In recent years Iain Litchfield has been responsible for some of this country's most ambitious car tuning projects. His Gloucestershire outfit Litchfield Motors is in the midst of building a 1200hp Nissan GT-R, for instance, that he hopes will set a sub-7 minute lap time around the Nurburgring, thereby matching the very fastest road-legal cars the OEM world is currently producing.
So what are we to make of his upgrade package for the Porsche 911 Carrera T, which consists of nothing more than a set of KW springs, geometry tweaks and minor engine upgrades? 'Once I had driven the car, I was convinced it just needed an OEM+ style upgrade,' says Iain. The car is so good out of the box, he explains, that a handful of considered modifications was all that was needed to realise its potential and turn it into something very special indeed.
This particular car is Iain's own, originally bought as a 40th birthday present to himself. Soon enough, though, it became his company's latest tuning project. The KW springs, roughly 20 per cent stiffer at the front and 10 per cent firmer at the rear, lower the car slightly at each end, while subtle wheel spacers help fill out the arches. The front suspension geometry has been tweaked in an effort to improve the car's steering, Litchfield having benchmarked a current 911 GT3 in the process.
The engine, meanwhile, receives nothing more than new engine management software and a custom, freer-flowing exhaust system. Litchfield adds either a Remus or Akrapovic rear silencer, depending on budget. Modest though those upgrades may seem, the results are impressive. Power rises from 370hp to 487hp, while torque jumps from 332lb ft to 450lb ft.
The stock Carrera T may not be a baby GT3 - whoever said it would be? - but with its smaller, Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, thinner glass, fabric door pulls, shorter gearshift throw, mechanical LSD and optional carbon fibre sports seats, as fitted here, it does feel so much more purposeful than a base-model Carrera.
Despite the sightly firmer springs and the drop in ride height - minus 20mm at the front and 10mm at the rear - the standard car's composed, pliant ride is largely unaffected. On a typically bumpy British B-road the car still feels beautifully damped and supremely well-controlled. It is the steering, however, that is most impressive. The geometry changes have made it appreciably more tactile and communicative, giving you a level of faith in the front axle on the way into a corner that you don't get in the standard car. It is sublime. The chassis revisions may not be extensive, but they work in such harmony with the standard equipment that the car is as enjoyable to drive along a flowing road as anything else wearing a sub-£100,000 price tag.
Chances are it will outrun most cars at that sort of price point, too, because with the better part of 500bhp working on no more than 1500kg, the Litchfield Carrera T is phenomenally quick. The engine starts pulling hard from a little under 2000rpm, then it thumps through the mid-range and rips so hard at the top end you begin to doubt it's turbocharged at all. For a turbo engine to have a useable rev band close to 6000rpm wide is very unusual indeed, and what it means out on the road is that you're never in the wrong gear and the car's forceful rate of acceleration is sustained through each ratio rather than being over in a flash.
As Litchfield points out, the Carrera T uses the smallest turbos you'll find on any 911, which is why they spool so quickly. Below 4000rpm turbo lag is fractional, but above that there simply isn't any hesitation at all. Combine that throttle response with huge performance, a rich soundtrack, intuitive steering, an effective LSD and a sweet chassis and you have a car that is so well executed you doubt it could be improved in any way. This car is near enough perfect.
On top of the Carrera T's £85,556 list price, the Litchfield upgrade package costs £10,339 (including fitting but not VAT). Choosing a Remus rear silencer rather than the costlier Akrapovic item brings that down to £7832. Alone, the chassis upgrades cost £1703, while the powertrain upgrades cost £5604 with the Remus exhaust and £8111 with the Akrapovic.
Inevitably, fiddling with the powertrain in any way does invalidate the manufacturer warranty. That will be reason enough for many Carrera T owners to stay away, but some simply will not care. Litchfield will guarantee his own work, though, and points out in all the years he's been upgrading customers' engines, he's never had one go pop inside the warranty window.
Litchfield Motors will continue to produce some of the most powerful performance cars on the road, but by upgrading the 911 Carrera T in a thoughtful and intelligent way, it has just built one of the very best, too.
SPECIFICATION - LITCHFIELD PORSCHE 911 CARRERA T
Engine 2981cc, flat-six, twin-turbo
Transmission Seven-speed manual
Power 487hp @ 6,550rpm
Torque 450lb ft @ 3,695rpm
Kerb weight 1500kg
0-62mph 4.0 secs (estimated)
Top speed 190mph (estimated)