How close can you get to an RS America?

By Keith V of CA

As a wise man once said ... imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
The blue tape behind the wheels - intended to protect the car from rock chips, is a clue as to it's quite remarkable condition ...
and a
huge clue as to how fastidiously it is kept by its owner.

First Impressions

Despite appearances, the above image of a nicely kept, unmolested RS America .......... is deceiving.

Nicely kept? ... without question. After some consideration I would say the above Porsche is probably in better condition than six-humdred-and-ninety-something of the seven hundred and one RSAs Porsche built. But this shining example of what an RS America should look like, has had significant modifications embodied by its owner.

The car is 100% pure Porsche .... but it didn't leave the factory as an RS America. It is in fact a 1991 964 Carrera 2. The owner decided (for reasons that will become clear later), that he wanted to convert his Carrera 2 into what he refers to as an “RS America - Touring”.

The conversion itself was so meticulously accomplished - with no expense spared ... that it would definitely warrant an article for that alone, however, as you get to know this particular Porsche you will see that for a completely different reason ... it is indeed quite remarkable.

We have all heard the phrase “no expense spared” used many times describing cars in For Sale ads, in the case of this car, I think you will see the gold standard for that phrase.

Notice the hot babe in the white top admiring the car ... and the guy in the blue hat asking her "but if it really WAS mine ... you would date me ... right?"
The title of the plaque - bottom left in this image, is definitely appropriate for the amount of effort required to achieve the results you see here !

The owner of the above Porsche, Peter P of CA is one of those individuals who is the epitome of a perfectionist. Not surprisingly, he likes to have his Porsche displayed and judged in concours events. The amount of time and effort he puts into cleaning and detailing his car takes it - in my mind - far beyond a hobby, exceeding even a passion, waay past obsession ... to what would be considered by many to be a religion.

The few images you see in this brief article don't even come close to doing justice to the condition of this car ... by a mile! I have seen this car in real life at a concours here in San Diego and initially, I will admit ... I thought it was one of the best condition RS Americas I had ever come across. It is a full concours car which means ALL aspects of the car are judged for cleanliness and originality - including interior, exterior, engine compartment, trunk, undercarriage, suspension, glove box, tools, jack, spare wheel, manuals and overall chassis. The class this car is in has a team of experts crawling over, under, and inside it searching for anything that is even “dusty” (notice I didn't say “dirty”) or not a genuine Porsche part.

My first (and last) concours ...

Almost fourteen years ago I bought my RSA from a guy who was PCA Zone 8 concours overall champion with the car. When you consider that PCA Zone 8 stretches from Mexico up to Bakersfield in Central CA and from the Pacific coast into Southern AZ where believe me, there are a very large number of “comfortably off” individuals, with some truly truly remarkable Porsches, in order to win overall Zone 8 concours in Southern California (the headquarters of mint condition Porsches) you have to have a very special car indeed. Well, some would say the previous owner of my car had an unfair advantage in that he is the owner one of San Diego's premier car detailing companies. Typically, if his guys had a quiet day at the detail shop with not much going on ... he would have them go over the RS America one more time - which obviously made it pretty darned hard for your average Joe-public 911 owner to compete.

I well remember the stunned look on his face when just after I had bought the car I told him I was going to be autocrossing it and taking it to Drivers Ed events at local tracks - he looked at me the way I imagine people would look at you if you suddenly started chastising them in fluent Mandarin. The fundamental issue is ... I believe that a Porsche is an outstanding tool for a job ... and that job ... is driving! I intended to drive the sucker and when he heard that, I think he discovered a whole other level of sellers remorse.

So about 6 months after I bought the car I saw our local region was having a concours ... ha ha! ... with the condition of this car and all the professional detailing that had been done to it, I decided to enter into the lowest class which is “Wash & Shine” in the firm belief that the car would blow away all the competition. So I duly washed and shined my already over-washed and over-shined car, and parked it out there with all the other competitors, just to see what would happen. Well of course, all the serious concouristas knew the car inside and out, and without fail, one-by-one, they all came by to inform me that I was in the wrong class, but ... being an individual of “spirit” ...I chose not to budge and decided to leave the car in the class I had entered.

I was very pleased when I saw an old friend of mine was selected as the judge for my car. We shall just refer to her as Carol and note that she is one of the nicest 60-something year old ladies in our region. She is renowned for being kind, generous and forgiving to everyone in every activity in which she engages .............. except ... as I was to shortly discover ... concours judging.

I titled this image "Slow death by concours judging"
Peter P's 964 going through concours judging ...

That sweet “little old lady” turned into a very polite, cheery, demon from the bowels of concours judging hell. She smiled sweetly and talked with a gentle guiding tone as she methodically pointed out a seemingly endless list of rookie concours errors that I had made. She spoke with the tone of a grandma offering her favorite grandchild another piece of her special homemade cake ... while politely asking questions like “Did you not have time to clean the glass dear?” and “Oh my! We seem to have forgotten to clean inside the door handles don't we?”. Several of her nuggets of wisdom started with some “tut-tutting“ and ended with advice along the lines of “Well ... we won't be making that mistake again will we?”. By now I'm pretty sure you get the picture. My anxiety level slowly evolved from surprise, to shock, through disappointment, into defensiveness ... and eventually out the other side ... to a fairly strong rating on the “pissed-off” meter.

I decided that rather than just going into a full-out attack on the nicest old lady in our club ... in full view of a gathered crowd of members and other interested parties, I would bite my tongue (... hard) and I resisted the temptation to say something like “OK ... lets take a look at your darned Porsche and see if we can pick that sucker apart in front of everyone shall we? ....... DEAR!!

Bottom line ... didn't do very well at concours, had a hard time restraining the aforementioned “spirit”.

So for me, taking your Porsche to be judged in a concours is not unlike inviting all your friends, relatives, neighbors, competitors, workmates, (plus that smart-alec guy from down the hall that you don't like), bosses etc. to a large hall - in the middle of which is a well lit boxing ring, and then climbing into the ring, waiting for the crowd to hush ... and then having full-on rectal exam in front of the lot of 'em.

“...and in the blue corner ... Dr. Parker from proctology! ...”

In other words, you're putting your Porsche up on display and publicly announcing to a group of experienced judges “Hey ... I have a REALLY nice Porsche here ... and I challenge you to find something wrong with it!” ..... and guess what?

So ... if you have a personality like mine, entering your Porsche in a concours is nothing that five to seven years of therapy won't be able to help you come to terms with.

Let's talk about modifications/upgrades to bring a Carrera 2 up to RS America spec.

So back to Peter P of CA's Grand Prix White car. The list of differences between an RS America and a Carrera 2 is surprisingly extensive - especially when you are having to use your own hard earned $ to embody the changes. It is not the intent of this article to discuss the financial impact of performing this transition - I feel that is a sleeping dog best left to lie, but ... let's take a look at some of the changes performed. Once again, bear in mind that all components fitted to Peter P's Carrera 2 are genuine Porsche parts.

The RS America whaletail.

Just about the most obvious way to tell an RSA from a C2 is the large fixed rear spoiler or whaletail. Many people think that the RS America whaletail is the same component as the 1984 thru 1989 3.2 Carrera and the 911SC before that. After a discussion on this topic with Porsche Archivist and Historian during a visit to Stuttgart it was made clear that this is not the case. For more details regarding the unique whaletail used on the RSA, and how to tell an RSA whaletail from all the others ... go to the OEM Equipment page of the website per the following link.

The car prior to the installation of the RS America whaletail

Peter managed to find a factory original RSA whaletail for sale, bought it and replaced the stock C2 motorized rear spoiler. He then purchased (through sources who shall remain nameless) the no longer available original factory rear deck lid emblems both RS and America and by searching and obtaining a copy of the PCNA dimensioned drawing showing the correct placement, he located the emblems correctly on the deck lid.

A factory original genuine RS America whaletail ... with impossible to find factory original NLA "RS" and "America" rear deck lid emblems!

1993 teardrop mirrors.

A design change to the 964 which was fully embodied by the time the first RSA was produced was the introduction of the more rounded rear view mirrors affectionately known as teardrop mirrors for pretty obvious reasons. This upgrade was fairly common among 964 owners as the more square “flag” mirrors definitely did not fit with the overall style of the softer more-rounded 964 and seemed to be Porsche using up parts to depletion from the 911 3.2L Carrera parts bin. This upgrade would be slightly more complex than it would at first seem, as the newer mirrors would have to be refinished to match the Grand Prix White paint.

A set of genuine Porsche teardrop mirrors replacing the earlier square “flag” mirrors stock on a 1991 Carrera 2.

Cup 1 Mille Miglia wheels.

For a car to be as close as possible to RS America spec it is obviously important to have the correct wheels. Factory stock wheels for the Carrera 2 were 16” in diameter and had a similar style to the RSA 17” dia. Italian made Mille Miglia Cup 1 aluminum forged wheels but with significantly thinner spokes. The 17” Cup 1 wheels - standard equipment on an RSA were available as an option at time of purchase - for more details on original wheels, their size, part numbers, material composition and popular plus-one upgrade, go to the OEM Equipment page of the website per the following link.

Peter avoided the cheaper lower quality copies of the wheels and used genuine Porsche wheels, but ... as the wheels he was able to locate were used, of course ... he had them refinished to original factory specifications.

A set of factory original 17” genuine RS America wheels ... 7” wide front and 8” wide rear, fitted with RS centercaps

RS America door panels.

A signature design feature of the RSA is the flat interior door panel which is devoid of the door pockets and interior door handle found on the Carrera 2/4. In addition to not having door pockets or handles the RSA has webbing straps to open the door from the inside - which add further expense if you are paying to remove the existing door cards and hardware and purchase genuine Porsche door cards ....... you do remember me saying earlier ... “no expense spared” ... right?

Factory original RS America door cards - complete with webbing straps for interior door pulls and associated hardware.
Interestingly, the image below showing RSA seats was taken when the original Carrera 2 door panels were still in place.

RS America seats.

So you're checking out a 964 that looks for all intents and purposes like an RS America, you've verified it has a genuine RS America whaletail, with correct emblems on the rear deck lid, it has correct wheels, it doesn't have the earlier “flag” mirrors, the door panels are correct, what else can you check for? How about seats? The RSA seats are unique the factory never fitted leather seats on the production line, they were always cloth covered fronts, with vinyl backs and sides and had electric height and rake adjustment via buttons located on the outer side of the seat squab.

So Peter P's car .. ? Yup! He bought original factory RS America seats.

To learn more about RS America seats go to the OEM Equipment page of the website per the following link.

It appears that the genuine factory RS America seats were fitted before the RSA door panels as in this image the C2 door card is clearly visible.
Factory original RS America seats. The more you know about this car ... the more you realize
just how serious the owner was about building himself an RS America

Ah ... yes! But what about factory original RS America rear Stowage bins instead of rear seats?

Yup! He bought (and installed) factory original RSA Rear Stowage bins. You aren't going to catch a perfectionist like Peter P with something that obvious!

Even if you get them used, a set of factory original RSA seats are not an inexpensive item.

In some of the factory parts lists the Rear stowage Bins were referred to as “Rear Luggage Dump”, either way, the reason these bins were fitted to the American 964s and not the Rest of the World 964's without rear seats was because the US Department of Transportation would not certify the car for US use if there was the possibility of a person sitting in the back of the car without full safety restraints (seat belts). Porsche took the easy way out and fitted rear stowage bins to preclude anyone from sitting in the back of the car. A little known fact is that the 1994 RS America did not have rear stowage bins but had rear seats with rear seat belts in place a-la Carrera 2 and Carrera 4. To learn more about Rear Stowage Bins go to the OEM Equipment page of the website per the following link.

So ... the 64 thousand dollar question ... Why?

Why would anyone go to all this trouble to so exactly replicate an RS America? Why not just buy one?

The answer is logical ... and really very simple.

Peter created his own RS America because ... he wanted an automatic transmission. The RSA was only available with 5-speed manual gearbox - unlike the Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 which both had Tip-tronic as an option.

All for the sake of an automatic transmission!!
If you look closely at the interior - more specifically, the gearshift ... it all becomes clear! This is as close as you can get to an automatic RS America!
(Did you notice that even the Carrera 2/4 center console with the switch to raise the motorized rear spoiler has been replaced with an RSA console ?)

All of the above just goes to show what time, effort and dedication can achieve if (per the plaque in a previous image above) you make a commitment to do something correctly and stick to it! Many Porsche owners take pride in total originality, in keeping the car exactly the way it left the factory, but this is California, where everyone expresses their individuality on everything from custom car Hot Rods to “Pimp - my -Ride muscle cars and motorbikes.

At least one person wanted Porsches performance oriented,lighter weight, limited edition 911 ... with an automatic transmission!!
Something you will never see in an RS America!
The speedometer with the gear indicator of a 4-speed automatic.

There are several other items that Peter changed out to ensure the car was to RS America specification which are not covered above. For example when he saw my car at a recent San Diego region concours (in the parking area - NOT on display I might add), he spent time examining it far more closely than most people do. He even noticed that RSA windshield wiper arms are different than the stock Carrera 2 versions. For those of you who are worried ... he did assure me that the wiper arms on his car would be “corrected” in the very near future.

It's hard to wrong with such a glamorous model and the colors red, white and blue!
Now the license plate makes sense!

The other remarkable thing about this particular 964?

So you think you have a clean RSA do you?

Let's just take a very quick look at what a concours 964 looks like shall we?.

To put “preparing” a Porsche for a PCA concours in perspective (somehow “cleaning” just doesn't seem to be a strong enough verb), let's see what Peter actually goes through. Below is an image of his car during concours prep.

Umm ... looks to me like somebody got a tad carried away!!
One things for darn sure ... when I'm in the middle of cleaning my RSA it doesn't look anything like the above ...
... maybe I've been doing it wrong for the past 14 years!

Yes...... well. I don't know about you ... but that's not quite what I think of when I say I'm going to detail my Porsche.

If you look closely to the left of the car on the floor against the wall, you can see the inside of the rear bumper - which is sitting on a cloth towel. You can see the clean heat shield used to protect the inside of the rear bumper from the temperature of the primary exhaust muffler - you know the big muffler that runs across the whole back end of the car ... the muffler which you can't see in the above image ... because it has been removed ... to be cleaned!!

The rear lights and center reflector have also been removed ... to make sure there is no dirt or dust BEHIND them ... we wouldn't want that - now would we ... dear?
I see the lower half of the engine, and it is spotlessly clean as well. The rocker panels below the doors, now they have also been taken off because ... the bodywork underneath them is now exposed for cleaning? See below:

Seeing this level of cleaning is making me curious - I wonder if the nineteen years of crud under my rocker panels is heavy enough to slow the car down.
... checking for dirt underneath the rocker panels and making sure the oil pipes are all clean and in good shape.

So enough with the smart comments ... lets just take a look at a few areas of the car to see how a concours 964 looks ... mainly for the purpose of making RS America owners feel bad.

speechless ...
This is the top of the engine, a few shots earlier when the rear bumper and exhaust muffler were removed
we glimpsed the condition of the lower half of the engine.

The top of the engine looks great - with all plastic components clean but not too shiny (a rookie mistake often caused by use of Armor-All). New Porsche engine plastic parts were never “glossy”.

One of the hardest things to keep looking new is the engine fan. The air it draws across the engine is often carrying grease, dirt and oil vapors - all of which seem to have a natural affinity for the blades of the fan. Getting an engine to look this clean is a very time consuming task and rapidly becomes a case of diminishing returns where you can easily spend large amounts of time getting an insignificant component spotlessly clean.

How come all my suspension parts are black ... and greasy?
This is what a 964 left front wheel arch and suspension assembly SHOULD look like.

There is an instruction written by Porsche which details a simple procedure to ensure that each wheel on the car is always installed in the same radial position on each of the four wheel hubs. the purpose of this is to keep the wheels in the same radial orientation to keep the individual wheel balance correct. So how is it done? ...Easy! Porsche paints the end of one of the wheel studs red (see above image of perfect front suspension assembly) and the instruction states to ALWAYS mount the wheel with the valve stem diametrically opposite the stud identified with red paint. the next time you remove your wheel nuts take a minute to check the ends of the wheel studs and you should see one of them has the remnants of the factory red paint.

It's almost a shame to drive it!
The next time you take your front wheel off ... take a quick look at this image and see if you recognize any of the pictured parts on your car.
If nothing else, it will show you what color the parts are supposed to be.

A closer look at front suspension details above: bottom right - the brake disc with the top of the black brake caliper with a good view of the hydraulic brake line (bronze color) and the black electrical cable for the brake pad sensor clipped to the brake line in two places. Bottom Left is the lower suspension strut (with the round hole in it) and the black plastic brake cooling air deflector attached to the strut with a bolt and washer mounted close to the circular hole. The braided stainless steel brake line coming out of a union on the square, white mounting tab upper left looks new. As does the clean shiny shock absorber with the green suspension spring wrapped around it top right.

I'm curious to know roughly what percentage of Porsche owners re-finish their catalytic converter ... just so it will look nice? I'm thinking somewhere in the 1 to 2 percent range?
The left rear undercarriage showing the refinished catalytic converter. Again, notice how white the paint on the underside of the car is.

Here you see part of the rear suspension, the newly re-finished catalytic converter and a portion of the rear shock absorber with the coil spring wrapped around it. Not too many 964 owners will be able to recreate this shot - due in no small part to the fact that not many people will have reason to remove their rear bumper.

Why in Gods name would ANYONE subject themselves to this sort of punishment? Could concours be the ultimate form of masochism?
I guess I will never fully understand why some Porsche owners choose to go continuously through the hardship of detailing their car to this incredible level -
only to be picked apart by the next set of judges.

In Summary

I see what Peter has done with his Carrera 2 and although it may not be my cup of tea, I have to tip my hat to him for all the “over and above” attention to detail that he has embodied into what he calls his “RS America - Touring”.

A great looking car - even if it's not quite what it seems.
One mans “RSA - Touring” ... out there on the concours field - doing what it does best.

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