Inside the classic Porsche reimagined as the powerful 400R
Modernity and retro 911 styles combine in Gunther Werks’ sensational one-of-25 Porsche
The idea is simple, even if the execution is far from it. The Californian firm Gunther Werks takes a 993-series Porsche 911 and updates it as if Porsche itself had continued to do so through to this day. Not just as a regular Carrera, though. Gunther Werks CEO Peter Nam admits the company’s goal was to create an air-cooled model in the vein of the current GT3. That signals Gunther Werks’ intent in building the most engaging, uncompromising driver-focussed car.
They call it the 400R, and just 25 will be built. The result is truly extraordinary, as befits the 400R’s circa $500,000 price tag and limited-run status. It strips weight via carbon fibre body panels, rear seat delete and more besides – adding power via a unique 4.0-litre flat-six engine developed by highly regarded engine builders Rothsport Racing.
The output is a heady 431hp and 320lb.ft of torque – enough to give it a power- to-weight ratio better than a current-generation Porsche 911 GT3. It rides on a chassis comprising a bespoke KW set-up, with detailed changes to the chassis, engine, interior and exterior applying modern materials and technology to enhance and improve – just as Porsche might have done were it still building the 993 today.
There’s a lightweight lithium-ion battery, electric air conditioning and heating, and an electric pump on the hydraulic steering. The level of detail applied to the 400R is as exacting as it is exhaustive, all done without detracting from the classic, purist appeal of the car it’s based on. >>
Visually it’s riotous, retaining the same upright windscreen and compact cabin which has lineage right back to the original 911 introduced in 1963. The flared front and rear arches give the 400R a square track and hunkered stance evoking Porsche’s classic race cars, with contemporary detailing bringing its lines up to date.
Inside it’s stripped with intent and the simple, exacting fit of the trim is beautifully finished. Concessions to modernity include an integrated sat nav via Porsche Classic, a lift system to allow the nose to raise over bumps and ramps, and a button that quietens the exhaust and changes the engine to a slightly less ferocious map.
Just 25 will be built but CEO Nam admits that they’re nearly all sold out, so persuasive have been the technical specifications and styling. The proof, though, is in the driving – so Gunther Werks has given us the keys and sent us on a route around some all-but deserted LA canyon roads to experience it. I’m familiar with the regular 993, but none I’ve ever driven before move like this one. >>
Turning the key, the 4.0-litre engine emits a rousing, naturally-aspirated flat-six bark like nothing else, the chunter from the clutch release bearing reminiscent of the later GT3 cars Gunther Werks is aiming to emulate. The engine revs to its 7800rpm redline with alacrity, the six-speed manual gearshift shifts with precision, the cabin filled with the intoxicating, rousing sound of that beautifully finished engine. Lifting the engine cover reveals the flat-six looks like a work of engineering art, though Gunther Werks insists buyers use it, determined that its engine builder’s efforts don’t go wasted sitting in a garage as a showpiece.
Where modern sports cars flatter and ease, the 400R demands and rewards. There is a rich feel on offer from the steering, the balance and control from the chassis and the immediacy of the engine’s response all adding up to a hugely immersive whole. The performance is contemporary, yet the sensations are devoid of the muted, digital feel that defines most modern sports cars.
An extraordinary vehicle, the 400R taps into a swelling zeitgeist that all progress isn’t necessarily good, mixing the best current materials and thinking and applying them to the purity and feel that defines the past. And the result is spectacular.