Creating distinguished machines is a lost art. The hot rod community has matured into subtlety and design nuances that only well-versed aficionados can decipher. The custom European market is at the cusp of such a craftsmanship revolution. Why the cusp? Well, the cold, hard truth is that many novices to the hobby still fulfill their racer-boy fantasies with questionable body modifications, stripped down interiors, and stiff suspension bits that on paper may look great but in reality make the car better for parking than driving.
When we heard of this Porsche 911 (964) being assembled at one of our favorite Porsche shops, 911 Design in Montclair, California, we knew we had to keep our eyes on it to see if it would live up to its proposed credentials. The owner sent along a two-page modification document, a wish list to us common folks, when the car was still 100 percent stock. The list seemed ambitious to say the least, encompassing everything from increasing the engine displacement to an almost race-specification suspension and not the very least, converting the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 to rear-wheel drive.
Like I was saying before, many would perceive this list as a pipe dream. For the owner and the shop, this is simply business as usual when it comes to building a proper 911 hot rod. The owner, if you couldn't tell by now, likes to remain anonymous. He, however, isn't a stranger to the pages of ec. His last project was a bonkers widebody, race-tuned 3.8L Porsche Boxster Spyder.
When the owner, we'll call him Jim, decides to take things to another level, he does so with gumption. "I saw what Singer was doing and decided that rather than wait for one, I'd build one of the same caliber while keeping with a sleeper look, not to mention sticking to a more acceptable budget." We love the results, and aren't so sure if we would still call this car a sleeper.
He knew off the bat the car would have to remain a narrow body, hide 9.5" front and 11" rear tires, while making the roided-out engine appear stock. Not to mention interior fit and finish would have to rival that of RUF or Porsche Exclusive finishing.
Suspension is where another healthy dose of cash came in handy. A fully adjustable JRZ two-way coilover kit was installed along with a complete overhaul. The suspension system received bits from the best modern Porsche specialty vehicles have to offer. The beauty of an ever-evolving car like the 911 means updating to later parts is relatively straightforward. Such is the case with the 993 front suspension uprights that not only provide better geometry, but also allow a bolt-on fitment of 993 Turbo front brakes. When it came to the engine, 911 designs decided to blend the best of its racing knowledge with the best of its road-tuning knowledge. Custom spec'd cams, a MOTEC stand-alone fuel injection system with individual throttle bodies, and machine work for 3.8-liters of brutal goodness are easy peasy for this crew. The monstrous mill's exhaust is courtesy of Rothsport equal-length stainless headers and a 997 GT3 muffler.
Driving this beast offers several levels of visceral pleasure. The cacophony of gurgling flat-six exhaust notes hums and burrows its way through every piece of Alcantara right through to the ends of your fingertips. The smells drift past your nostrils with each twitch of your head following the road, reminding you that those eco-friendly carpool-lane-hogging cars are truly missing out on the finer points of the driving experience. Push the car into a corner and your gut begins to twist and bend as if David Beckham himself took a crack at your innards for glancing at his wife.
Acceleration is addictive and yet excruciating. Turbos can give you that death-defying adrenaline rush for fleeting seconds, but a well-constructed naturally aspirated engine allows the driver to seek his or her limits over longer periods of time. This factor is often forgotten amongst modern tuning shops.
That sinfully tantalizing satisfaction of pushing the envelope to see what the engine and gears can offer you along a straight or through a chicane or even briskly exiting from a long cliff side sweeper proves that balance is the key to driving nirvana. The ever-eluding question of when to stand on the throttle and allow the car to rotate toward the outer thread of tarmac and utter doom taunts the driver relentlessly. But with each corner, knowledge is obtained, processed, and tested again, allowing you to build to that perfect crescendo of control at the edge. That's the real beauty of older cars-you can live with them for years and still learn things every time you drive them. When you feel like you've learned everything, maybe it's time for some new parts.
This is what building, no! This is what driving, no! This is what life is all about!