Gunther Werks 4.0 V2 - 460bhp Porsche 911 993 based monster
Gunther Werks is hailing a new chapter for the nat-asp boxer engine in its remastered 993. Total 911 is the first to try it in the company’s Speedster test car.
Written by Lee Sibley
Photography by Max Newman
Speedy Progress — Gunther Werks next-gen engine tested
Total 911 gets exclusive access to Gunther Werks’ new Motorsport-derived, nat-asp flat six engine being readied for customers in 2024
Huntington Beach, California. This surf haven, situated south of Los Angeles, promises “sun, sand, and subtle sophistication,” according to the tourism board. I’ve been here five minutes, and already I’m doubting its subtlety. We reach an intersection on the famous Pacific Coast Highway, coming to a stop at some red lights. To our left, a Ferrari Roma rumbles to a halt. While ogling at its immense size and road presence, a bright-coloured Lamborghini Urus flanks our right side, its lairy exhaust crackling as its revs drop and the lavish wagon comes to a standstill. And yet, the party is very much in the middle lane – right in the spot where we’re sat. That’s because snapper Max and I are in Gunther Werks’ jaw-dropping Speedster remastering of the Porsche 993, and regardless of what’s around us at these lights, prying eyes are arrowed our way, initial curiosity giving way to smiles and a thumbs up. Just then, the light changes to green, and we get on our way. Phew. I’m no good at posing.
There are Porsche aplenty here too, rolling on the same asphalt as automotive exotica from other prestige brands. And yet, in 12 years and hundreds of test drives in all manner of locations around the globe, I’ve never driven a car that draws so much positive attention as Gunther Werks Speedster. As we crawl not-so-subtly along Pacific Coast Highway, rolling between first and third gears between each intersection, Max and I are subjected to the usual whooping and hollering you’d come to expect from Americans who see something they like. But while continuing to admire Gunther Werks’ Speedster at low speed, the locals are even more forthcoming. “Nice ride, man. Is that a Singer?” We tell the chap it is not, before sharing a joke about how journalists don’t get to drive Singers. Another passer-by lowers his window: “That’s a Gunther, right? It’s beautiful.” We congratulate our man on his impeccable knowledge and taste.
As I said, never before have I piloted a car that garners so much attention. That it’s done so among the exotic playground that is Huntington Beach, I think, says much about the visual masterpiece Gunther Werks has created.
Much as the adulation directed at the car is positive, we need to get on with the job at hand, away from prying eyes. We peel off PCH, headed for twistier tarmac up high in the mountains, where we can really get to know the Speedster’s new character. Although this is my first time driving a Gunther Werks remastering of the 993-generation Porsche 911, the Speedster we’re in today has graced the pages of this fine magazine previously. Written by Kyle Fortune, it was a first look at the company’s early open-top project. Since then, all 25 of its Speedster builds have been allocated, with only a couple still left in final phase of production. This car, meanwhile, has stayed on the books at Gunther Werks as the company’s test mule – which is why our drive today is very relevant indeed.
That’s because we’re the first journalists to sample the new engine housed in the back of this very fast company pool car. Amjad Ali, technical director at Gunther Werks, is calling the engine a ‘V2’: it’s still 4.0 litres in capacity, cooled by air and naturally aspirated, as with the first-generation flat sixes. A big difference, however, is the use of slider valves instead of traditional butterfly valves for its individual throttle bodies, delivering maximum airflow. Why change? “We wanted more, but previously didn’t have the bandwidth,” Amjad says, pointing out that the application of slider valves is commonly seen in motorsport. More power and better response is guaranteed, but these valves usually come with a drawback of not being smooth enough for road use.
That’s something Gunther Werks has worked hard to overcome with Rothsport Racing, the renowned Californian engine builders that bespoke-builds all flat sixes for Gunther Werks’ projects that, to date, have included all 25 ‘Coupe’ projects, 25 Speedsters, and will see to the upcoming 75 examples of Gunther Werks’ ‘Turbo’ remaster of the 993. Metering this for the road, the Gunther V2 has switched to drive by wire, which helps deliver a smooth throttle at low revs, before unleashing big power higher up the rev range, aligning neatly with Gunther Werks’ commitment to high performance. Total power is now 460hp in Sport mode (more on that later), offering a slight upgrade on the V1 engine’s maximum power.
Indeed, the engine is the only part of the remasterings that Gunther Werks outsources – everything else is manufactured and assembled in-house at the company’s impressive 24,000-squarefoot facility. The result is newly positioned in the back of this green Speedster, and our instructions are to simply get out and drive the car, with a caveat: I’m not to return to Gunther HQ until Sport mode has been engaged, and the redline has been hit.
We’re not in Sport just yet, though we’ve used the other steering wheel-mounted button that raises the car’s nose to mitigate excessively bumpy road surfaces around town. Up here in the mountains though, the surface is smooth, the traffic is light, and the roads are curvaceous and well-sighted, so we best start putting the Gunther car through its paces. Or is this voracious Speedster about to put us through our paces?
The first sensation is just how light this thing feels. Squeeze the gas pedal and the Speedster takes off like a scolded cat, intent on devouring the road ahead as quickly as possible. The revs rise and the torque keeps on coming. Delivered with beautiful linearity, you can’t help but keep your foot in right to the red paint at 7,800rpm.
Its directional changes, too, really hammer home the positive attributes to this Speedster’s light weight (1,175kg), low centre of gravity, and super-stiff body – twice as stiff, in fact, as a production 993 Coupe. Chuck this car into a corner and it’ll rotate quickly, the Speedster’s nose super-flat as it darts through a turn. Its quicker steering rack and revised chassis (utilising a much wider front track width over standard) gives this remastered 993 a ludicrous sharpness at the front that’s unlike any other air-cooled 911 I’ve driven. But even at the mid-point of a corner, when normally in a 911 you’d feel its heft try to shift outwards at the rear, the car remains impressively tactile, allowing for a hard, early acceleration out of a corner – without any real danger of getting out of shape.
Fast, responsive, and impressively agile… the vibe here is more 992 GT3 in the way it pivots than the 993 RS-like I was expecting. Its cornering ability, then, is much like its acceleration: explosive. There may not be a need to weight the nose up prior to a corner like you would a traditional, classic 911, but make no mistake – this does still feel like a 993 at its heart. This is exemplified in its gearbox, which is still a six-speed G50, albeit with new internals. The crisp, neat throw between each gear remains loyal in character to Porsche’s G50 setup, to the extent if you were to blindfold me and ask which car I was shifting, I’d tell you it was a particularly slick 993. A technical highlight of that ’90s 911, I’m pleased to see this has been retained.
That buttery gearbox is mated to a single mass flywheel, which passes power through an LSD with carbon clutches. It’s a mighty impressive powertrain which, as it happens, is about to get worked even harder, because it’s time to engage Sport mode. I hold the throttle part-open, hit the red button and feel my eyes widen as the revs jolt up a couple of hundred rpms and the exhaust behind breaks out into a deep, raucous howl. It’s clear a whole new level of aggression has been unlocked: a fervent push of the accelerator sees the car surge forward with scarcely believable alacrity. I try to focus on the canyon-carving curves ahead, yet my vision is drawn back to the Speedster’s tachometer and its orange needle, which is surging round the white dial with outrageous velocity. My instinct is to lift, but I keep my right foot pinned, engulfed in the moment as car and driver chase down the redline.
The linearity and intensity of its power delivery is genuinely intoxicating: peak power is right near the redline, so the more you push that right pedal, the more this engine gives. Its ability to rev so freely is simply outrageous – like a puppy that’s been left alone for hours, this thing just wants to play. In a nutshell? It feels like a motorsport engine is sitting out back. Throttle response is modern GT3 RS-levels of razor sharp – the merest hint of a squeeze on that right pedal has the Speedster motoring forward at pace, the rev needle twisting hastily around the tacho, completely unrelenting in its quest to gatecrash the redline. Lift, and the Speedster will sing on the overrun, those megaphones unleashing a euphoric flat six shriek to match the heady sensations being felt by the driver. What a car! In stock form, the 993 represents the pinnacle of the air-cooled Porsche 911. Gunther Werks has taken that mantra and brought it forward into the modern day. It’s certainly the best car I’ve driven this year – in fact for many a year. Gunther Werks really has created the most exquisite driving machine, harnessed by a rugged attention to the smallest details, from the perfectly weighted steering (better than a modern 911), to the precise gear shift, even right down to the seating, which is bolted to the floor for a low-slung driving position.
The revised NA 4.0 in Gunther Werks’ remarkable package gives the feeling of an air-cooled GT product. That really is the greatest compliment: if Porsche were to make a 993 GT product today, this is what the car would surely feel and perform like.
Photographs in the bag, I elect to point the Speedster in the direction of Gunther Werks HQ. I’d dearly love to stay out in this machine all day, but fear that I’d get carried away, and I’d quite like to hold on to my driving licence. Plus, back at base, Pablo Kovacs needs to get the car readied for a good customer who’ll be driving it up in Monterey over the Rennsport Reunion weekend.
Back at Huntington Beach, I roll into Gunther Werks and take five minutes to catch my breath, much to the amusement of Amjad. “Where exactly is this engine going?” I ask. He remains tight lipped… for now. “We’ve got various projects in the pipeline to keep us busy for the next 10 years, but this engine is intended for customer use in 2024. It’s the first step.” We’ll leave you with that tantalising cliffhanger.
Clearly, Gunther Werks has grand plans going forward, building on the three models and two engines it’s already brought to market. We at Total 911 love what we’ve seen so far, and will be watching with those same enthusiast eyes that greeted us along PCH, to see what the company does next.
“Peak power is right near the redline, so the more you push that right pedal, the more this engine gives”
One of the most exciting drives we’ve had in a car with a Porsche badge on its bonnet
- An air-cooled GT car: fast, responsive and supremely agile
- Would like to experience this engine in a more sophisticated body style (Coupe)
ABOVE The Speedster, fitted with the revised NA 4.0 engine, feels like a latter-day 993 GT
“The revised NA 4.0 in Gunther Werks’ remarkable package gives the feeling of an air-cooled GT product”
BELOW Gunther Werks created a bespoke lighting system for the Speedster, which makes use of carbon fibre, forged aluminium and aerospace-grade glass
BELOW The Gunther V2 engine is capable of producing 460hp when Sport mode is engaged