Every 911 to come out of the LA workshop is a 993 turned to 12.
You have many options if you have the money to spend on a Porsche restomod. You could go lightly modified, concourse, outlaw, electric conversion, outright performance, or pure work of art. California-based Gunther Werks has a singular vision based on a particular question: What would the air-cooled 993-generation 911 have become if Porsche hadn't stopped developing it?
That question led to the formation of Gunther Werks as a sister company to the carbon fiber parts specialist, Vorsteiner, to find out. However, carbon fiber bodywork is just the surface you would not want to scratch on Gunther Werks' current series of cars. Underneath, each masterpiece to come out of the factory is meticulously restored and re-engineered ("remastered" in Gunther Werks parlance) to become the ultimate driver's air-cooled 911. From headlights to taillights, it's a 21st-century-engineered, 20th-century sports car. And that's not hyperbole - Gunther Werks even makes its own lights.
We got the opportunity to visit the factory, so we headed into LA to breathe in the warm sea air and listen to the rasp of a remastered 4.0-liter flat-six.
/rēˈmastər/ verb: to create a new master of especially by altering or enhancing the sound quality of an older recording.
We've heard a lot of marketing speak around the restomodding world over the years, and "re-imagined" makes our skin crawl. Restomod companies need a verb, though, as companies like Porsche can be litigious over the use of their trademarks. However, we like the term remastered as, like in music, Gunther Werks is taking a classic and making it the best it can be now. Amongst the list of objectives for the Gunther Werks remasters is to retain the integrity of the original driving experience. It has to feel and drive like a 993-generation 911 but far exceed the ability of the cars engineered in the 1990s. That means lighter, faster, more grip, and better balance - which is no mean feat considering the engine is right at the back.
We first heard of Gunther Werks with its GT3 RS inspired 400R. The current limited-run models are the Coupe and Speedster, and a 700-horsepower monster called Tornado is set to follow.
Gunther Werks operates with a few partners for its remasters, and there's no better partner to build an air-cooled Porsche flat-six with than Rothsport Racing. All the donor cars arrive with naturally-aspirated 3.6-liter engines and number-matching transmissions to the original. When it returns to the engine bay, it's a 4.0-liter beast making 431 hp at its 7,800 redline, along with 312 lb-ft of torque. No engine part is left untouched, and replacement parts include Mahle pistons, a twin-spark Motec Engine management system, a billet crankshaft, and individual throttle bodies. With its custom exhaust attached, the flat-six's free-revving rasp is barbaric and delightful at the same time.
The engine is attached to a manual (of course) Getrag G50 with custom gear ratios to balance refinement and performance. The shifter linkage is bespoke, and the clutch pedal is connected to an uprated single-plate unit and a single mass mid-weight flywheel. The final connection is to a custom differential using carbon clutches.
When Porsche built the 993 911, it baked in understeer from the factory. That's not uncommon; even now, road cars are intentionally made to wash a little wide as understeer is easier to recover from than oversteer for the average driver. However, Porsche needed to homologate the 911 for racing, and an abundance of understeer on the limit is not good for lap times. Porsche's answer to the rules - while not killing off many of its customers driving its hard-to-master sports car - was to build in alternative suspension mounting points for race teams to use. Those are also the suspension mounts Gunther Werks uses. The finished suspension and its geometry are designed in partnership with race car engineer Cary Eisenlohr and finished with a square track. Inside the Gunther Werks factory, what started as a base-model 993 becomes a motorsport-inspired work of art designed to be driven hard and set lap times.
The interior of the customer-owned coupe we examined at the factory is a masterpiece of modern tech while respecting the original source. The classic five-gauge display with a central rev counter is a thing of beauty. The four gauges on either side of the rev-counter feature black markings over white, while the rev-counter grabs your focus with its white markings over red. The speedometer reads up to 200 mph, while the rev-counter reads up to 9,000, leaving plenty of headroom over the 7,800 rpm redline.
The steering wheel is a bespoke carbon fiber-based unit that weighs next to nothing, even with its buttons for lifting the nose over bumps and engaging track mode. The lightweighting (this needs to be a word) carries on in the interior with carbon fiber bucket seats, and the rear seat and carpet are replaced with carbon fiber covers stretching from the floor to the base of the rear window.
Even the door handles have lost weight through their billet machined replacements. There's a crazy amount of detail in the cockpit, but the ignition best highlights it. A billet aluminum cover sits over the ignition insert, and the key is a multi-piece unit made with CNC-milled parts to aerospace standards.
With that level of detail going into the rest of the car, you already know the engine bay and the frunk will be special. Under the hood of the front end's trunk, the carpet is replaced by a carbon fiber liner, and the space-saving spare wheel is deemed too heavy to keep. Amongst the myriad of options, and in this car, is a LiteBlox Carbon Fiber battery weighing only 4.2 pounds and saving a total of 33 pounds.
It's really pretty in this storage compartment, and you can customize the Clubsport Coil Over Suspension's external reservoirs' color. However, the real show is at the back. The Rothsport-engineered lump is a work of art, down to its embossed air filter cover.
For the Coupe and Speedster models, Gunther Werks put together a team of clay modelers that have worked with Porsche and understand the factory design language at a fundamental level. The primary component for the bodywork is carbon fiber, and as the track is now square, each fender is six inches wider than stock and takes into consideration the suspension's adjustability on top of the 11.5-inch rear wheels and 8.5-inch fronts. Performance is also kept in mind, and the carbon-fiber roof replacing the factory sunroof knocks off 45 lbs of weight and lowers the center of gravity in one swift move. The carbon fiber hood is 60% lighter than the original, and all the weight savings leave the Coupe with a curb weight of just 2,677 pounds. A 1995 Porsche 911 was already light at around 3,100 pounds.
Polishing of the drop-dead-gorgeous styling is Gunther Werks' in-house designed and made lighting, which we'll go into in more detail with a follow-up article, and the wheels. The wheels are a work of practical art on their own. They're five-spoke Gunther Werks 18" T-6061 three-piece forged aluminum wheels with billet aluminum center caps and titanium hardware.
The wing on the Gunther Werks vehicles is yet another piece of engineering art. The elevated part uses a raised center section to help work in extra downforce, and the angle of attack is three-way adjustable. In the last photo below, you can see three ram air ducts to force air into the 4.0-liter air-cooled engine for the dual purpose of cooling and feeding the intake system to increase atmospheric power. The vented rear bumper then releases the air warmed by the engine. The fact that this rear end as a whole is both functional and stunningly crafted speaks for every element of the car. Nothing is ugly, and nothing doesn't serve a purpose.
After spending an afternoon with Gunther Werks at its factory and getting up close with a customer's commission, it's no surprise that only 25 models will be produced and that each will cost north of half a million. It's a meticulous process to take a base model 993 (customer-supplied, but Gunther Werks helps find the right car) and bring it into the 21st century with such a high level of style and performance. Many things we saw and learned about at the factory are eye-opening, but what sticks most in our mind is how masterfully it's done without messing with the 993's DNA. The passion for the air-cooled Porsche 911 engine to the finest level is equal to the passion for building something that can lay down an insane lap time or roast a canyon road - and it achieves all these goals in a stunning package loaded with intricate detail. It really does bridge the gap between classic and modern, but plays in a class of its own.