In the early days of the marque, even casual observers saw Porsche buyers as a breed apart. They were often racers hoping to come out on top at the track thanks to Porsche’s reputation for nimble handling and reliability. Another segment of the market that found these unique automobiles appealing was the slide-rule set—men (usually) with crew cuts and technical jobs like engineer, airplane pilot, or scientist. But these days, Porsche’s appeal transcends the old stereotypes.
Today you’ll find owners who are involved in careers that span the spectrum of endeavors. However, the owner of our subject car, Rich Barry, is someone I think is special—you might say unique—because he has a foot in both of Porsche’s historic worlds: the race track and technology. His job is technical (and very creative), but he is also a dedicated track guy (e.g., he recently earned his PCA Driver Education Instructor credential).
Barry is involved in the challenging and imaginative world of television as the Creative Director for Nickelodeon International, a job he says keeps him on an airplane most of the time. His approach to Porsche ownership is as singularly different as any Porsche devotee I have met in decades of following the marque. Throw in the fact that he is the individual involved in making and using Nickelodeon’s famous (infamous?) Green Slime and you have the makings of a fun and fascinating story.
Choose Your Weapon
Rich Barry has been a track-day guy for quite a while. Our subject car is his fourth Porsche. Just prior to this he was driving a 997-gen 911 Carrera S with an aero package. He explained, “I was playing with track cars for ten years, and then I decided to get serious.” To do that he told me he thought he should get a different Porsche. “I decided that I needed a GT car.” He did his research and picked what he believed was the best car for him.
“The 2004 996 GT3 has the reputation that if you can drive it well, you’re OK,” he said. “It was sort of a personal challenge I put on myself. Plus, more importantly, it has no nannies. It is reliable, and it is a great car to learn in.” In the final analysis, Barry felt the 996 GT3 had everything he wanted, plus, he admitted, the 997 GT3s were more cost prohibitive.
Barry spotted his car on Rennlist, and it immediately caught his attention. “The car just appealed to me because it had a lot of what I would have liked to have done to it already done!” Pausing for emphasis, he added, “It’s always nice to hear that the car has the upgrades you would make yourself.” It had one modification that some people might not have gotten excited about unless they had really done their 996 GT3 homework.
Barry explained, “The biggest selling point for me was that it had a re-geared transmission.” He explained what that meant, “So the gears had been changed internally to make it a more effective track car.” I was curious what these changes were and Barry, laughing, said, “I’m not a transmission expert…I’ll give you my best understanding of it. They leave first [alone], but second through sixth, they bring them all down one so that the car has less top speed, so I’m not going to be able to do 175, but I’ll get to 165 a lot faster.” And that’s no idle boast. Barry said that he has reached 162 mph at Watkins Glen on the long straight before the “Bus Stop.” He smiled when he said, “That’s moving—especially for me!”
Besides making the transmission change, one of the previous owners added a half roll cage, Sparco seats, and made a few suspension mods, leaving the engine stock. He had added upgraded springs and had the stock Bilsteins re-valved to match. Not being an engineer, I was curious about how one goes about deciding what springs to install and then what to tell the shock maker to do to match them correctly. Fortunately, our conversation was in the shop that has been servicing Rich Barry’s car, so we asked the nearby mechanic, Bob Tonczos, for help.
“Someone with experience in a shop would always consider the ability of the driver,” said Tonczos, “and thinking about his run group and if he is going to drive enough to progress. If so, you put them on a stiffer setup. Then you send the shocks to Bilstein with the year and model of the Porsche, what spring rate you’re going to be using, and they choose the valving for you, unless you have something very specific.”
Tonczos made sure we understood the potential seriousness of making these types of significant changes without knowing the skills of the driver. “You wouldn’t put thousand-pound springs in a blue or white run group driver’s car.” Then, speaking from experience, he elaborated. “Every ‘newbie’ that buys a very fast GT car is immediately the fastest man—in his head—and he wants the best. Some of those people you can see it, so you can’t give them really stiff stuff, they’re just gonna keep wrecking the car.”
Then Tonczos made the case for getting advice from an experienced race shop by pointing to a suspension setup from Ohlin called TTX. “It’s fully adjustable, so when the white run group driver’s skills have advanced, the settings can be brought to a higher level. As Tonczos explained the Ohlin system’s advantages, Barry said smiling, “It sounds like your selling me on them now…”
Because Barry drives many different tracks, with different levels of surface smoothness, having adjustable shock valving to compensate would certainly be a change to consider. However, Tonczos admitted that while there is a potential advantage to shock adjustability, if you don’t know what you are doing, “The really over-eager guy that wants to make adjustments right away is never gonna learn and is never gonna go fast.” Adding, “You can get lost in shock adjustments.”
Despite all of the talk about adjustable shocks, Barry said that he is still learning the car so he hasn’t made the decision to make that kind of upgrade. “I’ve been trying to learn the car setup in a fairly stock manner so that when I make the upgrades, I feel like I’ll be improving with the car.”
While Tonczos’s suspension changes are still a few events away—predicated on Barry’s growing experience—Barry has made some important tweaks that are performance and safety related. Between the 2017-2018 track season, he had a full Porsche roll cage installed, “It’s nice…I had it painted to match the interior so it would blend in a little bit better.”
The performance changes started with new pipes. “We did an exhaust and tune over the winter, too.” The shop recommended the FVD Brombacher system that has a double benefit. “We did it for [both] sound and power. I love the exhaust. I can now hear the engine. When I had the stock exhaust on the car, I could hear other cars passing me with louder exhausts, and I would sometimes not hear my redline and miss it, so this is helpful.”
Since it supposedly helps with power, I asked if his lap times improved with the change. “I’m a Driver’s Ed guy,” he admitted, “So I really don’t time myself, so I don’t use any time equipment at the moment.” But he did admit that his race shop’s owner—a dedicated racer in the PCA Spec Boxster class—has been encouraging him to get into using data as a learning tool since Barry’s aim is to become a better driver. “I think one of my next purchases will be an AIM data logging system. But my focus, to this day, has always been about learning, being a better driver, and not timing myself.”
As for the engine, it hasn’t been opened up and modified, but Barry said they did do a few things to make it stronger. He continued, “We did a tune on it over the winter after we did the exhaust.” Tonczos explained that unlike the old days where you would “chip” a car’s engine management system, now shops do a process he called a “flash.” Since this will be a dedicated track car, the reprogramming they did got rid of the emissions control work that Porsche built in. Barry says, “It frees up the engine a little bit.”
While they have not put the engine on a dynamometer, Barry says he would like to because he said he felt “a very big difference” from the changes to the exhaust and the engine management re-flash. The engine, stock, was rated at 385 hp. Tonczos says that, conservatively, with their changes that he feels the engine is closer to 410 hp and 320 lb-ft.
However, Barry says that he can keep up with 997 GT3s and 991 GT3s on the track. Not a boastful guy, he added that since the interior has been gutted and all of the air conditioner gear is gone, it is a lot lighter—Tonczos estimates it weighs around 3,000 lbs—so that too helps his on-track pace.
Since it’s a 996-generation 911, I questioned the intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing reliability issue. Tonczos said that despite this being a 996, it’s a GT3, which means that it doesn’t have an engine with an IMS bearing. It’s a “Mezger” engine that has its roots back to the 964 air-cooled days. Barry chimed in saying, “It’s been very reliable.”
Finally, the car still has the stock brakes on all four corners, but Barry thinks he will upgrade them. He then said, “I don’t know about you, but I like being able to keep up with other Porsches while still having an old car without a lot of the modern electronic aids.”
Time to Slime
Nickelodeon, Rich Barry’s employer, first appeared on TV in April of 1979—on April Fools Day! Barry said, “Green Slime has been a part of the brand since day one.” But since I don’t have kids and am too old to have ever watched the Nickelodeon channel, I wanted to know, “What’s its purpose?” Without hesitation, Barry said, “Green Slime is a celebration of being a kid.” Laughing, he explained, “It’s an honor to be slimed. We [even] slime people on the Kid’s Choice Awards every year, which is a long-running (35 years) awards show driven by kids.”
Caring about helping kids have fun is so much a part of what he does and how deeply he feels about celebrating the joys of being a happy youth that he showed me his “Guinness Book of Records” award for the most people slimed at one time. “I think it was 765,” he recalled. Sliming originally came from an old show called, You Can’t Do That On Television, and it was about kids sliming adults. He described it as “Kids making fun of adults…” And this evolved into the tradition where kids would slime a celebrity when they came onto the awards show.
“And this was the ultimate honor—being slimed with Nickelodeon Slime.” He even was the executive producer for TV game show called Slime Time Live that ran for eight seasons. On the show, they slimed participants every single day on live television. “People would just go crazy for it, I can’t even explain it. Yeah, live TV in the spirit of Soupy Sales and things like that.” This earned him the unofficial title of, “Chief Slime Officer” because his job required that he check the slime used on every show. “I put my hand in. I check the viscosity and color for shoots for things.”
So, the question becomes, why slime your Porsche? Barry said when he bought his car, it was all silver. Since it was going to be a dedicated track car, he and the race shop owner felt it needed some color. “I went back and forth a hundred different ways, red or blue or some other color and at the end of the day I thought, I’m Irish, why don’t I go with green?” And, as the gears were still spinning in his head, he realized, “I thought, gee, I’m the Chief Slime Officer, why don’t I go with green, for Green Slime?”
He was fortunate to be working with a race shop with a vinyl wrap capability. Conferring with their technical person, they came up with the exact effect he wanted. However, the final decision didn’t happen overnight. Laughing, he admitted, “This was like a three-month conversation—how much slime to add, how much green to add.” To be accurate and to properly honor the official color of Green Slime, Barry got the hexadecimal value of the green color used on the shows. The technician plugged this value into the computer that would “print” the vinyl wrap stripes they used, giving them the exact match they wanted.
Barry admits that his GT3 is an easy car to drive but, without the electronic driver aids found in more modern Porsches, it’s a harder car to drive really fast. But that’s the way he likes it since a large part of his enjoyment of this car is the learning experience. I like to think that putting Green Slime stripes on his Porsche seems like the perfect image for a car driven by the “Chief Slime Officer” whose professional career is built around celebrating and enhancing the joy that’s a part of being a happy kid. And because driving your Porsche is a joyous celebration of being a driver—with or without the green stripes!