What do you do with an ex-racecar that has served you well for years? It can always be parked, but that’s a rather sad existence for any car, let alone one that pounded happily around a variety of tracks, year after year. Selling it to someone else who will continue to race it is always an option, but that’s only appealing if you’re willing to part with it. Or you could do what Floridian Andres Martinez did. Andres transformed his 1994 964 RS America racecar into a street driven replica of the seminal 1973 911 Carrera RS, which also happens to be one of his favorite Porsche models.
“That car gave me such a good time in my life that when I decided to stop racing, I was so emotionally involved with it that I decided to keep it,” he says. Andres and the 964 go way back to 1994, when he first laid eyes on it at a Miami Porsche dealership. “On a Saturday afternoon I stopped at Champion, just window shopping,” he recalls. Parked on the floor was a brand spanking new 964 RS America. Rather than the more common Guards Red, Black or Grand Prix White that most RSAs were painted, this one was painted in Polar Silver, one of the two optional metallic colors that were offered.
Made for only the ’93 and ’94 model years, the RS America was introduced on the 20th anniversary of the ’73 RS. Though not as extreme as the Euro-only 964 RS, the RS America was still a step beyond the standard U.S.-spec 964 when it came to performance. The suspension consisted of the M030 Sport package used on the 964 Turbo, which its stiffer springs and shocks and a larger front anti-roll bar. 7x17-inch front and 8x17-inch rear Cup wheels were also added. Mechanically, the RS used the same 247-hp engine and G50 gearbox as the normal Carrera. Inside, there were no armrests or door pockets, and the door was opened with a cloth handle. Basically a paired down and tightened up 964, Porsche sold the limited edition RSA for $10,000 less than the standard Carrera 2.
Andres’ RSA was spec’ed with some of the few options the model was available with, including A/C and a limited slip differential. A test drive convinced him he had to have it. His wife had one request though. “The only condition she had was that I needed to change the whale tail for a conventional Carrera 2 engine lid,” he says. “She said the tail was too extravagant and ‘teenager’ looking.”
For the next four years, the Porsche was used as a daily driver in Miami. Like many RS America owners though, there came a time when he decided to start tracking the car, using it for what it was originally intended for. For Andres a major appeal of the RSA was the fact that “it was originally designed not only for the street as a daily driver but also for the weekend track/club events.” The racetrack was also familiar territory to him. Growing up in Colombia as a kid, he had started racing his mom’s ’66 Beetle, transitioning to a Fiat 128 that he took to a class championship. Years later, he would move to Miami, where a growing family put a stop to the racing. “I stopped racing until I got all my children in college, then in 1998 I started racing again with both Porsche clubs in my area, the PCA and the PBOC,” says Andres. “Initially, I just started in the Stock PCA class, but every weekend I came home with more and more ideas about modifying the car to be able to compete in more competitive classes.”
Before he knew it, the 964 was heading towards becoming a full-on race car. The suspension was improved with European RS racing coilovers, adjustable Cup swaybars, front and rear RS adjustable lower links as well as adjustable camber plates. Different wheels were installed. The interior was gutted. In went a Momo race seat, welded-in roll cage and fire extinguishing system. The exterior of the car was modified to shed weight, with Lexan rear side windows, carbon fiber doors and a front hood replacing the original parts.
An engine refresh was needed after a few years of abusive on track use, a task that was handed over to Bob Varela at Foreign Affairs Motorsports in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The RS’s original 3.6 was enlarged to 3.8-liters thanks to Super Cup pistons and cylinders. Carillo connecting rods were also installed, actuated by a nitrided crankshaft. 993 Super Cup camshafts provided a more aggressive power band. Ported and bench flowed cylinder heads now used Cup valves, springs and rocker arms. A performance computer chip added more power, as did the 1.75-inch headers and a race-spec muffler. All told, the rebuilt motor put out a respectable 360-horsepower. A closer ratio gearbox was also added to the equation to optimize the acceleration.
Andres drove the RS at a multitude of tracks, including Homestead, Moroso, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Mid Ohio and others. “It was a lot of fun, especially when you finally learn how to drive a Porsche on the track,” he says. Learning the ins and outs of successfully piloting a rear-engine car on a racetrack presents its own unique set of problems, but as Andres discovered, it’s also an extremely satisfying process. Sadly, in 2006 Andres had a bad on-track incident in a friend’s Cup car that would lead to permanent back problems. Though he continued racing for a while, two years ago he decided to call it quits and alter his focus from racecars to street cars. He currently has four Porsches, a ’64 356 in concours condition, a ’94 964 Turbo, an upgraded 914/6 and of course his RSA.
Though it’s easy to accuse Andre of ruining a perfectly good, limited edition 911 that could have been easily restored, in a way, the path that he chose makes complete sense, given the evolutionary connection of the ’73 RS and the ’93 RS America. When he brought up the idea to his friends, someone suggested TRE in Van Nuys, CA as a reputable shop that could handle the conversion. In early 2009, the decommissioned racer was shipped across the country from Florida to California.
When the 964 arrived at TRE, shop owner Dave Bouzaglou and his crew found a seriously stripped down car. According to Bouzaglou, just about every non-essential component had been removed from the car. Simply replacing all of the missing original parts with stock 964 parts took hours and hours of combing local salvage yards.
Then there was the actual work of backdating the 911, a task that became a joint, two year long project between TRE and Kundensport in Camarillo, CA. While converting an impact bumper 911 to look like a long hood is a relatively straightforward process, 964s come with an additional set of obstacles. The first issue to overcome was dealing with the deeper front trunk. Without the large 964 front bumper, much of this trunk sheetmetal is visible, as is the bottom of the oil cooler and A/C condenser. And since the front of the car would be receiving a more slender RS bumper, some major changes to the front of the car were made. “The bottom of the trunk floor was cut longitudinally- when looking at the trunk box from the side,” says Bouzaglou. “This allows the floor to be bent and ramped up to the correct placement for the bottom of the RS front spoiler.”
Since the owner wanted the A/C installed back in the car so that driving during hot Florida summers was bearable, the AC condenser and fan- normally installed underneath the front of a 964- were relocated to the floor of the trunk. Exit air from the condenser blows out of the sides of the trunk into cavities just ahead of the oil coolers. TRE deleted the front oil cooler, instead installing two 50-row Setrab coolers in either fender, an upgrade that not only conceals them but provides additional cooling for the 3.8-liter. There are also thermostatically controlled pusher fans mounted just in front of each oil cooler.
A steel early 911 hood replaced the carbon fiber race piece that had been installed during the 964’s race career. The new hood uses an altered hood lock from a later car so that it can be latched to the original 964 latch panel. Rather than install early 911 fenders, the lower areas of the stock fenders were chopped up and massaged to accept early turn signal assemblies. The rears of the front fenders were also modified to eliminate the rocker extensions and indentations in the lower portion. H4 headlights and hood-mounted Cibie rally lights complete the convincing faux-RS aesthetic.
“The original 964 taillamp and reflector areas were removed and backdated to the early style taillamp assemblies with Euro lenses,” adds Bouzaglou. While the 964 rear fender flares are a close approximation of the original RS flares, these were re-profiled for a more correct appearance. Early rocker panels blend seamlessly into the rear fenders, which even feature the holes for the torsion bars, though in this case they’re purely for show, since the 964 uses coilovers. A Getty ducktail that uses a 964 engine-lid shell allows the engine lid to latch right up to the original latch panel. Other subtle touches include filled in door mirror holes to make way for early square mirrors and an early rear window without the third brake light.
Another dilemma the conversion presented was the exhaust system, which protruded down below the smaller RS rear bumper. The solution was a custom made muffler from M&K Industries that is both shorter and narrower than standard early mufflers. The whole thing tucks nicely out of sight. Adaptor tubes allow the headers to bolt to the muffler, which features a trick GT3-style center exit.
Once the bodywork was completed, Kundensport sprayed the 964 in the original Polar Silver. Light gray Carrera RS graphics were then installed and which are virtually invisible in certain conditions. The 17x8-inch front and 17x10-inch rear Fikses were stripped and anodized black before they were put back on the car. Tires consist of 245/40 front and 275/40 Bridgestone RE 60 Sport tires. And though a set of Fuchs would lend the car more of a vintage attitude, the wheels look surprisingly good in person. To keep the precise handling of the car intact, Bilstein PSS10 coilovers were installed in lieu of the race bits. These use softer than normal spring rates for additional compliance and the shocks are set on the softest setting possible.
Restoring the car’s interior proved to another major hurdle, since the RS had a full, race-spec cage welded securely to the interior. This had to be cut out and the mounting points ground smooth. Andres chose to reinstall the stock RS America interior, albeit with a few modifications. His trusty old suede MOMO wheel was retained for sentimentalities sake. In order to take the nicely bolstered seats back in time, the centers of these and the rear seats were recovered in houndstooth fabric. The bulkier kneepads were swapped for more streamlined ones from an ’87 911. RS America door panels, a black headliner and plush black carpeting round out the changes from track warrior to street driver.
Climbing inside the 964’s welcoming interior, you’d never guess that at one point in its existence it competed in wheel-to-wheel racing. That part of its history has been banished, though there is one clue to the car’s history. The suede MOMO steering wheel is worn around its rim from the repeated use of its owner’s racing gloves. At idle the 3.8 lets out a deep idle thanks to the increased displacement mated with headers and the custom muffler, but it’s more pleasant than obtrusive thanks to the back seats and fully carpeted interior. Clutch action, while definitely on the heavy side, is nicely progressive as we pull away from a turnout. The 964 gearbox has longish throws, but is light and easy to guide up and down through the gears. It’s been augmented with a monoball, which adds some much appreciated precision.
On the road, the performance of the reborn RS feels leagues beyond a standard 964 and considerably beyond that of a stock RS America. This reborn 964 is both more powerful and far more responsive to driver input. The engine sounds mean and visceral as the revs climb, which they do quickly, the flat-6 spinning eagerly towards the top end of the power band. The engine is extremely entertaining, with a far more engaging powerband than a 3.6, which is a nice, torquey motor but a little linear in its power delivery. Not this 3.8 though, which revs eagerly thanks to the race internals and has a spike of power as revs increase. There is also a lightened Cup flywheel to free up additional revs and power, and which gives the engine even more immediate response. Though it has a powerful midrange, it also zings happily towards 7,000-rpm, with the power building progressively.
The RS America did not use power steering like a standard Carrera. What this translates into in this modified example is heavy steering that has to muscled around at lower speeds and corners, but has a nice, stable feel to it at speed. Around corners, the 964 displays negligible body roll, the tires sticking resolutely to the pavement. The nose pushes wide a little on initial turn in, but the cornering attitude balances out as the car rotates around the corner. There is a nice predictability that allows even an unfamiliar driver to push a little harder into corners, too, using steering input, throttle application and the brakes in a seamless manner. Speaking of brakes, the 993 Turbo brakes are phenomenal. A brush of the pedal has the car slowing and really leaning on them has me straining against the seat belt.
After spending two years being rebuilt, Andres had a reunion with the car that will stay with him for a lifetime. The car was finished right before the Targa California, a multi-day driving tour of California, which he and his wife flew out from Miami to participate in. According to Andre, driving the RS America on the route was spectacular. All that’s left now is to put the car back to use regularly on the streets of Miami, something I think he’s going to have a hard time resisting.