Juvenile Blue Herons are picking snails from the infield. Annoyed by my approach, they wait until I am too close before they lazily take flight. The morning sun over NOLA Motorsports Park reflects off their wings and the whole sensation is I am driving into a Jon Woo film.
I am at the wheel of a fantasy. Well, a fantasy clone. It is a newer 911 done in full Martin & Rossi regalia as a tribute to the 935 driven by Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass. I am just helping a friend add some break in miles, so the revs are kept to 5000. The infamous floor hinged pedals are still offset, the big race tires are still cold and the wheel fights back at every pavement ripple I never noticed, despite hundreds of laps here. It’s loud and cramped. Old 911s always give you a sense there is so much car behind you. You couldn’t find a bigger departure from driving and instructing in a new GT3 because the entire creation squeaks, rattles and assaults all of your senses.
I am in love. I need to be at work in 15 minutes for my day job and I don’t want to come off this track. I just want to stay here, turning slow paced laps, listen to the sound of the 3.6 liter boxer rumble behind me, the tiny pebbles kick into the wheel wells and feel the suede Momo pushing back at every turn.
The last time I was more infatuated than this, I married her.
This car started as a 1982 911 tub modeled to look like the famed 76 935 before the slant nose. It’s powered by a 964 3.6 from a 1990 car. It weighs around 2,300lbs and in stark contrast to the original makes 300 horses versus the original 560. This may seem like the tribute would feel weak, but instead it feels usable. A point of pride from the owner is this car maintains all of its street legal equipment. It would be both foolish and amazing to drive this on the street, especially around New Orleans, but you could without violating any laws. Doing so would almost guarantee a conversation with law enforcement, if not to ensure the validity of that statement, but also out of curiosity.
While the owner was between houses and during the break in period, the car resided in our office at NOLA Motorsports Park. It drew in admirers of all sorts; Porschephiles, little children, older enthusiasts and folks who had no idea what the car was or what it represented. But they all agreed on one point; it’s just a cool car.
Originally purchased in pure racing form, the creation is a textbook example of how these projects take over our lives and resources. The refreshing of the engine turned into a complete rebuild all the way to the case. The owner sourced all the work to Ollie’s- engine builder Howard Freeman. The receipts quickly tallied to over $23,000 once everything was done. After the Carrillo rods, 996 turbo oil pump, updated pistons and cylinders with new gaskets, Webcams sports camshafts, ASCO racing springs, fasteners and ARP rods; the case was pinned while the were heads flowed and balanced. He added the B&B racing exhaust, fitted all new hoses, fuel lines, finned oil lines as well as new engine and transmission mounts. The whole power plant was topped with Wevo billet valve covers, and a host of other upgrades
The gearbox was rebuilt with all machine work performed by California Motor Sports. It got new synchro rings and hubs for 1st – 4th, custom gear, case pinion and differential bore sleeve by California Motorsports, a Wavetrac differential, CMS differential cover billet aluminum with Wevo shifter.
Under the car is a complete suspension from Elephant Racing. The A-arms were removed with less than 600 miles, Sphericals™ Bearings installed and everything was replaced on the same A-arms. The suspension was completed with custom valved Bilstein Shocks, hollow torsion bars, sway bars, z-brace, bump steer and rack spacers. The brakes are Brakes: 993 turbo fronts with and 964 turbo rears. He also accumulated 6 brand new Hoosier slicks, complete set of racing brake pads, and put on a new set of street pads.
When it was done, the owner violated one of the cardinal rules of project cars. While you always keep all the receipts, you never add them up. He did and the total was in excess of $100,000.
In the end, the car is so much more. It actually successfully straddles the line of racecar and street machine, even while it reminds you that it’s not a daily driver. If this car were to reside in your stable, you would wistfully remark to guests how you could drive it to work. Once a month you might actually try it, as long as it wasn’t too hot. The car is equipped with Lexan for all windows minus the front and the cabin gets hot quickly. You would also make sure there was no chance for rain, because a single wiper and a very firm suspension make for a disaster on a wet street. It can’t be too cold, these things never go well with the parts are cold. In the end it would still end up traveling to the track by trailer. Once there you would make a production of removing the license plate. Or maybe not, let the other PCA members see that you actually drive your race car. Occasionally, when you have the time for the inevitable conversations at your destination, you would blast down to the corner mart, climb over the roll cage to exit and pop inside for a gallon of milk.
You would have a standard spiel about the car, and develop quite a good rhythm presenting it. You would delight young children and end up swapping stories with older folks who “used to have one of those…” because that’s what this car does. It inspires and delights. It’s not a world beater or a record breaker because it’s not a trophy piece or a collector’s car. It’s just cool.
Eventually I did slip off the track and back to my job. Because it wasn’t my car, and I’m just not that cool, but for those laps, I was.