Mexico Blue Dream

A 911 3.0 SC project car is turned into a stunning IROC RSR clone.

Photo: Mexico Blue Dream 1
March 5, 2020

When it comes down to it, the car hobby we all love so much is about the people and the personal connections we establish and maintain over the years thanks to a shared love of all things four-wheeled. Far more than simply being vehicles to get us down the road or around a race track, a lot of cars—especially those of the Porsche variety—serve as metaphorical campfires around which we develop lasting connections with other like-minded enthusiasts.

Take Troy Muller and his Mexico Blue IROC RSR tribute. Every detail of this stunning 911 was finished to near clinical perfection from top to bottom. But the car wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for a long-time friendship between Muller and Bill Follmer, who orchestrated its build. And the inspiration for this car itself came from experiences that they both shared as youngsters, though they didn’t even know it at the time.

Muller grew up just northwest of Los Angeles, in Encino, California, where he spent his sun-splashed youth surrounded by car culture. He also found time for plenty of surfing in the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean. And when he wasn’t in school or at the beach, his time was spent thumbing through car magazines or—better yet—spending weekends at the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway in what is now Moreno Valley, California. It was at Riverside that Muller recalls seeing a wave of brightly-colored 1974 IROC 911 RSRs thunder their way around the well-worn ribbon of asphalt.

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The 3.6-liter 993 engine makes 272 hp, which is excellent in a 2,400-lb car.

“I was there in ’74 when they had the IROC cars,” he recalls. It was the winter of late 1973 and early 1974, and the series, which was the brainchild of Roger Penske, had two events at the storied Southern California track. “I still have photos of me sitting on the hood of my dad’s car looking out over Turn Six. My dad was a Porsche fan. I was a Porsche fan. I wanted a 911 and a Ferrari, like every young boy.”

During the IROC events, Muller spent time wandering around the pits, where he could watch the various teams working on the cars. And, of course, one of those teams was George Follmer’s. His family was usually there as well, including his young nephew Bill Follmer, all of them lending a hand to the race effort. Little did they know it at the time, but Muller and the young nephew of George would meet later in life and become good friends.

When Muller turned 16, his first car was a Chevrolet El Camino with an SS396 engine under the hood. “In high school, I met a guy named Mark Schumaker whose dad owned a time-trial car that he ran in Porsche Owners Club events,” he says. One weekend at the track, Muller got a passenger ride in said time-trial car, which was none other than a 934-style machine. “Once I pulled out on pitlane in that right seat with my friend’s dad, that was it. I was hooked and just had to be a race car driver.” Muller went home and told his dad he was selling the Chevy. Of course, he wanted a 911. But combine the words “911” and “race car,” and you’ll most assuredly end up with the phrase “stacks of cash” in there as well.

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With the proceeds of the El Camino sale, a $1,000 loan from his dad, and some cash he had squirreled away from bussing tables and delivering newspapers, Muller managed to buy a 1974 914 2.0-liter. “I had a neighbor down the street build it into a 2.4-liter, so it was a little bit of a rocket ship,” he says.

Around the same time, he managed to talk his way into working at Dan Gurney’s Santa Ana-based race shop. The team was about to start campaigning a Toyota Celica GTU in IMSA. “I traveled with the team all over the country and worked my way up to a team mechanic,” Muller adds. When he wasn’t away working, he was entering the 914 in as many races and time trials as he could afford.

“My aunt and uncle lived in England, so at the end of ’84, I quit working at Dan Gurney’s shop, I sold my 914 and all of my surfboards and everything I had, and I talked my dad into giving me $10,000,” he says. “I moved to England and spent that money giving it to race teams that raced Formula Ford in England.” For a year, Muller lived in Kent, England, which is about 40 miles from Brands Hatch, where he “tried to beg, borrow, and steal to get rides.”

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When he returned to the States, Muller was able to get a drive in the Firestone Firehawk series thanks to the connections he had made working with Dan Gurney. He even managed to become a paid driver for a few years during the ’80s. Racing is not an easy career, though, and Muller eventually had to seek alternative ways to make ends meet. Fortunately, he was able to parlay his experience on the race track into gigs being a wheelman for car manufacturers, working with journalists at press events. As it turned out, George Follmer’s nephew, Bill, had also ended up in the same line of work.

“That’s when I first met Bill, which was 30 years ago at a Ride and Drive event for Infiniti,” says Muller. “We hit it off right away,” he recalls. “We have similar personalities and just loved Porsches. And, of course, he was a Follmer, and I knew who his uncle was, so that was super cool. And we’ve stayed friends to this day.” Though both of them worked for most of the high-end brands, during this time, Muller drove a practical Toyota outside of work thanks to a family-oriented lifestyle. Not so for Follmer, who owned a constant string of vintage Porsches.

“Bill and his wife Pam would do these events, and we could never go because I didn’t have a 911,” says Muller. “Then I thought, ‘You know what, it would be really cool to just have a nice 911 to drive around.’” The urge to finally have a Porsche 911 of his own became too much to bear when he and his wife rented a Boxster and joined Follmer and his wife on the annual Targa California road rally, organized by Dave Bouzaglou of TRE Motorsports.

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Yes, that is indeed George Follmer’s actual vintage “lollipop” racing seat.

“This project started from an impulse in a way,” admits Muller, who decided he wanted to build a custom 911 to his own vision, a hot rod of some sort, with the help of his friend Bill Follmer. “The idea was to make a street car, kind of a canyon runner,” he says. The project really got going in 2015, when Muller bought a 1983 911 3.0 SC project car. It was a perfect starting point. Since the car was mostly undamaged and came sans the engine and interior, it was a blank canvas ready to be made into something special.

Eventually, the direction of the build crystallized: it would be an homage to the mid-’70s IROC cars that had left an indelible impression on Muller when he was a kid spectating at Riverside. Add in the fact that none other than the nephew of an actual driver who piloted an IROC RSR would be the architect of the build, and well, what would you do?

“It was just meant to be in a way,” says Muller. “I told Bill, I love the IROC cars and your uncle Follmer. It was like: ‘How can we not do that?’ It made the build a lot easier because there was a theme.” But while the two friends wanted to end up with a 911 that had a pronounced IROC RSR vibe to it, they also decided not to tie their hands by being too concerned with making an actual replica. That left them free to pick and choose different elements of the various production IROC cars and combine them to their own liking.

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Finish and attention to detail are superb, even under the hood.

The first step was stripping the 3.0 SC’s tub down to a bare shell before it could be sent off to Shane East of East Auto Body in Orange, California. “The body was really damage-free and had pretty much no rust,” says Follmer. While the shell was getting prepped for paint, he contacted Getty Design to fabricate the proper bodywork for the car, which would include fiberglass front fenders, a new front hood as well as front and rear bumpers. “We had them use extra fiberglass to make them stronger since Muller would be driving on the street,” adds Follmer. Getty also supplied a balsa wood reinforced fiberglass front hood.

The sunroof was left in place, again because the intent was a street car. A set of factory 930-gen 911 Turbo fender flares were welded on. Then, an IROC-style whale tail spoiler was fitted. Once the body was prepped for paint, the next big decision was the color, which would, of course, be one of the 15 colors that Porsche had used on the original IROC cars, all of which were chosen because the bright colors would look better on TV screens. Follmer’s uncle had driven a Bahama Blue version. But Muller’s wife like the more vivid Mexico Blue, so that’s how that choice was made.

With the body converted to IROC RSR aesthetics and coated in bright Mexico Blue, the assembly process began. Inside, a custom carpet kit was installed by Tony Garcia at Autobahn Interiors in San Diego. Autobahn also handled the paired-down door panels as well as re-covering the driver and passenger seat. That seat, by the way? It’s a real deal ‘lollipop’ seat that has an interesting story of its own.

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“The IROC cars had these really low, funky seats, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive around in those,” explains Muller. The idea of installing a period-correct lollipop seat—so named for the unique shape of its headrest—entered the conversation at some point. Then Follmer remembered he had his uncle’s old lollipop seat collecting dust in the attic.

The seat had been used in a few cars, including a Porsche 934 and a Chevy Corvette that Follmer had raced. By the early ’80s, though, it was just an old worn-out seat that no one really wanted, so into his nephew’s attic it went. Bill Follmer dusted it off and agreed to donate it to the project, on the condition that if Muller were ever to sell the 911, he would give him back the seat. Autobahn re-covered the center of it along with the SC passenger seat in a blue plaid that Muller and Follmer came across when they were at trying to decide the color of the interior.

When I first train my camera lens on the hub of the steering wheel, I think it’s some trick, lightweight part. But it’s actually the innards of the stock steering wheel with the outer trim removed. Follmer explains that they were initially going to put in a more conventional MOMO wheel but, instead, they did what the factory did with the original IROCs, which was simply stripping the stock wheel to its bare essentials. Elsewhere, the gauges were restored by TRE Motorsports. And a roll bar was added to the rear of the car and fitted with a racing harness for the driver.

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Balsa wood reinforces the hood.

Where the stereo would typically sit is a blank off plate that reads “REV. LIMIT 7,300” and below that “Press clutch to floor for up & downshift”. The sticker was added in period to the IROC 911s to ensure that the drivers would use the clutch, unused as some of them were to the delicacy of the RSR’s 915 gearbox—relative to stock cars, Indy cars, and the like. There are numerous other custom touches on the car. For instance, since the 911’s air conditioning was removed, Randy Inglis Restorations built a custom airbox in the trunk that forces fresh air into the interior and is controlled with the original heater slider. It also gives a finished look to the trunk area where the blower motor normally sits.

The torsion bar suspension was converted to coilovers at all four corners that were sourced from Rebel Racing. These use Bilstein shocks paired with 400 lb springs at the front and 250 lb springs at the back, with 125 lb helper springs. A set of 19 mm (0.7 in.) front and 22 mm (0.9 in.) rear RSR anti-roll bars from Tarett Engineering keep body roll in check.

Original IROC RSRs were fitted with large 15×9 and 15×11-inch Fuchs wheels. Not only are real examples of these as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth, but the 15-inch diameter significantly limits tire choices. The solution, in this case, was a set of 17×9 and 17×11-inch replica Fuchs alloys with a custom offset made by Braid. The Continental ExtremeContact tires measure 235/45-ZR17 at the front and 275/40ZR-17 out back.

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Drilled door handles shed a few extra grams of weight and add to the competition look.

The flat-sixes installed in the back ends of the factory IROC cars were a unique mix of Porsche’s 2.8 RSR engines and the newer 3.0-liter RSR powerplants. In period, they pumped out around 315 hp thanks to slide-throttle fuel injection and a host of race-spec components. But sourcing a real IROC engine was pretty much out of the question, for both logistical and financial reasons. But even building an engine with the same high-revving, aggressive character of the original powerplant would make the driving experience of the car less than ideal for its intended purpose.

“I wanted to drive the car on the street,” says Muller, who decided along with Follmer that a later, 3.6-liter VarioRam engine from a 993 would be the best choice. “An IROC engine would have been five times what I paid for the 3.6-liter motor. And I didn’t want a temperamental car.” As it is, the 993 engine puts out 272 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque, which is more than sufficient for powering a lightweight machine. Jeff Erickson at Aase Motors in Fullerton, California installed the engine and sorted the wiring so that everything would run properly.

Three years after the two friends had decided to embark on a pretty ambitious build, the results were finally rolled out of Follmer’s Yorba Linda garage. “I’ll admit there were times when I just wanted to get this thing done,” says Muller. But the wait was more than worth it!

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The 1972 Can-Am series champion also gave this car his sign of approval.

He’s been logging many a mile behind the wheel of the reborn 3.0 SC. And after driving it myself, I can see why. Despite its race-ready appearance, this is a car I’d happily drive on a road rally. The re-covered lollipop seat is probably far more comfortable than it originally was thanks to a new layer of thicker foam that was added during the build. The 3.6-liter six in the back lights up with a twist of the ignition, settling down to a happy idle. The clutch is light with an easy to feel engagement point, while the WEVO short shift setup moves through the gates like the proverbial knife through butter.

Thanks to the fact that it’s tasked with hauling around less weight than a 3.0-liter powered SC normally has, the 3.6 provides plenty of motivation, pushing me firmly into the seat under full-throttle acceleration. Around corners, there is pretty much zero body lean, and the steering is light and full of feedback as I guide the 911 around corners. It’s all very civilized but still provides those key vintage 911 aspects, from the hollow sound of the flat-six to the light steering and the excellent traction from those wide rear tires.

Beyond just being a terrific experience for Muller, his wife, and Follmer, the fruits of their labor have been recognized by the Porsche enthusiast community. The car was entered in the 2018 PCA Werks Reunion in Monterey, and the results were unexpected. Before the Reunion, Muller’s wife had taken the car to the all women’s charity car show called the Prancing Ponies, where the Porsche took the win in its category. That evening at dinner, she told her husband they were probably also going to win an award at the Werks Reunion. Muller and Follmer glanced at each other with that ‘Yea, sure’ look.

At the end of the show the next day, Muller was standing near the car when the judges rolled up in their golf cart. “They were looking at us and the car next to us, which was a Patrick Motorsports car. It was a beautiful car. After a moment’s pause, the judges placed a First Place award on the IROC clone and the Second Place on Jim Patrick’s build. “I broke down in tears,” says Muller. “It was unbelievable. We just won this big Porsche show, and it was never even the goal. The goal was to build a badass car that I love to look at and drive.” It seems he’s not the only one who loves it.

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