Take the front half of a street car, the rear half of a race car, fuse them in the center, eventually replace the headlights for a pair of “broken eggs” from a 996.1, and cloak the car in a mysterious aura. The 911 GT1 is one of those elusive halo cars that only few eyes are fortunate enough to see.
Its odd proportions, uncommonly racey character and pedigree, and less-than-restrained aerodynamics make it a bit of an outsider. More than hypercars of the late nineties—the time where swooping, subdued minimalist shapes were in vogue—it had something refreshingly Caterhamesque and unpolished about it.
Meaner Than Most
This vehicle’s vented frunk, prominent rear wing, and roof-mounted intake all give it the presence of a purposeful racing car. It took some of that swoopiness of the 993 and 996, but, cosmetically anyways, it was far busier than the Ferrari F40, Bugatti EB110, McLaren F1, and other swoopy flagships which made nineties GT1 racing such a feast for the eyes.
Being a racing car first and foremost meant that only a handful of street-going versions were made for homologation purposes. Of these twenty-five Straßenversion, the twenty-three right-hand-drive examples all wore those divisive headlights except for two. Those first two had the 993’s conventional rounded headlights and the steel front half of a 993 to go along with them. Inside the cabin, the car also received the dash, switchgear, shift knob, and various other tidbits from the 993’s spartan cabin. Like the Ferrari F40 this car competed against, the interior was pure racing car, except the Porsche featured an afterthought of sparse leather trimming. Hardly plush, but at least there wasn’t any exposed glue like in the F40.
This racing car for the road—a tired line common in hacky automotive journalism—deserves the title more than most. It has the 962’s powertrain and rear half, and the 3.2-liter Mezger fills the cabin with that gravelly grumble at lower revs. As the turbochargers wake up and catapult the mid-engined 911—the first of its kind, incidentally—down the road, the engine note doesn’t exactly morph into a sonorous scream, but more a guttural bellow. Even a soundtrack more purposeful than emotional doesn’t detract from the sense of occasion the Straßenversion offered.
Weighing just 2,530 pounds, its 544 horsepower can fire it down the road at rates on-par with the modern rockets. Remember, this car is shifted with a synchromesh gearbox that’s not astoundingly slick or quick between the gates, but it is robust enough to handle long-distance runs. It hits 62 in 3.9 seconds, 99.4 mph in 7.1 seconds, and 124.3 mph in 10.5 seconds. Even by today’s standards, it’s absurdly quick.
But it’s special more for its character than its straightline speed, as impressive as that is. The tendency to tramline shouldn’t be fought. The car hops over bumps and shimmies in ways that hypercars of today don’t. True, the hybrid-powered successors might have a softer, more pliant suspension, but this brute is far more stimulating at lower speeds. It is an animal that keeps you on edge at all times, and with a road-going hypercar, isn’t that the aim?
Listen as Tiff Needell guides this monster through slippery Scottish roads—you won’t forget it.