I always cite the 90s as the peak for performance cars. As much as the current crop is amazing, they're a bit too fast to really enjoy. The 90s was the tipping point when the grip to grunt ratio seemed bang on, steering systems were uncorrupted, brakes worked properly and nannying electronics and sport button nonsense were still very much in their infancy. I've two 90's cars in my garage, a 993 Carrera and a 205 GTI. A pre-Varioram manual 2 coupe, and a 1.6, before you ask, as everyone does. They're great. Actually, let's be honest here - they're good.
Gunther Werks has joined that party, but takes a slightly different approach. Conceptually it's closest to that Singer idea, as it's based on a 911. Here the starting point is the 993 - the last of the air-cooled cars - it's a deliberate choice for its suspension, more sophisticated than any 911 before it. The goal with the Gunther Werks 400R is of continuation, building a car as Porsche might today had it not replaced the air-cooled cars twenty years ago with the water-jacketed 996. The aim isn't just a modern Carrera either, Gunther Werks CEO Peter Nam wanted to build his interpretation of how a GT3 would be.
A measure of the execution of the car and the respect around the people involved in it is that of the 25 Gunther Werks will build, all but a handful are sold. Impressive, given the $525,000 starting price. That's before you've ponied up a Carrera as a basis - they'll find you one if you've not got the time. It's doubly impressive that Gunther Werks has achieved those sales off the back of being shown at Quail and SEMA, before anyone outside the company has actually driven it.
It's lighter, obviously, unladen it's 1,211kg, thanks to every panel bar the doors being carbon fibre. A lithium ion battery helps too, as does the rear-seat delete, carbon interior trim, aerospace-grade lightweight carpeting and fixed-back carbon fibre seats. It feels authentically GT3 in its execution inside, focussed, and beautifully finished without being racer-austere - coming with a few concessions to modernity and comfort via electric air conditioning and a Porsche Classic sat-nav stereo.
Outside it's equally as obsessively detailed. The panel gaps are tighter than any 993 ever left the factory with, and the headlights comprising a combination of milled aluminium, carbon fibre, aerospace-grade glass and LED technology. They're gorgeous.
Behind the front wheels are 355mm slotted front discs with Brembo GTR 6 piston callipers, the rear having four-piston Brembo callipers grabbing 345mm discs. All that hangs off a bespoke KW Clubsport coilover set-up, RS spec uprights and fully adjustable custom tie rods and arms. There's a front axle lift-kit for convenience and it's all ball jointed, the steering rack getting solid plastic bushings rather than rubber ones, it powered by a hydraulic set-up, with an electric pump fitted to remove losses from the engine. And the engine? Take a deep breath.
There's a custom fan, opening the engine cover revealing it and the GT3-style carbon plenum with its Eventuri air intake. On looks alone the engine will have you weak at the knees, as will the numbers - 438hp at 7,800rpm and 315lb ft at 6,500rpm. That's over 108hp per litre. Healthy.
The engine's enthusiasm for revs and immediacy is its signature, the lightweight single mass flywheel helping it to spin up to its 7,800rpm redline eagerly. Gamroth lets on that it could rev higher still, but with its road car status there had to be concessions to longevity.
The steering feel here is like little else I've experienced. Rich in detail, it's hugely informative without being overly busy, the turn-in as immediate, if not more so, than the current 991 GT2 RS. Its weighting is spot on, too, that linear, faithful response at the front axle complimented by suspension which delivers a beguiling mix of taut control and a supple, composed ride.
The lack of mass helps it everywhere, the brakes wash off the hastily gained pace with impunity, the car working beautifully as a whole. Driving it is an immersive, sensation-rich experience that's utterly contemporary in its performance, but retrospective in its engagement. Not once do I feel the desire to change a setting, remove an electronic control's threshold or switch off a driver aid as I would in something current. That's a uniquely exciting mix, and the antithesis of what modern sports cars deliver.
I hate and love the 400R in equal measure. I hate it because I know my own 993 will never drive like this, and love it because I know that it's possible. History has the capacity to teach us a lot, and Gunther Werks has applied it perfectly. It really is that good.
SPECIFICATION - GUNTHER WERKS 400R
Engine: 3,9996cc, flat-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 438@7,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 315@6,500rpm
Top speed: N/A
Weight: 1,211kg (Unladen)
[Photos: Ted7 Photography]