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Gunther Werks 400R: A carbon-fiber bodied Porsche 993 with 431 horsepower

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Article by Ezekiel Wheeler
Photos courtesy Gunther Werks

Icons rarely offer an encore. Why should they? Everyone knows their hits, and singing them again and again gets laborious. The 993-generation 911 sang its last air-cooled song in 1998 as the world shed a tear and bid the “real Porsche” farewell. Since then, many owners and enthusiasts of the marque have cherished the 993, often leaving it well alone from the cutting wheels and racetracks that met the metal of many unsuspecting 911 Turbo and SC models.


Above: The 400R's shape was first sculpted using both digital and clay modeling.

The Gunther Werks 400R is the latest answer to questionably tuned modern Porsches that etch their belly pans into parking lot driveways and speed bumps. This humble 993 Carrera has a destiny even Porsche couldn’t have imagined. Its whole reason for existing was manifested by one designer’s nagging question: What if Porsche built a 911 GT3 RS in 1998?


Above: The custom three-piece forged aluminum wheels pay homage to those that were found on the 993 GT2.

“I designed this car to share with my son and show him that when he’s ready to drive he can truly understand what an analog car feels like — what it feels like to hear an engine sing and hunt for the feeling most of us have the pleasure to enjoy today,” said Peter Nam, CEO of Southern California-based Gunther Werks.


Above: The 400R retains rolled inner fenders just like a stock 993.

Gunther Werks took customization to the highest echelon for the 400R. Nearly every panel — beyond the doors of course — is carbon fiber, including the roof, which reduced weight at the top of the car by 45 pounds. The body was carefully sculpted to widen the front of the vehicle by six inches and five inches at the rear, with the goal of a square track to help reduce understeer and produce more neutral handling. Using existing suspension mounting points (utilized on 993 race cars), the front track was widened by nearly 2.4 inches, while 8.5-inch wide wheels wrapped in 245-millimeter wide rubber fill out the wheel wells. At the rear, 11.5-inch wheels with 305-mm wide tires ensure the rear fenders are filled. Behind the wheels are Brembo GTR brake calipers — more than enough stopping power for the lightweight 993. The 400R was lowered with KW Clubsport coilovers and also features a hydraulic lift system at the front to clear steep driveways and speedbumps. Many of the 993’s unique design cues were retained with deliberate choices, such as maintaining rolled inner fenders as seen on stock 911s instead of the abrupt edges around the wheel wells seen on other body kits, but they all took a back seat to the search for better performance.


Above: The the leather and Alcantara interior contains many billet aluminum trim pieces.

Inside, occupants are greeted by Alcantara, leather, billet aluminum trim, and lots of carefully sculpted carbon fiber. Every surface looks and feels like the right amount of attention and craftsmanship was applied to achieve a high quality finish, even in spaces often ignored by owners such as the exquisite rear-seat-delete parcel shelf and the floor pans — both in carbon fiber. Upon ingress, driver and passenger are met by carbon fiber thrones covered in leather and Alcantara. For all its embellishment, the interior actually attains a seamless harmony with the exterior’s tastefully extroverted presence. Other areas that receive similar appointments are in the engine compartment and even the “frunk.” Under the hood — where there’s yet more carbon fiber — another well thought out secret lurks.


Above: An independent power source for the hydraulic power steering is hidden in the frunk, underneath the carbon fiber.

While many tuning shops ditch the hydraulic steering for more feel through the wheel, the team decided to keep it to achieve the desired steering characteristics specified before, and engineered during, the vehicles development. Most of the original components were used, but, rather than draw power from the motor, they opted to develop an independent power source and hide it in the frunk, under all that carbon fiber. This also resulted in a more favorable weight distribution. 


Above: An exquisitely detailed carbon-fiber parcel shelf where the rear seats used to be.

Last but not least, the motor. It’s a 4.0-liter air-cooled flat six that revs to a near GT3-like 7800 rpm and makes 431 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. I had the privilege of speaking with Nam at Luftgekühlt 4 earlier this year before the project kicked off. We volleyed back and forth the pros and cons of a naturally aspirated motor versus a turbocharged monster. In the end, he asked, “what would you want?” Without hesitation, I said, “I’m a sucker for a well-built NA motor.” I’m not saying I was the determining factor behind his decision to have the team at Oregon-based Rothsport Racing build the heart of the 400R, which is linked to a proprietary six-speed manual transmission based on the Getrag G50, but I’m pretty sure the survey of his most trusted critics in the industry yielded the same result. And you know what, we are all pretty happy that he did it.

[UPDATE 11-6-17: Gunther Werks revealed its final power figures for its 993 400R project. The naturally aspirated 4.0-liter air-cooled engine makes 431 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque in its final form, and the post was updated to reflect this. This engine is packaged in a vehicle that weighs 2,700 pounds, creating a more attractive power to weight ratio than the current generation Porsche GT3 RS.]


Above: The 4.0-liter air-cooled flat six built by Rothsport Racing makes 431 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Stainless steel headers connect to one of three exhaust options, normal, switchable (think Porsche's sport exhaust, which gets louder at the push of a button), or titanium.

Only 25 examples will be built and most have been sold. The catch is to put your order in early because once a color combo has been spoken for the team at Gunther Werks will not build another one. Starting at $525,000 (not including the donor car), you can sleep well knowing yours will be one of a kind.

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