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Thursday 5th April 2007


9FF CAYMAN CR-42

How 9ff has sharpened the fangs on Porsche's baby croc


A Cayman with a full-house flat six and a limited slip diff or a 911: which would be faster point-to-point? It’s a common question among enthusiasts, but one the factory has so far not allowed us to answer.

CR-42 cranks out 420bhp
CR-42 cranks out 420bhp
Porsche's mid-engine offering was carefully positioned so as not to endanger the range topper. It’s a crocodile with its teeth filed down, still devastating but not quite the killer it could be. That was marketing’s decision by all accounts.

However, the tuning fraternity answers to no one except the paying customer, so Dortmund-based 9ff fitted the LSD and, with nobody looking over their shoulder and saying they couldn’t do it, they went a bit mad -- and stuck in the lump from the 911 for good measure to create the CR-42.

They went for a full engine transplant, grabbing the nearest 3.8-litre lump from a new Carrera S and boring the cylinders out from 99mm to 102mm for good measure producing a capacity of 4.1-litres. However, that took them into the soft aluminium of the casing, so further reinforcement with Nikasil was required to stop the block melting after the first dose of throttle.

It's about to depart. Very rapidly
It's about to depart. Very rapidly
A new programme for the ECU, a special intake manifold and stainless steel sports exhaust complete the power upgrade, and also mean this Cayman now has real bite: 420bhp and 320lb-ft of torque in a 1,664Kg package to be precise.

The CR-42 hits 60mph in 4.4 seconds, thanks in part to the LSD with its 40-60 per cent locking mechanism and the outrageous dose of extra power. It can hang with the ‘grown up’ Porsches until the very furthest reaches of the performance envelope, before kicking them to a bloody pulp through the corners.

And thanks to 9ff’s flamboyant approach to exhaust tones you’d think the flat six had been mounted in the cabin -- which, considering the mid-engined layout of the Cayman, it almost has.

Firm but fluid handling
Firm but fluid handling
Banging through the gears with a short-shifter pillaged from the Cayman S, it's clear this Cayman has a much more serious persona. It's got an altogether sharper feel thanks to a bespoke clutch with a 30 per cent stronger pressure plate. And there’s no rubber in the gate, just metal rods and ball joints, and shift cables from the mighty GT3 RSR race car.

The top end is ‘only’ 195mph, agonisingly close to the milestone 200mph mark, but modifications to the gearing in the Getrag ‘box are apparently out of the question.

The Cayman was never about straightline speed anyway, it’s the precise and fluid handling that has excited everyone. Yet driven after the CR-42, the standard car would feel like driving on sponge. The ‘Hockenheim’ suspension option brings full metal rose joints and full adjustability too.

Herr Fatthauer is proud of his white wheels
Herr Fatthauer is proud of his white wheels
Centre-lock wheels show how far 9ff has gone to reduce the unsprung weight as these things are a nightmare to get past the TUV approval process and cost a fortune. Company owner Jan Fatthauer is understandably proud of the achievement and is selling them like aero mirrors at a 964 owners' convention. Aside from the racing technology, 9ff invests more time than most ensuring those stunning – and highly unusual -- white wheels are aligned, as Jan claims far too many people worry about race suspension and then forget the basics.

This attention to detail shines through everywhere at 9ff. When we arrived at the workshop, one employee diligently polished our footsteps from the mirror finish floor. I have seen this only once before, in McLaren’s garage at a Grand Prix. And that was when they were winning.

9ff shuns ceramic discs
9ff shuns ceramic discs
It’s no great surprise that the CR-42 handles with all the flair and precision you’d expect of a Cayman, and whereas a 911 needs to be hustled at times to exploit fully its unusual weight balance, the CR-42 turns in on command and then grips and grips through the corner. Best of all, with the fitment of a diff, you can get on the gas and really alter the attitude of the car from the rear wheels.

Ceramic brakes may well provide the ultimate in stopping power, but 9ff has retained the steel items – preferring the added feel they bring. Even so, stepping on the middle pedal feels like a head-on collision as the seatbelt scythes into you.

Fitting a Cayman with all this equipment isn’t cheap: a full works car costs €130,000 (about £88,000) -- more than the grown up GT3 it recently went head-to-head with in an unofficial test, although the CR-42 more than held its own apparently.

More than anything however, the CR-42 just makes you wonder the car the Cayman S might have been, and still could be, if you were to take Porsche's marketing strategy out of the equation.


Author: NickmHall