Reinventing The Restomod 911 In France With Crubilé Sport
Photography by Mathieu Bonnevie
Even when we heap on the praise, we still have a tendency to overlook just how much work, effort, and accumulated experience are needed to create a masterpiece. In the art world, in the automotive world, anywhere. We know it’s not easy, but it is easy to gloss over the long, often tortuous journey itself, unaware of the chance opportunities and pitfalls along the way. Take this stunning modified 911 for instance. We owe it existence to the accident of a Porsche 906, the work of two generations preserving and optimizing vintage race cars, and an engineer’s uncompromising quest to build the ultimate driver’s car.
Sébastien Crubilé is the head of Crubilé Sport, a well-known Porsche mecca an hour southwest of Paris near Rambouillet that restores, tunes, and perfects all things Porsche. And “all things Porsche” doesn’t mean they do basic 911 service with a few Cayennes on the side. No, this is the real deal, and Crubilé Sport has unique expertise in the marque’s golden era of motorsport, working on 906s, 910s, 907s, 917s, 936s, the turbocharged 934s, 935s, and even the ultra rare 2.1 RSR Turbo. Translated from Porsche nomenclature: this business means business.
It should come as no surprise then that Sébastien was born into an automotive background, and of course that’s putting it lightly. He was driven home from the maternity ward by his mom and dad in a 2.7L 911, for starters. Growing up, he would hang out at his father’s workshop after school, surrounded by race cars, and spent many weekends racing karts. And yet his father didn’t encourage Sébastien to take over the family business.
He wanted Sébastien to have a more comfortable life, removed from the long hours and physical challenges of mechanical work. Sébastien studied engineering in school, working upon graduation for several major manufacturers and an industrial design studio, focusing on 3D modeling and renderings. In the mid-2000s, Sébastien and his dad began restoring a 906 as a way to spend more time together, and within a few months the car was running on the classic racing circuit, until it caught fire while Sébastien’s father was driving.
He narrowly escaped with his life, and for Sébastien this moment was a wakeup call. Not only had he almost lost his father, he realized a wealth of knowledge about some of the most celebrated race cars in the world might have vanished along with him. With this new outlook, Sébastien left his job and opened Crubilé Sport, determined to learn everything his father did. Sébastien’s knowledge of engineering and design was first put to the service of optimizing and creating new parts for the race cars in their care.
As he was expanding the restoration business, Sébastien was racing as well, participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013, and winning the 24 Hours of Dubai’s Cup Class in a 997 GT3 RSR in his maiden outing that same year. On the classic racing circuit, the Crubilés dominated the Le Mans Classic with wins in a 935 and a 936 from 2004-2010. Today, Crubilé Sport is regarded as one of only a handful of workshops around the world that have the ability to deliver wins for collectors eager to take the top honors at competitions such as Goodwood, the Le Mans Classic, or at Laguna Seca during Monterey Car Week. During our visit, Sébastien’s staff was working on cars from the US, the UK, Brazil, and the Middle East.
A few years ago, Sébastien wondered if he could channel his racing experience into making the ultimate interpretation of Porsche’s road going cars of the 1970s. What you see here is the second completed car from this pursuit, and the first coupe. The comparison to Singer is inevitable, so let’s get it out of the way; whereas Singer’s modified 911s are spectacular and oft-compared to jewelry, Crubilé’s restomod is more understated. It’s a haute-couture hot rod; elegant but plenty capable of rude behavior. Sébastien has a huge amount of respect for Rob Dickinson’s work, it’s just that he wanted to do something different. There’s no monopoly on modifying old 911s. The years spent and the technology deployed on this project allows Crubilé Sport to offer near infinite levels of customization for its customers, and virtually every piece on this car has been custom built. Today, everything that you see on the car below can be reproduced and applied to future builds.
We don’t need to tell you that a custom carbon fiber clad 911 isn’t cheap, but we think you’ll get your money’s worth. The level of development on these cars is mind blowing. Based on a 964, the finished creation only retains the chassis and engine block for matching numbers purposes, while the rest is completely redesigned. While walking us around the car, Sébastien begins with the overall picture. As a designer, what he loves the most about the early, narrow-body 911s is the simple, uninterrupted curved line that goes from the front to the rear lights. By the time the 964 generation was built, this line had to be abandoned to make way for larger fenders to house bigger wheels. Sébastien was determined to restore it, but given that the wheels needed to handle the car’s power are even larger than the 964’s originals, he worked with renowned designer Hermidas Atabeyki to widen the entire car by 2cm on each side without disrupting the overall shape.
In doing so, the window mechanisms had to be redesigned to accommodate the extra width. Saving weight was paramount, and despite an A/C system and other modern comforts, the car comes in at a mere 1200kg (~2646lbs) thanks to the generous application of carbon fiber throughout. The doors, fenders, hood, bumpers and rear lid are made from carbon, making the car 175kg lighter than a 964. A front wing weighs but one kilogram.
As we get in closer, Sébastien points out that he wanted to get rid of the stock rain gutters that run along the roof of air-cooled Porsches, as Alois Ruf first did on the legendary CTR. But the gutters are actually the three metal sheets that compose the roof rolled together, and eliminating them weakens the structure of the car. Rather than compromise, Sébastien’s metal worker had to spend days strengthening that line to guarantee the rigidity would be retained.
Another fascinating detail is apparent in something as mundane as the spare wheel under the frunk. While studying the 964’s crash testing data, Sébastien noticed that the spare wheel was used to absorb some of the energy during a front-end collision, contributing to the overall safety of the car. In Singer’s design, also based on a 964, they chose to just get rid of the spare wheel to make room for the larger oil radiators, a compromise Sébastien was not willing to take. He had to custom build the housing to allow the spare to remain usable. It’s a tight fit to be sure, and the carbon cladding is too pretty to cover up, but the point is that the original functionality and safety elements are retained.
Sébastien also nonchalantly pointed out that there are no visible screws on the car, which required—among other things—redesigning the front and rear light housings and producing them in artful aluminum.
As we moved around to the engine bay, we were greeted by the whopping naturally aspirated 4.2L flat-six, which produces 420hp and 500Nm of torque with a redline at 7500rpm. Everything is optimized, through upgraded connecting rods, cam and crankshafts, pistons and cylinder heads. At 5000 revs, the engine has more power and torque than the 997 GT3 RSR Sébastien raced in 2013. The air box is inspired by the one found in a iconic 2.7L, but again, developed in-house and completely modified to contribute an extra 30hp. Sébastien can’t confirm the top speed as he had maxed the car’s 300kph speedometer on one of his more recent test runs, and the app Waze he was using as a backup stops logging speeds past 230 kph… Needless to say, it’s way faster than you’ll ever need it to be.
The interior has exquisite details but avoids being overly busy. And it’s not uncomfortable, either, thanks to heated and ventilated electric Recaro seats, as well as hidden ventilation elsewhere to highlight the simpler, elongated dashboard in straw marquetry, made by an artist in Paris who works with yacht design houses. The dials are the same as the ’70s VDO-supplied Porsche originals with reworked electronics to fit the 964 dash. The audio package is supplied by Focal, which replaces the speakers’ carbon lining which gave a sharper, metallic sound with a linen lining to provide a more “voluptuous” musical note inside the car. To avoid a tangle of aux cords, a bluetooth magnet is hidden in the dash.
Despite its aesthetic achievements, Sébastien’s modified 911 is dictated by its foremost purpose as a sports car, and it has been through 20,000km of hard testing, such as hitting the limiter on a cold start—you know that someone out there will try it. In his own words, the car had to be beautiful, but it had to work, and the driver has to feel safe. Sébastien’s passion, determination, and refusal to compromise has given us this incredible project which he can reproduce today at will.
He’s already working on his own Safari version, drawing inspirations from the Orient Express and vintage Land Rovers, and promises to make it a car that’ll take its drivers to the end of the world if they wish. He’s also been approached to work on an electric restomod, as well as to explore converting vintage cars to be biofuel-compatible. He’s far from the first person to fettle with an old 911, but we owe people like Sébastien respect for creating something with so much care. He’s dedicated his life to elevating vintage cars through restoration, maintenance, and modification, and the result of the time and effort is a special machine that will be joined by others like it. The enthusiast car of the future is looking more and more like it will be a reimagined version of the past, and if Crubilé’s work is anything to judge by, there’s a lot to look forward to.