For his 60th birthday, 1985 Le Mans winner Paolo Barilla decided to get himself a brand-new Porsche. But having won Le Mans with Porsche a few decades ago, it couldn’t be a normal Porsche, it needed to be special, and built to his exact wishes. Paolo was the first customer to receive a new car from Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur’s newly revamped Sonderwusch program. The Italian wanted a new 911 GT3 with a throwback to his Le Mans winning 956 all those years ago.
Just like his race car, the 911 features a yellow, black, and white livery with the number 7 on the doors and hood. Working with Barilla to get everything just right, the Exclusive Manufactur department crafted a special rear wing and a reinterpretation of the shifter lever.
“The unique customer experience is at the heart of the Porsche brand,” according to Alexander Fabig, Vice President Individualization and Classic at Porsche AG. “That’s why the significantly expanded Sonderwunsch program is another milestone in terms of customer enthusiasm worldwide. And this car project is the jewel in the crown of customization by Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur. The cooperation with Paolo Barilla was a very special project for Porsche too. Because not only is the handcrafted 911 GT3 itself highly individual, but its design process is also unique.”
“In the Eighties, I had the chance to drive the wonderful Porsche 956, an iconic car in terms of performance and beauty,” says Paolo Barilla, ex-racing driver and Deputy Chairman of the Italian food company. “The interpretation of some elements in a modern GT3 makes that memory exciting and vital — for me and for people who are close to me.”
Taking a few pieces of 956 and reinterpreting them to work with the modern 911 GT3 is a great way to commemorate the occasion of a historic win for Porsche and for Paolo. The new rear wing end plates are 3D printed in a shape to mimic those of the 956, and Porsche made sure to discuss the changes with the original in-house engineers of the GT3 to ensure aerodynamic performance was retained. This actual car was put into the factory’s wind tunnel to confirm its flow characteristics. That’s how in-depth Porsche went for this special one-off.
Inside there are a few special touches to separate this car from a standard GT3. First there are sill plates which read Le Mans 1985 with a silhouette of the winning 956 stylized into the logo. That very same logo is embroidered into the headrests, along with a map of the Circuit de la Sarthe as it was in 1985. The shift lever was built to recall the iconic magnesium ball shifter of the 956, and was milled from a block of aluminum.
As part of the process, Barilla actually became a Porsche employee, of sorts. For his three visits to the factory during the process of building this car, he was given Works ID badge and number, and allowed into the inner sanctum of Porsche’s facilities. He effectively took over the role of project manager, and made the car his own. He was even involved in the intricate details of the livery design.
“I originally wanted to move the race numbers on the doors further toward the center of the white strip, but Paolo Barilla insisted that the “7” should be very close to the edge, like on his racing car,” Grant Larson, Director of Special Projects at Style Porsche, recalls.
Barilla was even drafted into the assembly process of the car, bolting the gearbox to his engine. He needn’t have worried about over-torqueing bolts, either, as the assembly line has specific torque-controlled impact guns. “Authentic experiences like these are ultimately what makes Porsche Porsche,” according to Philipp Setter, Head of Sonderwunsch Customer Consultation at Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur. “Our customers have generally seen and experienced a lot, but for projects of this size, we always try to open a few more doors that would otherwise be closed, for very good reason.”