It was a long, long day. In an effort to capture every bit of content, I was scrambling (rather than slowly shuffling) and admiring like the thousands of showgoers that gradually made their way from car to car, carefully focusing their smart phones on endless Porsche parked within the confines of Ganahl Lumber's Torrance, Calif., headquarters. It was Luftgekuhlt 5 , my first time experiencing the air-cooled mega-event, and my first time getting an in-person look at LuftAuto 002.
I'd caught glimpses of the car online plenty of times, and as cliche as it sounds, as if it needs to even be stated; pictures simply don't do it justice. If you're a Porsche aficionado or, like me, you just nerd-out while reading car-related stories, facts and figures, then you're probably already familiar with LuftAuto002. In that case, you've seen it in the dirt and you've seen it polished up for Luftgekult—now you see it under the hot lights of our El Segundo studio.
The "002" in the car's name came about because, yes, there is in fact a LuftAuto001. Originally built a few years ago before being auctioned to benefit a great cause in the pancreatic cancer research field, the original model lives with its fortunate owner. This version, however, was built specifically for a customer, and as you might expect, avoids cutting any corners.
What started as a standard issue 3.2 has morphed into a custom creation that still carries the original vehicle's spirit but also sports a bionic nature of sorts, but not one that feels nearly as artificial as Colonel Steve Austin's newfound abilities. Not to sound entirely granola, but this specimen is far more organic.
Tear away and set aside the body slathered in gorgeous Signal Yellow paint that you no doubt would have admired back in the early '70s, when it was issued by the factory, and you notice the rear suspension mounts aren't at all factory-like 911 bits, and in addition the torsion bar you were expecting is long gone. Inspired by the 964, some trimming and welding was done for suspension mounting points that are now boxed and notably strengthened.
This is the point where I introduce my "connection" to actually getting the chance to wheel 002 into our photo cave: Joey Seely of E-MOTION Engineering. Tucked into a mild mannered business park in Newport Beach, what the shop produces is anything but mild. That happens when someone like Seely is at the helm, having been involved with all types of motorsport from chassis set up in American Le Mans, to IMSA and 24 Hours of Le Mans, and oh, there was that time he got his hands dirty building a GT3 Turbo that won a little race called Pike's Peak. His hands-on experience is undeniable and translates well to an undertaking of this sort.
You've seen everything from LS swaps to Honda K-powered 911s, but by now you realize none of that would come near a build of this level. Instead, the original 3.2 was pulled apart and reworked by the good folks at Rothsport Racing. The lower half saw a fresh set of euro pistons that help bump compression, while up top a new set of cams found a home.
Increasing the naturally aspirated inhalation is a 996 GT3 intake mounted to individual throttle bodies, while on the hot end a set of BBE headers with integrated heat exchangers are on duty and send spent gasses through to a 997.2 Turbo S muffler. No shortcuts meant relying on a Motec unit to call the shots, as a motorsports-level wiring harness carries the appropriate signals while shedding any unnecessary extras that have no place on a purpose-built dirt brawler like this 911.
Regardless of how much power the car would produce, a proper transmission and gearing were vital to prepping it for off-road fun. To that end, a Bill Rader Motorsports G50 trans was called in and sports a shortened 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear along with a Guard limited-slip to make sure 002 would maximize its play time in the dirt. A stepper motor for the RPM gauge was added and the speedometer properly calibrated to keep pace with the new final drive.
Forget about those cars converted to "overland" projects, which often times use spacers or modified coilovers to gain additional height. Seely's suspension equation instead revolves around moving the suspension pick-up points entirely, relying on custom control arms and incorporating spherical bearings in an effort to give the car as much accuracy as possible on unfriendly terrain. To make it all work, though, the right set of coilovers were needed to help dial things in and that's where KW came into the picture to provide their Competition 3-ways and external reservoirs.
The car-to-tarmac relationship is completed with Pirelli rally tires wrapped around 15-in. Braid Competition wheels that allow just enough breathing room for the custom-built brake setup that was pieced together by Brembo themselves after sifting through their motorsports parts bin.
Much like the rest of the build, the 911's interior is well thought out, purposeful, and could easily double as a showpiece on the weekends. Recaro buckets and the suede OMP steering wheel are flanked by custom door panels and re-stitched dash. A roll bar and harness bar in case of the unthinkable occupies real estate behind the aforementioned seats.
Having worked our way through the inner workings that all team up to make this 911 tick, let's gently place the shell back into position and admire the finished product. The aforementioned Signal Yellow hue is confronted by an unapologetic heaping of black bits that make for a striking combination. Rod Emory designed and fabricated metal bumper bars both front and rear that contour to the factory bumper so well that you might think they were a factory option.
Additional protection for, in this case, the car's belly, is provided by Emory's precision cut skid plates while up top, his roof rack bolts in place to carry a spare wheel and tire along with a few tools in case things get nasty in the field.
In a world packed with builders trying to stand out by way of ultra-widened wheel arches, towering wings and other assorted "please, look at me" paraphernalia, LuftAuto002 serves as the anti-"that guy." It's not the blank check build that an outsider might imagine, nor is it the parts hanger assembled in the blink of an eye with far too many trinkets. Instead, it's the culmination of a group of individuals that include Joey Seely, Patrick Long, Rod Emory and Jeff Zwart, who've applied the skills that they're best known for onto a blank canvas and the result is otherworldly in both precision and execution. There's a reason why the LuftAuto number remains so low and so exclusive, and our only questions now are what's next, and how on earth will it be on par with this?