Journal: Running Into A Safari 911 Built By Leh Keen Is The Absolute Best

Running Into A Safari 911 Built By Leh Keen Is The Absolute Best

By Ted Gushue
December 27, 2016

Photography by Ted Gushue

It all started with my Mother, strangely.

I woke up in my childhood home to a text from her while driving in Bedford New York. She had run into this incredible blue 911 “covered in lights”. She sent along a photo of what I immediately recognized as a Leh Keen Safari 911. It was a strange situation, wanting to know more about a car that had only just driven past my mom long enough for her to snap a photo. I chalked it up as a fun loss and moved on with my family holiday.

Fast foward three days and I’m in New Canaan Connecticut, sitting at Zumbach’s Coffee (home of the incredible seasonal Caffeine & Carburetors) and what should drive by? The Blue Safari. Now I’m no stranger to these beasts, having been along for the ride on the shakedown of the Luftgekühlt car (Now owned by my pal Eli Kogan) last year.

I was in New Canaan to shoot my friend Stephen’s Volvo 1800, and he happened to know the owner of the 911 from instagram. Shot him a quick message, 3 minutes later I was shaking the hand of the owner, Michael Pollock.

TG: Mike, start at the beginning. How does one go about acquiring a Leh Keen Safari 911?

MP: Well, you call Lee and you say: ”Yeah, I’m in,” and then you have to find the car. In this case, we found the car in Atlanta, which made it very easy. Lee was able to pick it up and bring it back to his place and then deliver it to Gold Crest Motor Sports, to do the bulk of the mechanical work. When that’s done, he ferries it over to Classic Livery of Atlanta, fell named Bryson, who does all the body work. Then when that’s done, he has somebody else do the interior work and when that’s all done, it goes back to Gold Crest for a little tweaking. Then you go down and pick it up and have loads of fun.

TG: What was the the original color?

MP: It was Pacific Blue. I was hoping to find a blue car so that the parts that didn’t get painted Riviera Blue were still blue and it says blue on the title, so that doesn’t have to be a mismatch, ever, which is nice. Yeah, but Leh is open to interesting things. Actually he would have been a little bored if we had decided to go with another red car, since he’s already done two.

TG: With a car like this, that’s kind of designed to be beaten up, or treated properly if you will, do you paint it differently? Are you less precious with it? This isn’t a “Singer-level” paint job.

MP: No, I don’t think it’s a Singer-level paint job and it’s certainly not going to be treated like a Singer-level paint job. I’m going to enjoy this car and drive it. The question was, do I put an clear coating on it. I decided not to. It’s going to get chipped up and we’re going to touch it up. If it gets really bad maybe it will go back down to Bryson and get sprayed again and touched up a little bit. Although looking at Leh’s wheels, his white Fuchs had many battle scars and touch-ups on them. They looked like they’d had fun.

TG: Mechanically, what’s been changed?

MP: The engine’s pretty much stock, they opened it up, the cams needed work so they were reground, but otherwise it was just checked out and buttoned up. SSI headers, Dansk exhaust, he uses a K&N air filter because he figures you’re going to be out playing in the dirt and it’s going to get dirty, so rather than throw out air filters all the time, you just clean them and put it back in. The rest is the suspension work. Most of those pieces are Elephant Racing and it seemed to be a pretty simple build, design to work, to be fun, and not cost an arm and a leg.

TG: What have you done on the interior?

MP: The interior is pretty much a standard Keen project build, so it’s got seats from GTS Classics down in Texas. The fabric is always the fun part. That’s where you work with Leh and find something that’s fun. He has access to lots of old original Porsche fabrics, so some of the fabrics in the other cars were from Porsches or other automotive applications. This was not. This was a fabric, someday I’ll go to sit on someone’s couch and it will be this fabric and I’ll get all excited. We decided to keep the brown dash and the brown door caps.

TG: It works really well with the blue.

MP: We were looking for a fabric that would go well with that. There was another fabric just like this that had a much brighter blue in it that was almost a perfect match with the Riviera blue, and it was just too much, so we went with the darker color.

TG: Are you going to compete in anything with the car?

MP: I’m going to rally cross it, it’s in a place power wise speaking where I can have fun and get it sideways but not wrap myself around a tree. It’s just a roll bar, not a roll cage. It’s not a racing car. It’s going to be fun stuff, not serious.

TG: How has the response been so far?

MP: Everybody loves it. You get a big smile on your faces. I have not been almost run into yet, but they tell me to expect that and be wary because people get so excited they forget what they’re doing to try and take a picture or whatever.

TG: Start to finish, once you pulled the trigger, how long until you took delivery?

MP: This one took a little while. We started in May, I got the car very beginning of May, it was the middle of racing season, so both Leh was racing and everybody was racing, so it took a little bit longer, then Leh got married in France. That certainly didn’t speed things along. Then Bryson had another baby, so life was happening for everybody along the way. It was from May to the beginning of December when I picked it up. As I said before, it was just fun all the way along the way. Leh is having a blast building these. Between my excitement and his excitement, we had a great time.

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3 years ago

I’m almost ready, just purchased an 83 SC. How to get in touch with Mr. Keen?

5 years ago

To quote University of Florida football coach Jim MacElwain: “That’s pretty cool.”
I think I’d enjoy a classic that could take a beating.

Dieut et mon Droit
Dieut et mon Droit(@dieut-et-mon-droit)
5 years ago

Blimey! Judging from the like/unlike distribution below, it would be prudent for people to refrain from making negative comments on Petrolicious. Or for editors to close off the comments feature. Or, for those with a less than dithyrambic critiques to find another site to follow. HNY!

5 years ago

People who hate on things only to show they are special snowflakes on the internet… Who probably don’t even own a car (I don’t count your plastic-box you’re going to get groceries with as a car).

5 years ago

Car looks terrific and I’m sure it’s a blast to drive.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer(@jack-straw)
5 years ago

Mom said ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all…… I’d say the color is really nice.

Leh keen
Leh keen
5 years ago

im guessing you have never driven a aircooled 911 rally/safari build. One day with one would change your mind. It’s not a replica. It’s built for a purpose. A air cooled 911 you can pretty much take anywhere and do anything with. Not worry about. Just have fun. Why so many lights? So you can see at night. Why higher ride height? So you can drive over stuff. Why roof rack? So you can put stuff on it. There’s a lot of form AND function built into these cars. They are very capable platforms. But at the end of the day it’s all about that 3 letter word. It starts with a F if you need a hint.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
5 years ago

To be honest these half baked rally replicas / wanna be’s … and especially Safari replica / wanna be’s leave me cold having no appeal what so ever . Leaving one with the persistent question ..

Why ? And to what purpose ? e.g. I guess everybody does’t love it now .. do they !