A Step Above

Dave Conklin, Courtesy Excellence Magazine, September 2005

To some, the current abundance of RS replicas makes them, well, a bit passe.  Nowadays you need to be a step above everyone else to stand out in the early 911 crowd.  This realization inspired Carlsbad, California's Eade Hopkinson to mimic the factory's evolution of the RS 2.7 concept and build his own incarnation of the RSR 2.8.  His twist? Make it more correct in detail than many of the remaining real RSRs, paint it an eye-searing shade of green, and add enough old-school touches like fat Avon tires to knock 'em dead.

Hopkinson is no rookie to the Porsche world, and he knows what he likes.  His extensive collection consists of a dozen vintage Porsches — primarily early 911s — restored to or preserved in factory correct condition.  Even with several such toys in his stable, he wanted to create a hot rod, something with a bit more in the flare, spoiler, and exhaust-note departments than any of the factory stockers in his collection.

It's pretty clear where Eade Hopkinson caught his affliction.  He's been a Southern California R Gruppe member for a few years, but his "sports-purpose" cars such as a Slate Gray 1967 911S have always been rather modest and subtle.  In fact, it was his quiet gray 1967 911S that, in a roundabout way, led to the construction of the RSR replica you see here.

In 2000, Hopkinson started collecting parts for a hot rod 2.7-liter engine with the intention of spicing up his virgin S.  While attending his first R Gruppe meeting in 2002, he became convinced that the early S was not the car to be swapping a 2.7 liter into.  That same weekend, Hopkinson met Tom Woodford of Factory Tour.  Now, Porsche club event weekends are fertile grounds for fantasy cars — cars that often make the leap from daydreams to reality.  And, during a short conversation that weekend, the pair envisioned an RSR replica that would provide a better home for the hot 2.7.  Three years later, the fruition of that idea can be seen on these pages.

The project began with the purchase of a disassembled 1973 911E from eBay Motors.  The shell — someone else's stillborn project — was delivered with many small boxes of parts to Tom Woodford's home workshop in Rainbow, California.  Woodford is well known in SoCal Porsche circles for his ability to construct incredibly detailed and period-correct sports-purpose Porsches.  His business' name references his visit to the Porsche factory in Stuttgart during the heyday of factory racing in the early 1970s.  Ever since that eye-opening tour of the assembly line, Woodford has immersed himself in Porsche culture.

The first step in the project was to mimic the factory's original processes by carefully seam-welding the bare shell and reinforcing all suspension pick-up points to match RSR 2.8 specs.  In addition, a factory RSR front shock tower brace was welded to the shock towers to better tie the suspension points together as well as reduce chassis flex and camber changes during heavy cornering.

In the interest of weight savings, all unnecessary mounting tabs (such as the rear seat mounts), undercoating, and sound deadening were removed from the shell prior to detailing in preparation for paint.  To further lighten the car, the entire heating system and fresh air system was removed.  When delivered in 1973, this 911E had a pair of 12-volt batteries nestled in the battery boxes just ahead of each front wheel.  Woodford replaced these two batteries with a single Optima Red Top relocated to the smuggler's box in the trunk area.  Filling the vacancy in the left-hand battery box is a custom aluminum fuel overflow tank fabricated by Steve Kilgore, which is linked to an aluminum 17-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell.  Just as the factory did in 1973, Woodford then welded up all unnecessary holes in the firewalls to protect the passenger compartment in the event of a fire.  These measures would pay off in the long run, as the final weight of the car would be a mere 2,305 pounds with a full load of fuel.

Once all structural fabrication was complete, work began on the body.  One deviation from the original RSR theme is the use of slightly wider 911 Turbo flares on the front and complete Turbo quarter panels on the rear corners.  These wider Turbo flares allowed Hopkinson to fit wider tires on the factory original RSR wheels than were available to Porsche race teams in the 1970s.  Replica fiberglass bumpers and a ducktail fashioned from the same material were sourced from GT Racing in Colorado Springs, Colorado prior to the car being delivered to Rafael Aranda at Automobile Paint Specialists, Inc.  in Anaheim, California for final bodywork and paint.  Aranda carefully stripped all remaining paint from the body shell before spending countless hours ensuring that each body panel fit with perfect gaps and alignment.  More than 30 hours were spent making the rear decklid alone fit properly!

When this 911E left the factory, it was optioned with Porsche's classic Silver Metallic (code 936) paint.  When Eade Hopkinson purchased the car, it had been resprayed in Signal Yellow (code 114) and, for a short period of time, his plan was to keep the car Signal Yellow.  After some serious thought and a few conversations with fellow R Gruppe member Freeman Thomas — designer of the Audi TT — Hopkinson came to the conclusion that only one color would truly suit the finished product.

Several gallons of Viper Green (code 225, also listed as Emerald Green) paint were applied to all of the exterior, interior, and underbody surfaces.  Hopkinson was very specific that none of the original Silver or the later Signal Yellow was to be found.  There is no area — no matter how small or secluded — that wasn't stripped to bare metal and covered with at least one coat of the lurid Viper Green hue.

While the body was in the shop being finessed and painted, Woodford was hard at work on the engine and transmission.  Remember that hot rod 2.7-liter motor that this project was conceived to house? Well, the car was turning out so well that it was decided a 2.7 just wasn't going to do it justice.  Woodford found a 1995 3.6-liter engine with only 5,000 miles and it was decided this would become the heart of the "RSR." There was no way that factory fuel injection would look right in a 1973 RSR replica, however, so the Motronic management was removed and replaced by a pair of 46-mm PMO carburetors.  The only other change made to the engine was an Electromotive HPX crankfire ignition system that fires two spark plugs per cylinder.

To harness the new engine's estimated 325 horsepower, Woodford rebuilt a 915 gearbox from a 1986 Carrera and added a Quaife limited-slip differential.  A few gear-ratio changes were made, but the gearbox is otherwise stock.

While Woodford was dealing with the running gear, Hopkinson was taking care of the many period-correct details found on this "RSR." Hopkinson is an adherent to the philosophy that states no single detail shapes the outcome of a car so dramatically as its wheels and tires.  Nothing but a set of original 15x9and 15x11-inch Fuchs would suffice.  So he made a call to Harvey Weidman in Oroville, California to see what was available.  By sheer coincidence, Weidman had just finished restoring a set of RSR wheels for another customer who was interested in selling them.  That customer got an offer he couldn't refuse, and Hopkinson's RSR replica had a new set of rolling stock.  To maintain the period racing look, a set of Avon slicks were purchased and sent to Roger Krause Racing in Castro Valley, California to have rain grooves cut into them to offer some semblance of street legality.

The period racing wheels and tires were mounted to 1986 Carrera brakes, which are attached to a trick suspension setup.  Prior to assembly, all of the suspension components were sent out for powder-coating.  A factory aluminum crossmember was installed and aluminum rear trailing arms from a 1984 911 Carrera replaced the steel items used in 1973.  The torsion bars were replaced with Bilstein coil-over assemblies using 300-pound springs up front and 400 pounders in the rear.  Anti-roll bars are by Weltmeister in 22-mm sizing front, 19 mm rear.

To minimize suspension deflection and improve road feel, poly-bronze bushings and bearings from Elephant Racing are used throughout the chassis.  Once the suspension was hung on the car, the rolling chassis was transported to Jae Lee at Mirage International in San Diego.  Lee aligned the 911 and corner-balanced its chassis for a compromise of absolute grip and reasonable streetability.

The goal for completion of the project was early April, 2005 so that Hopkinson would have some time to shake the car down thoroughly before his annual pilgrimage north to the R Gruppe meet.  In early April, some things still needed to be completed.  The car was quickly shipped to Autos International in Escondido, California for a proper interior.  This was another area where Hopkinson decided to deviate from the factory RSR textbook for the sake of long-distance driving comfort.  After all, what good is a car like this if your significant other won't ride with you?

With that in mind, Autos International restored a pair of factory 1973 Recaro sport seats using black leather on the bolsters and Pepita — also known as houndstooth — inserts.  These inserts are a story in themselves.  The original Pepita weave is as rare as the proverbial hensteeth.  The accurate shape and measurements of the "check" used in the factory cloth of the early 1970s is the subject of much discussion.  Hopkinson was able to source the exact material through Alois Ruf from Pfaffenhausen, Germany.

Black leather was used to cover the A and B pillars as well as the center strip in the dash and the doortops.  The headliner is done in white, just as the factory would likely have done it, and the carpeting is lightweight gray Perlon.  The factory E door pockets and panels were replaced by RS-spec door panels with simple leather door pulls.  TRE supplied one of its RSR roll bars and Woodford "installed" what he refers to as the Delete Package.  What this means is that all unnecessary weight has been removed, just as the factory did when the RSR was built.  Items such as the radio, sunvisors, heater controls, and even the glove box door were thus sacrificed.

Throughout the project, Hopkinson scoured the internet for additional RSR pieces.  In this interior, you'll find an RSR dead pedal, plain clock block-out plate, 10,000-rpm tachometer, and 180-mph speedometer.  In the interest of safety, a Halon fire system was integrated.  The extinguisher button can be seen on the dash, while three separate outlets are used throughout the car — one in the trunk, one in the engine compartment, and, of course, one in the cockpit.

Once the interior was completed, the car made a mad dash — via trailer — back to the shop for final details.  Some say this is where Woodford really shines.  He has an extensive library of factory manuals and specification books, many of which haven't been widely seen.  One document that played an instrumental role in the last details was a factory RSR service manual supplement that specified exactly what went into the construction of a factory RSR.  For example, one tidbit gleaned from this supplement is the exact placement of the Carrera side stripes and rear Carrera decal.  There are real RSRs that have been restored with these decals out of place.

Among the last items to be completed was a set of RSR-style race headers.  Hopkinson didn't want to install a muffler, feeling that it would kill the accurate RSR look at the back of the car.  He wanted to maintain the factory megaphone look at any cost.  With this commission, Woodford had to build four sets of headers in order to come up with the perfect balance of performance and sound quality.  The winning combination was constructed by cutting the cookiecutter ends off of the pipes and installing lathe-turned "augers" inside the pipes to act as mufflers.  The ends were welded back on and the headers were sent out to be Jet-Hot coated.

Our chance to look at this project car came just before its official unveiling at 2005's big R Gruppe meeting.  While a small project-car bug cut our day short and prevented me from driving the RSR, I had the opportunity to follow Hopkinson to Tom Woodford's secret testing grounds.  Surprisingly, the exhaust system's note is mellow at low engine speeds, making it quite civilized around town.  However, we were treated to the audio symphony of an essentially unmuffled 3.6-liter flat six bouncing off of the canyon's walls when Hopkinson finally got a chance to get behind the wheel and open the car up for the first time.

Hopkinson and Woodford refer to their creation not as a clone or replica, but instead a "silhouette" car.  Their goal was to build their "RSR" just as the factory did in late 1972 but with some very subtle, key mechanical upgrades.  But they're not finished.  The goal is to continue to locate items for the car to make it even more accurate — such as original Glaberval glass.  That may not sit well with purists, but Hopkinson isn't worried about that.  He recently located a Bosch twin-plug distributor, high-butterfly MFI injection system and all of the internals to build a correct 2.8-liter RSR motor.  And he's considering a motor swap — despite all that torque the carbureted 3.6-liter offers.

"My goal would be to have someone look at the car, think it might be an RSR, look in the engine compartment, and think, 'Gee, that looks like a real RSR motor, as well!" explains Hopkinson.

Whatever the purists say, the enthusiast community's reaction to this reformed 911E has been tremendous, At the car's debut at the R Gruppe meeting in May, co-founders Cris Huergas and Freeman Thomas presented Eade Hopkinson with the GT Award.  The GT Award is presented to the car that "best exemplifies R Gruppe traits." But for Hopkinson, one of the most rewarding moments came later in the weekend during a tour of Bruce Canepa's workshops — where a real 911 Carrera RSR 2.8 was in the final stages of a full restoration.  Hopkinson was able to park his "Silhouette RSR" next to a real one and see how close this project car comes to matching the real deal.

So we expect this 911 will evolve a bit from its current form.  We just hope it won't change too much — because it's already a stunning example of what happens when two car nuts get together and build the car they've been dreaming about.