Driven: The Stunning, $700K Gunther Werks 400R Is an Impossibly Idealized Porsche 911
Don’t believe us? Just check Instagram.
LOS ANGELES—The kids, as they say, are alright. As much it seems like the now-tapering Luftgekuhlt trend appears to ride on a wave of fresh youth enthusiasm for old leaky Porsches, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are primarily the ones writing the checks and filling the shows. A good portion of Porsche-minded Gen Z and millennial enthusiasts appear to be more interested in what a Porsche can become, rather than what it offers in its original form. Singer, RWB, RUF, Bisimoto, and Magnus Walker's brand of hot-rodded 911s are key in unlocking what the future of the Porsche kuhlt will look like as younger fans manage to shake off debt and unemployment and inherit wealth. But for now, it's mostly aspirational.
Modifying a Porsche 911 of any vintage is hardly a fresh idea, but relative newcomer Gunther Werks has snagged a bit of the zeitgeist with its highly evolved 993-generation 911. The first hint that Gunther Werks is onto something came from a surprise interaction at a hot and very claustrophobic Los Angeles gas station. As I topped up the tank on Gunther Werks' mint green 400R Greenwich commission, a late-teens or 20-something guy burst out of my periphery, exclamatory words tumbling out of his mouth and phone camera at the ready.
"I can't believe I'm seeing this in person!" he gasped. "I pulled over the minute I saw it. I literally can't believe I'm seeing this car. Do you mind if I take a few photos?"
I encouraged him and asked where he saw this 1-of-25 Gunther Werks before, how he came to know it existed in the first place. "On Instagram—it's all over the place," he replied. "I have your car set as my desktop background. Congratulations man, what a spec, I can't believe it." He left before I could explain I wasn't the car's owner.
Gunther Werks 400R: It's Got The Youth Vote
I heard a similar refrain often during my three-day stint with this social media superstar. A quick stop for a sandwich in Malibu led to a half-eaten, soggy turkey wrap and lukewarm sparking water as I instead moderated an impromptu panel discussion on the finer details of the stunning Gunther Werks (GW) to a gaggle of cooing men. A shaggy-haired millennial approached as I was entering my six-part dissertation on the GW's carbon-fiber bodywork with his phone raised. "Yooo! My boss is not going to believe I'm seeing this in real life!" he half-yelled. "It's his favorite car of all time! What a great spec man, great job." After informing him I was simply a dopey writer and not someone who could afford the Gunther Werks 400R's $700,000 price tag, I asked him where he and his boss had seen the car. "Instagram!" he smiled as he crouched down for a better shot.
Considering all 25 of the $570,000-and-up build slots for the so-called Porsche 993 911 Remastered by Gunther Werks (also known as the 400R) sold out before I even paid a visit to the company's Huntington Beach, California, workshop, this level of built-in youth recognition for a modified Porsche without "RWB" plastered across the windshield is shocking. However, it all starts to make sense when you look at the type of cars that get the most IG chatter.
For the most part, the more a car looks like an impossibly idealized rendering, the more saves, likes, reposts, and comments it gets. That otherworldly idealization is exactly what the GW channels; stylistically, it's like a 993-generation 911 built in Neo Tokyo a few centuries from now, a synthesis of old-world fundamentals and future tech that seems dramatically out of both time and place, slotted between generic crossovers and soap-bar sedans.
Happily, these alternate-dimension vibes are exactly what GW aims for. As company reps put it, think of the GW as a vision of what a 993 911 GT3 would look like if Porsche never stopped building the 993 in 1998 and continued to develop the platform through 2020. A very specific and strange proposition, but one that makes sense as you begin to comb through the absurdly long list of changes superimposed onto the donor 993.
Gunther Werks 400R: Hardest of Hardcore
Without any pretense, the GW is the most hardcore and singularly focused serialized and modified air-cooled 911 this side of the Singer DLS—the $1.8 million collaboration between Singer and Williams Engineering that's limited to 75 units. We'll make some more requisite comparisons to Singer, an outfit that GW founder Peter Nam refers to as "the other company" later on, but outside of the DLS, there isn't another non-competition air-cooled 911 that takes itself as seriously as the Gunther Werks-fettled 993.
Much of this intensity stems from GW's stunningly extensive use of carbon fiber. Every exterior panel you can see, and many you can't, are made of the woven stuff. Yes, that includes that panel. And that one. Uh-huh, the hood as well. Yup, even the roof. According to GW, only the structural componentry underneath all this weave remains steel, as do the doors' crash bars. Inside, every surface that isn't upholstered or trimmed in aluminum is glossy carbon fiber, including the empty space in the rear of the cabin where seats used to be. Even the floor panels and tight bucket seats are carbon, the weave perfect and micron tight.
The cockpit really is as impressive as the exterior. Beautiful stitching and a retrotastic flat-bottom steering wheel with "Porsche" embossed asymmetrically on the left side compliment an unbelievably sculpted aluminum shifter and key fob. The door cards are my favorite part, presented as a cacophony of carbon backing, cut aluminum trim, and leather touches. Elsewhere, heavy aluminum knobs control A/C and lights, while a Porsche Classic infotainment cluster provides nav and Bluetooth connectivity. According to Gunther Werks, 80 percent of the reworked 993's interior is bespoke, replacing the remaining 20 percent or so of OEM 911 stuff with brand new Porsche hardware.
Gunther Werks 400R: Serious Hardware
Under the rear carbon decklid, the air-cooled engine mainlines the same strain of drug. The 993 Porsche 911's standard 3.6-liter flat-six is sent to Rothsport Racing, where the engine is punched out to 4.0-liters and crammed full of forged guts and race-spec hardware that includes individual throttle bodies, a two-stage Motec engine management system, and a custom intake based on the intake plenum from a Porsche 996-series 911 GT3. Gunther Werks stripped every ounce of engine resistance it could, incorporating a low-drain electric steering pump and A/C system to curb accessory vampirism. The final price for this 7,800-rpm screamer soars past the six-figure mark, but you get 431 horsepower and 312 lb-ft of torque for all of this engineering effort.
The GW retains the shell of the 993's G50 six-speed manual transmission, augmented by uprated internals, lightweight flywheel, and a clutch yoinked from a 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0. Brembo supplies the massive 14-inch, six-piston carbon-ceramic brakes in front and 13.5-inch four-piston carbon ceramics in the rear, while bespoke JRZ coilovers with remote reservoirs sit at all four corners.
All this symphony transfers to the tarmac via a set of steamroller-esque 295/30 18-inch Pirelli P Zeros up front and 335/30 18s for the rear, all wrapped around a set of stunning Gunther Werks pseudo-Fuch wheels. GW's extensive selection of wheels is a particular source of its team's pride, considering founder Nam also heads Vorsteiner, the well-known source for high-end carbon-fiber body kits and forged wheels.
Gunther Werks 400R: Reverse Aging
The result of all of this engineering is profound. According to GW, the 2,650-pound coupe scoots around the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course a few tenths quicker than a 991.1 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and bests a 991.1 911 Turbo S around Willow Springs by more than a second. Extremely impressive, but then again, $700,000 is enough to get you into a well-kept 997 GT3 RSR race car that would run rings around all parties mentioned, with some change left over for tires, truck, trailer, and track time. How the GW 400R performs on the road and on Southern California's vast web of canyon passes was of higher import, and it was the first order of business after picking the car up from GW's Huntington Beach workshop.
There's some 70 miles between GW's HQ and my favorite road, so this meant immediately navigating traffic and rotten freeway surfaces in an unfamiliar car that wears a hang-tag just short of three-quarters-of-a-million bucks. I shouldn't have worried; at low speeds, the Gunther Werks 400R is surprisingly manageable, with enough low-down torque for easy, smooth starts and heavy-but-not-too-heavy steering. The clutch is stiffly sprung but the bite point is well telegraphed and quickly memorized, and aside from a hilariously rackety flywheel at idle and a low, scrape-prone front splitter, slowly putting around town was no more physically demanding than driving a 993 with hot cams.
Buzzing down the highway is a different story. Full disclosure—I picked up the Greenwich commission shortly after the team whipped it around the track, so the car sat on track alignment that caused aggressive tramlining and a nervous front end over some rougher road surfaces. However, after an extended highway trip between Ojai and Los Angeles, steering compensation for the tramlining became an autonomic non-issue.
Gunther Werks 400R: A Porsche 911 RSR for the Road
Free of rain grooves and expansion joints and into the mostly smooth network of Malibu canyons, the GW 400R burst to life. For its size, it's wide—really, really wide. Compared to a standard 993 911 Carrera 2, the GW adds an additional 6.0 inches of width both front and rear, while maintaining an identical "square" track between both axles. Grip from those wide-as-Texas rears is ferocious, putting down that 431 hp without complaint or chirp, only breaking free if you boot it and subsequently lift-off mid-corner—a general no-no in any car.
It might have the raw capability to stare-down a 991 GT3 RS, but it certainly doesn't drive like its modern counterpart. In all aspects, the GW wheels like a supremely engineered classic 911; I know, what a revelation. But with this level of re-engineering, you might be led to believe it's analogous to blasting around in a modern GT3. In reality, seating is upright, the pedals are floor mounted, and the windshield, dash, and gauges all give off the sensation of sitting closer to the driver than most other modern cars. Unlike the preternaturally buttoned-down modern 911, the GW's front end likes to go a bit light in some situations; those ultra-meaty 295s on the front wheels means it's never cause for concern.
Revs from the 4.0-liter engine rise and fall like a motorcycle, with quick downshifts requiring just a blip of the fascinatingly double-hinged throttle pedal. Any start from a dead-stop begins with a rattle and a graunch from the tight clutch and flywheel that builds into an RSR shriek around the middle of the tach, and that's before you toggle the nondescript metal button sitting just ahead of the shifter. Clicking it switches engine mapping for an extra 30 hp and wedges open the exhaust, transforming the GW from a loud car into an unbelievably loud car. I'm all about being disruptive and obnoxious—it's basically my M.O., just ask my friends, boss, parents, and exes—but the "sport" mode triggers a combination of resonance and uncorked sound that's a bit like pressing your ear to the soot-covered tailpipe of a redlining 917.
Gunther Werks 400R: Drama Queen
Even so, I engaged the red button more than my ears care to remember. With all systems burning, the 4.0-liter surges with fantastic immediacy and imparts a 0-60-mph hustle somewhere in the high 3-second range. Nail that downshift or lean into the overrun, and those following close behind are rewarded with blue fire spewing from the titanium tailpipes—or so says photographer Brandon Lim, who was reduced to grunts and howls over the radio at the first flash of fire he saw while bringing up the rear.
As a device for delivering experiences, the Gunther Werks is incredible, and as far as I can tell, essentially unmatched. "The other company," as Nam calls Singer Vehicle Design, puts emphasis on a different part of the Porsche 911 legend, though both share a fanatical attention to detail. As much as neither artisans want to admit, the GW and Singer are two sides of the same coin, bound by tradition while simultaneously innovating in genuinely incredible ways.
Onto the $700,000 question: Is the Porsche 993 Gunther Werks worth it? Apparently so, going by the aforementioned fact that Gunther Werks is already sold out of the 25-unit run. But Nam promises this is just the beginning, so if you missed out on the first Gunther-ized cars, keep an eye on GW's page for future updates. That, or hang around Gunther Werk's Instagram—that seems to be a spot like no other.
Gunther Werks 400R: Fast Facts
- One of the most comprehensively modified Porsche 911s ever made
- Only 25 will be produced, already sold out
- 4.0-liter naturally aspirated air-cooled flat-six
- 431 hp and 312 lb-ft of torque with 7,800 rpm redline
- Incredible attention to detail
- More Gunther Werks models to come