World’s first manual 991 GT3 RS
Porsche released its 991 GT3 RS as a Pdk-only car, but that hasn’t stopped one owner from realising his dream to give the latest 911 Rennsport a proper gear-shift experience…
How one man’s mission to have a manual shifter in his 991 RS turned into a breathtaking reality
“You could call him an RS enthusiast,” says John Tecce, owner of Florida Porsche shop BGB Motorsports. Tecce is used to dealing with unusual requests from customers, but admits the call from Robert Janev nearly had him falling off his chair. Janev had an idea, and he wanted Tecce to make it happen.
That idea? A manual 991 GT3 RS. Janev, a serial owner of 911 RS models, wanted one. He explains:
“I was kind of bent out of shape when I heard that they weren’t making the 991 RS as a manual.” So he called Tecce and floated the idea of creating one. BGB Motorsports has a long history of racing Porsches, and Tecce has knowledge of putting PDK ‘boxes into fullblown racers, but nobody had ever asked him to swap out a PDK for a manual before. Janev did, and was insistent. Tecce admits he was initially slightly reluctant, saying he didn’t want to get part way down the road with a quartermillion-dollar car before finding out that it wasn’t possible.
The idea grew though, and the announcement of the R helped. Tecce says: “I rung around and I’ve spent enough time around the cars, so I was pretty confident I could make it work with the coding and everything, and finding a way of going backwards and making it all happy if we used R parts.”
He tasked Janev and BGB office manager Wray Gillette with coming up with a list of parts, which is exactly what they did. Over five pages long, Tecce says they got 98 per cent of it, the odd piece not arriving via the Porsche dealership and needing chasing, but they got there.
“There was a gentleman I was speaking to at the Porsche counter at one of the Porsche parts sellers over here in the United States,” says Janev. “I call him for all my cars, I get pieces here and there for when I work on them, and he knows me. I kept on harassing him for the 911 R ‘box for months, and he asked ‘what do you want it for?’, and I said, ‘keep it secret, we’re going to do a manual swap’, and he started laughing. He said the part number was not available yet. He then emailed me on a Monday saying the parts had been populated on the system, and I called him and asked if it was available. He said there was no VIN requirement to get it, so as of right now we could order it and it’d be about six weeks, shipped from Germany. That’s when I jumped all over it, went bananas, called John and said, ‘let’s do it!’”
“God bless John for taking on the project, because it was just a silly idea over a year in the making. When I originally had the idea I didn’t even own the car,” says Janev. “I think he initially kind of blew it off thinking I was crazy, and said it wouldn’t be worth the time and the money.”
Janev admits his involvement was very small otherwise, changing the clock cluster, indicator and tachometer, the somewhat symbolic removing of the paddles from the steering wheel and other minor stuff. He dabbles because it interests him, as he explains: “I tinker on my own cars, but this was beyond my technical level and realm of understanding, so John pretty much handled it from there. John is an enthusiast, so much more than just a shop; he was just as fanatical about it as me when we got into it.”
“The phenomenal thing about Porsche is that you have these people that say ‘don’t touch it, there’s no way you can improve anything that comes out of Weissach’, but also others who say, ‘I know you can do it and make it feel like that,’” says Tecce. Janev very much falls into the latter category. Tecce’s business, outside racing, has been all about that, customers who love their cars so much that they want to modify and improve them. “In Rob’s case it was ‘I want an RS with a big wing, and I want it all as it’s supposed to be but I want a manual’,” says Tecce.
Tecce did face some challenges with the parts, some so new they didn’t exist at Porsche, and other bits that typically wouldn’t be replaced – even after an accident. The fact BGB’S shop builds racers and spends plenty of money on parts at the local Porsche dealership helped, though Tecce says he did worry when they were struggling to source particular parts that ‘some alarm had gone off somewhere, and someone has said something about what we’re doing’.
Technically, mechanically at least, it’s a fairly straightforward process. What caused the
“Nobody has ever swapped out a PDK gearbox for a manual before”
headaches was the electronics, taking over eight weeks compared to just a couple for the hardware. “The first week back the guys had the transmission, that stuff took about a week, got the gearbox in there, the clutch and the pedals, change any clutch or shifter bits and the assembly. What took a lot of the time was laying out wiring diagrams, comparing and contrasting, knowing what we have to do to make things happy. I’ve some fairly evasive software that allows me to turn lights off that’s the modern evolution of putting black electrical tape over the light, but I make it so we don’t have to use that stuff, because it’s cheating. Rob had said he wanted the rear steering to work, I wanted all the stuff to work. It is all in the coding, keeping everything happy and getting everything to work” says Tecce.
He spent some time looking at a customer’s R, saying they were baffled at how the clutch was so light. With the R, and the-then rumour that the Gen2 GT3 would be manual, Tecce did ask Janev whether he still wanted to go ahead with the project, and the answer was a resounding yes. However, that and the GT3 Touring inevitably mean there’ll be less demand from owners to do what Janev has. Tecce says that he could do it now in a fraction of the time, though thinks it’s unlikely he’ll be asked. “It’s such a good story for us that a guy took a leap of faith and sent us his quarter-million-dollar car and entrusted it with us. It continues to solidify our reputation: people do their homework about us and see that we’re good people” says Tecce. For Janev, he’s gotten exactly the car he wanted, how he wanted it.
“This is the best manual Porsche I’ve ever driven. It’s mind-boggling that Porsche didn’t make this car. For every eight guys who love it, there are people who bash me for it, saying it’s slower. It’s just not, it feels every bit as fast, it revs like crazy, it’s a phenomenal car.”
Porsche’s back-pedalling with manual on non-rs cars doesn’t phase Janev one bit, either: “I love it. Don’t get me wrong, the dual clutch is a fantastic transmission, but Porsche bringing back the manual doesn’t bother me one bit. I think it’s awesome, I think the Porsche crowd made it happen –and I think they will produce a manual RS. I hope so at least. I’d buy one!” And if he can’t, at least he knows someone who’ll be able to build him a special one instead.