- Image created by author
Image from Porsche

Image from Porsche

The RS badge has always been the most prestigious plaque in the history of Porsche. It has been reserved for the fastest cars, the 911 Carrera RS 2.7, 964 RS 3.8, GT3RS 4.0, and the GT2RS MR. Sadly, it is a well-known fact that the Turbo lineup of Porsche never received the RS badging as the Turbo S was the flagship of the Turbo lineup. However, here’s the 911 Turbo that earned the renowned RS badge that you never heard of.

Image from RM Sotheby's

Image from RM Sotheby's

Initially, the 911 Turbo was the direct opposite of what 911s with RS badges pursued. If the RS vehicles were stripped out and built to thrash the tightest corners, the Turbo lineup was built for gentlemen racers who preferred astonishing speed in a luxurious package. To this day, the Turbo lineup desires to be more of a relaxed grand tourer rather than a Spartan sports car.

Herbert von Karajan in his Porsche 550A Spyder. Image from Supercar Nostalgia.

Herbert von Karajan in his Porsche 550A Spyder. Image from Supercar Nostalgia.

Nevertheless, there was a man who wanted his 911 Turbo to be the purest driving machine, Herbert von Karajan. Karajan is one of the most well-known conductors in the world; he had conducted the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years and still is regarded as the most ingenious conductor of the 20th century. He pursued perfection when conducting, pouring relentless energy into every detail of the piece. He was not only a talented conductor but a true pioneer who opened the 20th century Renaissance for classical music.

Karajan with his Porsche 959. Image from Pinterest

Karajan with his Porsche 959. Image from Pinterest

However, it is a lesser-known fact that Karajan was a Porsche aficionado. He owned a Porsche 356 Speedster, 550A Spyder, two 959s, and multiple Porsche 911s. Among these amazing collections of Porsches, the Porsche 911 that definitely stands out is the Porsche 911 Turbo RS (based on the 930 Turbo), a one-off Porsche built for the Austrian legend.

Image from Porsche

Image from Porsche

Karajan had put the same meticulous amount of attention to detail into his cars as he did to his music. In 1974, Karajan contacted Porsche’s Sonderwunsch division stating that he wanted a lighter and more sports-oriented version of the 930. He also had set standards; Karajan demanded that the car had to be lighter than a 1,000kg and the power to weight ratio should be less than 3 kilograms per hp. When considering the fact that the 930 already weighed 1,140 kilograms and only produced 260hp, it was definitely a challenging offer.

Image from Porsche

Image from Porsche

The Porsche CEO at the time, Ernst Fuhrmann, conducted the development of Karajan’s special Porsche himself as Karajan was definitely a VIP for Porsche. The 930 chassis was replaced with a lighter and stronger RSR chassis, while the G Series bodywork was replaced by the Carrera RS unit. Racing suspension and rollover bars were utilized with improved braking systems. The interior was stripped down with the deletion of rear seats and speakers, and a steel roll cage replaced its place. Even the door handles were replaced with leather straps to further reduce weight. The turbocharger and the camshaft have also been replaced, thus resulting in 100 extra horsepower.

Von Karajan. These two words explain everything. Image from Porsche

Von Karajan. These two words explain everything. Image from Porsche

The result was a 930 Turbo RS that weighed less than a ton with 360hp on the tap. That means the car has a power to weight ratio of at least 2.7kg/hp. Although the figures are not impressive in modern-day viewpoints, for a car from the 1970s, it was truly jaw-dropping. To add further allure, Porsche commissioned Rossi(Yes, the company that makes vermouth) to replicate the Martini livery from the 911 Turbo RSR 2.1 that finished 2nd in 1974 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a finale, the car was badged ‘von Karajan’ which virtually explains everything about the car.

Image from Porsche

Image from Porsche

How does this pure driving machine feel to drive? Back in 2017, Wilfried Strehle, a violinist who played as the principal violinist under Karajan for 18 years, had the chance to drive Karajan’s Turbo RS. Strehle states, “It’s a very emotional moment for me,” as he runs his fingers on the ‘von Karajan’ badge. Although Strehle is not a professional driver, he states that the machine is ‘fascinating’ as he pushes the car up the winding roads of Alps. Strehle states, “You still hear this incredible passion, this thrust, this force [in Karajan’s music], which might also explain—in metaphorical terms—his fascination for Porsche.”

Image from France Musique

Image from France Musique

At the end of the day…

Karajan is often regarded as the ‘dictator’ of the stage as he controls every aspect of the sound the Philharmonic makes. Nevertheless, Friedrich Witt who played the double bass under Karajan states, “But nowhere could you play more freely in concert than under his baton” Although being ‘buttoned-up’ might seem to eliminate the chance of being uncompromised, it is actually the opposite, as both in his cars and music.

Karajan with his 911 Turbo RS. Image from Pinterest

Karajan with his 911 Turbo RS. Image from Pinterest

The 911 Turbo RS was created under strict guidelines and high expectations of Karajan. Ironically, thanks to the high standards, the 911 Turbo RS never has to compromise whenever it enters a tight bend. Karajan pursued perfection, and his 911 Turbo RS is unquestionably the purest 911 Turbos ever built. Rest in peace, Maestro.

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