Opinion

The rise of restomods shows potential in the Werks

If there’s going to be a sports car story of the 2020s, I’m going to put my bet on it being the rise of the restomod. 

I’m still not sure if I like the portmanteau, but I can’t think of anything better. It means Restored meets Modified, with some cars being rather more modified than restored, such as the Volvo P1800 Cyan we drove last month, and this, Californian company Gunther Werks’ take on a 993-series Porsche 911. 

Gunther Werks is, like Singer, a California-based customiser of 911s but its aim is not to reimagine a 911 while maintaining period appearances. It imagines what would have happened if it went beyond-GT3. So it uses a 4.0-litre engine, and widens the chassis and incorporates so much carbon fibre that it weighs a little over 1200kg. Prices start at a little under £400,000, plus your 993, so it’s a niche area of the sports car business, but its ilk remain one of its more interesting to me.

A video of it has landed with us today. It shows GT and touring car driver Randy Pobst lapping it at Laguna Seca in 1m30.99s. 

Gunther Werks thinks that’s the fastest time set by an air-cooled 911 with number plates, but rather more significantly it’s only a couple of tenths away from the time Pobst set in a McLaren P1. That, in turn, is a second off his time in a McLaren 720S: which is faster than a P1 despite having less power because, in part, it doesn’t have to carry a hybrid system around. The Gunther Werks 993 has so much less weight again that it set its lap time with just 435bhp. 

What excites me about this, and other Restomods like the Alfaholics GTA-R (895kg) and Eagle Lightweight E-Type (1017kg), is that losing weight is the gift that keeps giving. You don’t have to have nearly 1000bhp for it to feel extremely quick – the GTA-R feels thrillingly fast on a circuit with just 240bhp. And with less weight to manage, controls can be more direct and have less assistance, without them becoming fearsomely heavy. Which actually makes lightweight cars so engaging even if you’re not going fast. It’s one reason that the Ariel Atom 4 is our Britain’s Best Drive’s Car Champ of 2020.

And I worry that mass is what brand new supercars, much as I like many of today’s (including the McLaren 765 LT and Ferrari F8 Tributo), will struggle to contain over the next decade, as electrification begins to take its impact. 

Shorn of that complexity and – let’s be truthful – shorn of some other regulatory measures like active safety systems, the restomod does more with less. We were meant to drive a Gunther Werks car this year but, what with this and that, didn’t quite manage it. In 2021, we’ll put that right.

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