Surprisingly, the extra mass of the 3.8-liter engine out back isn’t noticeable during mildly spirited driving. The car handles well, considering that it still has rubber bushings and relatively soft torsion bars. It could have been set up stiffer with the goal of improved track times, but that wasn’t Smith’s goal. He was looking to build a boulevard bruiser that was fast, but that wouldn’t beat him and his wife up when they took it out for a drive.
The steering, thanks to relatively narrow 205-mm front tires, is light and communicative. Of course, this 911E gets tail-happy when it is pushed, but the only person who will be getting its rear end out today will be Smith. My experience with this R Gruppe 911 will be limited to straight-line bursts in open areas. And what fun it is. Driving a car with this power-to-weight ratio, you feel like an old wild west gunslinger with a loaded weapon, looking for trouble at every four-way intersection.
Are you inclined to think that a new 997 Turbo is fast? Well, with approximately 7.28 pounds weighing down each horse, the 480-hp 997 Turbo is fast — very fast. But it can’t compare to the 6.62 pounds per horse engineered into Smith’s weapon of mass destruction. Then consider this 911’s smaller frontal area. Its early 1970s aero package can’t match the 997 Turbo for high-speed efficiency and stability, but we suspect a sprint from, say, 20 to 100 mph might leave a 997 Turbo owner feeling more than a little surprised.
As amazing as the car’s power-to-weight ratio may be, it’s the overall attention to detail that knocked ’em dead at 2006’s R Gruppe Treffen. At what may have been one of the best Porsche events of 2006, this was the Porsche that grabbed the most attention, hands down. But, according to Jeff Smith, this isn’t just another “big-dollar, checkbook” 911. No, he says he’s responsible for all of the body and paintwork as well as all of the fabrication and assembly of the body and interior. The car may throw off a “big dollar” vibe due to its trick parts and modern engine, but Smith says that doing most of the work himself allowed him to build this car for what many pay for original early 911Ss — and quite a bit less than a 997 Turbo.
Smith bought this 911E in 1999. It was a mostly original car with a solid body that, according to Smith, “had every corner rounded off by the previous owner.” Once the body was stripped of all paint and undercoating, Smith began with the modifications that would mimic the factory RS/RSR 911s. He began by reinforcing the rear torsion tube, gusseting it to the body. An original steel S front bumper and steel RS flares — with their distinctive lips that narrow towards their ends — were added to give the car a more muscular appearance and provide extra room for the 245/45R16 rear tires.
Jeff Smith chose to skip the seemingly “required” RS ducktail. Instead, he opted to use a stock engine lid to leave the 911’s lovely profile unspoiled. The lack of a tail only accentuates the RS 2.7 flares as they transition off of the roofline and wrap gracefully around the wheels.
With all of the bodywork completed, Smith faced the tough decision of what color. For the last few years, bright 1970s-era Porsche hues have been all the rage — colors like Viper Green, Signal Yellow, and Tangerine. Smith originally considered going with Signal Orange, but when it came time to purchase the paint, he discovered Glasurit didn’t have the hue formulated in the high solid paint he wanted. Smith had arranged for three weeks of vacation from work and would now need to find another color if he was going to get the job done in those three weeks.