The Flachbau Trilogy: Looking back at Porsche's Flatnose 911s
Image from RM Sotheby's
The 911 Flachbau is still one of the most iconic 911s to be built, despite the fact that non-Porsche enthusiasts would never know it’s a 911. In this rather lengthy article, we will go through how the race-derived Flatnose would end up being a legacy not only inside Porsche but for numerous enthusiasts all over the world.
A 935/77 with the legendary Martini livery. Image from Pinterest
The genesis of the breed: Porsche 935
Although the 930 Flachbau is what comes into mind for most people when hearing the term Flachbau, the Flachbau bodywork was never intended to be used for road cars. Instead, it was rather an ingenious approach from Porsche to dominate Group 5 racing. 4th generation Group 5, also known as the ‘silhouette class’, which featured highly modified production vehicles that previously were homologated in Group 1 to Group 4.
Yes, the 935 used to have those circular headlights. Image from Supercars.net
Manufacturers could do basically everything as long as the car’s silhouette was retained. However, the car’s width, bonnet, roof, doors, and the rail panels had to be left unmodified. Therefore, most companies used massive front splitters, excessive rear wings, and wide fender flares to achieve aerodynamic advantages. Of course, Porsche did all of the things with their early Porsche 935s, but they have found a loophole in the regulations that would forever change the car.
From the left, Jochen Mass, Norbert Singer, and Jacky Ickx. Image from Wikimedia Commons
The headlights of a Group 5 race car were usually remained untouched as it would require the modification of the bonnet. However, Norbert Singer, a Porsche engineer behind the 917, discovered that there were no limitations on where the headlight could be located. Therefore, as long as there was a headlight and the bonnet was untouched, Porsche could do whatever they wanted with the front of the car.
Porsche 935/78 'Moby Dick'. Note the fact that the huge headlight is located lower than usual. Image form Pinterest
The headlights were moved down, and the fender flares and venting slits filled its place. Therefore, the 935 was able to produce more downforce while reducing drag previously caused by the headlights. Of course, the front end of the 935 resembled nothing of the original 911, FIA had to accept Porsche’s creative take on the rules. This modification was not only extremely effective, allowing the 935s to dominate the racing scene, but also gained an enormous cult around petrolheads. For a car that was already 15 years old, that was quite a feat.
Image from Classic Driver
The birth of a legend: Mansour Ojjeh’s Porsche 935 Street
Among the many aficionados who fell in love with the 935 was Mansour Ojjeh, the owner of Techniques d’Avant Garde, or also known as TAG. TAG was not only famous for their Tag Heuer watches but for Porsche fans, the company who commissioned Porsche to build the famous TAG TTE P01 engine for McLaren F1 program. Mansour Ojjeh directly requested Porsche to create a road-legal 935 for him after being imbued by the sheer brilliance of the 935 race car.
The interior of the 935 Street. Image from Classic Driver
Hence the name, the 935 Street was a road-legal 935 with all the pops and bangs of the original. A brand new flat nose 930 shell was modified with race components from the 935, while a modified 934 engine that produced 375hp was added to it. Suspension and underbody components were taken from 935 race cars, but the interior was finished with cream leather and wood veneer for comfort and luxury.
Mansour Ojjeh (left) with his Porsche 935 Street. Image from Classic Driver
A total of 550 modifications were made, resulting in an invoice that was 17 pages long and a price that is estimated to be an equivalent of three 930s. Despite the fact that the 935 Street is not the most accurate representation of the race 935s, it is the only ‘canon’ street-legal 935s ever to be built from Porsche. As expected, the 935 Street became a ‘celebrity’ wherever it went, and among its avid fans were some wealthy enthusiasts who wanted something similar.
Not only the car's paint is a 'paint to sample', but also the matching wheels are part of the Sonderwunsch program too! Image from 1zoom.me
The icon becomes a legacy: Porsche 930 Flachbau
After seeing Mansour Ojjeh’s striking 935 Street, affluent enthusiasts themselves also wanted something similar to his. As expected, Porsche noticed the demand for Flachbau Porsches and started a Sonderwunchprogramm(The equivalent of modern-day Exclusive Manufaktur program of Porsche) from 1986 to convert normal 930s with Flachbau front ends.
The Flachbau conversion was offered on both the standard coupe(option code M505) and the cabriolet(option code M506) and was all done by hand. Of course, that meant the Flachbau package had a rather hefty price tag, and highly individualized cars with paint to sample colours even had a premium up to 60% of the original price of the car. At the end of the day, only 948 units were produced and among them, 160 units were imported to the United States.
Image from Evo
Although the 930 Flachbau was no different from the base 930 Turbo, most of them were equipped with the performance kit, also known as the 930 LE(The equivalent of modern-day Porsche 911 Turbo S). The performance kit featured a quad pipe exhaust system, additional oil cooler, and extra air vents on the sides, thus resulting in improved performance of 325hp and a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds.
The red interior in this Flachbau is definitely an individual program option. Image from WallpaperUP
The 930 Flachbau was one of the first mass-production Porsches to introduce personal configuration for anyone who had enough money. There have always been special Porsches with paint to sample colours and personalized requests, but most of them were ordered by close partners or friends of the Porsche family, meaning not everyone had the access to it. However, the 930’s Sonderwunsch program started by the Flachbau option opened up an opportunity for Porsche owners to customize their Porsche even more. To this day, Porsche is the only company that offers Rolls Royce level personalization at a rather low cost.
An X85 variant Image from RM Sotheby's
The end of the legacy: Porsche 964 Flachbau
Although the 930 Flachbau was successful both in terms of performance and sales, there was not an initial plan for a 964 Turbo Flachbau. However, by the end of the production, there were 93 Turbo chassis left. Porsche decided to produce a Turbo S version of the 964 Turbo 3.6, which was already a limited production model of around 1,500 units. Among the 93 964 Turbo S, 76 of them were offered with the Flachbau package while the rest was offered with the traditional bodywork.
An X83 variant shown above. Note the 930 Flatnose style front nose and side air vents. Image from RM Sotheby's.
This time, there were three trims for the Flachbau package. The X83 option was for Japan and was offered with a 930 style nose and scoops. The X84 option was for non-US and Japan countries, while the X85 option was for American markets, both featuring 968 style front ends. 10 X83 Flachbaus, 27 X84 Flachbaus, and 39 X85 Flachbaus were produced, making it one of the rarest Porsche 911s ever built.
Image from Drive
The Turbo S power unit had different intake and exhaust ports, intake manifolds, camshafts, and larger K27 turbocharger from the standard 3.6L unit. The result was an astonishing 380hp and a 0-60 time of sub 4.6 seconds. Furthermore, the exterior of the car was also extensively modified. Rear air vents were added for brake cooling, front and rear spoilers were replaced for better aerodynamics, quad exhausts were added, and a unique front air intake from TechArt was added for better cooling.
Keen eyes will be able to catch some minor interior changes, like the wooden gearshift knob or wool carpets with the Turbo logo (not directly shown here) Image from RM Sotheby's
Still, as these Flachbau vehicles were individually tailored to one’s taste, no two cars are identical. Some X83s were equipped with 3.8 RS rear wings, while the X85 with the VIN 480463 had over 85 individual build codes. Regardless of the differences, the 964 Flachbau is the last Porsche 911 to be truly handbuilt. Porsche suffered severe economic issues in the 993~996 era, thus ending these exclusive programs.
Two legends together at Laguna Seca. Image from Porsche
The legend is reborn: Porsche 935
Yes, we all thought that the Flachbau had become a relic of the past, along with the end of these truly special programs. However, in 2019, Porsche surprised numerous Porsche fans by releasing their new 935 with the release of the 911 GT2RS Clubsport. After the end of the 964 Flachbau, more than 25 years had passed, and now Porsche pays tribute to the genesis of the Flachbau breed with the new 935.
Look at that savage rear end... Image from Porsche Newroom
The new 935 is basically a GT2RS Clubsport with a new bodywork that resembles the 935/78, which was nicknamed the ‘Moby Dick’. Built to be the most exclusive track toy for enthusiasts, the new 935 costs more than $815,000, which is the equivalent of two well-equipped GT2RS. Only 77 units will be produced for the sake of exclusivity. When considering the fact that there were 76 964 Flachbaus, it is evident that this modern 935 will soon become a sought-after classic.
The 935s raced with GT2RS CS in Spa this year, and surprisingly the 935 won the race. Image from Porsche Newsroom
Then, what does $815,000 give you? To begin, you get a twin-turbocharged flat-six producing a jaw-dropping 700hp that is delivered to the rear wheels via a lightning-quick 7-speed PDK. The 935 weighs only 1,380 kilograms, which is 10 less than the CS and 90 less than the base GT2RS. Also, let’s not forget that this new 935 is eligible to participate in GT2 racing, which means that not all of these rare monsters will spend their lives in garages.
The new 935 was offered with 7 iconic Porsche liveries... How many can you name them? Hmm... Momo, JPS, Valliant, Sachs, IR, Gulf, and Salzburg... Image from Porsche
The new 935 is one of the most successful retro tributes done by Porsche. The original 935 has been the start point of the Flachbau breed, and now we have once again returned to it again. Sadly, it is highly likely that the new 935 will be the last of the Flachbau breed due to aerodynamic disadvantages(pop-up headlights are long gone) and ever strictening regulations. As expected, the new 935 is only available for track use and it is highly unlikely that we will see a road-legal Porsche 911 with the Flachbau again.
Image from Classic Driver
At the end of the day…
The Flachbau was the 911 that denied to be restrained, whether it was motorsport regulations, the typical 911 stereotypes, or from the climate-controlled garages of wealthy collectors. The Flachbau breed has been the most successful antithesis to the critiques who called the 911 ‘lame’ and ‘unchanging’. No other sports car had succeeded in developing such an iconic alter ego, and that’s probably why the 911 still remains a legend today.