As a club, R Gruppe isn't an if-you-build-it-they-will-come phenomenon. It's more like the shared obsession that brought total strangers together in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For the most part, the gospel according to R Gruppe was popularized by word of mouth. The group's success speaks to the strength of the hot-rodding impulse in the Porsche community, and it's something that's not found, by and large, among devotees of any other high-end marque.
These days, 911s are so expensive and well-appointed that they're often perceived as totems of affluence rather than weapons of high performance. But it's worth remembering that Porsche was founded as a manufacturer of nothing but sports cars, and racing has always been part of its DNA. Virtually from the moment it debuted in 1963, the 911 was rallied and raced not only by the factory but also by customers. In 1967, Porsche created a factory racer dubbed the 911R, but only about twenty were built. So for privateers who couldn't get their hands on one, Porsche published manuals that detailed exactly how they could modify their cars to maximize performance. Porsche titled the books, "Information regarding Porsche vehicles used for sports purpose." In America, of course, we call this hot-rodding.
Huergas happened to have two of these sports-purpose manuals in his possession when he started restoring a '69 911S that he'd bought in 1991. "I knew the car was something special," he recalls. "But I didn't want to keep it stock. I wanted something different -- an S with an R flavor that captured the essence of what it used to be like back then. I realized that I didn't have to play by anybody else's rules. Those sports-purpose manuals told me that I could do anything I wanted."
In 1998, Huergas's lightweight was featured in Excellence magazine. Shortly after the article appeared, he got a call from Freeman Thomas. Thomas had grown up in Southern California as a neighbor of Jeff Zwart, who went on to become a photographer, filmmaker, and racer closely associated with Porsche. (He's also a charter member of R Gruppe.) Zwart's father was a hard-core 911-phile, and each afternoon at 5 o'clock, Zwart and Thomas would pedal their Sting Rays to an empty lot in Cypress just so they could watch a Porsche speed by when its owner returned home from work.