Porsche 944 Evo
The 1980s 944 may have not have been as critically acclaimed as the 911, but this one can certainly eat more than a couple for breakfast.
RETRO RIDE: PORSCHE 944 TURBO. WORDS: Daniel Bevis. PHOTOGRAPHY: Ben Hoskin.
TIME LAPS Ill-informed bores have been slagging off the Porsche 944 for far too long. It’s time for someone to redress the balance…
Old skool 8-valve lump is modified to perfection… although Patrick is building a newer 16-valve unit as we speak.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain,” said Benjamin Franklin, “except death and taxes”. That’s what’s known as an immutable constant, a perennial given. But his scope isn’t really broad enough, is it? The universe is packed with such generalisations, harnessing received wisdom to propagate the myths of pseudo-truism. Dropped toast always lands butter-side-down, cats always land on their feet, decrepit billionaires always have hot young wives with plastic embellishments… and, as any ill-informed pub bore will tell you, the 911 is the only Porsche worth having.
These are the sort of dumbwads who’ll gleefully refer to any other model from the marque’s history as a ‘poor man’s Porsche’ – surely one of the most execrable phrases a person can utter. It’s absurd. The new Cayman GT4 could tan many a contemporary 911’s backside all day long, and this behaviour resonates through Stuttgart history. The much-maligned 924, for example, was actually a peach of a thing with a gorgeous chassis. (And if that pub bore berk uses the phrase ‘van engine’, be sure to grab him by the hair and rub his face in the complementary peanuts.) Its successor, the 944, was rather a rum cove too; a luxury-sports poppet with lusty, bigcapacity four-bangers and oodles of puppylike eagerness. It fairly strained at the leash to go horizon-chasing.
Of course, there will always be naysayers and negative nellies. The 911 fanciers (you know, the ones who’ve never actually driven them but have seen them on Top Gear) will still want to put the boot in to the poor, misunderstood 944. But sod that – life’s too short for that sort of negativity, so we’re cranking this argument up to the next level: behold, the Porsche 944 Evolution.
OK, sure, this isn’t a production-spec 944 – quite a long way from it, in fact – but you are reading a modified car mag after all, you knew exactly what you were getting into. What we’re looking at, in essence, is the final and definitive answer to the question of the 944’s credibility. What began as a car that was already of little trouble to the weighscales now finds itself liberally adorned with such ounce-shavers as carbon-fibre doors and polycarbonate windows, and its power output has spiraled to an otherworldly 505bhp at the wheels. There is much to trouble the laws of physics here.
When you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find two indelible words at its core like ‘Herne Bay’ through a stick of rock: Time Attack. And all suddenly swims into focus. ‘But wait – what exactly is Time Attack?’ we hear you ask. Well, that’s a good question, thanks for joining in. The answer, in short, is this: Time Attack grew from Japanese race cars of the 1960s, that were built to celebrate the art of the aftermarket tuner – the doors were open to everyone from low-budget home-spannerers to big-bucks corporate showcases, with everyone racing on, as it were, a level playing field. This is very much the ethos of the series today.
You just need to start with a production car as a project base, and then the tuning potential is near-limitless. Throw in a load of horsepower, tinker with the chassis and drivetrain, develop some custom aero, do whatever it takes to make the car as fast as it can physically be.
Time Attack today exists in numerous series across the globe, with competitors bracketed into various groups; ‘Clubman’, for instance, is a UK class for cars with basic modifications – rollcages are merely ‘recommended’… the ladder climbs through ‘Club Challenge’, ‘Club Pro’, ‘Pro’ and ‘Pro Extreme’, with the cars getting incrementally madder as you go. In essence, then, Time Attack is the dream series for aftermarket tuners – you can do pretty much what you like to the car without having to worry about a governing body disqualifying you for running the wrong thickness of head gasket or a frowned-upon diameter of air intake.
It follows, then, that cars built for this series tend to be somewhat on the bonkers side. But you’d deduced that from looking at the photos, hadn’t you?
This project is the work of Paul McKinnon and his team at Evolution Custom Industries (ECi). And it’s pretty obvious for anyone with the power of sight that they’re about as far removed as it’s possible to be from the day-to-day sensible-trousers efficiency of Stuttgart, and that’s quite possibly what allowed their trains of thought to go so very wild with this car. The company’s bread-and-butter comes from hot rods and custom bikes, but their extensive skills in fabrication meant that the creation of this feisty 944 Evo wasn’t too much of a stretch.
The car belongs to a customer of theirs, Patrick Garvan, who’d been quite happily using the car as a street-and-track dualpurpose machine until one unfortunate day when he spanged it into the wall at Sydney Motorsport Park, and a certain amount of remedial work was required. Employing an admirable ‘Why not?’ mentality, he decided to go all in with the build, eradicating the element of road-biased compromise and making the thing as fast as it could physically be. With sights firmly set on Time Attack, Patrick briefed ECi to just go nuts and see what happened.
…and what happened was, er, rather a lot. The car still runs its proper turbo four-pot motor (stroked from 2.5- to 3.1-litres not via a stroker crank, but a natty integrated deck plate and Darton sleeves), although it’s now stuffed with bona fi de race-bred kit – forged pistons, knife-edged crank, mind-boggling fueling, the works. It’s dry-sumped and ready to rock. The aforementioned peak power figure speaks for itself, really.
The most noticeable transformation, of course, concerns the body. Time Attack cars are famously extreme, designed to eke out every iota of downforce, and this 944 is no exception: a full-on widebody kit is joined by copious carbon-fibre, wings, splitters, canards, vents… it’s as subtle as being smacked in the head with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
Naturally, with this sort of vastly increased horsepower and downforce, some manner of chassis upgrades were called for, which is why you’ll find the 944’s guts bristling with whacking great Brembos, a 968 transaxle, Eibach springs on Moton shocks, and antiroll bars like a weightlifter’s wrist. The interior is equally businesslike, as you’d expect, with little more than a sturdy cage and a set of buckets and harnesses to spoil the clinical minimalism of the thing. Oh yeah, and there’s air-jacks underneath. Y’know, because race car.
So what does this all tell us about immutable truths and received wisdom? Well, quite simply, it’s all a load of cobblers. Sure, the 911 is a formidable machine, but it’s not the only option. Just ask Patrick Garvan; his 944 eats 911s for breakfast (quite possibly in a literal sense, it really is mad enough). And the scary thing is, given the relentlessly evolutionary nature of Time Attack, you can guarantee that he’s far from finished tinkering with it.
TECH SPEC: #Porsche-944-Turbo
TUNING: 3.1-litre four cylinder turbo, integrated #Performance-Developments
deck plate, line bored, pinned girdle, #ARP
head studs, custom flywheel, #Cometic
head gasket, knife-edged and balanced crank, Arrow rods, CP forged pistons, ported alloy race heads, Ferrera valves, titanium springs and retainers, CPE hydraulic camshaft, #Petersons
3-way dry sump, #Garrett-GTX3582r
turbo, Turbosmart wastegate and BOV, #Bosch-HEC
sequential ignition, #Motec-M400
in-line fuel pumps, #Evolution-Custom
Industries surge tank and 3-inch turbo-back exhaust, Porsche 968 6-Speed H-pattern transmission, CEP 4-1 stainless headers, custom 5-paddle race clutch, #KAAZ-LSD
, custom transmission cooling system.
CHASSIS: 11.5x18-inch #Fiske-Mach-V
in anodised black, Yokohama AO050 295/30 tyres, #Eibach
springs with Moton Club Sport 2-way shocks, Tarrett anti-roll bar, 330mm discs (front) 298mm (rear), Brembo 4-pot calipers and PFC pads.
front bumper, widebody kit by I.F.C., front splitter, D9 GTR headlights, Van Zweden carbon bonnet, custom carbon doors, custom wheel tubs, ducted cooling cores through bonnet, GT Racing rear guards, rear stock diff user, DJ Engineering rear spoiler, gloss black respray by Motographics.
INTERIOR: Cobra Evo seats, full rollcage, suede dash, Sparco harnesses, Motec SDL gauges and shift lights, Tilton pedal box, air jacks.
THANKS: Paul McKinnon @ Evolution Custom Industries, Buchanan Automotive, Dave McGrath @ Custom Engineered Performance, Neil Harvey @ Performance Developments, Mike Warner @ I.F.C. USA, Simon McBeath @ Aerodynamicist UK, all my friends and family - especially my longsuffering partner Helen.
There’s actually light aircraft with smaller wings… and the odd 747!
Designed to eke out every iota of downforce!
WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE THAT ENGINE?
This motor is, in short, a work of art. While it would have been easy to hoik out the stock lump and start afresh with something bigger or more modern, ECi have instead retained the 2.5-litre turbo engine and refined every individual element. It now displaces 3.1-litres, but instead of achieving this with a stroker crank it uses an integrated Performance Developments deck plate and Darton sleeves to increase bore and stroke. The crank has been knife-edged and mated to forged CP pistons and Arrow H-beam rods; at the opposite end we find extensive headwork with oversize Ferrea valves with titanium springs. Throw in the usual spiky cams, serious bolts, custom exhaust and chunky intercooler and you have a recipe for success. Oh yes, and the turbo… it’s a #Garrett-GTX3582R-turbo
, which brings the twin guns of improved tractability and massive horsepower potential. The system’s designed to run E85 biofuel (there are three fuel pumps and massive 2000cc injectors), and Motec management keeps it all in check.
That, folks, is how you squeeze over 500bhp from a 944 engine. And that’s just for starters…
Huge 11.5x18-inch hoops get plenty of rubber on the tarmac
DRIVER: PATRICK GARVAN
So why a 944, Patrick, rather than a 911?
“Well, I did initially want a 911, but it was way out of budget. But after a chat with a Porsche mechanic, Bruce Buchanan, I learned that the 944 Turbo was an affordable choice with a lot of potential. The upgrade costs were more reasonable, and there was a lot more scope for modi¬fication.”
What inspired you to build a car for Time Attack?
“My original brief to ECi was to build a full-on door-to-door race car, but after evaluating the potential damage and repair costs, Time Attack made a lot more sense. I already had a bit of experience with it, and I also really like the format, with its more liberal rules and focus on aerodynamics.”
Ah yes, that aero - tell us about that.
“There’s a #DJ-Engineering
rear wing, and a #Broadfoot-Racing
front bumper with ECi’s own splitter; the pop-up headlights have been swapped out for flush D9 GTR items, and there’s various flics and canards – a piece from here, a piece from there, you know how it is.”