People have been fitting Porsche engines into Volkswagens for years, but Bradley Black’s turbocharged VR6-engined Porsche 993 proves it can work the other way, too…
Feature taken from PVW magazine. Words: Tony Saggu. Photos: Tate Chmiselewski
We know what you’re thinking… and yes, it’s a Porsche… and it’s in PVW. The “World’s Best Selling VW Tuning Magazine” has finally lost the plot, jumped on the hipster bandwagon and gone all craft beer and non fat Mocha latte Frappuccino on us. Sure it’s all VAG and the same suits in Wolfsburg are pulling the strings but really… a Porsche? Don’t they already have magazines packed with ads for expensive watches, personal plates and trendy tobacco for those cars? Hold on to your humidors though, there may be a method to this madness, read on, all is not as it seems at PVW Towers, this promises to be a tale with a twist… with a twist in the tail.
For those of us who still think a man bun is a chip butty with greasy bacon, and are not blessed with a pair of skinny jeans and a beard comb, the car on these pages may need a little introduction. Colonial customiser Bradley Black has bolted together a rather tasty and certainly controversial Porsche 993 – the 1996 vintage machine is no run of the mill Porker though. Those in the know will tell you that the 993 is something very special in the ranks of the Stuttgart stable. The mid to late 90’s variants of the 911 model line are not only the last of the much revered air cooled clan, but are generally reckoned to be among the best effort the company ever put out. For the purist posse owning one is a privilege and cutting one up is… well, just say our man Brad has probably got a band of slightly paunchy, middle aged Rennlist refugees out looking for him. Brad’s not bothered though, “I thought it would make a cool project,” he told us, “something interesting and unique.” Employee at Adaptec Speedware and co-owner of Eurotrash Apparel (along with fiancé Dinah Jean Volante), Black is based in Louisville, Kentucky, a locale that has the distinction for turning out a certain professional pugilist who, like our man’s project “shook up the world.”
Like a good many Porsche pilots, Brad started his VAG journey tinkering with the firm’s more proletariat products; early water-cooled Volkswagens of various descriptions with, as time went on increasingly exuberant engineering, “My buddy Zuk bought a Mk3 VR6 years ago and hearing that thing at full tilt had me hooked,” he recalled, “I’ve worked through lots of them since including a Mk2 with a turbo VR swap.” Predictably a string of Audis followed with each one more powerful than the last, the whole four ring thing was pushing all the right buttons in the power and style stakes, but there was something still missing. Brad was hankering for something outside the norm, something a little bit different. “I would find myself day dreaming of cramming a VR6 into an air-cooled Beetle and crazy stuff like that,” he told us, “but never really pursued it with other cars eating up my time and money.” Surfing the Web however soon saw dreams becoming plans as Brad began researching the outlandish idea with a little more seriousness, “After researching a bit I realised that they make an adapter plate to run VRs in dune buggies using a few different Porsche transmissions, I figured if I was going to do all that work anyway why not raise the stakes and just build a VR 911.” Finding a project car was fairly easy, you’d be surprised how many unfinished dream Porsches there are littering the Internet. “I found a promising looking ’73 911 with a 930 widebody conversion,” recalled Brad, “The guy was less than upfront about rust issues until after the deal was done though. I wasn’t happy and we needed to make this right. He says he also has a ’91 964 with no engine or trans’ but importantly no rust which would be perfect for this conversion. This chassis houses the beefy G50 trans’ that would be great for a VR6.” The 964 turned out to be a convertible with a less than professionally installed fibreglass hardtop grafted to it, though. “I never really knew what was “off” about it but after seeing a factory hardtop with the rain gutters I couldn’t move forward with it,” explained Brad. “Plans now were to find a wrecked car and see if we could make a deal for the complete roof and graft it on.” While researching roof options Brad stumbled on a liberally mangled 993 within a couple of hundred miles. The car was missing the engine, gearbox and a good many other bits and the front end was smashed pretty good but as a donor car it was perfect. “After talking with the guy it started to make more sense to maybe just fix it, recalled Brad. “Luck would have it that the 964 part numbers are the same as the 993 for the frame rail and lower structure and I already had a car at home with a good front clip. Cut up a cabriolet to save a coupe? I had no issues with it. After striking a deal for the chassis we were on our way with a truck and trailer to pick it up.”
Turning the pile of parts he had amassed into a verified head turner took Brad the better part of two years, well at least to get it on the road took that long, these types of projects are never really finished. The first order of business was to address the bodyshell, initially the idea was to replace the missing bits, repair the damage and straighten out the panels well enough to have a presentable driver. As the project has progressed though the rough and ready has given way to a more tailored and fitted look…although there’s no doubt the character has remained righteously rough and definitely ready. The exterior treatment is now modelled on the fabled Porsche RSR Rennsport cars which Porsche produced to terrorise tracks all over the world. This is no low calorie cruiser, Brad has built himself a fat fendered, track inspired main street menace. All four corners have received portly panelwork to house acres of race ready rubber, which flow into custom turbo style bumpers. With a widebody conversion a huge rear spoiler is almost mandatory and Brad definitely didn’t skimp in the downforce department, bolting on a GT2 bootlid to even out the wide boy proportions. Throwing in a pair of NACA ducted rear quarter widows helps to clear up any confusion that this is s light duty daily driver. With a perfect balance of beauty in the beast there could really have only been one choice of topcoat, “The car was originally Polar silver. I painted it black, no pearl, no flake, just black,” confirmed Mr…Black.
The tears, fears and general controversy and consternation has always been about what’s under those pristine panels though, it’s surprising how much hue and cry half a dozen cylinders can create if you just change the cooling source and configuration, bend the block a touch and throw in a little water and people lose their minds! “Installing a turbo VR6 was always the goal,” explained Brad, “I probably could have found a period correct flat six to throw in there, but where’s the challenge in that?” Tracking down a narrow angle six to stuff in the boot was certainly easier… and a fair bit cheaper than finding and funding a boxer to go back there. “I found a Mk3 Jetta for sale for $500 in a another city, recalled Brad, “I called a friend to go look at it, and after doing a couple of burnouts in it he reckoned it was stout enough for the project. I sent the money and gathered the engine later.” Though capable of roasting the radials the twelve valve six showed some signs of wear and rebuilding the lump seemed like wise insurance, the future promised healthy helpings of turbo boost and horsepower numbers north of 400 were planned. Getting the VR to fit in the back of the Porsche and actually work proved to be just as much fun as you might imagine. Acquiring a Porsche gearbox and mating it up to the block was the easy bit…they make a kit for that, but making all the accessories play along and finding a way to cool the motor presented a whole heap of challenges. “There was probably four or five different set ups I tried to get the cooling system to work properly,” lamented Brad, “but they all kept overheating. Running the coolant hoses through the body channels meant I had high and low spots so it created air pockets. I finally got it to work with a bleeder line off the head rerouted to the coolant pipe. It created the highest point I was missing.” Almost every part had to modified or custom made to fit in the confines of the small, shallow engine bay. Though more often found strapped to heavy duty diesel engines, a quick spooling Holset turbo unit was introduced to the six via a custom manifold, the pipe bender and welder also came out again to create a custom exhaust, “space was very tight and I initially tried a straight through exhaust,” revealed Brad, “but the volume even at idle was just not going to fly, so I was kinda forced to add a resonator.” Despite pulling the motor more than a dozen times and seemingly having to redo every single part more than a few times, a few months of sleepless nights and hard labour saw the combo fitted and fired up. “There were more than a few teething problems and countless shakedown runs,” explained Brad, “but I think I’ve got it to a point where its driving reliably and I can actually enjoy it.” A major concern was always that the VR6 would sit much higher than the boxer motor which would play havoc with the handling, the lower centre of gravity of the original engine has always been touted as a canyon carving secret. “That was something I thought about, but in practice the dynamics of the car worked out well, I think the fact that the VR6 is roughly 90lbs lighter than the flat six really helped the balance and handling,” Brad told us.
Respected Vermont based Porsche aftermarket parts fabricators and suppliers Rennline were commissioned to lend an expert hand in setting up the chassis. Once the nod had been given to a set of H&R coilovers, the firm set about bringing the underside together with a catalogue of their suspension parts including billet crafted strut mounts, control arms and strut bars. The finishing touch came in the shape of BBS E88 splitrims hung from each corner, “I lost count of the number of different wheels the car has been through,” joked Brad, “I always seemed to be building one set or another throughout the whole length of the project,” Rennline also stepped up to furnish the cabin with some of their custom made wares, a Momo tiller is attached to the column via a Rennline quick release hub and aptly named Rennline dash delete lives up to its description. Although Brad insists that the cabin is “barebones”; heating and AC have been ditched and ICE has been kept to a minimum, we reckon sparse but stylish might be a better description. Interior panels have been given the custom treatment by master of craft the Kip Love, blending a diamond stitch into the RS door panels which surround the black hide Konig seats. “I threw the dash together myself; it’s pretty basic with an assortment of Autometer gauges.” Brad revealed. Black’s beauty is a righteous reminder that a true enthusiast never forgets his roots, even though there has been a growing trend to attempt to gentrify the image of humble Dub owners; spice up their simplicity and add “class” to their common chariots, the diehard originals stay true to where they came from…Volkswagen at heart.
Tech Spec: VR6-engined Porsche 993
12v VR6 with Holset HX35 turbo G50-01 with a Kennedy Engineered Products Stage2 clutch/flywheel combo
BBS E88 9.5×18” (front) and 11×18” (rear), H&R coilovers, Billet strut mounts, control arms and strut bar
Painted jet black with RSR body kit, GT2 wing, Turbo front bumper and NACA duct side windows
Koenig seats and RS door panels. Momo wheel with Rennline quick release, Rothsport short shifter. Rennline dash delete, block off plates, air bag cover, race mats, foot guards, fire extinguisher, seat mount and quick release extinguisher mount. Autometer gauges