The history of Porsche’s 911 is now so long that there is probably almost no sensible modification that tuners and race preparation companies around the world have not tried on the iconic rear-engined sports car. The most recent phase in the long line of aftermarket conversions was turning narrow-bodied 3.2 Carrera, and even 964 models into Carrera RS 2.7 look-alikes.
This conversion trend was logical as many enthusiasts think the U.S. market-inspired impact bumpers of the ’74-’89 cars are aesthetically fussy and ungainly. In addition, since the later cars were galvanized, they inherently stand a better chance of being a less troublesome long-term driving partner. Certainly, replacing the impact bumpers with the smaller, lighter, earlier version removes weight and improves the car’s looks. Drivability and fuel economy also benefit from the more powerful, larger capacity later engines, even if these replicas are still somewhat heavier than a genuine RS. More unusual however, is the installation of a ’90s-era motor in a 1960s car, and it was this rare and less common combination that attracted me to Nigel Jones’ Blood Orange 911.
All such cars that I have seen so far have been built in the UK and USA, so the fact that this and several other such hybrid 911s exist in Singapore is of far greater interest. Less of a surprise is the fact that these cars were built by UK expatriate mechanic, Andy Tatlow, who has lived in Singapore since the mid-’90s.
Tatlow is a road- and race-trained Porsche specialist who used to work for Autofarm in the UK as a freelance contractor. He was headhunted by Ruf Singapore and subsequently went to work for the official Porsche distributor in Brunei before returning to Singapore to set up Flat Six Road and Race Engineering. With his extensive knowledge of tuned and modified 911s, Tatlow understands the ins and outs of what can and cannot be done to 911s. His Porsche enthusiast clients in Singapore are almost all either expats or locals educated in the UK or the U.S., and are thus familiar with the modified Porsche scene as we know it.
Creating the specs for one of these cars is usually a process of the client approaching Tatlow with a concept, which then evolves. In the course of these discussions, he is able to separate fantasy from reality, and more accurately gauge what will best suit his client’s needs. After all, creating a peaky track-day monster would certainly be the wrong thing to do for someone who actually needs a daily driver flexible enough to tackle the challenge of Singapore’s urban traffic.
I saw the car in an early stage of build in Tatlow’s workshop during a visit to Singapore in August 2009. The shell of the ’69 car had just come back from the paint shop, and my attention was focused on other cars. Then, in the spring of last year, Tatlow told me that the early car was finally finished and that its owner was willing to have it featured in a magazine if I was still interested.
And so almost exactly one year after I first saw the bare shell, I am at Nigel Jones’ house in Singapore looking over one of the most immaculate early 911s I have seen in recent years. Early is the operative word here, as the base car is a ’69 long-bonnet 911, sold new in Singapore, where it now qualifies for historic vehicle status.
You can tell that Jones is a 911 nut, as the daily driver sitting next to his Carrera RS 2.7 replica is a ’94 993 Carrera 2 manual. “I had one of the five ’89 Carrera 3.2 Speedsters in Singapore before the 993,” he says. “I have always driven convertibles, and loved the Speedster, but its canvas roof could not cope with the tropical downpours. On top of that, the air-con in these earlier cars did not work very well. In the end, both these faults were pretty terminal in Singapore’s hot and wet climate, as they meant I turned up at meetings looking like I had swum there.”
After four years of 993 ownership, a sequence of events led Jones to yet another 911, but this time aimed at track use and pure driving fun. “Andy helped me find the 993, and has looked after it since I bought it nearly five years ago,” he says. “A year ago, we were discussing pre-impact bumper cars and the magazine stories that had been written about RS 2.7 re-creations built from later cars.
“I had been looking at websites like Pelican Parts and others and also saw the orange lightweight 964 Clubsport that Andy built for another client. So I asked him if he could find and build me a special car that looked period, but was more modern under the skin.”
Jones was trained as a mechanical engineer and wanted the best possible quality as well as a car that was much lighter than the Carrera 3.2 and 3.6-based replicas he had seen in the magazines. In the end, Tatlow just missed the target maximum weight of 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) by 15kg—but only because Jones insisted on have air-conditioning fitted.
The car Tatlow found was originally white and had been restored by a local body shop. But because it had then been left for a few years, the paint was starting to lift in some places, so step one was stripping the car back to its bare shell. They quickly realized that it had lots of filler and had been patched in various places. It had no kidney bowls and the pattern sills did not fit properly. During his years in Singapore, Tatlow has located a couple of exceptional body shops that do metalwork and paint as well as the best in Europe, but for far less money. One of these artisans was entrusted to cut out all the rusty parts, weld in new metal, and prepare and paint the shell. Once the panels were primed and painted in Blood Orange, there was no sign that the car had not left the factory this way.
The build involved equipping the shell with brand-new lightweight GRP Carrera RS 2.7 replica bumpers and a GRP engine cover with rear ducktail spoiler. Replica Carrera RS sidewinder decals complete the RS illusion.
The original glass was cleaned up and re-used, with just the rear windscreen replaced with a lighter Perspex substitute. The interior was treated to a lightweight RS interior and carpets with a custom black vinyl headlining, and the instruments refurbished by North Hollywood Speedometer & Clock Company in California. The Recaro Nürburgring sport seats were sourced from World Wide Classics in the UK.
The car sits on 16-inch Fuchs wheels and Dunlop tires from a Carrera 3.2 and refurbished locally. They definitely look better than the original 15s, and give the car better grip, but are a dead giveaway that the car is not a real Carrera RS 2.7.
Also helping to give the car its purposeful stance is the more advanced suspension technology that hails from U.S.-based specialist companies. “Where the German tuners just put in larger torsion bars and antiroll bars and stiffer dampers, the U.S. tuners looked at things from a different point of view,” Tatlow says. “The fact that these specialist companies are still coming up with new ways to improve the engines and suspensions of these early cars years after Porsche stopped making them speak volumes for how much they think the 911’s old-style suspension can still be improved.”
As he is still a novice on the track, Jones did not go the whole hog with the suspension, but what Tatlow did do has made a big difference to handling and grip. The front torsion bars are stock, but the rears are from a 3.3 Turbo. The front through-the-chassis antiroll bar is fully adjustable, as is the rear bar. Koni supplied the heavy-duty front strut inserts and rear dampers, while Elephant Racing poly-bronze bushings all round contribute to greater geometric accuracy under load.
With the heavier motor and substantially greater power and torque to cope with, the brakes were substantially beefed up. Bearing in mind that pre-1977 911s did not have brake servos, a few choice decisions had to be made. The car has ended up with Carrera 3.2 front and rear vented discs and rear calipers, matched with Boxster front calipers and a single 23mm brake master cylinder.
The 964 twin-plug motor was given a set of Schrick cams and breathes through PMO individual throttle bodies, with Autronics electronic engine management system providing fully mapped fuel and spark curves. This means that not only is this early 911 vastly more powerful than when it left the factory, it is also much more fuel efficient, with a vastly cleaner exhaust too.
Currently, the exhaust has standard 964 headers and a Gemballa rear box with no final silencer, but Andy and Nigel have agreed that RSR style headers with a 2.8 RSR style exhaust system will be the way to go.
As the motor was still running in at the time, Andy had not done a dyno pull to confirm output, but the last engine he built to the same spec made 325 hp at 6600 rpm with a suitable exhaust in place.
For today’s driving conditions, and to handle the extra power, the late Carrera 3.2’s G50 gearbox was deemed the best bet, and the modifications to graft this in were conveniently done along with the custom mounts while the car was being built up. The new gearbox is married to the engine via a Turbo 3.0 clutch assembly.
The orange 911 goes like a scalded cat when you extend it, and yet pulls well from low down, so it is very drivable in traffic. The higher gearing of the G50 five-speed provides fair refinement at cruise, within the limitations of the lightweight interior. But go deep into the throttle travel, and the single throttle per cylinder induction produces the kind of deep throaty roar long since outlawed by EU drive-by regulations for new cars.
“The car has turned out better than I hoped for,” Jones says enthusiastically. “It is almost concours-quality, and that is a problem in itself. Almost too nice to use hard on track, but I don’t want it to be a garage queen.”
The irony is that with room to spare in his garage, he could well end up buying yet another car just for track use.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Replica
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive
2.7-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve. Schrick cams, individual throttle bodies, Autronics engine management
OEM G50 five-speed manual, Turbo 3.0 clutch assembly
911 Turbo 3.3 rear torsion bars, Koni dampers, adjustable antiroll bars, OEM Boxster front calipers, OEM 911 Carrera 3.2 rotors and rear calipers, 23mm master cylinder
Wheels and Tires
Fuchs alloys, 6x17 (f), 7x16 (r)
Dunlop, 205/55 (f), 225/50 (r)
GRP Carrera RS 2.7 replica bumpers, GRP engine cover with rear ducktail spoiler, replica Carrera RS sidewinder decals
Recaro sport seats, refurbished instruments
Peak Power: 325 hp @ 6600 rpm