Driving the Gunther Werks 400R: Meet the 993-Generation 911 GT3 RS Porsche Never Made
What's it like to climb behind the wheel of a stripped-down, carbon fiber-bodied, 430-horsepower 993? You might need to invent some new expletives.
“This car needs to be pounded on and punished,” Gunther Werks sales and technical director Amjad Ali had said several hours ago, back when the sun was still high above and the shadows weren't stretching across the California canyons. I'd spent the last few hours winding back and forth along the several-mile stretch of road Ali and Gunther Werks-slash-Vorsteiner bossman Peter Nam had brought us to in order to properly test their baby—the Gunther Werks 400R, a 993-generation Porsche 911 that's undergone a lepidopteric metamorphosis into a car designed to represent what a hypothetical 993 GT3 RS could have been.
Ali and I have talked for hours at this point, and over and over again, he's stressed that the car needs to be pushed to its limits to truly appreciate its capabilities. Not the kind of advice you usually hear from the guy who's just tossed you the key to a $600,000-plus, handmade, super-limited-run sports car he helped build to answer an unanswerable question.
But I'm not about to argue.
So I roll the car out of the turnout, back onto the deserted road. Slot the notchy six-speed manual into first gear. Rev the Rothsport Racing-built flat-six up, up, up, until the four-liter engine's tachometer is within spitting distance of the 7,800-rpm redline. And I drop the clutch for one last blast.
The Michelin Pilot Sports only seem to spin for a microsecond before catching, being nicely tenderized after a day of soaking up heat and friction from the road. While straight-line grip isn't much of a problem, they're not enough in the bends; you can feel the 400R squirm around as it rounds corners. Ali said the Gunther Werks crew wanted Pilot Cups for the car, but they don’t make them in the 400R’s size. Too bad.
The engine roars its scratchy song, Tom Waits in flat-six form. It’s not mellifluous, not pretty; it’s coarse and raw. Just the way you’d want a hypothetical 25-year old RS car to be. Inside, it stinks of gas, the sweet smell blasting out the twin pipes and into the cabin. Smells like victory, as Robert Duvall might say.
I try and sneak a glance at the speedometer on one of the brief, quarter-mile-at-best straightaways along the mountain road; the steering wheel blocks most of the view, but it’s damn near 100 miles an hour. It picks up speed faster than you'd believe, the engine delivering power in an ever-climbing arc.
The harder you push it, the more it gives. It’s incredibly balanced. You can feel ever inch of lateral movement, as though the carbon fiber body were filled with nerves that flowed straight into your hands, legs, and ass. In the turns, it goes like a luge with a rocket strapped to it. There’s zero body roll. None. The steering is so sensitive, you can feel the tires try to tramline in the grooves in the pavement. It follows indentations you can’t even see. Yet the ride, remarkably, is compliant and easy-going…at least, for this sort of car.
Work it harder and harder, and the heat of the engine starts to bleed into the cabin, toasting up your back like a keister heater. Not surprising, given the car's mission brief requires a stripped-down interior lacking in insulation—noise or otherwise. The guts are exactly what you’d expect of a hypothetical mid-1990s Porsche GT3 RS: simple, minimalist, and not particularly luxurious. About equally as well-made, too—which is to say, fine for that era, but not nearly as nice as a modern Porsche. It’s no Singer-customized 911, that’s for sure.
The car looks far more exciting than any Singer, though. It’s like a blend of visually stunning Porsches—the wild width of a RWB, a wing that looks like a nuttier version of the 993-era GT2’s setup, and a clean, sleek overall appearance that makes factory cars of the '90s look ill-made. Look closely at the headlights—they’re LEDs housed in carbon fiber, the raw material visible through the Plexiglas. Indeed, visually, it’s closest to that 993 GT2.
It’ll be even more rare, though, with just 25 coming into existence. (Porsche made 57 993 GT2s, for comparison) Some owners made Gunther Werks guarantee that in writing. One reportedly chose not to buy the 918 Spyder because, with 918 copies to go around for the whole planet...it was too common.
Asking whether you’d buy one over a Singer is a moot point (though it’s the question I’m sure everyone wants to know). They’re different cars, based on different platforms, with different missions. The Singer is a piece of rolling art; the 400R is a rolling hypothetical brought to life. Some 400R buyers already have Singers, according to Gunther Werks, and that’s the move I’d make. Buy ‘em both, love ‘em both. Odds are good anyone with the money for one can afford the pair.