Want to know what happens when you introduce a Porsche 944 to the world of Japanese styling? Well check out Gianni’s modified Porsche 944 then…
Nowadays Porsche is an established brand, known throughout the globe as the maker of some of the finest performance and luxury machines money can buy, but it wasn’t always like this. For a large part of the 20th century the Stuttgart concern was known for one model and one model only. The 911.
Now we’ve nothing against the 911 in the slightest. It’s a fine car and one of the most iconic machines ever built. But it’s also true that Porsche struggled to diversify, and at times being known for one model and one model alone threatened the company’s very future.
By the time the late 1970s rolled round Porsche was getting serious about expanding both its range and volume of sales, hence the Porsche 924 and, eventually, the 944. Both enjoyed strong sales but were unfairly tarred with the ‘Poor man’s Porsche’ label – unfair because they were unfairly compared to the much pricier 911. The 944 in particular was an awesome bit of engineering in its own right.
It’s the 944 that we’re going to wax lyrical about today, specifically the Rivera Blue 944 S2 you see here. Owned and built by Gianni Lamanuzzi, the brains behind the hugely successful Status Error blog and brand, it’s a car you could never exactly call subtle or shy. But then it’s also true that the pastel blue hue he’s opted to coat it in makes ￼￼it look utterly out of this world!
“This is actually my second 944,” says Gianni. “I’ve always loved how they look, but this is the first one I’ve been able to build in the way I’ve always wanted,” he explains. “It looked to be in good order when I bought it back in July 2014. It had a long MoT and didn’t appear too rusty…”
Most of you will have guessed where this is heading – rot, and lots of it! Quite how much corrosion the front-engined Porker was hiding only became apparent when Gianni pressed ahead with phase one of his plan for the car (more on this in a moment). He had it sent off to a local body shop for some paintwork. Gianni dropped the car off and went home, blissfully unaware that it would be mere hours before he received a call saying that the 944’s wings, sills and inner arches were, not to put too fine a point on it, made from cornflakes.
“I pressed ahead of course. It just added some time to the build and a bit to the bill! I’d opted to have it painted in my favourite Porsche colour, Rivera Blue. But it wasn’t a million miles from the colour it was painted in already, a shade called Tuerkis Blue.”
Why are we waxing lyrical about blue Porsches? Because it turned out that Gianni’s 944 S2 was actually a rather rare special edition, one of only 10 sold in the UK, only eight of which were said to remain. Gianni only found this out when he posted it on the Porsche Club forum though, and then only after he’d committed to the respray – not that he’d have been dissuaded anyway. “Yeah, it’s fair to say they weren’t very happy,” he chuckles. “One fella said my car looked like a shellsuit in the new colours, and I just replied by saying something along the lines of ‘well, there’s only seven of them left now!”
Now before we go too much further we should probably take the time to point out that while very much a fan of Stuttgart’s finest, Gianni’s actually well known for an insatiable love of Japanese cars and Japanese car culture. He even admits, and we think he has a point here, to liking the front end of the 944 as it reminds him of the FC Mazda RX-7. So bringing Germany and Japan together (for good this time) was always going to be an appealing prospect, though not one relished by the wider Porsche 944 community!
Gianni’s attempts to meld East and West were centred around the wheels and the arches, and the former, Wedsports at the front and Koenigs at the rear, are fixed to the hubs with 25mm 5×130 to 5×114 wheel adaptors. Of course the adaptors also act as spacers, and though he was able to just about cram the 9x17inchers under the front arches, the rears were never going to fit, not without some major bodywork.
“I hunted around for months, trying to get someone to do the rear arches in the style I wanted. But no one would touch it, mainly because no bodyshop could comprehend that I wanted the arches to look JDM, for the fixings to be visible. Everyone just wanted to blend and make them look OEM.”
Gianni eventually made contact with Billy ‘Bozo,’ a local bodywork expert, fan of Japanese car culture. A man who immediately grasped the idea behind the project, and dived in with gusto! Billy is the person to thank for the widened rear arches the Porker now sports, and the much of the other exterior tweaks as well. The rear diffuser being a case in point.
JDM aficionados have probably already worked out that it started out life grafted to the back of FD3 RX-7, and though it’s predictably sent the Porsche purists into fits of frothing rage, we think it’s bang on. Partly as it looks great. And partly because it makes the link between two very different automotive styles all the more clearer to the eye.
While the Porsche faithful were hardly fans of the 944’s exterior, we’d struggle to believe that they could ever find fault with its interior (well, apart from the sticker-bombed door cards), mainly as vast sections of it are still as Porsche intended. Okay so the rear bench is conspicuous by its absence, the astonishingly heavy OEM ‘tombstone’ seats have been junked for Corbeau Sportline RRS seats with Status Error branding (naturally). But in essence, it’s still factory.
As for the future, well, Gianni’s yet to make his mind up. Two components currently on the car that are very much living on borrowed time are the OE wing mirrors, an aspect of the car he hates. These will make way for either 968 or smaller, ‘kit car’ style items in the near future.
So far, so subtle, but there’s nothing even remotely subtle about Gianni’s other plan for his 944. A big, over the top, rear wing! “Well the rear end is already pretty extreme, why not take it to the next logical step up,” Gianni muses.
“I’ll probably retain the 968 bridge spoiler as well, so it’ll be a double-decker with ridiculous mounts, wider than the car.” Hold on to your monogrammed neckerchiefs and Goodwood membership passes Porsche Club GB members! Gianni’s only just getting started…
OWNER: GIANNA LAMANUZZI
TECH SPEC: PORSCHE 944
3.0 16v four cylinder with K&N panel filter; deleted backbox and 4in exit; ProMAX ECU chip; dyno proven 228bhp.
Custom Yellow Speed Racing coilovers front and back; 5×130 to 5×114 OZ wheel adapters/25mm spacers; 9x17in ET30 Wedsport front wheels; 10x17in ET12 SSR Koenig rear wheels; 215/45×17 (front) and 225/45×17 (rear) Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres; 6TWO1 Neochrome wheel nuts.
1990 Porsche 944 S2 resprayed in Porsche Riviera Blue; custom JDM-style rear arches Porsche 944 S2/ Turbo aftermarket front splitter and front foglight air ducts; Porsche 944/968 rear bridge spoiler; Porsche 944 side skirts and custom side skirt splitters/ extensions; side and rear bump strip delete; light washer delete, Mazda RX-7 FD3s rear diffuser.
300mm OMP Trecento black suede steering wheel, all OE carpet removed and replaced with lightweight equivalent; Corbeau Sportline RRS seats with Status Error branding, rear bench delete.
My wife Julie Lamanuzzi for letting me spend my money on this and not grown up stuff; Dan Fegent for telling me when I was going too far; Ade Brannan for the pictures and for putting the car forward to be in the magazine; Andrew Baird at Automek for maintaining and keeping the car going; Robert and Keith at RM Bodywork for painting the car and fixing my bodge jobs; Billy Bozo for turning my silly idea into reality; Kevin Miles because he thanked me in his band’s album cover; Matt House for supplying and branding up my seats; Tegiwa Imports for the coilovers; Colin and Martin for letting me pull things off their old Porsche; Adam at 6TWO1 for the wheel nuts; Porsche for creating the 944! eBay for bringing the purchase of ANYTHING to the world; Alan at AMDetails for keeping ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼the car clean; Oz for the wheel adapters; Japan Fueltopia, JimmyUp, Baggsy, JimmyG, Jarkle, Glenn, Everyone that supports Status Error and helps to fund projects like this!