Porsche 968 Club Sport
Back in the early nineties Porsche were in a bit of a spot. Sales of it’s 924 and 944 models weren’t exactly sparkling and the proposed successor to the 911, the 928 was, well, never to be. The venerable 911 (964) was the biggest seller and even then wasn’t selling that well. Porsche badly needed to revise it’s entry level car.
The 944, introduced in 1982, itself an evolution of the original entry to Porsche ownership, the 924, was now the entry level car. The 2.5 litre 150bhp, front engined coupe had excellent balance, performance and handling with it’s 50/50 weight distribution (the gearbox was housed over the rear axle). The engine was upgraded in 1989 to a 2.7 litre (168bhp) and a Turbo version (1986-1989) produced a healthy 220bhp. The S2 version introduced an even larger 3.0 Litre engine and various mechanical and cosmetic changes.
While the 944 was still a great car, it was seen as being a little old in the tooth and Porsche needed to keep the bottom of the range car looking fresh and exciting. Engineers had already been hard at work on the 944 “S3″ as it was to be, but Porsche decided that the new 944 was so different to the previous generation (82% new according to them) that it ought to have a completely new designation, the 968.
The motoring press weren’t fooled, this was obviously an evolution of the 944 however sleek the new body and interior was. The 968 featured a new version of the 3.0 litre 4 cylinder engine, now producing 236 bhp. Performance was improved too, 0-60 was dealt with in 6.2 seconds and the car went on to a top speed of 152 mph. A new 6 speed gearbox was introduced and also a Tiptronic auto.
Road tests of the time agreed that the 968 was a fine handling car, the torquey engine and trademark 50/50 balance saw to that. But it seemed a little like Porsche had lost it’s way, the 968 didn’t seem different enough from the 944, Porsche looked like it was slowly turning into a luxury manufacturer rather than a sports car maker.
Initally sales were slow. In response Porsche took the unusual step of introducing a version to generate more interest from the Porsche enthusiasts. The Club Sport was essentially a stripped out, lightweight version of the coupe with revised, lowered (20mm) and stiffened suspension. Porsche removed sound deadening, electrical “luxuries” such as central locking, electric windows and sunroof, rear seats, heated washers, rear wiper and airbags (a new lighter electrical loom was fitted since there were less electric toys on offer). The heavy original power operated leather seats were replaced with special lightweight Recaro bucket seats, larger (and wider) 17 inch colour coded wheels replaced the original 16 inch ones and the battery was replaced with a lightweight version. All this resulted in a weight saving of around 100kgs and a slight increase in the 0-60 time over the UK coupe. All Club Sports had black interiors and the door cards from the 944.
The Club Sport was only available in a choice of 6 colours, Black, White, Speed Yellow, Guards Red, Riviera Blue or Maritime Blue with seat backs colour coded to the body. The “Club Sport” decals which adorned the sides were a delete option.
In the UK a version of the Club Sport with some of the comfort and electrical goodies put back in went on sale. The 968 Sport was built on the same production line as the Club Sport and has the same suspension, and added electric windows, electric release boot, central locking, cloth comfort seats, and rear seats. The Sport was sold for £5500 less than the more luxurious coupe and was the biggest seller.
Amazingly Porsche charged £5000 less for the Club Sport than the Coupe and aimed their marketing smack bang at the the drivers, the enthusiast who wanted dynamics over luxuries, and in doing so Porsche almost by accident created one of the best drivers cars it had ever made. The critics raved about it and all of a sudden Porsche was again a manufacturer of proper drivers cars.
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