911 Shape Shifter

Also from Issue 187

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  • ALMS 2010: Porsche battles for victory
  • Glöckler: A Restored one-off
  • GT3 Cup wins class at Pikes Peak
  • Premiere production 914-6
  • GT3 R Hybrid: It has boost, but no turbo
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  • Stock Boxster S vs. Boxster Spec Racer
  • Mid-engine Buyer's Guide
  • Green Porsche: Cayenne S Hybrid driven
  • Targa California: big thrills, low frills
  • Dangers of disconnecting your battery
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For the exterior, 993 EVO2 fiberglass panels were ordered from AIR in Van Nuys. Gagen felt that the lightweight body would offer better aero and save 200 pounds or so. He modified the forward tub to work with the EVO2 nose and oil-cooler ducting. The forward air jack went in next, and the tub was then modified to work with the Dzus-fastened fiberglass fenders. After the six-foot-wide, high-aspect elevated wing was test-fit, Mark Tyler of Qualtech Autobody in San Diego was tasked with painting the car in a contrasting white and green scheme. All told, the finished car weighed 2,310 pounds, including driver.

“It wasn’t ‘vintage’ anymore,” comments Gagen. “But on a high-speed track, when compared to a 1970s wide-body, it was worth a couple of car-lengths each lap.”

Over the last five years, Gagen has become known as a formidable competitor in Southern California club racing. In PCA time trials, he took Top Time of Day on two separate occasions at the Streets of Willow, along with several firsts in class. Content with his accomplishments, he was ready to dial back his on-track involvement and was thinking about returning his 911 to its dual-purpose street/track roots when he took part in 2009’s Targa California for pre-1976 sports cars. It sealed his decision.

He would remove the 993 EVO2 body, put it on the shelf, and adapt a ’74 RSR-look shell. This earlier-era body would end up being modified to provide room for the widest 15-inch wheels and tires RSR 3.0s ran. A left-foot braker, Gagen loves having a big footprint up front — which allows him to transfer weight there without locking up the front tires. At the limit, Gagen says his 911 is set up for a bit of oversteer, which he likes because it allows him to stay on the gas while rotating into a corner.

He started with AIR 15-inch fiberglass fenders and had Qualtech modify them to fit 15×11 and 15×14 hand-grooved Avon bias-ply slicks. Harvey Weidman of Oroville, California spent considerable time building custom, 15-inch Fuchs alloys to accept the tires. A second set of BBS 17×11- and 17×13-inch wheels allow for the use of race slicks on the occasional track day.

The next order of business was softening the suspension. TRE Motorsports of North Hollywood lowered the spring rate to 250 pounds up front and 400 pounds in the rear. The JRZ shocks were also made double-adjustable all the way around to help improve the ride. TRE then installed a new heater/defroster system with Billy Boat headers as well as a custom-welded steering rack, a six-nozzle fire system, and a stock, 17-gallon gas tank modified to work with a 100-mm, under-hood cap. A 996 collapsible spare tire was also installed. To spruce up the interior, TRE installed a pair of RS-style door panels and floor mats.

Qualtech of San Diego completed the bodywork and painted the RSR with DP90 epoxy semi-gloss black primer. Gagen liked the look and thought he was done — but the front trunk still needed some attention. He asked Lance Smith Race Rods in Ocean Beach, California to organize it. Smith patched holes, installed grommets, added damper mounts, and painted the compartment speckled gray. A Smart Racing Products oil tank with beautifully plumbed –16 oil lines to the remote oil coolers went in next. To protect the fragile fiberglass fenders, Smith installed quarter-inch neoprene with a fiberglass overlay inside of them. Not quite content, he also redesigned the rear interior paneling for improved access.

So it is that this 911, which started out as a modest carbureted 1969 T, has gone from mild street car to successful club racer and back again. Today, it’s a 1969 911T in little more than VIN plate and gauges. Is Gagen suffering from a similar identity crisis? Judging by the multiple revisions to his 911, you’d be tempted to think so. Then again, he did serve as a rock-steady air traffic controller at the San Diego International Airport for 30 years — so maybe there’s resolute logic and reasoning behind the car?

Gagen seems to think so. “I saw it as evolutionary and remaining continually in flux,” he says. “I suppose I subscribe to the ‘It isn’t finished yet’ philosophy. Heck, I still need to come up with a color to paint it!”

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