MARCH OF THE MODS
Two very different takes on modifying a 911: a supercharged 993 and a stripped-out 3.2 Carrera Club Sport. Both are brimming with attitude, yet one is a suave mile-muncher while the other’s a trackday bruiser.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat,and what we have here are two opposing takes on how to customise a 911, demonstrating the model’s versatility and its complicity to become the object of the owner’s fantasies. The modifications made to this unlikely pairing were executed at least a decade ago, before values began to soar, and whilst any sane person would probably refrain from such actions today, a dozen or so years back there was no question. Hell, I’ve meddled myself, and there is a school of thought that considers 911s were made to be modified.
Both these ringside wranglers are on sale at Williams-Crawford, based at Saltash, just over the River Tamar from Plymouth. Adrian Crawford likes cars that are either perfect specimens (like the 3.2 Carrera I bought from him 15 years ago) or, if they’ve been altered, the outcome is logical. That’s to say, the alterations and upgrades make sense. Neither of these cars purports to be a pastiche – and we are in the land of the Cornish pastiche after all (pasties, geddit?) – unlike so many backdaters, these two have gone very much their own way in the customising stakes. Let’s see if he’s right about them ‘making sense’, starting with the 993, the 19-year old from ’95.
Adrian acquired it from an English guy living in the South of France, who’d bought it in ’07. ‘The car had already been modified by its second ownerwho’d developed it over the course of 10 years,’ he tells us. So if my maths are correct, that means it’s been a modified carfor most of its life. ‘It remains largely the same spec as it always has been,’ Adrian points out.‘It’s an interesting car because of what’s been done to it; it’s a very nice road car, and it would be quite a useful track car.It’s the nicest steering, handling 993 that I’ve had in for a long while.’
So what has been done to it? Firstly, it boasts an Eaton supercharger, and that lifts the bar straight away.The standard 993’s 3.6-litre flat-six yields 272bhp or 285bhp in Varioram trim, and the supercharger raises that to 353bhp.Quite a performance hike, but pricey at around $7.5K for the TPC kit. Adrian’s pet name for it is ‘The Puffer’.It’s lightened too; the entire front end is carbon-fibre. It’s also got a sintered clutch and a lightweight flywheel, so once you’ve got the hang of dropping the clutch and then easing in the revs, it’s off like a greyhound. Swift it might be, but it delivers that speed in a subtle, unostentatious way. ‘It’s producing around 70bhp more with the blower,’ says Adrian,’but unlike a turbocharged car, it’s not a punch in the back, just steady full-on power delivery. The car is also quite light, because the front panels have been replaced with carbon-fibre ones.’ That includes both wings, front lid, and bumper sectioncomprising the valence and splitter.
The door cards are RS items with canvas thong-pulls. All of which are calculated to lift performance significantly. And yet it retains those established systems of in-car civilisation including sunroof and air con, which includes that power-sapping, space-hogging mechanical monster of a compressor; still, the car did start its working life in Alabama, USA, which has sultry summers, thence across to the Med, so there is some excuse. However, it’s still surprising that there’s been no attempt to reduce weight in the back end. I’d have had a look at the engine lid for starters and maybe replace that whaletail.Of course, all this depends on what you want to use the car for, but what has been done suggests an affinity with competitive motoring. There are no rear seats as such, though there are squatting platforms but no restraints. The front seats are figure-hugging Recaros,comfortably padded and allied to the standard diagonal seat belts.The RS-type door cards have canvas pulls, and the foot-wells have plush Porsche floor-mats, but the rest of the trim and headlining with sunroof is standard 993.
The 993 Puffer is certainly a looker with its GT2-style front and RS-style rear wing. These, together with the carbon front wings (15ib) and front lid (10lb), are from GT Racing, a classic Porsche panel specialist based in Colorado Springs, USA. A legacy of its Alabama origins, no doubt.The frontal aspect embraces sculpted, swooping, aerodynamic lines either side of the front valance and elegant twin buttresses either side of the oil cooler orifice. The indicators and driving lights are neatly set into the front panel with little rubber overriders at each corner, and they’re an attractive proposition when parking in places where other users are incompetent.The black seal where the front panel abuts the wings and bonnet is prominent, and thequick-release fasteners on the front lid make it visually different as well, kinda racy, but as a security measure the bonnet catch is still in place.The 18in Porsche Sport Designsplit-rim wheels are distinctive with their black centres, shod with sticky tyres as well.The second owner bought the car at the end of 1995 with 10,000 miles on it, and it was he who developed the car over 10 years, since when not much else has happened to it and the mileage largely stopped as well.
Our second slinger presents a different formulation. The M637-designation 3.2 Carrera Club Sportwas a slightly sharpened-up version of the regular 3.2, aimed at enthusiasts who wished to exploit their 911 to the max in club rallies or track events, and this is one of 340 CSs produced over a three-year period from 1987, with just 53 in right-hand drive.So we’re not talking vast numbers here. In essence the CS was a blueprinted,pared-down version of the standard car, 50kg lighter at 1,160kg and boasting 240bhp against 231bhp. This one’s been taken just about as far as you can go before it becomes a racing car, and that begs the question, why would you do that with a valuable special edition – that’s become something of an icon, with values to match - when ripping apart a stock 3.2 would serve the same purpose? Adrian concurs: ‘you will think that it was a mistake until you drive the car. If you’ve driven a normal 964, followed by a 964RS, you’ll know that they are light years apart, and this is light years from a normal 3.2.’ It’s an original right-hooker, red CS graphics and whaletail rear wing, matching numbersClub Sport, so not unnaturally, Adrian’s initial idea was to return it to standard Club Sport spec, even though it is dead smart externally. He even has the correct trim and panelling to hand to do so.There are only 29 right-hand drive CSs on the PCGB register including this one. Visually, this baby is the same as a normal one, though it sits even lower. I peer into the engine bay, and there’s no air conditioning but there is a great big K&N cone air filter. Adrian describes its recent provenance: ‘it was bought as a standard Club Sport from a Porsche dealer in 2004. The file contains an invoice from OPC Sutton Coldfield for £21,000, when the mileage was 100,000, so it was a good prospect at that time, 20 years ago, to do something a little more exotic with. The owner developed the car so he could do hillclimbs, sprints and track-days, and threw money at it without any limits on budget; he probably put another £20- £30,000 into it, and so the attention to detail is fabulous.’
I still think a standard 3.2 would have done the job if one intended to go that far with it, but Adrian is upbeat: ‘At that timethe CS would have been a better prospectto modify than taking a standard 3.2, because at £20,000 it had a blue-printed motor, a stiffer shell, and no sun roof. When you get in this car there’s a sense of occasion, and that is unbeatable. There’s no corrosion, it’s not been welded, it’s not a racecar made good, this is a road car with a track specification.’ Fair enough, but how does the price of a modified car compare with an unblemished one?‘The values have gone mental,’ says Adrian;‘they’re changing hands now at £130 grand for low mileage cars and I think we’re going to offer it at £90,000 as it is, which seems a lot of money, but that’s how the market is.’
It’s time to get these moddy boys out on the highway. There are plenty of good roads in east Cornwall, and we even find one that’s closed for access near Pentille Castle. I start with the Puffer. These sculpted Recaros are real body-huggers, and because the dash and controls are standard it retains that hewn-from-billet feel of a stock 993. It has a smooth but firm ride, and though I do feel all the undulations, it’s less staccato than it might be, given the mild slamming the suspension’s received. As for the sintered clutch, both Antony and Istall it numerous times before we each devise our own individual knack to get it off the line: he waits for the clutch to bite and then eases on the revs; me, I go for the high revs and sod the wheelspin – which is how you’d want to do it on track. But it isn’t a track-car set up like the 3.2 CS. Rather, it is a high-roller on the Grand Corniche, an Autobahn Aristocrat. How so? It’s largely down to the supercharger, which emits a deep whining noise as I accelerate,exuding blissful power delivery, and the additional performance is instantly and impressively on tap. At high speed on the dualled A36 the Puffer doesn’t wheeze or whine, rather it screams in a Mad Max kind of way, easing from lane to lane and surging past everything in sight. It stops and steers and goes really nicely, and it’s almost genteel in the handling department; 993s seem to feel significantly heavier than other air-cooled 911s, but this doesn’t.
Given its gutting, the 3.2 Club Sport is a very different affair. The radio panel has been replaced by a piece of Kevlar weave containing the immobiliser and the heated rear window and hazard-warning switch. Carbon-fibre forms the dash panels, the weave all lying in the same direction and it’s got a bespoke pedal box. The door liners are Kevlar,inset with canvas pulls and window winders, and the bolt-in roll-cage has provision for more bars. It looks as if it has had other bars fitted previously, but the mounts have been plated over. In the absence of a headlining you can see the simple roof panel over the skeleton of the chassis.
Of course, it’s supremely austere, as a race car should be, and accessing the cockpit demands a bit of a serpentine wriggle to cross the threshold and get into the chair. For my liking the Momo Corse racing seat is not tilted backwards enough, and actually I’m not even sitting in it properly, so I could do with something broader in the beam, though the four-point harness is comfortable enough, and the little Momo steering wheel is deft to handle. The cabin is completely bare, apart from the chairs and the roll cage, painted white to match the decor. There’s a hand-held fire extinguisher in the passenger foot-well, and non-slip pedals for the driver.
On the move, it’s an aggressive braggart to start with, swagger and attitude, but boy, when the chips are down it’s like a welterweight pugilist. The brakes feel very powerful and the G50 gearlever shifts firmly as well. Because the shift linkage mechanism is exposed you get more of a direct experience of what you’re actually doing by moving the lever.But this engine doesn’t deliver like a normal, relaxed 3.2 Carrera, nor even the perky Club Sport:no, it revs right round the clock and there’s no hanging about, just instant zing. It’s had ECU work, produces 260bhp, and thanks to the Motor Works special exhaust it has a deep-throated growl too, which is unusual for a 3.2 engine. Downsides? Apart from the banging of the suspension over bumps, the limited-slip diff fights when you want to turn around in a tight space. On Cornish backroads the ride is very firm, and I’m grappling with the wheel to chuck it round the corners. You know how it is when you’re in a nightclub and the bouncer grabs you by the scruff of the neck and chucks you out? That’s how you have to behave with this 3.2 Club Sport, except that you are the bouncer, you take it by the scruff of the neck, because it just loves to be hurled around, unlike your dancehall victim.
So here’s the thing. The 3.2 Carrera Club Sport was conceived as a track-day car, and because this has been made even more track-able, I can’t help thinking that it’s at the expense of on-road comfort,and just maybe it has gone a bit too far. The 993 is delicately poised around the bends when I’m going for it, it’s holding its line very nicely, and the brakes are extremely powerful as well. But if you if you like your car tweaked to a significant degree, which is the case with both of these, then either one would fit the bill. Value wise, it seems that the 3.2 Club Sport is worth at least twice as much as the 993, even with its supercharger, despite the gutting and butting. The Club Sport has a great turn of speed, not as instantaneous as the blown Puffer, but because of its lightness and the way the engine is set up, it goes very well indeed. However, it is way more raw and less refined than a conventional 3.2 Club Sport. Adrian puts this in context: ‘I think it’s a sharper beast than an RS equivalent would be – comparing a 964 C2 with a 964 RS, let’s say - and there’s probably a much finer line between “I’ve got it,” or “it’s got me,” when driving it on the limit, and I rather like the idea of living on the edge with it, it’s an absolute hoot.’ Indeed, the way you deal with the power delivery and the handling behaviouris more hands-on navvy, like being in the ring with a wrestler, whereas the supercharged 993 is altogether a more of a smoothie, a languid lounge lizard who seduces you with an oily cocktail.
Both cars excite, but in quite different ways. One is visceral, the other sublime. Adrian is zealous. ‘There’s this drive at the moment towards everything being perfectly stock and original, and we also provide that, but I love the fact that you can create your own Porsche, and that’s what the 911’s for, it’s for the spirit, it’s for the pleasure of the man who owns it, and it might not appeal to everyone, but no one should say that’s wrong. If you want a Peppermint one with a ducktail spoiler, then bloody good luck to you.’ Cheers, Adrian!
At some point the owners of these cars have gone a long way down transformation alley. There are many ways to modify a Porsche, and these two have certainly been customised in quite idiosyncratic ways.I’m reminded that Mods wilfully and painstakingly modify their scooters, and the tradition spills over into big boy’s toys as well. We pull into a roadside tearoom. As it happens, there’s a bevy of scooteristsparka’d up, noisily tucking into Cornish pasties. Count me in! Like both our test cars, I’m happy to gobble ’em up, mods and all.