It really is horses for courses. But I know which stable door Iíd be opening, and itís just south of Sudbury on the A131.
With a few mods, reckons Stephens, you could make this 2.7 Carrera eligible for Historic motorsport. My advice: donít, leave it alone. Enjoy it the way it is. Because frankly, itís the best Porsche Iíve ever driven.
Puffed up poseurs? Niche opportunism? Or is there engineering merit in Porscheís Turbo-bodied, normally-aspirated 911s?
On a fast and flowing B-road the Spyder is a thoroughly engaging car to drive. Dynamically itís an addictive blend of old-school 911 handling and a very healthy power-to-weight ratio. In short, itís terrific fun.
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It's not cheap, but retro 911s don't come better made or better engineered than this. Pose value high, reliability high
GT Porsche - PS Spyder
PS Autoart’s latest creation is as sensational to rive as it is head-turning to look at. Here’s why.
Back-dated and 911 re-creations contribute a vibrant colour to the Porsche canvas.
Prepared, built and cared for with the same dedication and enthusiasm as the
originals that inspire them, the market has taken to them with a refreshing approach. To call them replicas is to miss the point, some still wear the badge of Stuttgart’s coat of arms, others the name of their creator, but beneath their nonoriginal bumpers, duck-tails or highly polished chrome still lies a 911 at heart.
It’s the same philosophy Paul Stephens has followed with his latest creation, the PS 911 Spyder.
Paul is no stranger to the back-dating business; for nearly a decade he and his small team of specialist craftsmen have been building the company’s 911
Retro and Touring models under his PS Autoart brand, which are 964-based coupe’s that are stripped back to their shell and rebuilt to reflect the look of Porsche’s icon from the pre-1973 days but equipped with the very latest luxuries and benefiting from more powerful engines, accomplished chassis and brakes that work from the later donor car. The PS 911 Spyder takes all that Paul has learnt from the back-dated cars and adds in a huge dollop of individual originality.
Porsche never made a 911 Spyder; Speedsters, yes, with their chopped down windscreens, double-domed covers that made the rear seats redundant and provided a home for the tent-like roof but a full on Spyder has never joined the 911 line-up. The inspiration comes wholly from Paul and his desire to build and offer something different. “I don’t expect to build many – double
figures maybe. I did it to show what is possible when you use your imagination and to offer something that is different but still unmistakably
a Porsche. I imagine the owners will have a collection of weird and wonderful, rare and exotic cars,” explained Paul.
The Spyder starts life as a G-Series 3.2 Carrera Targa, the stiffness added into the 911’s chassis by the factory makes the unloved Targa a perfect starting point, and this example is based on a 1989 donor car. The front and rear wings are the original steel items and are the only carry-over body parts, the front luggage and rear engine cover, doors and the doubleddomed rear cover all fabricated from aluminium. And Paul had the fabricators make a few changes as they were wielding their hammers over the pre-painted alloy. The recess that forms part of a standard 911’s front bonnet is gone, the requirement for it to feed cooling air into the cockpit no longer required. It also provides a cleaner look, although you won’t fail to notice the fuel filler cap, machined from solid billet, sitting off-centre high up the bonnet – very 1950’s racer. The engine cover has had two multi-slatted louvers cut into it in
place of the traditional grill you would associate with a 911 of old. The lighter weight doors feature a roll-topped finish that runs into the cockpit and meets with a bespoke handmade aluminium dashboard. The bumpers are PS Autoart’s composite items, modified from their original use on the Retro and Touring models to better suit the Spyder’s proportions. The craftsmanship put in to the Spyder is second-to-none, the details are endless. For example, the rear reflectors, that you would normally find poking out on the outside of the
bumper’s overrider are gone, now incorporated into the off-side taillight, taking the place of one of the reversing lights.
Inside the interior is equal to the exterior in its ability to stop you in your tracks to drink in every last detail. The blood red leather trim work is exquisite, the doorcars simple and beautifully done, with a detailed aluminium grab handle the only visible furniture. The hand-sized recess at the base of the door is where you will now find the solid ally door handle. The five dial
layout is pure Porsche, but look closely and you’ll spot the clock on the far right features a chronograph display (Paul has a side line in designing limited number chronograph sport watches) and a strip of five LED warning lights
run across the top of the dashboard’s edge. Hand-made aluminium stalks control the indicators and the main beam, with aluminium push-pull switches fitted where the originals would be for the lights, with an additional one for the ignition. There’s a battery master switch hidden in the car for security. The 370mm threespoke Prototipo wheel is divine, the gear knob for the G50 five-speeder has been machined to resemble a pre-73 item. Everywhere you look the details come at you, but eventually your resistance breaks and it’s time to drive it.
The ally door swings open with an unfamiliar lightness but closes with a Porsche-like thunk. he driving position is spot-on, with your legs
stretching into the footwell, the steering wheel perfectly positioned. The Perspex screen is at a height that dissects my eye-line, but it can be easily rectified for individual customer’s requirements. Oh, and it’s best to pull the ignition switch to its ‘on’ position and press the starter button before you strap yourself in with the four-point harness.
Power for this particular PS Spyder comes from a lightly breathed on 3.2 air-cooled six. The work includes rebuilding the motor and replacing anything that looks past its best. The flywheel has been lightened to give some added zing when you want to make progress and the crank has been balanced. With a remap (this car still runs fuel injection, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t indulge in some throaty carbs) Paul claims there is now 250hp awaiting instructions from your right foot. In a car weighing 950 kilos that’s a power-to-weight ratio not to be sniffed at.
The Spyder’s soundtrack is to die for. On tickover it burbles and throbs away as if it has twice the capacity and another pair of cylinders.
Blip the throttle and it gains a sharper, cleaner edge as the revs rise and under load the first time you run the revs up above 5000rpm the cacophony of intake noise, mechanical fireworks from within the block and the centre exhaust creates a soundtrack you want to bottle up and sell. It’s a addictive, superb and guaranteed to get curtains twitching and school kids snapping their necks in a desperate bid to follow the noise. It sounds epic inside, too.
Being a car of simple design there is little to familiarise yourself with, the drivetrain and control points are pure 911 and getting on with the task of driving is beautifully simple. The combination of that low aero screen and my frame being two or three inches short of six feet means I initially feel like I’m sitting on the Spyder rather than it. But wriggle down in the bucket seat and drop your head below the screen and you immediately feel an integral part of this machine.
The low waistline makes it easy to position on the road, your eye-line running along the tops of the wings, and the steering, while lighter than a conventional 911 thanks to the overall weight eduction, loses nothing in its purity. On ollecting the car Paul was open to admit the chassis has yet to be signed off and there are a few final tweaks he’s keen to make following early drives. One of those is to do with the car’s igh-speed stability, the shape of the Spyder
making it keen to go overly light at the front end.
“We’re working on a discrete front splitter to rectify this,” explains Paul, “we’ve fitted one and t works perfectly, the trick now is to integrate so it doesn’t spoil the line of the car.” There was also he slightest delay in the nose reacting to initial steering inputs the day we drove the car, but this is thought to be related to a photoshoot on a beach and the use of a tow rope the day before.
These minor points aside, the Spyder is a delight to punt around the lanes on the north Essex and Suffolk border that surrounds PS Autoart’s workshop. You feel alive behind the wheel, continuously encouraged to open the throttles wider, take gear changes quicker and revel in a sub one-ton car as its 15-inch Fuchs do battle with the road surface. It corners flatly and grips until provoked, at which point it will carve a constant arc through the apex and out the other side. It’s incredibly stable under braking, with plenty of feel through the pedal to moderate your braking foot’s pressure. It would take a lead foot to lock the fronts at any speed.
The all-round satisfaction the PS Spyder gives is where its appeal lies, you don’t need to be haring along to enjoy what the car has to offer; although driven with spirit it never fails to reward and entertain. It’s when you are motoring along at a pace that puts you ahead of the traffic without venturing into the limits that the Spyder is equally joyful to pilot. Short shifting through the G50 means you can revel in the naturally torque endowed flat-six while still making indecent progress, flowing along straights and pouring through curves in a manner that no modern car could ever replicate.
The PS Spyder is an interesting proposition. To drive it’s a great experience, thrilling, exhilarating and truly unique – rare in today’s world. And the quality is beyond question, but Paul is coy on the most of the Spyder. “We added up the man-hours that went into building this first car and I don’t mind admitting it scared me. They are not going to be cheap, and many will baulk at the price – not hat we’ve worked out what to charge for it yet!”
There is much to look at, to absorb and take in then admiring the PS Spyder. As a whole some of the proportions can look out of balance, but take a second look, and what first looks like an over exaggerated curve or bulge transforms into a cohesive element.
As a plaything the PS Spyder strikes the right balance between exclusivity and practicality, a day’s drive won’t pose any problems and there’s even room for some overnight luggage and a rain cover. On track it feels like it will be as entertaining as it is on the road, more so even. And yes, while it may be an expensive indulgence, the very best often are.
Words : Stuart Gallagher
Pictures : Jamie Lipman