Odd as it might initially seem, a towering reputation and a history of success can be something of a double-edged sword, the yard-stick by which every subsequent undertaking is judged and assessed, and nowhere does this ring truer than when discussing Porsche and its most beloved offering, the 911. Now we're under no illusions as to the stature of the Porsche 911. it's the archetypal sports car, a performance and styling icon and perhaps the ultimate proof of the power of automotive evolution.
The only downside, from a Porsche perspective at least, is that the 911's rabid, highly vocal following is resistant to change in a manner which makes Bob Dylan's decision to 'go electric' in 1965 seem about as fractious as a Sunday afternoon picnic! Nowhere is this all-consuming love for the 911's heritage more acute than in the 993, the last of the air-cooled 911s and a model who's values have gone stratospheric of late.
While the 993 might well be the last of the pure 911s, deciding which variation deserves to sit at the very top of the pile is an undertaking fraught with risk, not least as there are so many candidates. We're certainly not going to open the world's largest can of worms by attempting to tell you which that might be, but one car must surely be in with a shout is the recently launched Gunther Werks 400R.
Like all the best automotive stories (including KW's), the idea for the Gunther Werks 400R sprang from the mind and passion of one individual, Peter Nam, the founder of Vorsteiner, a firm known for its advanced composite body styling packages for the great and the good of the supercar world. Now it probably won't surprise you to learn that Nam knows what he likes when it comes to the 911, with his model of choice being the aforementioned 993, and he needs little encouragement to wax lyrical about its instant throttle response, short wheelbase, exquisite handling, and of course its air-cooled engine.
So far, so regular 993. Where the Gunther Werks car differs is in its concept, that and the sheer bravery required to carry out such massive, irreversible changes to one of the most valuable models in the 911 lineage of course!
“I'm a huge fan of the GT3 and have owned several, but of course the story of that particular car only began with the 996,” muses Peter Nam. “The desire to build our own take on the GT3, to build the car which Porsche never did, that lies at the very heart of the Gunther Werks 400R.”
Is this the 993 that Porsche should have created as an ultimate evolution? Peter Nam seems to think so
Everyone in the company and my friends thought I was crazy when I started to implement the plans for the Gunther Werks,” Nam laughs. “We at Vorsteiner have successfully been manufacturing high-quality aerodynamic kits for different vehicles for 14 years, and we have built up an immense knowledge during this time so we are able to realize 80 percent of the Porsche conversion directly at our company.”
Just 25 400Rs will ever be produced, a minuscule number no doubt helped by its eye-watering asking price of $525,000 – a figure which doesn't include base 993! Not that the lucky 25 buyers will be in any doubt as to the calibre of the work they're investing in, with the Gunther Werks production process being akin to a complete, nut-and-bolt recreation of a Porsche classic. The aim? To create the 993 GT3 which Porsche never could.
As you might expect given the sheer scale of the project at hand, the first 400R was a mammoth undertaking, one which tested the resolve and capabilities of everyone associated with the programme. Part of this was down to a need to ensure that everything added to the car complemented the work undertaken by Porsche's own engineering department a full quarter of a century ago, but also the desire to improve upon it, to enhance an already near flawless bit of automotive engineering. Pressure? What pressure!
There was only ever one candidate when it came to propulsion duties, an air-cooled 'flat-six' mounted in the rear of the car, albeit one heavily modified from the Stuttgart original. A full 4.0L in capacity, the high-revving, deliciously old-school boxer pushes a mighty 400bhp and 450nm of torque, and all without a turbo in sight. All that shove is then routed through a six-speed Getrag transmission and Limited Slip Differential, both custom designed and specified for this application.
Part of the appeal of the 993, and the GT2 in particular, has long been its looks, with many viewing it as best looking 911 of them all. The Gunther Werks 400R takes everything which made the GT2 such an iconic looking machine, and turns it up to eleven. The roof, boot, arches, bumpers and rear wing are all rendered in stunning, high-grade carbon fibre, bringing both extreme strength and lightweight, all without sacrificing the design language which made the original such a stunning car to behold.
Engine and styling aside, one of the most crucial aspects of the Gunther Werks 400R is the manner in which it drivers, hence why Nam and his team turned to KW. KW's long-standing association with Porsche's most beloved offering meant that it was better placed than anyone to lend its expertise to the project, something reflected in the suspension setup now found on each and every 400R; KW 2-way adjustable Clubsports with aluminium uniball top-mounts, not to mention uprated Anti-Roll bars and polyurethane bushes.
Something of a legend in the automotive suspension world, KW Clubsports boast 2-way adjustability and a 16-setting rebound adjuster knob. This enables owners to dial in their desired setup, with broad scope for increased influence over wheel and tyre loads, grip and, in a wider sense, handling. KW's 2-way Clubsport's also boast independent compression dampening via an adjustment wheel with 12 'clicks' governing low-speed damping.
The decision to plump for KW Clubsport suspension means that the 400R's handling is beyond reproach, even more so than the rarified GT2, the ultimate iteration of 993, and really, there can be no greater tribute to KW's expertise than this.
Finally, and in a nod to everyday practicality not normally seen on cars of this nature, Gunther Werks opted to add one of KW's Hydraulic Lift Systems, allowing the 400R to rise up a full 40mm at the press of a button. It means that no ramp or kerb is too steep, and there's no danger of clouting that stunning bodywork, an important consideration when you consider the expense and time invested in each and every panel.
It really is quite hard to overstate what Peter Nam and his team have achieved with the 400R. They've effectively taken one of the most revered examples of the world's most beloved sports cars, one with a fanbase known for being intensely protective of its chosen subject, and made it better. The end result is nothing more than a wholesale updating of the Porsche 993 legacy, all achieved without in any way sullying the reputation of the Stuttgart original. It's more than one man's tribute to his favourite car, it's the ultimate 993 and the version which Porsche really should have built.