Stop rubbing your eyes. You are actually seeing this – a Porsche 997 with the Flachbau treatment, gloriously reimagined as a retro endurance racer…
1981 was a watershed year for the Porsche 911. This was when the SE-spec 930 Turbo was offered with the Flachbau option – an expensive and unusual alteration which replaced the front panels with a more sloping profile and pop-up lights. ‘Flachbau’ means ‘flat construction’; these factory conversions are generally known in English as ‘flatnose’ or ‘slantnose’, and they’ve become a bit of an icon.
Slantnose options continued to be offered right through the 1990s, although they became so prohibitively expensive that fewer and fewer buyers ticked the box, until Porsche stopped offering it altogether. To give you an example of how big a deal the slantnose is, in the USA (the biggest market for this sort of thing), a 964 Turbo S would have cost $99,000 back in 1994, and the Flachbau conversion was an extra $60,000 on top of that. Only 76 slantnose 964s were ever made.
Hardly surprising that Porsche don’t offer the treatment for new-wave watercooled 911s, then. Although, as you can see, that hasn’t held the aftermarket back one bit…
This retro-futurist slantnose 997 is the brainchild of Matt Clifford, working with Reflex Auto Design – a company with its roots stretching back to the 1940s and a strong heritage of high-end Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin restorations; today they’re a leading light in the UK aftermarket scene, offering Liberty Walk and Pandem kits, stunning paint options, Revo tuning and much more besides. This 997 acts as a showcase of their skills and, most importantly, proves their prowess as lateral thinkers. As Liberty Walk dealers, for example, it’d be easy to knock up an Instagrammable wide-arch Lambo or what-have-you, but they wanted to create something truly unique.
After a fair amount of head-scratching and quite a lot of meetings, the decision was made to build a 997-generation Porsche 911 with a Liberty Walk kit… and then they immediately changed their minds, on discovery of the Old&New slantnose package. Old&New are a Japanese brand whose tagline is ‘Something Different’ (yup, no arguments there); their online store lists the 997 Flachbau kit at ¥1,550,000, which is about £10,500 at today’s exchange rates, plus you’ve got the hassle and expense of shipping the thing over here… but Reflex lucked out, as their mates at VAD Design just happen to be suppliers and importers of Old&New gear, so an order was placed and the project’s fate was sealed.
For perfectionists like Reflex, it would never be enough to simply splash a pretty colour over the body and let the ostentatious new lines do the talking. No, this is a company which prides itself on world-class paintwork, so the finish had to be eye-catching and absolutely on-point. A number of retro liveries were considered with the aim of finding something appropriate to the old-and-new theme of the project, from the Hawaiian Tropic colours of the slantnose 935 racers to the Leyton House livery of the 962, but the logical answer slotted neatly into place when they thought right back to the roots of the Flachbau.
You see, 1981 wasn’t just the year of the slantnose – it was the year in which development started on the Porsche 956, the iconic and unbeatable Group C race car. Stefan Bellof set an astounding Nürburgring lap record in a 956 – 6:11.13 – with the car wearing Rothmans livery. With all of these nuggets of information shuffling into place, there was no question of which livery Reflex’s 997 would wear: it had to be Rothmans.
Of course, they couldn’t just get a set of stickers made up and gum them on. That would defeat the whole objective of the exercise, wouldn’t it? So those retro stripes you see have all been painstakingly painted on, using a combination of Ford Imperial Blue, Audi Misano Red, Audi Pearl White and Rolls-Royce Gold. The amount of work that’s gone into it is mind-boggling, and it really accentuates the lines of the kit, which is made up of bumpers, front wings, rear spoiler/engine lid, air ducts, rear arches, sideskirts, headlights, DRLs and fuel cap – the transformation over stock is total. The actual construct of the livery design was spearheaded by conceptual artist Khyzyl Saleem (aka The Kyza), and both the layout and the execution are flawless.
What may surprise you to learn is that the base car for this project was the humble Carrera 3.6, which makes its imposing appearance today all the more impressive. Matt was keen not to chop up a Turbo or something more valuable for the project, given that the impact was in the reworking of the basic lines of the 911, but that’s not to say the car doesn’t have the grunt to back up the menace. Even in stock Carrera form you’re looking at 340bhp and 0-62mph in under five seconds, and this monster really howls now thanks to a bespoke exhaust system from EMP Performance, engineered to expose all of its gorgeous welds to the world it leaves in its wake.
In terms of the car’s overall aesthetic as well as the firm’s customer base, fitting air-ride was a no-brainer, and having oodles of experience with Air Lift Performance hardware the guys decided on a set of universal Air Lift struts and bags to engineer into the 997 chassis, all controlled by 3P management. The install is in the front boot (which is logical, as the back end’s obviously full of engine), with the 3P controller artfully moulded into the centre console.
It airs out beautifully, the nose touching the ground, with the magnificent Rotiforms really filling the broad arches; they’re LVS splits with hidden hardware, measuring 10×19-inches up front and a meaty 13×19 out back. A cool modern interpretation of the classic gold magnesium BBS race car look – and just imagine how sweet they’d be with turbofans! They’re hiding a beefy brake setup too, Forge providing a BBK and EBC packing in the uprated discs and pads.
All of this would look a bit bonkers with a stock interior, so Reflex have worked their design and engineering magic here too. A half-cage fills the rear, painted to match the exterior, while Recaro Pole Positions and Sparco harnesses stuff the front with because-race-car vibes. Capital Seating of Leicester provided the perches, and also retrimmed the doorcards, dash and custom centre console in black Alcantara with red stitching for the glare-free racer functionality as well as a snifter of the premium. Reflex augmented this by painting the remaining plastics in glossy piano black.
This a is a build that really is all about the details. Look at the nose dead-on and you’ll see the low-mounted headlights, Le Mans-style, working in conjunction with the slightly smirking grille to create an almost Pixar-like face. The huge Recaro logo leads the eyes upward toward the windscreen where those corresponding buckets are peeping through, your gaze passing the old-school bonnet louvres with the precision-marked stripes snaking around them. The rear is just as much of a visual feast, the arms of the spoiler almost shrugging as if to say ‘Why not?’ while the mass of pipes below sits waiting, eager to assault your senses with its drum-popping noises.
What Matt and Reflex have achieved here is a spectacular tribute to the classic Porsche endurance racers of old, along with the ultra-premium optioned 930 road cars, while also mixing in enough modern technological and stylistic tweaks to make this 997 totally relevant to the modern scene – regardless of whether the onlooker is aware of the history of Flachbau noses and Rothmans liveries or not. It’s a car that works on multiple levels, smart, cunning, beautifully crafted… but most of all, it’s just stone-cold awesome. Cars like this are what makes our hobby great. They encourage us all to reach for the stars. Reflex haven’t just built a Porsche here, they’ve built a masterpiece.
TECH SPEC Porsche 997
Old&New Flachbau (slantnose) body kit comprising bumpers, front wings, rear spoiler/engine lid, air ducts, rear arches, sideskirts, headlights, DRLs and fuel cap, Rothmans Porsche livery painted in Ford Imperial Blue, Audi Misano Red, Audi Pearl White and Rolls-Royce Gold.
3.6-litre flat-six, custom EMP Performance exhaust system with exposed silencers and pipework, Tiptronic auto.
10×19-inch (front) and 13×19-inch (rear) Rotiform LVS split-rims with hidden hardware, 265/30 (f) and 305/30 (r) Yokohama tyres, Air Lift Performance struts and bags with 3P management, Forge BBK with EBC discs and pads.
Recaro Pole Position seats, Sparco harnesses, colour-coded half-cage, doorcards, dash and centre console retrimmed in black Alcantara with red stitching, interior plastics painted gloss piano black, Kenwood double-DIN head unit, Air Lift 3P controller moulded into centre console.