Almost 18 months after we first reported on Ritchie King’s uncompromising project to create the world’s lightest 911, the return journey to Southend-on-Sea this summer was a welcome one.
The all-consuming labour of love that has garnered an international following of fascinated fans, and the odd disbeliever, was finally finished and ready for its first proper run. And Ritchie had kindly offered Porsche Post an exclusive opportunity to be there.
By way of a quick recap, Ritchie King, owner of vintage VW/Porsche parts supplier and restorer Karmann Konnection, set about making the ultimate evolution of the original 911 R way back in 2015, taking the concept of lightweighting to new extremes with a torturous programme of drilling and swaging that would turn a rough US market 1968 Coupe shell into a bespoke ‘super-leicht’.
The overarching philosophy of the build was one of removing or improving, and where a part could not simply be lightened or dispensed with altogether, Ritchie cherry-picked from Porsche’s extensive parts bin to find suitable workarounds. The lightweight aluminium bonnet support comes from a 964 RS for example, the single wiper’s motor from the rear glass of a 924. The central filler cap, meanwhile, is a genuine ex-werks aluminium part, as fitted to the likes of the contemporary 908. Not easy to find. Not cheap either.
The wheels, meanwhile, are Ritchie’s own design and became something of an obsession in themselves. When someone pointed out that 5.5-inch magnesium Mahle Gas Burners, a costly option in period, weighed just 4.5kg per corner, Ritchie had a target weight for his larger six-inch steel alloys. After several weeks of painstaking machine work, they eventually ducked in at 4.3kg apiece.
By his own conservative estimate, he has spent in excess of 5000 workshop hours on the car, including personally metal finishing the bodywork to ensure there was no filler. Factor in countlesss hours he has added at home and third-party contributions through paint, engine build and suspension set-up, and you have a hypothetical bill to rival the most illustrious of West Coast backdates.
But this car is truly unique, a singular vision taken to its money-no-object endgame. And the result is somehow more convincing, more compelling than even the original idea seemed to be in March 2020. Up together and ready to run, it is one of the most extraordinary cars you will ever see and oddly moving to behold; a triumphant example of imagination, skill and sheer perseverance. Shot through with a healthy dose of British eccentricity.
When the car fires to life, it does so with a bellicose roar before settling into a steady and slightly menacing idle. The S-spec 2.2-litre motor, with magnesium crankcase, of course, and running rebuilt 40 Webers, makes 180bhp at the crank and 165lb-ft of torque. This in a car that currently weighs just 630kg. The original target had been 720kg. And the final figure may yet come down.
“There’s still room for improvement in a couple of little things,” Ritchie says, deadpan. “Like the steel washers on the shock towers. I can take a bit of weight out of them. I did buy a few titanium parts too, which I wasn’t going to do originally. But the rear wheel nuts were really bulky and horrible looking, so I bought titanium nuts and rear engine bolts. I do want to chip away a little bit more. I’ve still got it in my head that if I’m very clever I can get it under 600kg.”
That’s for another day, however. With the sun beating down on the Southend seafront at the end of a wet old week, Ritchie heads out for his first proper drive of a car some six years in the making.
Following at a distance, and immediately struggling to keep up, it is evident that the ’68 Super-Leicht has a preternatural turn of speed. It bumps race car-like along the uneven surfaces of Southend’s arterial exit towards some emptier country roads, its exhaust even at low revs reminiscent of a Goodwood Revival entry.
There’s a glorious conflict between the delicacy of design and build and the absolute hammer blows of both sound and acceleration. Punching through the lower gears, the car visibly squats as it spears into the distance, a furious blur of Continental Orange against the thick green vegetation of rural Essex. Again and again the noise of that unfiltered flat six seems to lie heavy in its wake, a rich, addictive wall of sound that simultaneously stirs the soul and rattles in the inner ear.
Later, on the seafront, Ritchie reflects on a momentous outing with typical lack of hyperbole. “It’s raucous and a bit bumpy, like a race car, but it’s tractable,” he says, sounding almost surprised. “About 20 per cent of the Porsche enthusiasts in America will be disappointed it didn’t fold in half, but it’s 100 per cent perfect in terms of rigidity. I drove it a bit tentatively to start with, but it all felt very driveable. Get it over 4000rpm and the performance is phenomenal. It accelerates so fast in first and second that I didn’t have time to look at the rev counter.”
As astonishing as it is on the move, this one-of-a-kind build is equally enthralling at rest. Every detail reveals an extraordinary dedication to the cause, a single-mindedness that, in the grand tradition of Porsche, puts function ahead of form and in doing so finds a form of near-perfect purity. There is a sculptural quality about this car, a beauty that makes it somehow more than a mere machine. It’s a work of art making 285bhp per tonne.
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