From its sandblasted front bumper to its big rear flares, Mark Carrillo’s backdated 911 RSR tribute looks like it has a story to tell—and for good reason. Rather than being tucked away in a garage for the occasional weekend drive, this mid-year 911 gets driven—a lot! Under Carrillo’s ownership, this Viper Green Porsche has been driven thousands of miles on a variety of vintage road rallies, even a few south of the border in Mexico.
“The car has been on well over 30 rallies,” says its owner. “At least 19 of them have been multi-day events.” The 911 has even tackled the 12-mile long Rumarosa Hill Climb in the Sonoran Desert that sees an elevation change of over 4,000 feet.
This Porsche’s well-earned patina is even more notable when you take into account that this is Carrillo’s first air-cooled 911, and only his second Porsche. When it comes to the appeal of vintage Porsches, Carrillo definitely gets it. “It has that great, old German car smell when you first get in it,” he says. “It roars like a beast, the seats hold you snug, and it makes you feel alive!”
The Path to an Air-Cooled Porsche
Carrillo grew up in Southern California during the glory days of Mulholland Drive street racing and Saturday night cruising on Van Nuys Boulevard. It was a hotbed of car culture and hot-rodding.
“The first Porsche I remember encountering belonged to my grade school principal,” he recalls. “He would park his black G-body 911 near the main entrance, and I walked by it every day. I was fascinated by it because it was so unlike every other car I had seen.” But Carrillo’s path to air-cooled 911 ownership was a long and winding road that saw many cars pass through his hands before landing on the green machine seen here.
“My first car was a Mazda RX7 that I modified.” As he puts it, the RX7 was followed by “a long list of aspiring boy-racer cars like a Mustang, Miata, VW GTI, Subaru STi, Mini Cooper S and a Lotus Elise to name a few.” No less than 32 cars have passed through Carrillo’s hands over the years. He eventually settled on a car that ticked all the right boxes for him in the form of a Laguna Seca Blue E46-generation BMW M3, which is undoubtedly a terrific car.
But the 911 itch wouldn’t seem to go away, even when counteracted with the soothing balm of BMW Motorsport goodness. At the time, Carrillo was working for the U.S. distributor of TechArt, a German company that specializes in tuning Porsches. As it so happened, the company had a 996-generation 911 that it had been using to show off the company’s products that it was selling.
“I always thought about that black SC from grade school,” says Carrillo. “I also admired the 930, 959, and the 993. I decided it was time to take the leap, so I sold my BMW.” He was immediately impressed with the 996’s lower center of gravity compared to the M3, as well as the Porsche’s lighter curb weight. But there was still something about the driving experience that was missing.
“I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed driving the 996, there were certain aspects of the M3 that I missed,” he continues. “The M3’s engine revved to 8,000 rpm, and it had individual throttle bodies, instant throttle response, and a raspy bark. The 996’s personality was tame in comparison. The 996 had great performance, but it felt more like a GT car than the raw sports car of my dreams.”
Carrillo figured if he could get a more compelling mechanical experience combined with the rear-engine dynamics and uniqueness of the 911, he’d be set. But how? The answer would come from Carrillo’s enthusiast friend, Paul Farrell.
“He had owned as many cars as me, but among them were several 911 SCs,” says Carrillo. “He was a big fan of the model.” Farrell tossed Carrillo the keys to his built SC and told him to go wring it out. “It was an instant revelation,” continues Carrillo. “The feel, the smell, the sound. No power steering or ABS. The interior was no-nonsense, and the driving experience was closer to a go-kart!”
Carrillo decided he wanted a custom air-cooled 911 based loosely on the race-ready aesthetics of the 1973 911 2.8 RSR. “The late 1960s and early ’70s has always been my favorite automotive era,” explains Carrillo. “The cars produced during that time are some of the most iconic.” The hunt was on for a suitable starting point to create his ultimate sports car. As luck would have it, in 2010, he discovered a European-spec 1980 911 3.0 SC coupe for sale online that was being sold locally.
“The car had been living a life of leisure at the Van Nuys airport,” recalls Carrillo. “The seller worked in aviation and had been using the 911 to get around the tarmac.” The SC had also been modified with Turbo fenders, which dovetailed perfectly with his idea of a pseudo-’73 RSR hot rod. “The paint was tired, but that was OK because I knew I wanted a bright, early 911 color.”
In 2011, shortly after purchasing the SC, he attended Rennsport Reunion IV. Seeing the real-deal RSRs running full-bore around Laguna Seca only served to convince him he was on the right path with his vision for the build. Shortly after, the five-year project that transformed an SC into the 911 pictured here began. “Each summer, when it was too hot to drive in SoCal, I would take the car out of service for months to work on the project,” he adds.
The 911’s original CIS-injected 3.0-liter engine was still running—if a bit tired—so Carrillo tackled the exterior transformation of the car as the first order of business. Dave Bouzaglou at TRE Motorsports in Van Nuys, California provided some key components for the build, including the fiberglass RSR bumpers that replaced the 911’s factory impact bumpers. With the glass removed, the fuel filler door on the left fender was welded up along with the antenna hole.
“One of the 930 rear fenders was slightly askew, so it was cut off, and re-butt welded correctly,” says Carrillo. At the front, the fenders were modified with the look of long-hood 911 fenders, while the SC’s short hood was replaced with the proper pre-’74 hood. The hood was modified with a hole for the center-fill gas tank, which by the way, is a 100-liter (26.4-gallon) tank as originally used on factory 911 STs and rally cars. The larger fuel capacity is ideal for the road rallies that the car is enjoyed on.
“We explore open roads in some pretty remote areas, so having 400 miles of range eliminates any anxiety about when the next gas station will appear,” says Carrillo. Rounding out the exterior alterations was a change from the original black anodized window trim to a more period correct silver anodized finish. With the exterior of the car now doing a pretty good impersonation of a long-hood RSR, Carrillo focused in on the engine.
It’s no mystery that 911 owners are blessed with an incredible array of options when it comes to choosing the right air-cooled flat-six. Stock CSI 3.0? That would work. A carbureted 3.0 with big cams? Sure. A 3.6-liter with modern fuel injection? Easy peasy! A 3.8-liter? The choices and combination of displacement, compression ratio, fuel delivery, and so on are dizzying to be sure. But, again, Carrillo wanted to keep the vibe of the build mostly period correct.
“We wanted to build an engine in the spirit of the original 2.8-liter, 10.3:1 compression ratio, twin-plug MFI six in the RSR, but something that would also be well-suited for driving around town on pump gas,” he explains.
Aaron Burnham of Burnham Performance in Camarillo, California was enlisted for the heavy lifting on the engine build. The original 3.0-liter case, rods, and crankshaft were retained, but the stock liners were swapped for larger 3.2-liter Carrera parts. The liners were bored out, Nikasil plated, and then matched up with 10.5:1 compression ratio CP pistons to create a 98.0 mm x 70.4 mm short-stroke 3.2. (The factory 1984-89 911 Carrera 3.2 engines, in comparison, have 95.0 mm bores and a 74.4 mm stroke.)
Since the SC was a Euro-spec car, its heads already had larger, 39 mm intake ports. These heads were a plus, as they were more easily able to take advantage of the Dougherty Racing Cams DC 40 S-spec camshafts that were installed. Along the way, the heads were also machined to accept a custom twin-spark-plug setup. The next key item that needed to be resolved was the method of fuel delivery.
“Carbs would have been a cheaper option,” admits Carrillo. “But the technology struck me as antiquated, like drum brakes. My preference aside, carbs also wouldn’t have been period correct on an RSR build, just as electronic fuel injection would have been too modern.” Carrillo rightly settled on mechanical fuel injection as the perfect sweet spot.
Burnham sourced a complete MFI system from a 1972 911T and then rebuilt and/or modified the stacks, pump, fuel lines, and pump space cam. A set of George Narbel’s European Racing Headers were sourced from GT Racing and flow into a Dansk RSR muffler. The result was a healthy flat-six making 320 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque.
Once the engine was complete, Carrillo turned the car over to the father and son team of Tony and Marco Gerace at TLG Auto in North Hollywood for final reassembly and mechanical sorting. Along the way, the oil cooling system was upgraded with a front-mounted RSR-style cooler that is fed oil from the rear of the car via finned lines sourced from Elephant Racing.
“This setup provides more than enough cooling, and oil temperature is never an issue,” notes Carrillo. The original Type 915 five-speed gearbox was retained, but it gained some choice upgrades along the way to make it a better match for the engine. “Marco came up with a great shifter setup,” says Carrillo. “He installed a factory short shift kit and a small rod extension.”
The extension places the wooden 917-style shift knob sourced from Dave Mason in the perfect spot for grabbing quick up and downshifts. Marco also assembled a combination of lightweight clutch components, and a Wavetrac limited-slip differential was installed to keep the power down on the tarmac around turns.
When all was said and done, the SC’s weight was dropped to an impressive 2,300 lbs, meaning the stock SC brakes were up to the task of slowing the car. The only change here was the addition of cross-drilled rotors. While going with 16- or even 17-inch Fuchs would have opened up more tire options, 15×9-inch and 15×11-Fuchs were chosen for the proper look. The wide wheels were built out of a set of 15-inch Fuchs by Harvey Weidman. Those alloys were then wrapped in sticky Michelin TB5R vintage rally tires before the whole package was slid onto the car’s extended lugs.
The suspension was built with an eye towards road tours, where a little bit of comfort would make long stints behind the wheel more bearable. Tyson Schmidt at Pro Motorsports in Burbank raised the spindles on the front strut housings, which use Heavy-Duty Bilsteins. Next came larger 22 mm (0.9 in.) front and 28 mm (1.1 in.) rear torsion bars. There is also a Rebel Racing bump steer kit, but other than that, the other changes to the underpinnings were limited to a proper alignment and corner balancing.
Behind the Wheel
After snapping some photos of this fat-fendered 911 in the dwindling SoCal sunlight light, Carrillo offers me the driver’s seat to see just what I think of his vision brought to life.
Inside, the faux-RSR feels suitably vintage, with plain RS-style door panels, a thin layer of lightweight carpet topped with rubber floor mats. The comfortable one-piece Recaro-style seats are upholstered in a green plaid that echoes the bright exterior paint. Behind the seats is a roll bar, and a bright red fire extinguisher mounted in front of the shifter lends everything a bit of seriousness. The steering wheel is a four-spoke design of the same type fitted to the original RSRs, and the shift knob is made of balsa wood.
A dab of throttle and twist of the 917-style drilled ignition key lights up the engine. Throttle response is suitable sharp thanks to the 10.5:1 compression ratio, revs picking up instantaneously. Once underway, the 911’s lower curb weight is instantly noticeable; the whole car responds immediately to throttle and steering inputs. And that combined with the sizzling performance of the short-stroke 3.2 sitting in the tail has resulted in a suitably invigorating drive.
The gas pedal has a direct relation to how quickly the horizon is reeled in as the tach swings quickly towards 7,500 rpm. This is one quick, responsive, and engaging 911! It’s also race-car loud, so much so that I lift off the throttle and coast pass some the houses that line the canyon we’re on. As expected, the 911 corners flatly and without drama, and the sticky Michelin’s provide more than adequate grip for spirited street driving. Overall, the car is very addictive to drive.
“The drivetrain is just plain rowdy,” says Carrillo. “The car always wants to go fast. It builds that speed fast, and it keeps you on your toes.” It’s also been remarkably reliable, happily driving mile after mile. “This car is not a stiffly-sprung, stripped-down track machine, nor is it a quiet, soft, reasonable car to drive around the city.” In other words, for its intended purpose, it’s just about perfect.