The $500,000 Gunther Werks 400R Is Like Porsche's Greatest Hits In One Car

All photos credit: Kurt Bradley 
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These days, if you happen to be fortunate enough to own a 964 or 993 generation of Porsche 911, and are sitting on a heap of cash, you have tons of customization and restoration companies that can make your car more unique and more powerful. Between Singer, Accumoto, RWB and more, the space seems quite packed. So why should we care about the latest player in this space, Gunther Werks?

Well, while this company is new to the Porsche resto-mod party, it is spawned from Vorsteiner, which has been styling and speeding up its clients’ fast cars since 2004. And the fact that this car, the 400R project, has been in the works for about a year speaks volumes to this outfit’s ability and motivation to produce one of the best air-cooled cars around.

Plus, the emphasis on delivering a hardcore 911 project while dramatically reducing weight are good reasons you should give Gunther Werks serious attention.

The more the merrier, I say, and I was pretty merry behind the wheel of this one—even as I pondered that it’s not on the level of what Singer does, not quite yet.

(Full Disclosure: Gunther Werks forced me to fly to Los Angeles, and suggested I spend a day driving the 400R along the Angeles Crest Highway, which was seemingly devoid of all other cars.)

The Porsche 993 C2 is one of my favorite cars, with its wide rear, perfect proportions, and signature air-cooled flat six. Gunther Werks conceived this project as a kind of GT3 RS Porsche never made for the 993.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: by no means is this feature a comparison to the Porsche 911 Reimagined by Singer that I reviewed last year. This is an entirely different approach to a restoration, including being based on the 993, rather than an earlier 964. You’ll drop about $500,000 to get one, if you’re one of the lucky 25 buyers.

Working with Oregon-based Rothsport, the 993’s engine is blueprinted, balanced, stuffed with new Mahle pistons, billet crank and Carillo rods, coil over plug twin spark ignition, and Motec engine management. With 431 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque, the 400R achieves a 360 BHP/metric tonne power-to-weight ratio.

It also has one of the coolest intakes I’ve ever seen.

As opposed to RWB, this isn’t just fender flares and big wing on a 993. Gunther Werks tasked themselves with nailing a 2,600 pound curb weight, and slapping carbon body panels on a frame doesn’t really get that done. One key focus of Gunther Werks is that any piece they made for the 400R also had to lose weight versus any part replaced.

CEO and founder Peter Nam told me the appearance of the 400R is inspired by the legendary 959, but with a matching 63-inch front and rear track to reduce the typical 911 understeer. Gunther Werks clay modeled the body and then laser scanned it to craft the panels.

For safety purposes, the doors are steel, but all other panels are replaced with in-house designed and fabricated pre-preg carbon fiber composites. The front bumper designer also sculpted the Carrera GT’s body. When you look closely, you can see the similarity.

Front and rear fenders are six inches wider than the 993. An updated wing, a tribute to the 993 GT2, has the task of forcing air into the engine bay through three ram air ducts. Behind that “4.0L” panel are adjustment points for the rear spoiler, like modern 911 GT models. Center dual exhaust tips are motorsports-inspired, and complete a modern yet clean rear bumper with additional engine ventilation.

Sweating The Details

Those cool halo headlamp assemblies with bi-LED headlights are milled aluminum housings. The reflectors inside the assembly are carbon fiber composites baked in their autoclave. Headlight glass is aerospace grade, not plastic. A new lithium ion battery weighs just four pounds, saving 33 overall.

The gauges, including the 7,800 RPM redline tach, feature machined billet aluminum rings styled to look like a high-end timepiece. The 400R’s updated dash is made from carbon fiber. One piece carbon bucket seats save 30 pounds, and are wrapped in quilted leather with Alcantara along the bolsters to prevent creases.

Rear seats are replaced with one giant carbon fiber panel, and an optional fire extinguisher is mounted in the middle of where seats once lived. The steel and sunroof roof is gone, also swapped with carbon fiber, dropping 45 pounds.

In the frunk you’ll notice Gunther Werks made a staff that doubles as a weapon, the storage box is now carbon fiber, and there is a stitched leather covering for the cowl. Like RS models from Porsche, the enamel hood badge was swapped for a decal.

Yet it’s still designed to be a daily driver. There’s a modern electric air conditioning that doesn’t drain engine performance, and a Porsche Classic radio complete with navigation system and satellite radio.

They’re so obsessed with shaving unnecessary weight that before my first driving stint, when I asked if Nam wanted to ride along, he politely declined, citing how he spent a ton of time reducing weight to improve performance. Why throw 185 pounds back in?

So alone I went, determined to figure out if the same level of detail was paid to how the 400R drove.

Enough With The Details, Let’s Drive

Angeles Crest Highway offers plenty of sweeping turns, fast straights, some epic views over the 66 miles it covers, and perfectly suits my driving style. The 400R was made to attack these roads, and to do so without punishing the driver.

It was abused in this machine.

KW Clubsport coilovers smooth moderate changes in texture, and don’t get upset in the bumpier corners. I’d like a hint more weight on the front dampers, but this car is still being shaken down, and each customer can dial in the suspension to their liking. Gunther Werks installed a KW Hydraulic front axle lift, for those pesky driveways.

Gunther Werks built 18-inch T-6061 3-piece forged aluminum wheels which are 9" x 18" wide up front and 12" x 18" wide out back. Michelin Pilot Sports are 245s up front and 315s out back.

The Pilot Sports aren’t terrible, but on longer sessions they start to give away front grip. I’m curious how the 400R car would handle with narrower rear wheels and Pilot Sport Cup 2s.

What About That Carbon-Clad Engine?

The power delivery is linear, really gets moving once you exceed 5,000 RPMs, and doesn’t taper off at the top at all. This is hooked up to a G50 six-speed box with custom ratios for a better balance between performance and touring driving, paired with a carbon clutch differential with 40 percent locking. The first three ratios are tighter than the stock 993, and the last three are slightly longer.

Along the ACH, I was happy leaving it in 3rd gear most of the time, whether I was about 45 mph at 3,500 RPMs or passing 6,000 at speeds I won’t say. It never needed a downshift, even when I got up in the higher altitude sections of the road.

Should you demand more power, Gunther Werks has an optional dual-map Motec system, which pumps out an extra 30 HP and more happy noise through opened exhaust flaps, via the push of a button. Only when I was back in La Cañada Flintridge did I switch the engine into normal mode. The throaty exhaust note behind me was too addictive to shut down.

The steering is perfectly weighted, although a little heavier than I love, yet super precise. I often found myself turning in a harder and earlier than I would in a normal 993. Purists may gripe that the 400R’s steering has an electric hydraulic assist, but it is a variable system, and only slightly intervenes.

Massive six-piston Brembo calipers on the front biting 355mm discs with 345mm discs and four-piston calipers out back had a mildly stiff pedal feel. The consistency of travel and feedback they exhibited throughout my variety of driving was impressive, while showing zero fade.

Gunther Werks upgraded to a lightweight flywheel mated to a single-plate GT2 clutch, and I loved that it was on the heavy side. Clutch engagement occurred higher than other 993s I’ve driven, but I liked it.

Color Me Impressed

To wrap up my day, I spent a good two-and-a-half-hour stint in the car, making another trek up and back down the highway.

At no point did the car feel upset, overheated, or stressed, and in no way did my cranky back and knees feel like I just did a full stack of track day sessions packed into one.

When I parked the 400R, Nam asked if it would knock the 911 Reimagined by Singer off its pedestal as the best car I’ve ever driven. With much consideration, the resonating thought is that Singer has been crafting their restorations for nearly 10 years.

They’ve designed, built, analyzed, and perfected their work for so much longer. It takes time, dedication, data, many people to drive the car and provide feedback. Then you have to make adjustments before you consider your work done.

The 400R is epic, tears up canyons like a champ, and is possibly better than plenty of $500,000 supercars currently on the market, but it won’t take the title yet. Yet. We’ll see what this team of tuners can pull of in as much time.

In the meantime, I’m sure these 25 copies will make a few buyers very happy, and I hope they’re driven as hard as they deserve to be.