As one of our local Porsche tuners in Southern California, we often find ourselves kicking the tires down at BBi Autosport in Huntington Beach. It's a relatively small shop with a relatively new name in the business, but Betim Berisha and Joey Seely are making big waves in more than just this beach community. A commitment to performance, detail and customer satisfaction is winning a loyal following and they're attracting major attention.
So while this isn't the first BBi story we've run in the mag, it's an opportunity to look at the company's own widebody kit. They've been working on this carbon fiber creation for almost a year now and, true to form, its over-engineered and perfectly proportioned for the 997.
We'll admit to pushing the tuner to finish a car with this new kit because, unlike most widebody conversions, it shows remarkable restraint. Where many designers simply overwhelm the 911's original lines, upsetting the delicate balance of the iconic sports car. BBi has loosely based its kit around a motorsport conversion and prioritized function over form.
Thumbing through a series of three-dimensional engineering drawings, Betim was keen to illustrate the three-month evolution from concept to production-ready pieces. During this time, the fender width and depth has been altered, the skirts slimmed and the splitter shrunk.
"When we started, the front fenders were 30mm wide and the rears were 50mm. But because the rear is already wider we settled on 40mm at each end," Betim explained.
"We were working with our customer who owns this car to ensure he liked it, but it's something we're going to offer to other 997 owners," he continued.
Before the car arrived it had previously visited Vorsteiner for its carbon fiber bumpers, hood, mirror caps and rear inlets. It subsequently traveled to nearby BBi Autosport for a power upgrade and suspension mods. This involved a set of in-house headers and Barcode exhaust, Protomotive software, IPD intake plenum and thermal header blanket plus a GT3 RS throttle body. All told, this gave a conservative 645hp from the stock turbos on 92-octane for the owner's native Hawaii.
When the Vorsteiner-equipped, BBi-tuned 911 was returned to owner Chad Kobayashi, he was predictably blown away. The increase in performance was ample for Hawaii's roads and there was another satisfied customer on the books, but there's also an inevitability with which he eventually decided more was needed...
It was during a conversation with Betim that the two of them realized they both wanted the same thing. Chad was looking for something more muscular and Betim wanted to create something inspired by ALMS racecars. It was a match made in heaven.
So while the widebody kit was manufactured to fit with the front and rear Vorsteiner bumpers, Betim assured us there were other versions that would work with the stock Porsche bumpers on any derivative of the 997.
Betim was driven by the desire to fit wider front tires on the 997. The first renderings were drawn before he'd ever spoken to Chad, but he needed an incentive to see it through and this was it. Project Grip was born.
Once the design was agreed upon, foam blocks were CNC-machined "In order to test-fit and visualize the pieces. It's been a long process but we really like the results," he confided.
The results were four ultra-lightweight carbon fiber fender flares. These are bonded over the factory metalwork to cover the wider rubber. The side skirts and front splitter that form the remaining parts of the BBi kit are carbon fiber with a kevlar honeycomb core, making them incredibly light and strong.
That will inevitably drive up the price but we've already established no corners were cut here. Prices have yet to be set but the minimal nature of the parts should keep it relatively affordable.
Inevitably, the carbon pieces are only a part of the equation. Equally significant were the custom wheels. "We wanted a one-piece forged wheel, so made a few calls to look at manufacturing our own, but minimum order quantities made that impractical. So while talking to Tanner Foust [who's rallycross car is prepared across the street] he recommended Motegi Racing wheels. They were on his racecar and he testified to their strength and low weight," Betim explained.
Fortunately, Motegi Racing was happy to participate and provided a version of the wheels provided to the ALMS Ferrari 458 GT3 customer teams, among others.
The Motegi Racing Techno Mesh wheels are machined in the US and finished in Italy, with the forgings designed to withstand very high loads. They're available in a natural shot-peened silver finish or darker gunmetal as seen here.
The 911 used 19x10" fronts and 19x13" rears that weigh 23.5 and 25.9 lb respectively. However, Motegi found that after a season of motorsport they can remove more metal without sacrificing strength, helping to reduce weight in the future.
Once the car was converted to the factory centerlocks, Chad bought sets of both the silver and gunmetal finishes, using one set on the road, fitted with 285/30 front and 345/30 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, and the other for Southern California track days, fitted with 295/30 and 345/30 Hoosier R6 tires.
The penalty of this enormous rubber up front was surprisingly little. All they had to do was reposition the side radiator 1" forward to allow a better turning circle.
With its widebody conversion, motorsport wheels and flashes of BBi green paint, the owner's 911 GT3 R Hybrid rear wing now sits more easily on the car. Its center section and all the Vorsteiner pieces were finished in a matte lacquer to match the dry carbon of the BBi parts. The kit was then fitted and the car painted by Bell's Autosport once the ride height had been established.
The latter was achieved with a combination of Ölins TTX coilovers, ERP upper control arms and toe links, RSR lower control arms and Tarett sway bars at either end. Betim described it as a dedicated track set up but was happy to discover the Ölins dampers ride so well it can comfortably be used on the street. "The bump absorption is better than stock," he opined.
Brakes for the project included six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo GT calipers with 380mm grooved rotors all round. These represent a good track system and will be sufficient for the next engine build.
"We have 1300hp motors available but this car is still on its stock turbos because we wanted to get the set-up right first. Adding huge power at this point would only be a distraction from focusing on the handling and ensuring the car transitions properly," Betim explained.
That's not to say more isn't to come. Chad and BBi plan to step up to 750hp with larger turbos, intercoolers and a Y-pipe. After that, they're talking about a solid 800hp with BBi's 4.0-liter conversion that uses an 80.4mm billet crank (76.4mm stock), 103mm Mahle pistons (100mm stock), stock length Carrillo rods and CNC-ported heads.
"With the level of grip and power this car will have, it will be an incredible track machine by the time we've finished," Betim reflected. "We still have some more work to do but it's rewarding to see it finally coming together and getting such an overwhelming response from everybody."
Although pricing has yet to be announced, BBi will sell a full pacakge comprising the body kit, wheels, suspension and centerlocks. However, you'll also be ble to buy individual pieces to suit your needs. They plan to build a number of complete cars in the future, enabling you to drive away in something similar to Project Grip if you wish.
2008 Porsche 911 Turbo
Engine 3.8L boxer six-cylinder with BBi Autosport stainless steel headers, 304 stainless steel Barcode exhaust with black ceramic coating, Protomotive/BBi software, IPD intake plenum and thermal header blanket, GT3 RS throttle body
Drivetrain six-speed manual with lightweight flywheel and stage 2 BBi clutch
Suspension Öhlins TTX coilovers, ERP upper control arms and toe links, RSR lower control arms, Tarett front and rear sway bars
Brakes six-piston f, four-piston r Brembo GT calipers, 380mm grooved rotors f & r
Wheels & Tires 19x10" f, 19x13" r Motego Racing Techno Mesh wheels in gunmetal with 285/30 R19 f, 354/30 r Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, or 295/30 f, 345/30 r Hoosier R6 tires
Exterior BBi Autosport carbon fiber fender flares, carbon side skirts and front splitter with kevlar honeycomb kevlar core, Vorsteiner carbon front and rear bumpers, hood, mirror caps and rear inlet ducts, 911 GT3 R Hybrid rear wing and decklid
Interior Recaro Profi seats