Life with a Supercharged

by: By Zane D of OK
Zane D's RSA

Keith Verlaque of the PCA registry thought that registry members might be interested in hearing about my supercharged 964 . Forgive me if I ramble-on but it's a fun subject talk or write about and I tend to get carried away. Over the last 10-years you may have seen the advertisements or read performance articles about supercharging Porsches. There are two or three companies offering supercharger systems and they seem to have the common goal of improving the performance while also enhancing appearance of the engine.

To set the stage - my first Porsche was a 911SC Targa. I purchased it with approximately 58k miles and sold with around 118k miles. We drove it everywhere (60k miles in 5-years) and had a great time at the various PCA events. I've been hanging out with and chasing after 930 pilots since I first joined the PCA, 11-years ago. I have always had a soft spot for pressurized engines and love any new innovation. Our first supercharged car was a 1985 Mercedes Benz 300E with a Paxton supercharger giving it good performance - long before the Porsche.... er, I mean Mercedes Benz 500E came along. It was an '85 European model, one of very few imported to the USA. You may notice “our” in my recollections. Fortunately my wife is also interested in hotrods of all types and this sometimes makes life easier when I come across a cool car deal.

It was five or six years ago at a national PCA Tech session where I met Tommy Vann and Marty Marsell. Tommy was one of the original crew from German Auto of Knoxville. Marty was a happy customer and probably one of their best salesmen. This was when I saw and heard my first Whipple-charged Porsche.

I remember it well! It was a dark green Carrera 4 with Ruf wheels and raced-out interior. Wow! This car really got my attention to put it mildly! But after a harsh reality check, I realized that it was way out of my price range. At that time I couldn't afford a stock 964 much less a tricked-out version. Even so... this didn't stop the drooling. I was able to go for test-ride with Marty in his Paxton supercharged 911SC. What a rush! It had the 930 type, pin-you-back-in-the-seat performance - but was, if anything, a little better. The power came on earlier and with absolutely zero turbo lag it was quicker than all but the most wildly tuned Turbo's. Granted the supercharger system might run out of oomph at the top end, but realistically with a top end that high, one has to ask how many times do you exceed 140-mph on the street? So, it was firmly in my dreams and schemes - to modify my 911SC.

Well, a better deal came along (as they always seem to) when I had no extra money. Eventually I sold the 911SC and bought a Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16. It featured wild Evolution-II bodywork like what was only offered for the street in Europe plus it had a Mossleman turbo system. With this car I began learning more and more about boosting intake air and high-performance engines. It was not massively powerful (a respectable 250-hp w/8psi) but there was minimal turbo lag and it was capable of surprising unsuspecting sports cars every now and then. I developed this car into a very reliable and fun street and track vehicle.

Supercharged RSA intercooler

During this time my wife and I traveled to New Orleans to a big PCA multi-regional event. I met up with Marty Marsell again, only this time he was driving a Guards Red supercharged '89 Carrera 4 with polished Ruf wheels. He gave me the opportunity to share the car in the autocross event! To say I was soon addicted to the torque of this all-wheel drive blown monster would be a huge understatement! At this point the Carrera 2 or 4 I had been thinking of as a base car was still out of reach financially. What was a performance junkie to do?

The following year Marty contacted me with both good and bad news. The truth was he had several other cool collectible Porsches and hardly ever drove the C4. So the car was going to be up for sale and I had the first shot at it. I'm not sure which was the bad news! I asked the price and braced myself for a disappointingly high number. To my surprise it was quite reasonable and before I even knew how I could pay for it I said, “sold”!

I was later able to sell the radical looking Mercedes EVO-II for roughly what I had invested in it and was already making plans to own a wickedly quick Porsche.

This supercharged C4 was actually the same car that Bruce Anderson had the opportunity to test and write about in Excellence magazine in 1994. Before Bruce's article, supercharged Porsches had been getting a bad rap. And, ok it was true; the Paxton systems had always been associated with American Iron and just didn't look quite right in German cars. Ironically, after his review of German Auto's Whipple system, Porsche drivers started to open their minds to change. As the striking Guards Red C4 had been a test mule and show car before Marty acquired it, it had some rough edges such as no air conditioner compressor, but I decided that I could deal with that later. I had the chance to get a dream car!

This was an awesome ride to say the least. All my 930 buddies enjoyed taunting me just to hear it wail or see it's hard charging acceleration. It was the first car I'd ever owned that could pull very hard up to and beyond 170-mph. It had a puck type race clutch so you could launch it from high revs, like 4500-rpm and all four wheels would spin outrageously (kind of a floating effect). Zero to 60 or ¼-mile times? Well, to be honest - I don't know, but lets just say as quick as you can shift cleanly. In the same way that you get used to timing the “lag” with a turbo - with this car you soon learned to adjust to how quickly it reached the rev-limiter and developed the ability to anticipate the shift.

A couple of years ago I came across a Grand Prix White with about 64k miles and just the right options for my taste - limited slip, air conditioning and no sun roof. To make a long story shorter, the supercharged engine from the Carrera-4 was then “freshened” as it had found a new home. Yes, the stock engine is now in the C4. It was used as the base for a 750-hp twin turbo set-up and it's a PCA GT1S racecar but that's another story.

I made a few other significant changes, including the addition of a pair of more radical cams (similar to the 935s) and added the PMS computer controller from EFI Systems. With the PMS I now have the ability to adjust and fine-tune the engine map. It basically piggy-backs the factory Motronic system and intercepts the information where I can modify or tweak the data before it reaches the engine. The net result was that at the initial dyno test, the engine produced 375-hp at the rear wheels with an equal amount of torque using a measly 8-psi of boost. I also added a mega-size intercooler to insure lower charge air temperatures on the racetrack. I added the 3.8RS rear wing in order to house the full width intercooler.

Center console showing instrument panel

My future plan is to upgrade the fuel injectors and who knows, maybe I'll raise the boost level to 10-psi. Funny, even when you have plenty of power, you still wonder what it would be like to have just that little bit more.

I've upgraded the suspension with Bilstein Sport shocks and struts and H&R Turbo version lowering springs as well as Ruf sway bars - Fr 24-mm/Rr 22 and also added an AJ-Racing Cup type strut tower brace thanks to another owner that was upgrading to full “race” suspension.

I'm very pleased with the current status of the car. More than enough power to handle most street “skirmishes” and yet still very user-friendly around town or commuting to work. I know most P-car owners aren't concerned with fuel economy, but I like to monitor mine just to keep track of things if nothing else just to see that the state of tune remains constant. For reference, I typically get 16 to 18-mpg in the city and 21 to 24-mpg on the highway (this is of course at Porsche highway speeds). Mine likes to cruise about 85-mph. You know you've got it bad when you have to slow down at the end of on-ramps to merge with traffic.

At the racetrack, this car is an absolute blast! With the abundance of usable torque, I find myself short shifting at 4000 to 5000-rpm simply because it gains velocity so quickly. I've seen 170-mph on the main straight at Brainerd International Raceway. The car was very stable and still pulling hard but yes, I did chicken out for turn 1. I entered it at only 145-mph, but was back up to 155 to 160-mph at the exit.

Every year I participate and instruct at several PCA and other High-Performance Driving Schools. I get the opportunity to drive a multitude of cool cars. It's always fun to drive and compare the different tuner cars like supercharged M3s or NSXs. Many times they are running higher boost levels but no more horsepower. On average they just don't make the steam like my .

Supercharged RSA rear 3/4 view

Thinking back to when the car was in stock form - it was a great car and tremendous fun all round, but now... it's even better!

My supercharged certainly scores very highly in the “smiles per mile” department.

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