of the thing-a DNA detection team could no doubt find traces of its drivers and the tracks it competed on and it's all I can do to stifle a "Yee Ha!" as I lurch toward the open road. But first there's fuel to be bought and locals to upset. Up front is a massive, plastic fuel tank-I've seen smaller ones on arctic lorries. All that revving is thirsty work.
Trundling through town, more revs, more flame spitting. People stop, stare, point, shake their heads in disgust. Windows are shut tight and old ladies cover their ears. This is like nothing else they've ever experienced and I try to make an exit before the noise police are summoned, tearing out of town in a blaze of glory. This isn't a cool car, it's sub-zero and I feel like a kid again, giddy with anticipation. Slower trucks are dispatched with a drop into second and flooring of the throttle. I'm pinned into my seat and the heavy metal thrashing reverberating around the cabin is all-enveloping. Revs, more revs, more adrenaline.
As expected, it's a proper workout. There are absolutely no concessions whatsoever for the driver on normal roads. It's stiffly sprung, of course, but it's the weight of the steering and the strength needed just to change gears that saps my energy. As I reach my destination after half an hour of constant physical assault, I can't say I'm sorry to be able to get out for a bit.
I wander around the car, admiring its sheer purposefulness. There's no fat here, nothing that isn't absolutely necessary, and I feel slightly guilty about weighing it down when sitting in it. These cars tip the scales at just 900kg-1,984 pounds.
The Fuchs wheels are worth a photoshoot on their own. Stare at the rears in particular and you're sucked into an alloy vortex, deep inside where the hub lives, miles from the outside world. The rear Pirellis each have an 11.2-inch footprint and the Cinturato P7 markings take me back to my childhood when they were de rigueur for outrageous supercars the world over. They're in startlingly good condition, too.
Lifting up the engine lid, I'm faced with a work of art. The look is familiar, an air-cooled flat-six, but look at those trumpets! And no covers! It's auto-porn and I can't take my eyes off it. There's also a twelve-point distributor cap that I wouldn't fancy having to replace. It doesn't sound at all like a traditional flat-six, despite the visual similarities. The effect is pure NASCAR racer and is none the worse for it.
This car, chassis number 911 460 0037 and engine number 684 0027, was one of the three practice cars that supported the 12 pressed into service in the inaugural IROC season of 1973/4. The International Race of Champions was an excellent idea: take the best drivers from a wide array of differing motorsports and pitch them against each other to see who really was the best driver in the world at that time. All cars were identical 3.0 RSRs, all were different colors and drivers had to swap cars between each race.
The three practice cars were called upon whenever any of the 12 racers were unable to run and this particular car was driven in the second Riverside race by Mark Donahue, where it retired on the eighth lap. Then, in the third Riverside race, George Folmer raced it to fifth place.
Only the top six drivers competed in the finale at Daytona's road course in February 1974 and by then seven of the RSRs had been sold on. After IROC moved on to Chevrolet Camaros the following year to reduce costs, the eight surviving RSRs were sold, most going on to compete in the 1974 IMSA Camel GT and Trans Am series, which is where this car started getting its podium finishes.
Bill Webbe of Applejack Racing bought it after the final Daytona IROC race and it was driven to victory by Hurley Haywood at Daytona and Canada under the IMSA banner. He took it to second place at Charlotte and again at Mid-Ohio, sharing duties with Webbe himself. In the Trans Am series, the car finished first at the Daytona 200, first at Watkins Glen, second at Charlotte, second at Mid-Ohio and fourth at Road America.
In 1976 it was sold to the Mexican Quintinella brothers and languished, hardly used until 1979 when it was sold back into the U.S. and raced by Doug Lutz. It finally hung up its racing boots in 1986 when Garretson Enterprises of California bought it and restored it back to its original 1973 IROC specification. In 1989 an English Lord couldn't resist and bought it, bringing it to Britain where it's remained ever since.
The restoration was obviously meticulous but the history, the patina, the sweat remain locked inside. It's not some prissy trailer queen, rather an exquisitely preserved piece of motorsport legend. The green paint (officially termed "Pistachio") has a shine so deep I reckon I could sink my arm right into it-astonishing seeing as it's 22 years old.
Its history and importance to the Porsche canon are beyond question and standing here, admiring its brutal good looks, ducking for cover when the revs rise and the flames flare, I wish I'd been able to see it in action in 1970s America. To be able to climb inside, strap on a harness and roar towards a Yorkshire horizon comes a mighty close second, though. So, with miles and miles of empty road at my disposal, I take a deep breath, fire up the angry engine and head back out until my senses can't take any more and only fumes remain in the tank. It's an experience that will live with me to the day I die.
It's the greatest Porsche I've ever experienced or am ever likely to experience. Lord Mexborough is doing the right thing: he never gets to use it and he wants someone else to look after it, drive it and most of all enjoy it, so it's for sale. The ultimate air-cooled 911? You're looking right at it and it could be yours for a million dollars.
Thanks to Specialist Cars of Malton, www.specialistcarsltd.co.uk, where the RSR is currently being offered for sale.
Porsche 911 3.0 RSR IROC
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive
3.0-liter flat six, air-cooled
Peak Power: 330 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 232lb ft @ 6500 rpm
Top Speed: 155 mph
Curb Weight: 1,984 lb
*With a million dollars up for grabs, the International Race of Champions was obviously a big draw for drivers who relished the opportunity to prove their mettle by competing with peers in totally identical cars. The format never changed: twelve drivers from differing backgrounds, all chasing glory and a fat pay check.
After the Porsche RSR season, each year saw American cars used to cut costs, which alienated European motorsport fans. No Chevrolet or Pontiac could hope to have the same appeal as a race-bred 911, but the series continued (apart from 1981, 1982 and 1983) to run and grow, with subtle rule changes brought in whenever a new sponsor arrived.
From 1992 to 2005, oval circuits were used, which reduced the spectator appeal even further. In 1990, Britain's Martin Brundle beat all comers at Cleveland, but the contest was becoming less international with each passing year. It seemed that IROC had its blinkers on and the series ended up with only American drivers being invited to participate.
In 2007, it was announced that IROC had no main sponsor and that the season was to be delayed. On March 7 and 8 this year, IROC finally closed its doors and liquidated everything at auction. An era had sadly ended, but back in the beginning, in 1973, it was Porsche that started the legend with the Carrera 3.0 RSR.
Who knows? If the series had remained truly international and used cars from European as well as American manufacturers, perhaps the world would have taken to IROC in the way it has embraced Formula 1.