• The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric

A road-legal Le Mans prototype is just what the doctor ordered

Four. That’s how many members the Schuppan Porsche 962 CR Owners’ Club would number if anyone bothered to set it up. By contrast, head counting at the equally fictitious Ferrari 250 GTO Owners’ Club would yield over 30 members. As things stand, then, the 962CR is quite enticing given that few road-legal cars are faster than this bubbly-eyed creation and fewer still are rarer. So why aren’t you buying it already? Well, the answer doesn’t only tie itself to the existence of multiple Swiss bank accounts...

As good as a car made out of unobtanium

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Exterior
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It was in 1982, the first year of the so-called Group C era, that Porsche stunned the world with the immensely effective 956 prototype. While not initially better than Lancia’s own LC1 Spider, an open-top contraption built to the, by now, antique Group 6 rules, the 956 with its clever use of ground effects quickly stole the show and won the championship beating a plethora of privateers at Le Mans in dominant fashion.

Following that 1-2-3 victory in June of '82, everyone understood that, if you were to win in the World Sportscar Championship from now on, you had to have a Porsche 956.

As such, when the order book opened up later that same year, people queued as if there was no tomorrow and multiple chassis were sold as fast as you can say Norbert Singer.

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Drivetrain
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Singer, of course, was Porsche’s racing boss who was careful to make a lucrative business out of selling customer cars while keeping the pukka work cars ahead of the curve. In Stefan Bellof, Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, and Jacky Ickx Porsche also found the perfect men to pilot its 956 and it was these men that battled it out for the world championship in both 1983 and 1984. Victories for the hungry privateers that have spent many a Deutsche marks on a 956 were few and far between with a popular one coming towards the tail end of 1983 when John Fitzpatrick Racing beat the Rothmans-sponsored Works cars at Brands Hatch. Joest did its part too by winning Le Mans in 1984 and again in 1985.

Those two Joest wins came after Vern Schuppan’s victory. The versatile Australian, often seen driving Porsche’s third factory car whenever it was entered, conquered the 24-hour race together with IMSA stars Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood. A former F1 regular, Schuppan had come close to winning Le Mans twice before with runner-up finishes under his name in both 1976 (driving a Mirage-Ford) and 1982 (in a 956).

Schuppan retired from driving in 1987 by which time he'd already established Team Schuppan based in High Wycombe, England.

The team would see action both in the World Sportscar Championship and the Japanese Sports Prototype Championship, Vern even coming close to winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1992 as a team manager.

His cars that year featured the colors of Art Sports 0123, the automotive industry arm of a Japanese conglomerate of companies. Better known as Art Sports Corporation (ASC), the organization joined Schuppan mainly due to his rich background on the Japanese scene, the now-77-year-old Australian winning the 1983 JSPC title with Team Trust before placing third in the same series between 1984 and 1986.

With ASC on board and through another company bearing his own name, Vern Schuppan Limited, Schuppan began working towards realizing a lofty dream: that of bringing the Porsche 962 race car onto the road. One of his peers, Jochen Dauer of Germany, would go on to do the same and, while Dauer’s re-engineered road car won Le Mans in ’94, street-legal 962s arrived on the market at the wrong time.

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Interior
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That’s because the birth of these otherwise incredible machines coincided with the economic downturn of the early ’90s caused, in part, by the changing of the guards amongst the world’s super-powers (a.k.a. the fall of the USSR), the 1990 oil price shock, and the savings and loan crisis. The recession greatly affected Japan where it was chiefly caused by the asset price bubble’s collapse in late 1991 leading to what’s been known as the ’Lost Decade’.

In other words, the last thing you’d want to try and sell at that time would be a $3 million exotic. Bugatti and McLaren too felt this on their own skin as both the EB110 and the F1 respectively debuted around that same time and sales of both of these now-legendary cars never reached the expectations of their makers.

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Exterior
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As for Schuppan’s 962, Art Sports invested some $3 million in the development of the car (in today’s money) which included the purchase of a 60,000 square-foot headquarters in the UK as well as the hiring of some 20 engineers. Initially, Art Sports vowed to sell 50 962 CRs but that commitment dropped to just 20 cars no sooner than by the time the first production car had been delivered.

Only one other production car was manufactured before Art Sports decided to walk off causing Schuppan’s company to go into administration as no other backer was found and there wasn’t any money left in the bank since Schuppan tried to force Art Sports to abide by its contractual obligation by taking the Japanese company to court.

Things get confusing when people discuss the 962CR because Schuppan actually built two kinds of road-going 962s at the same time.

First off, there was the 962 LM which looked nearly identical to a Le Mans-spec 962 including the long-tail rear deck as designed by Norbert Singer. The 962CR, however, was decidedly different with its carbon-fiber tub being hidden by a short-tail body with round headlights penned by Mike Simcoe.

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Exterior
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The two production cars are underpinned by a Reynard tub identical to that of the first CR prototype, albeit a couple of inches wider. That first prototype was completed in early 1991 and was also seen in the 1991 Le Mans Yearbook. Underneath the love-it-or-hate-it body laid the chassis of thoroughbred 962 race car, as was the case with the underpinnings of the 962 LM mule that had been completed earlier and was tested at both Silverstone and MIRA.

The second 962CR prototype (chassis #CR02 but the fifth car built if we are to count the LMs as well) was completed in 1992 and was shipped to the US before being sold and ending up in Japan. This car is now yellow and is the one Bingo Sports had for sale. The first production 962CR also ended up in Japan having been sold to a Japanese customer in 1992 for 195 million Yen or about $3.4 million in today’s money.

Now, you might’ve seen a certain Jay Leno’s Garage episode featuring a 962CR but that is, actually, a 962LM built by ADA Engineering. The car, chassis #LM03 (or the sixth out of the 50 proposed road-going 962s), is built around the narrower Advanced Carbon Technologies (ACT) chassis just like the other two ’production’ LMs and the first 962CR prototype. The confusion stems from the fact that the car presents itself with a 962CR rear section and a 962 LM front section.

The engine in this car is pure Porsche racing perfection. The 3.3-liter, twin-turbo flat-six is different to the 2.65-liter Porsche 935/79 turbocharged engine in the middle of the other cars. Outfitted with water-cooled heads and developing some 630 horsepower at 1.2 bar of boost, the 935/79 engine outmuscles the 3.3-liter unit by some 80 ponies, though the latter does feature a catalytic converter. Matt Ivanhoe currently owns this last Schuppan 962, chassis #LM03. The CR rear was fitted to the car in hope that it could get approved for the 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same bracket as the Dauer 962 but the ACO had none of it.

The Schuppan Porsche 962CR Is Made Out Of Pure Dream Fabric Exterior
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Rumors circulate about the Le Mans attempt but what’s certain is that ADA Engineering ended up racing an ex-Richard Lloyd Racing chassis in the C1/WSC class and this car never took the trip to France. Moreover, its short-tail setup was ill-suited to the long Circuit de la Sarthe anyway given that the one-piece wing generated little over-body downforce. The stories about the team trying to pass the car as both the road car and the race car are not true since the car never made it to France.

"It’s a car that even today, you can line up next to the current crop of hypercars and it’ll chew ’em up and spit ’em out," Ivanhoe told The Drive and you can see it as being plausible since this 230 mph machine barely weighs 2,300 pounds dry. With Alcon brakes all around it also stops really quickly but few out there are courageous enough to prove it.

Source: Driving Your Dream

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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