2022 Gunther Werks Coupe Porsche 911 4.0 993
The Californian firm has reimagined its first production 993. How does it build on the prototype? Four years have passed since we drove Gunther Werks’ 400R prototype, and the production car is well worth the wait. Written by Kyle. Fortune Photography by Ted7.
WORLD’S BEST 993?
California test in Gunther Werks’ stunning production version of its 993 Coupe
After a prototype development programme stretching back years, Gunther Werks is now finally ready to unleash its production reimagining of the 993. Total 911 samples it on twisting mountain roads above Los Angeles, and the verdict is in. Check out the full story beginning on
«You need to drive the Coupe again.” That was Peter Nam’s response when I got in touch to request a drive in the forthcoming Gunther Werks Speedster. Who am I to argue? After all, it’s been four years since Total 911 was first to sample the 400R, and a lot has happened since. That car was a prototype, it affectionately referred to as ‘the red car’, and I can remember driving it like I did so yesterday. Nam’s promising it’s changed, and for the better. It’s not just the car that’s changed either, as Gunther Werks HQ has, too.
“The Gunther Werks Coupe has undeniably evolved into something that exhibits a jewel-like quality to its finish and detailing, but it remains resolute to its original driver focused goal”
They’re still located in Huntington Beach, California, but the production of the cars necessitated a move to new premises, both bigger and better suited to the work it does. Which, to recap, is simply to make the world’s best 993. There’s your conclusion if you don’t want to read any more. If you’re still with us, then here’s how they do it, and crucially, how it drives. In those four years Gunther Werks has sold every one of the 25 cars it promised to build. That alone underlines the quality of its work, because with a price starting comfortably north of half a million dollars, before you add any options or, indeed, the donor 993 Coupe to begin with, it’s not every air-cooled enthusiast who can afford it. The Gunther Werks appeals to an exacting, wealthy clientele then, the sort of buyers who are used to the very best and are not prepared to accept any compromises.
“It feels lightweight in its agility and responsiveness, but impressively, there’s no paucity penalty, it lacking nothing; instead it has a depth of quality that feels worth all, and more, of what Gunther Werks asks for it”
Not that Nam is, either. From the inception he’s been driven to produce the very best 993 possible, applying the latest thinking to the last air-cooled platform, using modern techniques to bring the 993 to the now. In no way are they knocking build convention here, but Gunther Werks’ original idea wasn’t, like so many others, to retrospectively look at Porsche’s greatest hits. Instead, Gunther Werks approaches its build of the 993 as it if were in perpetuation, bending time to rob history of the arrival of water cooling and the 996 and subsequent 997, 991 and 992 models. It’s not a case of reimagining or remastering, then, but applying modern thinking and techniques to it as if the 993 were a contemporary 911. Think of the Coupe – 400R name having been dropped – as a continuation then, and specifically, says Nam, as if Porsche itself applied the same approach that defines the current GT3 to the 993, today.
There have been moments while watching the Gunther Werks evolution from the other side of the Atlantic that had me thinking they might be deviating away from that original goal. Since my first drive all those years back, the team has clearly spent a great deal of attention on the visual elements. The resultant beautification of the interior and exterior raised my concerns that in focusing on these they might have lost direction in relation to the original, purist philosophy. It hasn’t. The Gunther Werks Coupe has undeniably evolved into something that exhibits a jewel-like quality to its finish and detailing, but it remains resolute to its original driver-focused goal. It’s a happy coincidence that the materials used and the finishes applied in the pursuit of that goal are both visually appealing and hugely tactile, the result a very clear representation of the obsessive attention to every single detail that goes into each of the 25 cars Gunther Werks has sold.
Outwardly the Coupe retains much the same silhouette – save the loss of the wing and in its place a neater ducktail – as the 400R prototype. It’s widened six inches (152mm), the idea behind that being to deliver a square track, for the greatest stability. As with the interior, it’s the detailing that has changed over the 400R, Gunther Werks evolving its own LED headlight design, while the rear taillights, also LED, add a pleasing, unique signature to the rear. You don’t have to have those rear lights, they’re optional. Indeed, each Gunther Werks Coupe is individually built to the owner’s desires, the company having a suite in their HQ where customers go through the build process. Visit that suite and there are near endless possibilities for carbon, leather or metal trim and seat, steering wheel, wheel, brake and suspension choices. There’s the option of exposed carbon on the entirely carbonfibre bodywork, though most are painted, the colour of the painted cars each finished in a bespoke formula that is unique to each commission.
There’s been enough demand that Gunther Werks could have built significantly more than the original 25 it promised but, admirably, it’s stuck to that count, leaving those wanting one having to buy off an existing owner. It’s testament to the quality of the cars that the few that have been re-sold have done so significantly over their original purchase price. Naturally, Gunther Werks knows every car and owner, and new owners can, and typically do, return the cars to add or update options, Gunther Werks seemingly in a perpetual state of development and evolution, much like Porsche itself.
To do that Gunther Werks has worked with a team of experts since the original idea was conceived. The list of people working in partnership with Gunther Werks will be known to the Porsche cognoscenti, with Cary Eisenlohr being the driving force behind the chassis development, and Jeff Gamroth, from Rothsport Racing, building the 4.0-litre engine. Gamroth’s visiting the Huntington Beach HQ when I arrive to drive the ‘Greenwich’ Coupe, Gunther’s in-house demo and development car. It’s a pleasure to finally meet the famed engine builder in person, having only previously ever discussed the flat six in the back of the Coupe over the phone. “Only the casing is original,” says Gamroth, adding: “the rest is built to my specification.” It’s quite a specification, too; the capacity is increased to 4.0 litres, featuring custom billet barrels and a billet crank, unique Mahle pistons, forged conrods, plug coil ignition, a GT3 plenum and tail box, equal length stainless steel headers and throttle bodies, and injection system built to Gamroth’s own design.
From that previous experience I know the engine’s very special, not just to drive, but visually, Gamroth admitting that since I last drove it in the back of the 400R there have been some revisions to allow for greater low-rev tractability. That was something I noted on my original drive; not necessarily a complaint, but compared to the ferocious urgency above 3,800rpm it did feel slightly lacking at lower revs. Gamroth’s solution was to trade a little low-end power for greater torque, and the effect is worthwhile. There’s slightly differing gearing now, too. Gunther Werks simply quotes 400+hp at 7,800rpm, but the number is around 430hp with 447Nm of torque around 6,500rpm. That peak output is when the engine is on the more focused of its two map settings on offer from the Motec system, which unsurprisingly also adds some timbre to the exhaust’s note in partnership with its slightly greater power and differing response.
It’s a spectacular engine producing a huge specific output for a naturally aspirated air-cooled flat six, Gamroth’s most impressive feat making what essentially equates to a race engine in spec work so convincingly on the road. He admits he could produce more horsepower, but it’d be to the detriment of driveability, taking the engine down a path a bit too singular, even here with such a driver-oriented car.
Firing it via the neat aluminium key, it settles into a smooth, regular idle straight away. A quick touch of the accelerator has memories of that 400R drive rushing back, as the engine responds immediately, enthusiasm for revs being so keen, thanks to so little inertia and the fitment of a lightweight single mass flywheel. Consideration of that is required when manoeuvring the Coupe out of Gunther Werks’ workshops; it needs a few more revs than you’d normally require, but the clutch is light and easily modulated, so it’s simple enough to adapt to that. The steering lock needs a little bit more management. There’s not much of it, but that’s hardly surprising given the size of the wheels under those widened front arches. Still 18 inches in diameter, they have grown significantly in width, from the 400R’s 9 inches to 11 inches, that seeing a 295/30/18 front tyre fitted, which is huge. The rears are 13 inches wide (an inch wider than previously) wearing 335/30/18 Pirelli P-Zero Corsas.
The chassis, as well as the detailing inside and out, is where the Gunther Werks Coupe has evolved significantly from my first drive of the 400R. The original KW coilovers setup is still offered, but customers typically take up the option of Gunther Werks specific JRZ electronically controlled dampers. The JRZ setup features fully adjustable remote reservoir dampers that monitor, at a rate of up to 1,000 times a second, what each corner is doing, adjusting accordingly to suit. They’re bi-directional in their response, chassis guru Eisenlohr working directly with JRZ on the specification. Thanks to the electronic valving there’s the possibility of mode choices, which you can individualise, these accessed via an app on a smartphone. There are three choices of Default, Comfort and Sport. Regardless of the setting, the system will always aim to provide the finest ride quality, allowing the Coupe to produce that difficult balance of taut responsiveness and agility, but also with a quality to the ride that’s not compromised by its focus.
It works, too, the suspension riding with a civility that’s remarkable given the singularity of its specification, the mechanical grip on offer being scarcely believable. Gunther Werks demonstrated that ably in the hands of racer Randy Pobst, in late 2020, where the Greenwich car here, albeit with a sizeable rear wing, set a lap time around Laguna Seca that you’d need a contemporary supercar to match. Pobst likened the Gunther Werks car around ‘Seca to the Alex Job Racing 993 RSR he raced in the IMSA GT championship, such was its pace and poise, which is high praise indeed.
That underlines any concerns I might have had about Gunther Werks losing focus. They are completely unfounded – if anything it’s gained it but, cleverly, without adding compromises. On the same roads I drove the 400R on, the Greenwich car feels so alert and dialled in, the front end turning in with a speed and precision that I’ve not experienced in any 911 save for the later GT3s and their RS spin-offs.
The steering weighting is spot on, that huge tyre informing, sometimes on rougher surfaces to the point of disruption, but it’s a very occasional intrusion rather than constant frustration and worth it for the otherwise rich seam of information from the front axle. There’s so much adjustability in the suspension, too, it’s something that you could conceivably dial out. Indeed, and contrary to what you might think, it’s the Sport setting, opposed to the looser Comfort, that ties down the front end and civilises it, particularly on the horrible combed concrete sections of highway en-route to the canyons.
The steering wheel guiding those huge front wheels is Gunther Werks’ own optional hollow carbon fibre item, its nicely contoured rim, here covered in Alcantara. It feels light to the touch, and while its girth looks relatively thick, it doesn’t feel cumbersome in your hands – indeed, it’s quite the opposite. The same lightness of touch is evident in the seat. I love a deep, figure-hugging bucket seat, and the Coupe is fitted with Gunther Werks’ own carbon fibre pew, its targeted padding leaving visible carbon for a beautiful look, that style not at the expense of real comfort and an embracing hold. I could live without the optional leather floor mats, but the rest of the interior, be it the satin visible carbon weave on the dash top, or the warmth of the milled aluminium gearknob, the door pulls, everything really, underlines Gunther Werks’ artful engineering in the pursuit of its goal.
That’s weight loss, and it’s worked because the car weighs in at around 2,650lbs, or just over 1,200kg, which is extraordinary. It feels lightweight in its agility and responsiveness but impressively, there’s no paucity penalty, it lacking nothing; instead it has a depth of quality that feels worth all, and more, of what Gunther Werks asks for it. For all the interior’s quality, it’s quickly forgotten when you get to more demanding roads, where the Coupe just revels in being wrung out, Nam not just saying that I should drive the Coupe again, but to drive it hard. Nam’s demand as I leave, “no short shifting,” is happily accepted as the 4.0-litre repeatedly runs up close to its 8,000rpm redline. Visceral in a way that’s uncommon today, that engine is a glorious thing, so quick and willing in its response, it delighting with every ask from the pedal, its output not having to work particularly hard to shift the Coupe’s low mass. Fast, wickedly so if you want it to be, but still absorbing and interesting when driven with a mind on speed limits.
The brakes offer reassuring, neck-straining stopping power, the pedal being the perfect platform off which to roll your foot to blip for a rev-matched downshift. The gearshift, the 993’s six-speeder with bespoke ratios, is quick enough across its gate; it’s accurate, too, but if I’m being critical I’d want a slightly shorter throw to allow an even swifter shift. It’s a minor point, and one that wouldn’t be difficult at all to change. While I’m picking, I don’t recall being dissatisfied with either the ride or control of the original KW setup of the 400R, indeed, I appreciated its simplicity. If the JRZ system could be better incorporated, without the need to carry a phone with an app on it to adjust settings, it’d be a more appealing feature, for me.
Over 100 miles of driving the Coupe as intended on some magnificent roads only underlines my assertion first encountered with the 400R: that being for true driving thrills, there’s no better period than the 1990s. What Gunther Werks achieves here is taking the very best of that time and finessing it, applying contemporary knowledge and engineering, without robbing the resultant car of that core appeal, elevating it instead to something that really is quite extraordinary. With all 25 gone, what’s next promises to be very interesting, indeed.
Total 911 verdict
- Incredibly responsive engine
- Detailed feel through the steering wheel and chassis
- Artful engineering in the pursuit of its lightweight, driver-focused goal
- App-based electronically controlled suspension works, but it feels like an unnecessary complication over the original KW setup
- Turning circle means tight space manoeuvring is tricky
TECHNICAL DATA 2022 Gunther Werks Coupe Porsche 911 4.0 993
- Year 2022
- Capacity 4.0 litres
- Compression ratio 11.0:1
- Maximum power 430bhp at 7,800rpm
- Maximum torque 447Nm at 6,500rpm
- Modifications Air-cooled 4.0L RS crank, custom Mahle pistons, custom forged conrods, twin plug, coil ignition, individual throttle bodies with high flow injectors, Motec ECU running dual switchable maps, double oil coolers, GT3 style carbon plenum, lightweight Li-ion battery
- Transmission 6-speed G50 manual gearbox with bespoke ratios, a single mass flywheel, uprated single plate clutch and a carbon clutch differential with 40% locking
- Front Bespoke specification, JRZ electronically controlled remote reservoir damped suspension, with hydraulic nose lift, lightweight RS spec uprights, ball-jointed and solid mounted throughout with adjustable tie rods and a front strut brace
- Rear Bespoke specification, JRZ electronically controlled remote reservoir damped suspension, ball-jointed and solid mounted throughout with adjustable tie rods
Wheels & tyres
- Front 11x18-inch 295/30/18
- Rear 13x18-inch 335/30/18
- Length Not stated
- Width 1,911mm
- Weight 1,202kg (unladen)
- 0-62mph 4.0sec
- Top speed 190mph
ABOVE 430hp flat six will rev out to 8,000rpm redline
BELOW Milled alloy shifter swaps cogs of original G50 ‘box with bespoke ratios 28 Gunther Werks Coupe
BELOW Bespoke headlamps bring modern tech to a 993 appearance