It’s hard to imagine what we did before eBay. Finding rare parts used to involve hundreds of wasted phone calls, searching through swap meets and junkyards. Yet now, we simply fire up the laptop and immerse ourselves in the darkest recesses of the online pages.
To highlight the unrivalled choice and diversity of their site, eBay approached us to build a car in competition with several sister publications. Originally, they suggested the delightfully rare 1966-74 Saab Sonett, but it proved almost impossible to modify according to the rules of the eBay Built challenge, where all parts must be purchased new on the site.
After bribery, breath holding and anonymous phone threats, we convinced them to let us play with the Porsche 911. This was more mainstream than the challenge required, but since I’d always wanted to build a 911 rally car, it would be more obscure than the Saab…
Most people can’t comprehend the Porsche 911 as a rally car, especially in the post-quattro era. However, Porsche had a great deal of success in early rallies such as the 1954 La Carrera Panamericana, in which Hans Hermann won the 1500cc class in a Porsche 550 Spyder, followed by Umberto Maglioli’s victory on the 1956 Targa Florio road-race in a 550 A Spyder.
In 1968 Vic Elford and co-driver David Stone gave Porsche its first World Rally win on the Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911 T. But the 4WD era demanded a new approach, with a 911 4WD winning the Paris-Dakar rally in 1984. It paved the way for the legendary Porsche 959 twin-turbo 4x4, which would win the Pharaoh Rally in Egypt and the Paris-Dakar, paving the way for the modern 911 Turbo road cars.
It was this history that led me to deduce that a 911 rally car would make a refreshing alternative to the plethora of track-style widebody Porsches that litter local gatherings. Sitting the car high on skinny tires with a headlight pod on the hood would surprise a few people. Raising the suspension and fitting tall tires would also create a more forgiving ride, with improved comfort and the ability to enter driveways without slowing to a halt.
After the impracticality of driving lowered, high performance cars, we thought it would be fun to have something you drive daily without worrying about the road surface, and where the limit of adhesion would be relatively low, making it fun in tight turns. And after witnessing the results, we’re convinced this is a great way to go with any 911 project for daily use.
Our biggest problem was finding a shop that could actually build the car, appear in the series of web videos and meet an infeasible seven-week schedule on a tight budget.
After a short hunt we tracked down GSR Autosport in Lake Forest, CA. We’d previously featured its M5 V10-powered BMW 335i drift car in eurotuner magazine and knew these guys were familiar with motorsport deadlines. As Porsche and BMW specialists, the team could find its way around our 911 and, best of all, they agreed to help!
Putting several shop builds aside for us, we devised a game plan with GSR’s Nick Richards and Michael Essa. It involved transforming a stock 911 Carrera into a rally-inspired road car that would look the part but also deliver in the dirt if required.
Some of the most hotly contested issues can be seen in the online videos at builtfromebay.com – we discussed ride height, wheel diameter and paint schemes up to where the trigger had to be pulled and parts purchased online. Fortunately, we found everything we’d need on eBay, from the Enkei rally wheels to the fiberglass light pod and Recaro seats.
We also exploited GSR’s fabrication skills, having them build a custom rollcage and exhaust system for the car. Admittedly, we could have found these online but we wanted the cage to be tight fitting, with easy access for street use.
During the process, Michael removed the roof skin in order to weld the cage properly. It would have the added benefit of eliminating the sunroof when the composite roof panel was fitted by the body shop. And while this procedure might be common during racecar prep, watching our pristine $20k Carrera being decapitated was an uncomfortable experience.
We should apologize to the previous owner, who clearly pampered his Porker – he even left us a car cover in the trunk. Fortunately, it’s all for a good cause, with the proceeds from our auction going to “SEMA Cares” (sema.org/sema-cares), an organization that contributes to neglected, abused disabled and chronically ill children.
Please note that while the rollcage is shown in its painted form, you shouldn’t drive this car without head protection. Some foam padding has been provided with the car to avoid injury.
As we all know, eBay Motors is crammed with cars. So finding our 911 was a relatively simple task. Finding one locally for the right price was trickier, but we had a good selection.
With more time, we might not have chosen this flawless burgundy beauty from Vista, CA: it really was too nice to chop up, and consumed more of our budget than we originally wanted to blow on the donor vehicle. However, time constraints eventually over-ruled such niceties and we got down to work. On a positive note, we didn’t have to do any body repairs or rust removal, unlike our eBay Built competitors.
With the car swallowing almost half the budget, we had to be strategic in the parts we bought, GSR charitably sacrificing their labor costs to ensure we built it right.
One of the most important aspects was the rally stance: raised suspension and small diameter wheels would leave no doubt about its intentions. This was achieved with Enkei RC-G4 wheels.
These cast rims were designed specifically for Group N rally cars, so they’re only available in 15” diameter, are built strong to withstand impacts, yet relatively light thanks to Enkei’s MAT-DURA Flow Forming process.
The spoke design is said to avoid gravel intrusion to the brakes, while providing good ventilation. They’re available in gold or white, with the former suiting our Rothmans-inspired paintwork.
The wheels were equipped with Pirelli XR gravel rally tires, which were only available in 225/55 R15. There were different compounds designed specifically for combined asphalt and gravel use, with our XR7s heating up very quickly on the street, yet providing incredible stability off-road, where they soaked up ruts and were adept at changing direction.
With its torsion bar suspension, Michael was able to turn the bars one spline and adjust the spring plates to raise the car about 1.5".
Bilstein Sport shocks were then fitted all round and, in conjunction with about 500 lb of parts removed (soundproofing, seats, door trims, exhaust, etc), the overall ride quality turned out to be surprisingly smooth.
Michael estimated we could rise another 2" without driveshaft dislocation. This would improve off-road use, but underbody protection would be needed if used in anger.
Our Carrera came with a whaletail spoiler but Nick felt it was too aggressive for our purposes. He ditched it for the ’73 911 RS ducktail, with matching fiberglass bumpers and roof panel, found on eBay from Getty Designs.
When the car was delivered to Bell’s Autobody in Huntington Beach, CA, we were happy to discover these panels needed no alterations to fit. They were simply prepped, primed and painted once properly aligned.
The mesh in the front spoiler was created by GSR, while the Genuine Porsche rear deck grille was found online, along with a number of other Porsche-specific items like the Appbiz RS-style carpet kit. “The carpet was one of the most difficult jobs,” Nick admitted. “We’d not fitted one before and it took a while to assemble the jigsaw pieces, but the result was worth it.”
Other interior mods include the wonderful Recaro SPG race seats on Sparco side mounts with Schroth harnesses and Momo steering wheel. There seemed to be nothing we couldn’t find on eBay, so we followed up with a collection of gorgeous aluminum trim pieces from Rennline, including pedal covers, floor boards and passenger foot brace. These dressed the bare interior and lent it a motorsport feel, matched by the Appbiz RS-style door cards modified by GSR to accept the OE electric window switches.
Rennline also delivered aluminum trunk trim, strut tower brace and a stainless steel crossbrace to provide style and function.
Ordinarily, GSR would place performance over appearance, but in trying to execute our theme, we didn’t have sufficient budget for a brace of extensive engine mods. So the 3.2L engine got some sculptural Fabspeed headers that were mated to GSR’s fabricated exhaust system. With both built from stainless steel, the exhaust was mandrel-bent and uses V-band flanges for quick-release from the headers.
The sound is remarkable and the engine now boasts about 220hp to the wheels in combination with a lighter pressure plate on the Sachs clutch that helps the engine rev better, plus Royal Purple lubricants to reduce internal friction.
With its weight reduction the car accelerates well, but a bigger budget would have seen an AFM kit, bigger throttle body, cams and chip to add another 40hp. However, our current mods have liberated the engine and are ample for off-road us
With only seven weeks to build the car, it was painful to lose it for 2.5 weeks while Bell’s Autobody repainted it, even after GSR had stripped the interior and glass. However, the family business did an incredible job, seamlessly incorporating the new fiberglass pieces and matching the white paint to the Enkei wheels.
With Nick helping to tape the bodywork, the blue section was similar to the Rothmans cars, which originally sported red and gold stripes to separate the main colors. However, we switched from gold to grey, which is GSR’s shop color, and would avoid any copyright issues.
The fiberglass roof was blended so you would never know it wasn’t factory without looking at the bare underside.
The TRE light pod, found on eBay at a very reasonable price, was the last item to be painted. It arrived at GSR the day before completion. The pod is delivered blank, requiring holes to be cut for your desired lights – we used Hella lamps found cheap on eBay.
Lack of time meant the lights weren’t wired, but would only require some cable and relays to provide blinding illumination.
Like all the composite parts, the pod, bumpers and spoilers look like metal, such was the mirror-finish and quality of paint from Bell’s.
So would GSR do it again? Despite the impossible deadline and budget, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If they could do anything differently, it would be to give the car more power and spend longer than the brief test run to set-up the suspension and handling – the guys prep racecars and insist on doing everything properly.
If you wanted your own 911 rally car, they recommend you start with a cheaper donor car since you’ll be stripping the interior, repainting and doing engine mods.
Although our car was rally-inspired, they could give you anything from rally-look to WRC contender. The limitation is your budget, with conversions starting from about $35k plus the donor car, although you might be able to reduce that with some time spent on eBay…
1984 Porsche 911 Carrera “Rally”
3.2L boxer six with stainless steel Fabspeed headers, custom stainless steel GSR exhaust, Royal Purple lubricants, a/c removed
stock five-speed manual, Sachs lightweight clutch
“eBay Special” cross-drilled and slotted replacement rotors
Bilstein Sport dampers, torsion bars raised 1.5", Rennline strut tower brace and stainless steel crossbrace
Wheels & Tires
15x7" Enkei RC-G4 wheels, 225/55 R15 Pirelli XR7 gravel rally tires
Getty Design fiberglass RS ducktail deck lid, bumpers and roof, TRE light pod, GSR custom front grille, Porsche deck grille, Bell’s Autobody paint
Recaro SPG seats and sliders, Sparco mounts, Schroth harnesses, Momo steering wheel, Roth Sport quick-release hub, Rennline pedal covers, floor boards, passenger foot brace and trunk trim, Appbiz door cards and carpet
GSR Autosport (gsrautosport.com), Bell’s Autobody (bells-auto.com), Bilstein (bilsteinus.com), Enkei (enkei.com), Getty Design (gettydesign.com), Pirelli (pirelli.com), Recaro (recaro.com/us), Rennline (rennline.com), Royal Purple (royalpurpleconsumer.com), ebay.com/motors
Formed by Michael Essa back in 2004 under the name Tech Trix, he specialized in Porsche tuning and racecar preparation. One of his customers was Nick Richards, who would go on to win the Boxster spec series thanks to Essa’s hard work. This was especially evident after Richards was T-boned during a Saturday race, where he needed points from Sunday to progress in the championship. Using a pickup to straighten the frame, the Tech Trix crew had the car on pole and first across the line the next day.
This was enough to convince Richards he might want to bring the business skills learned in the commercial software industry to the automotive field. The pair formed a partnership in 2010, moving to the current Lake Forest, CA location shortly afterwards.
Porsche tuning and race prep still forms a large portion of their work, but the BMW side is growing rapidly. This was helped first by Essa’s V10-powered 335i in the Formula D drift series, followed more recently by a Z4 drifter that will be replaced by an E46 M3 in 2013 in the search to find the best BMW drifting chassis.
With a range of BMW tuning parts available from GSR Autosport and a 335i project car underway, the ambitious company also plans to sell a range of V10 conversions for the E9X as exciting track cars, with everything from a stripped down version to full-race machines.