CLASSIC MODERN CLASSIC
The 911 2.4S that we mentioned? Well, Paul was keen that we drive it against his Classic Touring Series II. This is another car I saw in development about three years ago, it's probably the point when I realised just how PS was moving the game on in terms of quality and detail, with every component carefully considered, restored or recreated. There's very little that's off the shelf here. Switchgear is machined, the steering wheel is to PS spec (and a nice change from the usual, ubiquitous Momo), the interior panels are all in house creations again, sumptuously trimmed, and the seats to PS’S design, but retaining the electric functionality of a later chair.
The exterior gleams in lustrous black (the hardest colour to get right), and of course the shell has been narrowed for the early look. And to all intents and purposes that's what it looks like – a 911 2.4S. Lift the rear lid and you'd have to really know your engines. It's not completely authentic, but the black crackle finished injection stack is totally of the period, even if it’s a modern reworking. It helps to give the 3.4-litre engine 290bhp, which gives the 986 four-pot calipers all round something to do and the 7 x 16in Fuchs option wheels and 205/225 Pirellis a work out.
The 2.4S is a good one. I say that because often they aren't quite as together as you would hope. The engine is smooth, with no injection/ignition flat spots and the 915 ’box is as good as one of these is ever going to be, which is to say positively vague, rather just just vague. The driving experience is dictated in part by the flat and springy seats. You feel like you're sitting on, rather than in the car. There is an abundance of body roll and the rear end, where all the weight lies, doesn't have the same sort of control as a modern 911 or even an ’80s one, but together all these facets make up the classic 911 experience, with classic being the operative word.
Pedalling the PS machine is an absolute riot. All that incredible build quality and attention to detail is matched by its performance and the driving experience. Of course it's got the air-cooled vibe, and narrow body feel, but none of the woolliness. KW Variant 3 can be specced for the Classic Touring, but this build features Bilstein Sport dampers all round and uprated roll bars. It's perfect, with just enough roll to make it feel slightly retro, but plenty of body control, too. The 290bhp will breach the tyres’ grip, but only if you're brutal, better to use the power to give the chassis the sort of workout that you don't get with a modern 911, unless you're right on the edge. And with a little over 1100kg to punt around, it's bloomin fast!
My favourite car of the day, and I would just love to see the expression on the faces of modern Porsche drivers as this 'classic' utterly smokes them from the lights – or anywhere else for that matter.
We're en route to Bentwaters air base in Suffolk. The once Cold War facility is now home to numerous small businesses and a lot of film industry activity. For our purposes, though, it gets us off the public road on to fast sections of the air base’s perimeter “roads. It's a great place to have some fun, basically. Half way there I hop into the 280R, or PS Autoart car No2. If the 240C was a straightforward backdating exercise, thanks to the 911’s largely unchanged bodyshell, then the 964 based 300 was a real head scratcher. Could it be done? Indeed, should it be done? In many respects Paul did the groundwork ahead of the likes of Singer here, proving that 'could' and 'should' would work by doing it.
If the ethos of the 240C was to evoke the look and driving experience of the early 911s, then the 964 based machine is about mixing the look, with a more modern driving experience. It does drive to all intents and purposes like a 964, albeit one with a beefy 300bhp, 3.8-litre engine. The interior is more bespoke, less lightweight, while the exterior is a smoke and mirrors homage. Hurdles and headaches? Both front and rear aprons had to be subtly reshaped to accommodate the 964’s crash structure. The sills, too, are very different and Porsche introduced the curvy sill cover/skirt for a reason, to obscure what was no longer a simple curved box section, with some pipework running front to rear.
Biggest headache, though, was the wheels. Retro look demands the Fuchs look but 964's had completely different offsets, hence Paul had to commission a threepiece, 17in Fuchs style wheel, with an offset that pretty much obliterated the classic deep dish Fuchs look. It was a compromise that would in time be overcome.
On the road now and the 300R is bombastic in comparison to the 240C. The big capacity flat-six bludgeons its way through the peaks and troughs of the power curve, starting big and staying big. Apart
The 964 based car is about a more modern driving experience
from that and the visual illusion, it’s pure 964 and more so inside where, apart from the corduroy trimmed retro recliners, PS dials and judicious use of leather, the 964's raised central transmission tunnel is the big giveaway. Not that there is or was any intention to deceive.
Like the 240C, the No2 car reflected the market at the time. The 964 was the unloved modern 911 – the 996 of its day, if you like. Donor cars could be picked up for next to nothing and complete and standalone this orange wheeled machine was a £50,000 investment. Different times.
Arriving at Bentwaters and time to take a look at exactly what we've got here. Did I say six cars earlier? Indeed I did, so I should qualify that. That's six PS built cars and an original 911 2.4S, which you can read about in the accompanying sidebar. To the PS built cars, then, and we have numbers one and two, plus another 964 based machine, the Touring R Series II, a 3.2 Carrera based Classic Touring Series II and the two most current machines, the limited edition Le Mans Classic Clubsport and the Clubsport Series II, which is pretty much build fresh, with its first owner, David Webb. Both are Carrera 3.2 based, but there is very little left of what was originally built in Stuttgart well over 30-years ago, save for their respective bodyshells.
You'll note there's a lot of 'Series II' references here, which is significant in that it marks a transition from early outsourcing collaboration, to pretty much full in-house production, from engine building to body and paintwork, very little now is outsourced and what is is commissioned and designed exclusively for PS cars. Throughout this bespoke Porsche building journey of 15 years and counting, every conversation I've ever had with Paul regarding the whole PS concept, the one constant has always, always been quality and attention to detail, and what is clear now is that by taking full control, he's close to that Nirvana. That said, for an obsessive, he is remarkably laid back, tossing the keys out to the assembled machinery and urging maximum commitment and attack. Don't mind if I do...
The 964 based Touring R Series II – or the Monaco car as it is known, due to its commissioning owner’s locale – is the original No2 300R evolved and bespoke and a massive evolution of the concept – just note the evolved bodywork, the sills in particular and the more convincing solution to the Fuchs wheels. Mechanically it can be anything from 3.6-litres and 275bhp to 3.8-litres and 350bhp, with either KW or
Ohlins suspension. Everything else is up to the customer, and in this instance dark brown leather abounds together with machined switchgear and a custom four-spoke steering wheel. It's a real Grand Tourer, with an abundance of power. The Monaco tag is perfect, because this is the car that you would happily drive to Monaco.
The Monaco car itself is a few years old now and again things have moved on. The pinnacle is, of course, the Le Mans Classic Clubsport, the car that will be limited to a run of just 10 and presented at the 2020 Classic Le Mans. We've driven it once already, but I missed out so I'm eager for a pedal. Beforehand, though, it's worth taking a tour of this amazing machine with its creator. I'm fortunate that I saw it in build at the PS workshop, although at that time it was somewhat shrouded in secrecy, but the two tone green and black stripes did seem familiar on the smoothed, de-seamed white body shell. They are, of course, the colours of the Le Mans Classic event.
To be clear, this isn't a backdate, retro or resto mod, or whatever else you want to call it. It's a car that stands alone, a model in its own right. Its original underpinnings are almost irrelevant, such is the reworking of the Porsche original. Sure, a factory built Porsche 911 in the ’80s would look hand built compared to a current generation 911, but this genuinely is hand built, from the ground up and virtually every component has been re-thought, re-worked, remanufactured, even.
Lift the engine lid and Paul points to the towering GT3 plenum stack, which straddles fuel injection throttle bodies, that feed air and fuel to the hungry 300bhp, 3.4litre engine, packed with lightweight moving parts to facilitate a near 8000rpm redline. The 16in Fifteen 52 wheels conceal modern Porsche calipers and KW Variant 3 suspension, developed specifically for torsion bar equipped G Series Porsches.
The quality of the panels and paintwork is beyond reproach. A shout out here for Paul's long term collaborator, Mark Walklett of Ginetta fame, whose composite work has made possible the modern take on the ducktail wing, with its horizontal satin black slats and front and rear aprons, the latter featuring an extended satin black lip and cooling ducts, which again add a modern look. It's subtle, but effective and categorically no RS pastiche.
Inside, the Le Mans car goes beyond mere restoration. Whole swathes, like the dash top and door cappings are remanufactured, because the originals are these days just too old and distorted to be reused. Other interior trim is clearly custom made like the centre console and sill covers, which morph into the footwell panels. Again all this custom moulding is
Below left: It’s all in the detail. Switchgear is bespoke, even the steering wheel is exclusive to PS. Engine looks the part with specially made injector stacks, which are ECU controlled
At a glance, you’d be hard pushed to separate the original 911 2.4S from the PS Classic Touring car, but that’s the idea
The Touring R feels very much like a 964, but with a torque curve boosted by its big capacity 3.8-litre engine. It’s got power everywhere
Bespoke interior is a real step forward. Much of the switch gear is custom machined
Giving it some! And why not. A Porsche is built to be driven. Let’s hope the 10 lucky Le Mans Classic Clubsport owners will give as good!
Interior has many unique features and reproduction fixtures like the dash top and door caps. 3.4-litre engine is a masterpiece of lighweight internals and custom injection system