Take a moment to check out all the participants who have joined me in the #hunzikerartcar so far. This section will grow with each trade, introducing us to new and old friends and everyone else who shares the vision and passion of this project.
I started my career as a professional automotive fine artist in 2006. Over the years I’ve been blessed with thousands of different clients and my artwork has sold to all seven continents except Antarctica and Africa. Naturally, my client list is quite diverse and includes private collectors, automotive enthusiasts, art lovers, race tracks, regional and international events, small businesses, car designers, race car drivers, race team owners, race organizations, private and public museums, international brands, car manufacturers and multinational billion dollar corporations.
My first trading partner #hunzikerartcar in the project was one of my one of my previous painting customers. My client very much values his privacy and wishes to remain anonymous, for now we shall call him Mr. Topanga.
The first painting MLHLND on Mulholland features a very special Porsche 911 modified by Singer. Of course, all cars that leave the Singer workshop are special, yet this car represents the pinnacle of Singer’s custom program. Every design and engineering decision was made with its namesake – the famous 21 mile stretch of scenic road that snakes its way through the Santa Monica mountains north of L.A. – in mind.
This painting was one of the trickiest I’ve ever completed. The car itself has so many special features and ‘firsts’ that differentiate it from the other 100 or so Porsche 911s that have been reimagined by Singer: The most obvious difference is the livery, but this car isn’t just a wrap special. It feels more dialed in, more responsive, quicker, lighter. Not including Singer’s DLS creations, it’s the lightest car to have left their workshop. Coupled with the shorter gears and their 4.0L power plant it’s the ultimate canyon carver. It’s also the first car to feature their bespoke hood lights and a fixed rear wing.
After a day of tooling around the ridgeline above Malibu, my senses were tingling. I started sketching and sketching, for months I’d create one sketch after another but nothing felt right. I wasn’t able to communicate the completeness, the all-encompassing experience of driving MLHLND on Mulholland. A sketch that featured the front of the car at a dynamic angle, was missing the unique fixed rear wing. A sketch that showed the rear of the car left out the new Cibié inspired hoodlights. The breakthrough came when I decided to incorporate two car views in one painting: This gave me the opportunity to highlight all the special features of MLHLND. I used the topographical map as the third main element in the painting to create a natural transition between the front and rear views of the car.
The second painting of this trade, Turn 9 – IROC at Riverside features one of the original Porsche 911 RSR IROC cars (0042) from 1973. At first I was struggling a bit with this sketch. I wanted to create a period correct race scene which was accurate in every detail. I did some research and found a video of the actual Riverside IROC races. I also went through all the race results so I knew which cars could be featured together along 0042.
Part of the appeal of an IROC piece are all the different colored cars, but I wanted to make sure that 0042 was actually racing along side the correct cars, in other words, I didn’t want to create a total fantasy piece with a bunch of brightly colored cars. I knew I could feature 0042 among the India red RSR of Peter Revson and the white RSR of Emerson Fittipaldi.
The next challenge was to get perspective of the three cars and the banking of Turn 9 to work as a cohesive design. I forced the perspective of the green RSR in the foreground to communicate the illusion of speed. However, this meant that there would have been a chain reaction (in the perspective) of the white and red car. Technically, the cars in the distance would appear much smaller (and less interesting). No matter what I tried, it never looked right. Eventually I talked to my friend, Freeman Thomas (former Global Design Director for Ford, designer of the New Beetle, Audi TT, RUF cars etc.). After showing him my sketches he gave me a great idea: Group the white and red cars together so they create one unit in the distance. Once I did that, the whole thing fell into place. It took me about a week to complete this painting.
I do consider myself my toughest critic but I think these two painting came out well, and I’m quite proud and thankful for having been able to pull off the first trade in such a colorful fashion.
Once I had my initial agreement for the first trade (2 original paintings for a 996 GT3 donor) the next step was to find a suitable car. After a week of searching every car site, forum and after having reached out to various friends in the trade, I came across this gem on the Rennlist forum:
I talked it over with Mr. Topanga and we both agreed that in spite of the car’s location, the white Nova Scotia car would make for the best donor vehicle. I approached the seller and made him an offer on his GT3. I didn’t want to be too cheeky so I figured I’d offer him 10% below his initial asking price. After a day or so I got the following reply:
“Thanks again for your offer, I’m having second thoughts about selling the car. I think I am just going to hang on to it for now. Hope you find the right car.”
Obviously, this wasn’t the answer that I was hoping for. I thought about it and I figured that this wasn’t really about money. There was a reason why I had found so few first generation GT3s on the market: Owners love them and don’t really want to sell. While there were other GT3s on the market, this white car really fit the bill. I hadn’t told the seller anything about project #hunzikerartcar but I figured in the spirit of this project, why not make him a creative offer? I wrote back to the seller:
“Could I entice you to change your mind if I included one of my original paintings in the deal?”
I included a link to my original paintings and waited for his answer. His reply surprised me: Not only had he heard of me, he was a PCA member and PCA instructor and had read my art&canvass features in Porsche Panorama magazine. He inquired which painting I was offering or if he got to choose. I told the seller that he could take his pick.
He thought about it for a couple of days and in the end we came to a deal: In addition to the original offer on the car (which would be wired to him directly by Mr. Topanga) the seller also received a small original canvas Alessandro’s Last Ride and a couple of prints.
When I started on the #hunzikerartcar one of my aims was to convey that art has value. The first trade illustrated that point nicely, what I didn’t know is that we can now also add: Art can be influential when buying a GT3.
Adam Eisenhauer co-owner of Londonderry Limo in Hershey, PA., traded limo services in Halifax for this small sketch of his e36 M3. Of course, Adam also received the exclusive #hunzikerartcar cap which will be awarded to all participants of this project.
Virginia International Raceway is one of my all-time favorite US road course. It’s a proper driver’s track: The full course measures 3.27 miles and has a mix of fast and slow corners, elevation change and features technical sections coupled with some good ol’ “high risk / high reward” (also known as Big Balls) sections. You’ll encounter off-camber turns, surface changes and even blind sections. In short, it’s a complete track that requires a complete car. VIR also boasts a proper straight that lets you experience the thrill of high speed – I encountered 185+ mph in the Porsche 918 on the back straight. No wonder IMSA races there every year.
Although VIR isn’t exactly on the way from Nova Scotia to California, we did make a detour as I wanted to see how the GT3 would do, specifically in regards to its gearing. I reached out to my good friends Alex and Gail Smith whose son, Kerrigan Smith, is the Chief Operating Officer at the track. In exchange for a canvas print, Steve McQueen “Between Scenes” Kerrigan carved out some precious track time. Not only that, I had the entire track to myself!
Having a go around one of my favorite tracks in this GT3 also helped me get a benchmark for the suspension and brakes, but more about that later.
Thanks to Alex and Kerrigan Smith for facilitating our visit and private track time to VIR. The Steve McQueen canvas print is now at VIR and I can’t wait to go back!
The question of the wheels was something that had occupied me since the beginning of this project. I knew that the 1999 GT3 Le Mans entries ran on BBS wheels but I didn’t know the size or model. I consulted as many sources as I could, including the Porsche Archives, BBS and Kerry Morse, but there wasn’t a lot of information about the two GT3Rs that ran at Le Mans. That didn’t surprise me, the race occurred 20 years ago and the two cars featured lots of one-off parts.
Eventually I was able to determine that the wheels in question were special one-piece magnesium wheels. Even if I were to be able to track down a set, they would still be 20-year-old magnesium wheels and not suitable for a street legal car! The question of the size was also something that was hard to determine from the photos alone. Once I again I contacted Kerry Morse with the request to track down the 1999 Le Mans GT regulations as they hadn’t been released in a digital format – in 1999 the rule book was still a literal book! Kerry eventually confirmed the 1999 Le Mans wheel size: 8.5×18 in the front and 10.5×18 in the rear. For comparison purposes, the Mk1 GT3 (the homologation model) ran on 8×18 and 10×18 and the Mk2 GT3 (my donor) ran on 8.5×18 and 11×18.
Now that I knew the size, I went looking for a suitable BBS wheel and eventually defaulted to the E88 model. The E88 is a three-piece motorsport wheel that can be configured for center lock or 5-lug applications. The center section consists of forged aluminium and is available with the classic gold BBS finish.
Just as I was in the midst of all the BBS research, I got an email from Alex Smith: He wanted to commission an original painting of his Porsche 997 Synergy race car at his home track, Virginia International Raceway. He asked me for a quote and I quickly realized that his painting would be equal to a set of custom BBS E88 wheels. Instead of sending him a commission quote, I asked him if he wanted to do a trade for my art car project. He readily agreed and so Alex became trading partner #5.
Alex sent me his favorite picture of his race car and asked if it would be possible to include his villa in the background. He also gave me the size of the final painting (30” x 36”) as he already had a spot reserved for it.
In the meantime, I worked with David Esposito at Butzi Gear who is an official BBS dealer. I gave him the specs of of my project and together we determined the right offset for the wheels. The wheels had to be made to order as I insisted on keeping the dimensions of the 1999 LM race cars (8.5×18 and 10.5×18). Butzi Gear was familiar with the nature of the project and agreed to send the invoice directly to Alex Smith (recipient of the VIR painting).
In the end, all three of us got what we wanted: Alex got his painting, Butzi Gear got paid and of course I got my custom E88 BBS wheels!
The VIR shakedown really brought to light the long legs of the GT3 transmission. With a 3.44 ring and pinion and 0.85 6th gear, I never even made it into 6th gear on the back straight. The back straight at VIR isn’t exactly short, it measures 4000 ft, that’s a good three quarters of a mile!
The diagnosis was clear: The gearbox would have to be rebuilt with shorter gears. I reached out to my friend and Porsche expert, Hans Lapine, who put me in touch with his 996 Cup guru, Lance Aspesi at Dutchstone Global Services. I told Lance that I thought the ratios of the G96/91 (996 GT3 Cup) transmission looked pretty good to me. Lance thought that changing the ring and pinion from 3.44 to 4.0 would give us the desired result. The G96 transmission of the GT3 is different from the one in the non-GT 996 cars. Its roots can be traced back to the iconic G50 transmission, no wonder that Porsche was still using it in 2004!
After Lance pulled the transmission he discovered that it was on its last leg. One of the previous owners had tracked the car without properly servicing the transmission oil (the rule of thumb is to change it after every track event). The ring and pinion needed to be replaced (which we were doing anyway), all the bearings were shot and there was damage to the main housing due to the excessive bearing wear and movement of the output shaft. Lance built up the surface and machined back to spec.
The Guard limited slip differential looked good but the shop who did the initial installation had used threadlocker and didn’t follow the correct torque procedures. In order to remove all the bolts, some of them had to be cut off without causing damage to the end plate. There was also a cracked thrust washer inside the differential but luckily it hadn’t caused any damage.
The stock dual-mass flywheel was still present but it had seen better days. As they don’t have a very long service life, Lance suggested a single-mass lightweight flywheel. Then a case of “while you’re here, you might as well” set in and I ended up with Cup shifter cables, metal shifter bushings, a new 4th gear, new single-mass lightweight flywheel, new pilot bearing, new clutch, new pressure plate, new throw-out bearing, new guide tubes and new bearings for every gear. In other words, I got a brand new transmission.
Porsche factory parts don’t grow on trees and with the rebuild bill growing by the day I was thrilled that Harry Season had reached out to me in regards to an original painting he coveted. As the president of the Roadrunner Region of the Porsche Club of America, he was quite fond of the original 930 painting that I had been commissioned to paint. This painting served as the poster and T-shirt art of the 50th anniversary of the clubs existence. Harry and I quickly struck a deal: He would receive the original painting and I could cover the bill of my G96 transmission. Win-Win.
The new rebuilt transmission really transformed the car. It’s quicker off the line and the lightweight single-mass flywheel lets the engine spin up immediately. The fuel consumption suffers a bit, but that’s no surprise. And of course, the best part is the sound: At idle with the car in neutral and the clutch engaged it sounds like you have a bag of marbles in your gearbox: Just like a 996 Cup!