Ever since Porsche neatly incorporated their powered hood under the metal rear deck of the 996 model, the previously distinct line between Cabriolet and Speedster blurred somewhat. In the pre-996 era, the ungainly, folded canvas ragtop that sits proudly on the rear deck like a folded pram hood, marked out the Cabriolet from the sleeker lines of its roofless Speedster brother.
The 9ff Speed9 is a Speedster in the traditional sense, and the lack of a roof and its heavy electro-hydraulic mechanism removes crucial kilos from the rear of the car. As all that weight is concentrated high up in the structure, this also helps keep the center of gravity low, where it counts most in a 911.
However, the 9ff Speed9 is far more than just a 997 Cabriolet converted into a Speedster, as 9ff boss Jan Fatthauer explains. This car is owned by one of our regular clients, a car dealer from Bochum Germany, for whom we have done several cars, including a GT2 in Gulf colors. One Saturday last summer, he visited me for a chat as he often does. He said he had just bought three 997 Carrera S Coupes. He wanted a special car for his wife, and asked what we could do with these cars.
Fatthauer thought about it for a moment and realized that 9ff had never done a Speedster. There was a moment’s silence as the gravity of what he had just been told sank in. A Carrera S was dropped off at 9ff a couple of days later.
Technically, it would have been easier to start with a Cabriolet, Fatthauer says. On the other hand, I am not fond of the high rear deck necessary to cover the folded top. I wanted a lower line for the rear deck to make the car look longer, lower and sleeker.
The bodywork specialists at 9ff set about removing the Coupe’s roof and rear bodywork, and fabricating the new panels that would make up the distinctive, flatter rear deck.
Although all the variants of the latest 997 cars are designed together, the Cabriolet has additional bracing to make up for the loss of its roof. The engineers opened the sills to install the factory strengthening members, and extra metal where it would further strengthen the shell. We also installed our own strengthening tubes into the A-pillars along with fixing points for the seat belts, Fatthauer says.
The factory engine cover was spliced horizontally in the center and re-contoured to suit the new lower lines. As well as lying much flatter, it is now nearly an inch shorter as well. The rear bumper is a completely new molding to suit the new rear, and incorporates a center cutout for the unique twin central exhaust outlets. The company fitted its distinctive front bumper spoiler and side sill extensions too.
Small but significant details are the latest 997 LED taillights, which had only just been seen on the facelifted car when the Speed9 was made. At the front, the inner lights are painted black, something 9ff often does on its cars to give them a stronger face.
To be worthy of the Speedster name, a car has to have a shorter front windscreen. We used a Boxster front frame, shortened by two inches, Fatthauer says. Carglass has a special division that makes one-off and low volume runs for race cars and special cars. They came up with a bespoke laminated front screen to suit.
Using the Boxster frame meant that we were able to use factory interior parts such as the sunvisors and interior light. The side glass is also Boxster, and this was easy to fit as the Boxster and 911 Cabriolet share lots of common internals in their doors.
Unlike with most Speedsters, 9ff does not expect its clients to use such a car only when the sun is shining. They wanted a car that you could use year-round. Using a Boxster hardtop as a model, 9ff made up a glass-fiber copy using the factory mounting system. As this hardtop was part of the brief, the design of the new rear deck was also partly led by the shape of the hardtop.
9ff’s in-house designer, Enes Canay, drew up his ideas for the interior, which the owner was very pleased with. As this was to be a car for the dealer’s wife and not track days or hard driving, the typical pair of lightweight racing Recaro seats 9ff usually installs in its cars for hard-core drivers was off the agenda.
Instead, the cabin is trimmed for comfort with well-padded leather and sport seats. White cross-stitching adds an interesting pattern to the Alcantara seat centers, while normal white stitching is used on the seat surrounds, steering wheel airbag, door armrests and pulls and dash top. Alcantara on the dashboard top and the top rolls of the doors effectively cuts any reflections in the windscreen. A unique feature is the metal rings in the seats, inspired by the original Ford GT40 seats.
The wheels are the same centerlock design used on the 9ff GT9 speed-record car. But instead of being the very expensive forged alloy wheels, these are the production version with forged centers and cast outer rims. They are sized 8.5x19 and 11.5x19 inchesthe wheels 9ff use for a normal Turbo body 997and shod with 235/35ZR19 and 295/30ZR19 Continental SportContact3 rubber.
The height adjustable suspension kit consists of coilovers and helper springs with adjustable spring platforms and aluminum-tubed dampers. The antiroll bars are adjustable, with four positions in front and three at the rear. The factory brakes are replaced with 9ff’s system that uses a 380mm cross-drilled and vented disc at each corner.
Mechanically, the Speed9 has a typical 9ff Turbo 3.6 conversion, which involves a modified intake system, modified turbos, larger intercoolers, full sports exhaust including equal-length tubular headers, 200-cell metal catalytic converters and a remapped ECU.
Output is 650 hp at 6500 rpm with 590 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm. Thanks to losing the heavy roof, the Speed9 weighs under 2,700 pounds, which helps its power-to-weight ratio considerably. In fact, once you take into account the other areas where 9ff has removed weight, the car is about 660 pounds lighter than the average factory Turbo Cabriolet, with 150 more horses.
I loved the look of this car from the moment I saw it at Nardo, and it proved it has the go to match its show. On that day, it rocketed around the track at 287.9 kph, or 178.8 mph, a stunning speed for an open-top car.
It would have gone even faster if not for a glitch in the ECU, Fatthauer says. At that point in time, we had not done any top-speed work with our tuned 997 Turbos, and it was only at Nardo that we found out Porsche had slipped a line of code into their ECU map that kicked in a fault code if the car exceeded 287 kph. Basically, that line of code in the basic factory mapping ECU refused to accept that the car could go that fast and went into limp mode.
On the road, the Speed9 is a rocket sled, and while I was happy to use its stupendous thrust to overtake slower traffic, I was not inclined to go too fast because of the buffeting. Without a helmet, 160 kph (100 mph) was just about tolerable, but beyond that, the wind-in-the-hair experience was just too much, underlining the car’s Speedster role.
Cruising around, I was also impressed with the reasonably good ride. With the coilovers set up for comfort, the ride is actually quite civilized and I was very happy tooling along country roads and occasionally through town.
If the Speed9 has one significant downside, it is the factory Tiptronic auto gearbox. While 9ff has made its manual operation better by installing proper left and right paddles behind their smaller sport steering wheel, the fact remains that once you have driven Porsche’s PDK, or even one of the latest lightening-fast automatics from other manufacturers, the old Tiptronic automatic feels positively prehistoric.
The 9ff Speed9 is an exceptional car for its unique looks, and a conversion so well engineered it feels like it could have come from Porsche this way. More importantly, unlike some small tuners who will just cut the roof off and leave you to figure out the rest, 9ff has finished the job by providing a properly engineered hardtop. In the end though, the real draw for some will be to simply own a car that nobody else has.
Unlike with most Speedsters, 9ff does not expect clients to use such a car only when the sun is shining. they wanted a car that you could use year-round.
3.6-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve. 9ff Turbo 3.6 conversion with modified intake, custom turbos and intercoolers, equal-length tubular headers, 200-cell metallic catalysts, sport exhaust, ECU remap
Six-speed Tiptronic automatic
9ff 380mm cross-drilled rotors
Wheels and Tires
9ff GT9 alloys, 8.5x19 (f), 11.5x19 (r) Continental SportContact3,
235/35 (f), 295/30 (r)
Hardtop removed, Boxster front windscreen frame with custom glass, 9ff front and rear bumpers
Peak Power: 650 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm