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Walter Röhrl Picks His Top Five Porsche Rally Cars

Beware, dear reader, as this is a video that requires some reading. When discussing something as dear to his heart as rally cars, Herr Röhrl tends to stick with his native German. Though the video is in German, the visual language of Porsche racing cars transcends the spoken word, and Herr Röhrl has brought some icons for the latest Top 5 video.

What is striking about this set of cars is its diversity. Among them are a Paris-Dakar competitor, a Transsyberia rally competitor, two German rally championship cars, and a top-level WRC car optimized for a single event. It’s a curious bunch, and really highlights the breadth of Porsche’s competition talents.

Several of the choices are icons in their own rights. The 953 debuted the 959’s all-wheel drive system and won the 1984 Paris-Dakar, the featured 924 Carrera GT was Walter’s personal car in the 1981 German rally championship, and the 911SC Safari set the stage for countless 911 Safari tributes.

The other two warrant consideration on their own. The Cayenne Transsyberia is the only factory-supported Cayenne racer, and won the 7,000-kilometer Transsyberia rally two years on the trot- in its second outing Cayennes claimed the top six positions. As a sort of halfway-house between the Cayenne S and GTS equipped for long-distance rallying, it’s a pretty special machine.

The car which clinched Walter’s top position is one which he apparently had not driven prior to filming the video. Though at first glance it appears to be a 997 GT3, it is in fact a 996 GT3 fitted with a 997 front clip, and which competes in the German rally championship driven by a husband and wife team. It’s a compelling entry on the list, as it shows that rallying a Porsche is not just for those with factory support, and the car sounds glorious.

Of course Herr Rohrl’s Top 5 is not a comprehensive list. What are your favorite Porsche rally cars? For me it’s a close pick between the Monte Carlo-winning 911Ts of 1968, and Reneé Binkerhoff’s perennially-competitive 356A.

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Oddball Transaxle Spotting at Radwood Boston

No Radwood event is complete without a smattering of Porsche 924s, 944s, and 968s. The recent Boston event at the Larz Anderson Museum was no exception- there were about a dozen in attendance. Project 944 GTS made the trek from my home in Albany, New York to the event. Though there were quite a number of very nice Porsches in attendance, Radwood brought out some Porsche oddballs. Bringing the weird out of the woodwork is one of the things Radwood is best at. Having Porsches, and everything from a Renault Encore to a BMW M1 on the same show field made for a very fun event.

To my surprise my car was pulled out of the entry line and given a featured parking spot. Apparently my raucous exhaust alerted the nice folks at the PCA that I was coming. My humble 2.5 16-valve was joined in front of the PCA tent by a 924S and a track-oriented 968, all in Guards Red. In most circumstances these three would be oddball transaxle cars, but in Boston they were in peculiar company.

The Oddities

The car above may appear to be a garden-variety 944 at first glance. It is in fact one of 250 Zermatt Silver Celebration Edition cars built for 1988. For the most part the Celebration Edition was par for the course for the 944, albeit with absolutely stellar upholstery.

The checkered pattern Celebration cloth is effectively unobtanium now, and unfortunately it was among the more delicate upholstery options ever offered in a Porsche. In most Celebration Edition cars the material tends to come apart in both high-traffic areas and anywhere the material is exposed to direct sunlight. This example is no exception. Despite the wear, the material still looks absolutely wonderful. Kevin, the owner, also added a 959 Sport-style three spoke wheel rather than the typical four-spoke item.

Parked well away from the road-oriented cars was this Safari-style 924. The owner was originally looking for a 944, but happened across this 924 and decided he liked the skinny-hipped look better. Fortunately for him, even without flares these cars have fairly capacious wheelwells. This allowed for fitment of 27″ light truck offroad tires. The car was lifted using custom-made 2″ aluminum spacers at the front. The rear was raised using the factory torsion bars and custom extended mounts for the rear shocks.

According to the owner the car drives very well, and more so than any other child I saw at the event, his kid was stoked about the car. Cars like this are a great reminder that being an enthusiast isn’t about how much money you can throw at your hobby, but about how much of your enthusiasm you can share. That kid will never forget dad’s lifted 924 as long as he lives.

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Around the world in a lifted 928 S4

Safari and rally style Porsches are the hottest thing at the moment. From Leh Keen’s 911s to ASFOLT’s 924S, getting a bit more clearance under a Porsche seems like the hippest thing in the world. To our knowledge though, no one has seriously attempted to build a Safari-style 928. With a palpable sense of Gallic imperturbability Philippe Delaporte and his sons built a 928 S4 to circle the globe. These fearless Frenchmen took a road literally less traveled, and used the Silk Road to cross much of the ancient near-East and Asia.

While the video is lacking somewhat in technical details, a few things are obvious- the car has been lifted, and the Cup I wheels are fitted with all-terrain tires. A spare is mounted to the roof, and a second full-size spare is installed in the cargo area. Phillipe notes that they added an 8mm aluminum skid plate along the bottom of the car, and a small bash bar has been added to the front bumper. It all seems quite simple.

Yet this, a Porsche notorious for its complexity and difficulty of maintenance, apparently circled the globe without issue. It never failed to start in mounting snow, and it did its part opening the world to the Frenchmen. When they arrived at the Uzbek border the guard was so agog at the 5-liter engine, they entered the country at full throttle for his benefit. Clearly the Porsche 928 S4 is an instrument of peace, love, and goodwill.

We love seeing a transaxle Porsche used this way. Along with cars like Project Luna, a 944S that covered 240k miles in 258 days, this 928 is a sign that the only limit on a Porsche is the owner’s imagination.

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Protecting a 911 Safari with XPEL Film and Ceramic Coatings

We love Leh Keen’s Safari 911s. In keeping with our belief that the 911 is a perfect all-rounder, lifting one and fitting knobby tires seems to take nothing from the experience. Mr. Keen’s cars are brilliant, and Matt Farah’s personal car is one of the most interesting of the lot. Farah’s Safari is finished in Cassis Red, a rather polarizing and slightly urbane color choice for a brawny Safari car. The paintwork, evidently, is largely original, and Matt has wisely opted to protect it. In order to protect the finish Matt has opted for an XPEL film over his entire car.

While most of us would be well-served by XPEL film over just the chip-prone forward surfaces of our cars, Matt’s adventure-friendly ride needed a bit more protection. As such, Chris West from XPEL spent a whopping five days applying a self-healing extruded Urethane film to the entire vehicle. This proprietary film uses a topcoat based on current self-healing automotive topcoats. This design allows minor scratches in the finish to disappear over time. Used in conjunction with ceramic coatings this finish is both durable and easy to clean.

While XPEL does have patterns for many commonly-protected parts of cars, applying a film to an entire vehicle is a different matter. Mr. West had to custom-cut post of the panels installed on Matt’s 911. The light pod, mirrors, and much of the trim required custom work, but that is relatively minor given the project’s scope. Chris was able to wrap the car from the base of the A-pillar to the rear of the quarter panel with a single sheet of film to avoid visible seams.

While Project 944 GTS and Project Mello Yello may not benefit much from this treatment, those among our readership with finer paintwork may be interested in the full-car protection option.

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Porsche 911 on safari

Did you know the Porsche 911’s first ever race was, in fact, a rally? The year was 1965, and Huschke von Hanstein, race director and Porsche PR officer, was keen to show off the dexterity of the company’s new sports car, which could be driven on the road and raced at weekends. Herbert Linge and Peter Falk were thrust into a 2.0-litre 911 for the legendary Monte Carlo rally, driving the car from Bad Homburg, Germany, to the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, finishing a creditable fifth overall. A 911 would win the notorious event outright in 1968 in the hands of ‘Quick Vic’ Elford, the first of many key rallying successes which forms an important part of the 911’s 30,000 overall race victories to date.

Meanwhile, alongside the sport kits which formed the basis of Porsche’s famous Sports Purpose manual in 1966, the company offered a rally kit – option 9552. Comprising of a pair of Recaro seats, roll bar, a 100-litre fuel tank with front hood filler, adjustable Koni shock absorbers plus subtle engine modifications, the kit was intended for customers who wished to participate in long-distance rallies.

Notable success on the rally stage has continued throughout the 911’s history. Who can forget the heroics of the factory-supported Prodrive SC RSs in the 1980s, a precursor to the 1984 Paris-Dakar-winning 953 and, later, the 959, which was built for the very purpose of rallying before the demise of Group B just before its release. The air-cooled 911 remains a regular participant in global regulation and speed rallies, with most notable success courtesy of British Porsche specialists, Tuthills. They have campaigned all manner of classic 911s in various rallies of considerable magnitude right around the world, with the late, legendary rally maestro Björn Waldegård often found at the wheel right up until his death in 2014. Current works driver Romain Dumas, meanwhile, developed his own 997 GT3 RS R-GT which competed alongside a rival 997 – again from Tuthill – in the 2015 WRC, with Porsche itself testing a Cayman GT4 Clubsport R-GT in 2018 with a view to joining the WRC series. As you can see, rallying isn’t a mere offshoot of the Porsche 911 – it’s forever been part of its DNA.

Meanwhile, safari 911s have well and truly captured the imaginations of wider enthusiasts in the last two to three years, catapulted into the limelight by pro racing driver and Porsche enthusiast Leh Keen’s imaginative safari builds. Others have since joined the market with their own off-road expressions of the 911, but what are these cars really like to drive? Today we’re going to find out, thanks to an invite from Makellos Classics to test their most remarkable project to date. Matt Kenyon, owner of the San Diego-based company, explains: “Safari cars are popular right now so we wanted to try our interpretation of it. Some cars have the look, but we wanted to build a car that you could legitimately take off-road.”

The 911 in question is a 1978 European SC, which Makellos acquired in April 2018 with 125,000 kilometres on the clock. As Matt describes, its spec was perfect for the project at hand: “When we came across this 911 SC it had a pretty cool factory spec. It had sunroof delete, lower console delete and radio delete. It just screamed at us to build a rally spec 911.” Work started in May and was completed by mid-September, an incredible feat when you consider this was a passion project which Matt, manager Greg Bartley and the rest of the Makellos team had to fit around a busy stream of paying client jobs.

After a strip down the team began with crucial fabrication work to the 911’s chassis, which entailed custom bracing all over the car as well as reinforcement of the rear strut towers. The front strut towers were custom braced, and custom front and rear skid plates were added too.

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