By now, most of you know Leh Keen as both a professional race car driver as well as a budding Porsche collector with a sense of humor. You've probably even seen him hooning his 911 based Safari build across as many rivers, fields and mud puddles he can find. What you may not have known is that while it wasn't his original intent, he's now building those Safari 911s for others. Introducing "The Keen Project".
Leh's first 911 Safari went viral within the Porsche world after a video and an animated GIF from that video turned into its own meme.
From there, things just started to take on a life of their own. Originally, "The Keen Project" began with the idea to take a 964 and backdate it into a modern looking longhood. Keen's inspiration for the build was, and is, a '73 RSR, but he says his car will "be more modern with little tweaks all around". That original project is under construction and is being done with the express intent of reproducing it for others. However, it takes time (making accurate body molds is an expensive and time consuming process) and it's not yet ready for prime time.
Back to the Safari 911
With the backdate car taking longer than anticipated, Leh found himself wanting a 911 he could take to last year's Rennsport Reunion V and also have something to drive around town without worrying about it too much. You see, as values of certain 911s continue to increase Leh is more cautious than he used to be about driving some of the other Porsches in his collection. That's where Safari #1 came in.
Working in conjunction with a team of supplier, fabricators, engine tuners and upholstery experts, Leh was able to put together Safari #1 fairly quickly. If you haven't figure it out by now, it's the red 911 SC above.
Once his own car was done, and word started to get around, people began reaching out to Leh to ask about having a 911 Safari built for them. As Leh had always intended on creating cars for others (remember he's knee deep in his original idea of the backdate project) and he was getting so many inquiries from others wanting their own Safari 911, he decided to give people what they wanted and build them cars.
This is Safari #2 from The Keen Project
We'll have more thorough details in an upcoming post but for now here are some of the broader strokes.
- Once the donor car is identified, the client purchases it and ships it off to Leh.
- From there, Leh and his client go through a number of design iterations where they talk through all the details. Clients can customize everything and anything from the interior leather and tartans down to the color of the mudflaps.
- Renderings are used so the client can picture the final build and once everything is decided the build process starts. This is where Leh comes in.
- Leh uses one shop to do the body work, another does the engine and suspension. The suspension itself is closer to stock than you think. It's basically longer travel shocks with a few other mild and well thought out suspension mods.
- The impact bumpers are shortened and brought in closer to the chassis and the pushbars and lightpods are fabricated and installed (they look great, but are also fully functional).
- Once mechanical, body and suspension work are done it's off for upholstery.
Is Leh Building These Himself?
Think of hiring Leh to build you a Safari 911 as you would about hiring both a highly skilled architect and a high-end contractor in one. He works with you to design the look and feel of the Safari and then manages the build process from start to finish using only the best sub-contractors.
Because of Leh's connection in the world of Porsche he was able to put together a great team to take the concept to reality (Elephant Suspension, Pelican Parts, Gold Crest Porsche, etc.). More importantly, Leh's been able to work out some significant discounts in the process. So, even though Leh charges a fee to manage the build (currently at a quite reasonable $5,000, but I would expect that to go up in the future) he passes on all the discounts to the client and can build it cheaper than you could do it yourself. While cost will be driven by the amount of customization, the cars you're seeing here can be built somewhere in the $30k range (not including the donor car).
Even more important, in our opinion, is what happens once the build is complete. Leh dials it in himself! Because of his experience and who he is, Keen has been behind the wheel of original 911 Safaris and knows how they should feel. From tuning the engine for throttle response to getting the suspension set-up properly, Leh is hands on. By the time a new Safari Porsche is delivered it's going to drive like you would expect.
The best part of all of this, besides the reasonable price, is that Leh can turn one of these around in short order. As little as 2 to 3 months. Right now he's focused on creating a brand that’s both a design company and a builder. Leh told us he "wants to build cool cars for people that want something a little different. We can go mild to wild.”
Safari #3 is in the works
Safari #2 was delivered to its new owner this past weekend at the Ingram Collection event at One Porsche Drive. Based on the pictures and videos we've seen on Instagram, we think Allan must be pretty pleased.
With Safari #1 and #2 both completed Leh is already hard at work on Safari #3. This time, the donor is an '85 3.2 liter 911. From what we can see so far, it looks like Leh is going to be pretty busy over the coming months and year. Now, can anyone recommend a good donor we can send to Leh?