Driving This Porsche 964 Hot Rod Leaves No Room for Indifference
Written and photographed by Alexander Bermudez
Owner: Alexander Bermudez
Location: Pasadena, California
Year, Make, and Model: 1990 Porsche 964 Hot Rod
When I’m not racing with the Porsche Owners Club, I’ll take this Carrera RS clone into the San Gabriel Mountains which are conveniently located 15 minutes from my home. There is nothing quite like canyon blasting at the crack of dawn. I love this car’s unapologetic rawness—it pounces to life when you grab it by the scruff of its neck and drive it hard (“The Growler” was perfectly nicknamed by fellow POC member Carolyn Pappas).
I bought The Growler from Tyson Schmidt of Hergesheimer Motorsports, a good friend of mine, who bought it from a mutual friend. Both owners spent considerable time and resources modifying the car, and I am extremely lucky to be the beneficiary of their efforts!
When Tyson casually mentioned that he was looking to sell his car, I thought little of it. After all, my fixation with getting a 997 GT3 RS, left little room for anything else, especially a clone! The day Tyson mentioned it, we parted ways after I’d agreed halfheartedly to take the car for a spin at a later date.
Six months passed before this actually happened. I struggled to maneuver the car’s heavy unassisted steering as the Porsche heaved itself to life. The unmistakable lopey idle of the advanced cam timing instantly signaled something was very different about this 964. Once it was free of the parking lot, the car exploded to life, howling down the street like nothing I had ever experienced before.
Within a couple of blocks, the car had already staged a brutal assault on my senses with its uniquely raw and unapologetic brilliance. The steering that had seemed so clumsy moments earlier now came into its own, transmitting every nuance of the road surface to my fingertips, perfectly complementing the stiff Carrera RS suspension, which did the same from below. The roar of the heavily massaged engine punctuated by quick pop backfires overran my eardrums and in the process, plastered a grin across my face.
On the way back, it was clear that I had little choice but to buy this car; this fact was further emphasized as I staggered out of the driver’s seat and tried desperately to compose myself. Of course, Tyson saw right through my failed attempt at indifference and knew his car would be going home with me.
With his racing background, Tyson focused on the car’s athletic ability but neglected many cosmetic elements, most notably the roof and its somewhat crude fiberglass sunroof plug. So after a few short weeks of ownership, I began the lengthy process of finishing the car.
First, I relinquished the keys to another trusted friend, John Esposito, who was tasked with eliminating the sunroof cavity (a job I thought would be relatively simple). When John elaborated on the correct procedure, I realized he would have to replace the entire roof skin from the “A” pillars to the “C” pillars with a new non-sunroof donor, and I nearly had a panic attack. To this day, I still can’t quite get my head around what John did, he executed the job with surgical precision and at some point my hyperventilating stopped.
After a couple weeks of terrorizing the wildlife in the San Gabriel Mountains, it was time for stage two. I delivered the car to where it all began, Hergesheimer Motorsports, where Tyson was happy to see the car again and marveled at the work John Esposito had done. At this point, Tyson showed his first signs of seller’s remorse, so I promptly tossed him the keys along with a laundry list of goodies I wanted done to the car. My brief was simple: it had to have a Momo steering wheel, Recaro seats, and scaffolding in the back (admittedly all part of some lingering teenage fantasy). Tyson and his fellow cohorts, Eric Oviatt and Evan Fullerton, were happy to oblige, and so they came up with a game plan for the interior of the car.
Once the roll bar had been fabricated and installed and the Recaro side mounts fitted, the car went on a week-long excursion to Levon Mobile Upholstery, where George Belgian installed his custom-made RS style lightweight carpet, door panels, headliner, shifter boot and some dashboard components. By now the 964 looked and smelled like it had just come off the showroom floor.
Once back at Hergesheimer, the titanium hardware for the roll bar and lightweight battery holder were all torqued down and the rest of the car was buttoned up. As I walked into the Hergesheimer Motorsport facility, Tyson was finishing up the final test drive. He tossed me the keys and said, “Now go kill some bugs.”
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