Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport: Driving the light fantastic

Tim Pitt drives a classic Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport that blends visceral performance with investment potential

Apr 24, 2024 - 07:22
Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport: Driving the light fantastic

Over the past 20 years, Porsche has launched 10 RS-badged versions of the Porsche 911. Invariably, each one is greeted with feverish anticipation and rave reviews, followed by a long waiting list and hefty premiums on the ‘overs’ market. Yet it wasn’t always this way.

The first roadgoing Rennsport was the Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS of 1973. Porsche had to build 500 examples to homologate the car for FIA Group 4 racing, but huge demand meant more than 1,500 were eventually sold. With its thinner body panels, stripped-out interior and ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler, the RS became an instant icon. 

The following year, though, Porsche unveiled the 930 Turbo as the new flagship of the 911 range. Luxurious, extroverted and fast enough to worry V12 Ferraris, the Turbo offered a very different experience – one that chimed perfectly with the hedonism of the 1980s. After its short-lived blaze of glory, the RS suffix wouldn’t return until the new-era 964 arrived in 1991.

The lightweight Porsche 911

The lightweight, ‘less is more’ Porsche 911 did make a brief comeback in the 1980s, however – in the shape of the 3.2 Carrera Clubsport. Introduced in 1987, it was more exciting than a stock Carrera, easier to live with than an RS and not as intimidating as the ‘widowmaker’ Turbo. The perfect compromise, perhaps?

To find out, I’m at supercar specialist DK Engineering in Hertfordshire to drive the stunning 1988 Clubsport seen here. A former Porsche GB press car, it was recently sold via online car auction platform Carhuna for £140,000.

Resplendent in Grand Prix White with retro red highlights, the car’s swoopy sill script and colour-coded Fuchs wheels clearly pay homage to the ’73 RS, but its swollen wheelarches and ‘tea tray’ spoiler also channel the 930 Turbo. Even in DK Engineering’s dehumidified warehouse – where it rubs haunches with a 918 Spyder and the 1950 ‘Gmünd’ 356 I drove in January – this special Porsche still stands out.  

Inside, the Clubsport features pinstriped seats that could only come from the decade of power suits and red braces. More significant, though, is what the interior doesn’t have: the rear seats, electric windows, central locking, radio, door pocket lids, luggage compartment light, passenger sun visor and plastic coat hook were all binned to save weight. Porsche even swapped the automatic thermostat for old-style manual heater controls.  

Clubsport package

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport

Despite the addition of hollow inlet valves, a redesigned air intake and a raised rev limiter (now 6,840rpm), the naturally aspirated flat-six’s officially quoted output is the same as for a standard 911 3.2 Carrera: 231hp at 5,900rpm. 

However, the strict diet reduced the Clubsport’s kerb weight by 40kg to 1,160kg, helping make more of its modest power. Zero to 60mph takes just 5.1 seconds and top speed, if you can find a suitable autobahn, is 152mph. 

In retrospect, perhaps the most surprising figure in the Porsche press pack – perfectly preserved from 1988 and part of this car’s extensive history file – is the price. Ticking option ‘M637’ for the Clubsport package meant a total of £34,389 – some £1,187 cheaper than the Carrera. Contrast that with the prices of lightweight 911s today… 

Shifting by stick 

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport

From the second you turn the key and its air-cooled engine whirrs breathily into life, the Clubsport is a smorgasbord for the senses. This isn’t a car you drive on auto-pilot, occasionally jabbing at a touchscreen while electronic systems monitor your every move. It feels alert and alive – egging you on with eager throttle response and a hard-edged howl as the revs rise. 

Unassisted steering and stiffer Bilstein dampers can make progress hard work at low speeds, yet the 911 feels delightfully compact on suburban streets crowded with oversized SUVs (some of them wearing Porsche badges, of course). 

Find some ‘proper’ roads, drop down a couple of gears and the Clubsport fizzes like a lit firework. It turns in with excitable enthusiasm, relaying every detail of the road surface to your fingertips and the seat of your pants. A linear power curve makes for more predictable handling than the explosive Turbo – especially on modern Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres – while a limited-slip differential boosts the 911’s excellent rear-engined traction. 

Today’s Rennsport models are fitted exclusively with Porsche’s paddle-shift PDK transmission, but this ‘G50’ five-speed manual has a slower, more deliberate charm all its own. Working the weighty clutch, blipping on downshifts and slotting the long-throw lever across the gate, it keeps your limbs busy and your brain engaged. Who really cares about Nurburgring lap times, anyway? 

3.2 Carrera: An unpopular option?

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport

As a contributor to Total 911 magazine, I’ve been lucky enough to drive many air-cooled 911s over the years, but the 3.2 Carrera Clubsport is right among the best. Unlike, say, a 964 RS, it doesn’t sacrifice good road manners at the altar of track-focused speed and agility. This is a classic Porsche you could happily drive every day, even if its rarity and six-figure value might make you think twice.

Why so rare? Remarkably, Porsche dealers struggled to sell the Clubsport when new, shifting just 340 examples in two years – including 53 right-hand-drive cars for the UK. It seems in the decade epitomised by the excess-all-areas 930 Turbo, this pared-back approach to performance left customers cold. Unquestionably, it was their loss.

Today, the 3.2 Carrera Clubsport feels like an oft-overlooked gem in the Porsche canon: a 911 to excite collectors and keen drivers alike. As sports cars become ever faster and less relevant to the real world, it’s a hit of uncomplicated driving joy. Less really is more, after all.

Many thanks to DK Engineering and Carhuna car auctions for providing the 911 3.2 Clubsport. Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Clubsport 

PRICE: £140,000

POWER: 231hp

TORQUE: 209lb ft

0-60MPH: 5.1sec 

TOP SPEED: 152mph

KERB WEIGHT: 1,160kg