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sponsored: Commission your Porsche 911 as fine art

Many 911 owners would already consider their car to be a piece of automotive art – we certainly do – and gazing over the curvaceous bodywork can give many hours of pleasure.  But there’s more than one way to enjoy the stunning appearance, and having it committed to canvas would be special indeed. Which brings us to the work of renowned artist, Rob Hefferan. Fascinated with art since childhood, his first exhibition in 2003 showcasing his skills in figurative work and portraiture was a resounding success. It’s those skills along with an international reputation for quality and unrivalled attention to detail that has led to his work being commissioned by numerous celebrity clients, and it turns out that Rob has another passion; “I’ve been obsessed with cars since I was young, and that developed into a love for Porsches, and the 911 in particular”. 

A serial owner of our favourite sports car, his collection has included the 996, both generations of 997 model, and he now enjoys a 991 Carrera S. A proper car guy, then, which is why he’s decided to focus his talents on the Zuffenhausen marque, offering owners and enthusiasts the opportunity to have their pride and joy recreated as fine art. He admits this is a new challenge and one he relishes, already having set to work creating around a dozen paintings of various Porsches. While such artwork isn’t entirely new, what’s different here and core to Rob’s ethos is capturing even the smallest of details that make each car unique. And having seen it for ourselves we are talking about beautiful pieces of art here, the sort of work that would complement 911 ownership in a way that other pictures just can’t. Painted either in oils or acrylic depending on the timescales involved, each work can take anything from 150 to 300 hours to complete and the work is also unusual compared to other automotive artists in that he is happy to depict not just the car but to include the owner as well. It’s where the talent for portrait work really pays off. 

As for the process of commissioning a painting, an owner can either provide pictures of the car or Rob will travel to view your 911, employing a professional photographer to take dozens of detailed reference shots from which to work. It’s a painstaking process but one that results in something very special, but there was something we were keen to ask and that’s whether he had a favourite 911. “Not really” says Rob. “I love all of them, but if pushed I guess I’d have to say it’s the cars from the 1960’s that most capture my attention.”  “It’s the shape and form that I find so appealing, and the way the light falls on the bodywork. There are few cars like it, and I really admire Porsche’s heritage, especially when it comes to motorsport.” That emphasis on history and quality really shines through when it comes to the finished painting, and whether you own just the one car or are lucky enough to have a collection to see them represented in such a way is likely to prove very hard to resist. You can see examples of Rob’s work by visiting his website at http://www.robhefferanautomotiveart.com, but we’ll say now that you should be prepared to find yourself as tempted to commission his services as we are.

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Porsche: concepts mules and prototypes

Before any new model goes into manufacture the design – in various stages of finalisation – has to go through practical testing. These vehicles are prototypes, recognisably and most often visually identical to the subsequent production vehicle.

Far less frequently these days, where more extensive research and dynamic development can be carried out with software simulations, a manufacturer experiments with a radical new idea by building some of the technology into the preceding model. These cars are often referred to as ‘mules’.

In the past, the need to keep particular experiments confidential even led to some mules wearing total disguises to fool both press and competitors.

Examples of this at Porsche include the Audi 100 Coupe, into which Weissach shoehorned the 928’s V8 and running gear; later the 928’s innards would also be built into an Opel Diplomat.

Concepts are used by manufacturers to float an idea, to test acceptability of a particular design or style. A phenomenon which in today’s homogenised and regulated auto industry has become unusual, the most successful example in Porsche history was the Boxster concept, greeted with standing ovations when it was revealed in 1993.

That the resultant Boxster – which would closely prefigure the new 911 – was so similar to the concept was a tribute to Porsche’s original design, achieving homologation with a minimum of compromises which usually dilute and sometimes completely spoil the original idea.

The real workhorses of pre-production are, of course, the prototypes, masked these days if their makers want to hide them by an astute application of chequered tape, which brilliantly sabotages visual perspective.

Of the thousands of prototypes built, virtually all of them are subsequently broken up, occasionally to the dismay of auto historians. In deference, however, to the interest they generate, Porsche has selected a handful of the more remarkable prototypes it has kept, and sometimes displays them at the Museum at Zuffenhausen…

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Porsche Celebrates Twenty Years of the 911 GT3

The GT3’s formula is something that stirs any driver with a drop of motor oil in their veins. A high-revving naturally-aspirated flat six engine closely related to the engine used in motorsports, rear wheel-drive, a lightweight construction, upgraded aerodynamics, and track-focused suspension made the GT3 a must for the drivers wanting a little more than what most supercars could offer. While there are cars with greatest statistics, the well-rounded nature of the GT3 has made it a wondrous car that still pulls at our heartstrings after twenty years. As we’ve seen, integrating more tech hasn’t dulled its appeal, either.

The successor to the 2.7 RS, the 996 GT3 ushered in a level of performance not available to customers for two decades.

Spiritual Successor

Upon its release in 1999, the Porsche GT3 was one of the few road cars to lap the Nurburgring in less than eight minutes; Walter Rohrl snagged a 7:56.33 in one of these edgy, temperamental, and rewarding cars. Lowered suspension, a distinct aero kit with an adjustable rear wing, a standard limited slip differential, adjustable suspension, and 360 horsepower made this one of the sharpest 911s available. While we Americans didn’t receive the GT3 until the 996 was facelifted, the two years on the market had us all waiting eagerly for the arrival of the next generation.

More Tech, More Speed

It was the 997 which captured the public’s attention Stateside. A bevy of new electronic systems, divided control arms, more power, and eventually center-lock hubs, the 997 was a step or two in practicality beyond the first iteration. Traction control, electronic stability control, and an optional front axle lift system made this generation of car a much more usable product, but still as capable over a backroad or a circuit. In fact, the 997 GT3 was significantly faster with a 7:40 lap at the ‘Ring.

Sophisticated but Pure

Continuing on that theme, the 991 introduced both a PDK gearbox and rear wheel-steering. These gadgets caused outrage among the purists, but the resulting performance only helped cement the 991 GT3’s reputation as one of the best track cars on sale. With its 3.8-liter’s 485 horsepower pushing a still svelte 3,153-lb car, the 991 GT3 became much more of a dragster than its predecessors, and its improved aero and agility helped chop another massive margin off its previous lap time at the Nurburgring. There aren’t many cars in the GT3’s price range which can dawdle around town comfortably and still set a ‘Ring time of 7:25.

Despite twenty years of electronic assistance and greater practicality, Porsche’s rawest car is still a hot-blooded machine. Perhaps it’s not as focused as its spiritual forebear, the 2.7 RS, but it’s still a thrilling, demanding car that rewards the talented. The 911 GT3 represents the beating heart of Porsche’s commitment to building pure, uncompromised sports cars—and proves that involvement and usability aren’t mutually exclusive.

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Ride Onboard For Some Silky Smooth Laps in a Track-Spec 996 GT3 at Road America

Photos & video courtesy of Ryan Gates/311RS, LLC.

With the right modifications, the 996 GT3 becomes a car that will sway the most skeptical, please the frigid, and bring out the best in the timid. Not that it was slow from the factory, but with some talented tuners and a skilled set of hands making the most out of the least loved of the GT lineup, we see that it—like every other member of its purebred stable—is made for carving quick laps and stretching smiles.

Minneapois-based motorsports design firm 311RS is responsible for making this GT3 into something capable of cracking off consistent laps in the 2:26-range. They spared no expense here, starting with JRZ-RS Pro coilovers with custom 311RS damping. ERP arms and solid bushings came next, and the suspension maximizes the footprint made by the 311RS-spec BBS E88 18×9″ & 18×11.5″ wheels wrapped in Michelin Sport Cup 2s.

With roughly 400 horsepower courtesy of a Cup exhaust, BMC filters, an IPD plenum, and a tune, it’s definitely rapid and needs serious stopping power. The brakes, still factory reds, use Girodisc rotors, Pagid Yellow pads, and stainless lines. For a track as fast as Road America with heavy braking zones, these bring the ~3,000-lb GT3 to a stop. On that note—they trimmed a little heft by removing the airbags, sun visors, glove box, front console, and head unit. It’s a track special, no doubt.

More than its straightline speed and its stopping ability, this GT3’s stability and responsive front end are its most impressive features. Rather than some frightening, hair-trigger monster, it’s composed and neutral, especially in high speed corners. Granted, Ryan Gates has the deft touch of an experienced driver, but no wiggling under braking, no mild corrections in the quick stuff, and only a hint of oversteer on turn-in proves 311RS really dialed it in. Perhaps a more aggressive driver would bring out its fangs, but Gates is still clicking off quick times with a very economical, subdued style.

Perhaps the large RS wing at the rear must help there, and the broad front splitter can’t hurt. Clearly, it’s a reassuring car with balance, braking performance, and punch enables Gates to charge without breaking a sweat and reel in some 991s. Note the distance he gains in braking and entry speed through the daunting Turn 11, known as the Kink (6:54). There, you want a car to sit nicely lest you leave a big black streak along the outside wall.

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What It’s Like When A 996 Turbo Goes Under the Knife for New Coolant Pipes

Yes, removing the Mezger is that daunting.

The one chink in the Mezger’s armor is its flimsy coolant pipes. For such a bulletproof motor, it seems strange that Porsche just glued the coolant pipes on. Though press-fitted, these coolant lines are known to pop off under high RPM load. Hoovie’s lousy luck meant his first trip to Heartland Motorsports Park was interrupted by his own lines popping off. Fortunately, this did not prompt a spin down the front straight, nor did it cook the motor. It was embarrassing though, and as it turned out, quite pricey to mend.

The Mezger motors that see the track will sustain higher temperatures and loads which are prone to make these lines disengage from the coolant console, and ensuring they stay in place during hard cornering and high revs requires a costly fix. While the cheaper band-aid fix would only set him back a few hundred dollars, the sensible approach costs ten times that. After dropping the engine, the hoses need to be pinned or welded in place, and the especially prudent drivers will replace the problematic OEM plastic elbows with stainless steel units.

The process of removing the engine is more labor intensive than dropping an M96. Turbos, intercoolers, head shields, and all the other forced induction ancillaries take a bit more time and effort. The starter and turbo inlets need to come out too, since they won’t clear the CV axles. With a few minor wiring hurdles cleared, the Mezger can be freed from its cramped confines. However, the process takes Hoovie and Wizard nearly two whole days to complete—which is why he was quoted nearly three large.

If there’s one piece of uplifting news here, it’s that BBi Autosport decided to help by offering to fix the busted water pipe situation. BBi, as well as a host of other Porsche-centric shops, can weld the coolant pipes in place for what should be a permanent fix. If you have any Mezger-powered Porsche, be it a Turbo or a GT3, you can preemptively have this work done, so it doesn’t come apart and leave you stranded without coolant. If you can remove your motor to get the « coolant console » out, as Mr. Hoover has, it’ll help save you a ton of labor.

Now you know. Let his misfortune save you a ton of time and money!

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