It's been more than a year since our beloved Boxster saw pavement pass beneath its wheels. During that time babies were born, houses bought, friends found and funerals attended. Basically, life in motion.
The Boxster was our "fun car," a weekend vehicle built primarily for amusement. Therefore we were not too mad when it blew up, not in a fiery ball (that would have been more exciting), but more like a muffled fart in an elevator.
For those who don't know what the hell a Boxster R is, here's a brief explanation: Take one 1997 Boxster, add select parts of the Boxster S and gently stir. You know what the BMW 330i with the Sport Package is? Well, that's our version of Porsche's Boxster R.
From a reliability standpoint, it was the perfect plan. The upgraded brakes, suspension, lighting, exhaust, interior and engine were treated with factory-correct parts and the car was very happy.
Then a series of events conspired to kill the Boxster; it became a 3,300-pound paperweight in the well-appointed shop of GMG.
Anyway, it's now time to pick up the pieces.
We had planned to supplant the dead engine with a later model 986 unit featuring slightly more displacement and horsepower. It would have been simple plug-and-play deal. And then we started thinking.
Many an awesome car has been designed on beer-stained napkins; late one night the answer became crystal-clear. But we're not going to go into that right now--you'll have to wait. It'll be worth it.
About the same time the Boxster died we had begun researching aerodynamic systems. The original plan was to retrofit the Boxster with the 996 nose. It was canned in favor of something more dramatic.
We'd known about Caractere for years, primarily because of its tasteful treatment of the Volkswagen Golf/Jetta IV. Caractere managed to design an aerodynamic package that looked both factory-correct and aggressive, a none-too-easy task.
Caractere Automobile was the brainchild of Belgian designer Alain Hurard. Formed in 1992, Caractere concentrated its efforts largely on Volkswagen and Audi products, completing systems for some 23 different models including the newly released Touareg and A3. Built from PUR RIM and glass composites, Caractere products have passed the rigorous TUeV certification process, Germany's super stringent quality guidelines.
Caractere's foray into the Porsche market was only a matter of time; as evident here, the company's efforts have been successful. The North American connection for Caractere is the Montreal-based LL TEK. Housed within a 19,000 square-foot facility, LL TEK originally concentrated on Audi vehicles but has since expanded to include Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
Although there are subtle differences in Euro-spec aerodynamics, LL TEK revises the hard points for ease of application. LL TEK utilizes Standox of Germany for painting chores, a tier one paint supplier to the "Big Four" German auto manufacturers. LL TEK also controls custom paint application in-house and never jobs out paint. Pre-painting saves money, time and aggravation, as many parts are user-installable. Each aerodynamic system is shipped in specially designed packaging to protect the contents and ensure they arrive factory correct. LL TEK's 180 page full-color catalog is stuffed full of great eye candy. We certainly thought so and ordered up the Caractere aero kit for Project Boxster R.
It's been more than a year since we ordered the Caractere aerodynamic kit, and subsequent generations have been improved for easier and cleaner fitment. Ultimately, however, a kit's quality is based upon what your body man says. If he screams and curses, you have a problem.
Fortunately, SoCal is blessed with WetWorks Garage (WW), an outfit dedicated to making beautiful European cars more beautiful. The key word here is "European," so if you've got a Honda, look elsewhere because WetWorks can't (won't) help you. We'd used WW on several ec projects, including the Corrado, and were left with outstanding results. Choosing WW for Project Boxster R was the easiest decision on the entire project. I can't think of another paint and body company I trust more.
The mind behind WW is Joe Delio (wife and business partner Alice is right behind him), a talented artisan with a penchant for all things European. For five years, WW was based out of a small closet-of-a-shop located in Stanton, Calif. They have since moved to an expansive location in Newport Beach, a SoCal car culture hotspot. The shop is equipped with a trick, double-wide cross-flow spray booth, computerized mixing station, metal and glass fabrication stalls, a drying room, and a sizable outside station to mix and set glass composites. WW also acquired its neighbor's aerodynamics business, an operation that supplied lip spoilers, modest wings, etc., to large automotive dealerships. It's a great set up.
When we got to WW, an MTV film crew was busy shooting Joe Delio do his thing (I told you this guy is good) for an upcoming special series. Despite the insanity, Delio personally inspects all the work leaving his shop so when people return it's usually with another car they want done.He gave the Caractere kit a quick once over like a medic examining a patient and appeared neither apprehensive nor excited. Was that good or bad?
"We have very few problems with Caractere products," Delio said. "The kits are usually very clean and fitment is quite good. In our experience, Caractere is one of the top three."
Good bodyshops like WW can make pretty much anything fit. Installation usually becomes a question of how much work the shop has to do to make said kit fit. In our experience, even the best aerodynamics require skill to install. Poorly designed kits sometimes need such extensive modifications it would sometimes be easier to simply start from scratch. In any case, Delio would make it right and our Porsche would be very happy. Best book an appointment with WetWorks now before they become elitist paint-snobs. Right now WW is hungry and works for peanuts. Those days will soon be over.
Project Boxster R is now finally shaping up. By the next installment, I'd wager it will be the most powerful, handsome and reliable Boxster in California. Maybe the entire country.
Anyone want a piece of this action? Place your bets now.
At a Glance
paint and labor
Caractere Boxster Aero Kit*:
Front bumper w/carbon-
fiber inlay: $2299
Rear bumper w/carbon-
fiber inlay: $1533
Side skirts: $922/pair
*LL TEK offers an 11%
discount if entire package purchased