Thursday, May 28, 2009

fat bully’s story

Turning a Porsche 928 into a race car.
by Pierre Martins

DCP_0892 Zwartkops is my home track in more ways than one. I love the place, it’s such a well-run outfit and I’ve always said that if every track in the country had someone like Peter Du Toit at the helm, all local tracks would be thriving world-class facilities. But that’s a pipedream.

Speaking of which, I was at Zwartkops one Wednesday afternoon way back when the new track just opened. My German mate Olly was there in his tweaked black 911, I was in my 928 in stock, street legal trim. During one session I came across four older 911s with obvious novice drivers behind the wheel and I proceeded to play axe-murderer, carving them up through the twisties. When I came in Ollie said I was a Bully, but I complained about the 928 under-steering like a fat pig, so Olly unceremoniously christened the car “Fat Bully”. The name stuck.

DCP_0912 Later that year I entered the car in a few Porsche Club time trial events and won hands down in the class I was running.

Oh, and then there was that memorable day at the Gerotech oval when a local legend in a very well known gazillion horsepower twin turbo 911 couldn’t shake me off his rear bumper. He’d zoom away from me down the straights, but I’d catch him in the banked corners by just keeping my right foot flat, so each time we entered the main straight I was tucked in right under his big rear wing. That carried on lap after lap, to the point where everyone in the pit area was laughing their asses off and Mr Local Legend got so cheesed off he didn’t greet me for the next five years. But that’s another story, he-he-he…

I’m a firm believer in the theory that different cars put you in different frames of mind as a driver. As a road car Fat Bully had the tendency to get me into trouble for speeding. See, as a GT car a 928 can still hold its own, even against today’s uber-tourers and it’s easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the speedometer without realizing what speed you’re doing.

Like the day the missus and I were heading back from a Sunday run to Hartebeest Poort when I ran a trap at just over 200km/h. I didn’t stop. By the time we passed the cop’s hiding spot my upbringing kicked in and I remember my dad once said if a cop wants to pull you over for speeding you should first make the bastard work for his money. Wifey didn’t even know the cops were chasing us. When she asked why I was driving like loony, I told her I was just enjoying the car, he-he-he

Turning the thing into a race car…

I was burning up inside to turn Fat Bully into a proper race car.

You know, gut the thing, put some custom Bilstiens with coil-overs, bigger brakes, fatter rubber and so forth and whatnot, so I dropped the car off at my mate Mario at M&R Motors in the south of Jo’burg.

In my not-so-humble opinion Mario is perhaps one of the last true Porsche Specialists left in South Africa. A tad eccentric, old-school, but very experienced and very knowledgeable in the mechanical workings of P-cars, very unlike some of these new breed of “Porsche Specialists” who think that paying their dues comes from the amount of time they spend on the internet to try and learn a thing or two about Porsches. With Mario you get no Google wisdom, just hard-earned experience.

Be that as it may, the problem with turning a 928 into a full-blown race car comes when you start looking for aftermarket go-fast goodies. With 911s things are comparatively easy. You want handling? Order the stuff and bolt it on. You want stopping power? Order the stuff and bolt it on. You want horsepower? Order the parts and let a good engine builder like Mario build you a stonker. And so the list goes on in the 911 world, but in the 928 world there was very little available for race and track 928s when I started this project, so most of everything on Fat Bully was re-engineered from scratch.

First off, we stripped the car and sent it to Rapid Motors in Selby to check it on a chassis jig whilst Mario and ole slow Ted from Afrishox spent hours on the shock dyno to design a set of custom Bilstiens and H&R coil-overs with the right spring rates for a heavy car like this.

We started with a base weight of 1550kg and anticipated that we’d end up somewhere around the 1250kg mark. The weight of the wiring loom alone was astounding. There is something like 13km of wiring in a standard 928!

Front ChassisThe original ’83 S engine was kept standard. I wanted handling before horsepower. Gearbox, stock with shortened GTS shifter and a limited slip diff came from Transaxle Developments in Pinetown. The brakes are off a turbo 964. I got them from a buddy of mine that was really anal about his 964 Turbo. He replaced all four callipers and discs just because the callipers had a few stone chips on them. Figure that. Paid him R8k for the lot and didn’t say a word, he-he. For the wheels I opted to go with spacer adapters to fit BMW pcd, mainly so I could have a more cost effective and wider choice of rims.

HPIM0240 And then it came to the bodywork…

I’ve always wanted a wide-body 928 of my own design, so I made some sketches, got some pics together of other wide-body 928s and took the car to a new upstart who was doing fibreglass work, operating from home. Basically it took him a year to do a three month job, but I finally had the car back at home, albeit with a few issues. At that point I lost interest in the project and the car stood for three years whilst I went Superkart racing, but towards the end of 2007 I decided it’s time to finish the project and took the car to Ettiene from Street Rod Factory, who fixed up the bodywork issues and built a roll cage.

And that was that. The build was finally over, so it was back to Mario’s for final setup and an initial shakedown at Midvaal during March 2008. Fat Bully turned out surprisingly good, so I decided to jump in the deep end and race it in Porsche Challenge Unlimited and I must admit I learned a few new things in this series. For starters, it was the first time I ever got lapped in any form of racing. The difference in speed is astonishing when Toby Venter comes blasting by in his monster Porsche GT2R, followed closely by Franz Pretorius in the almighty 956. Man, I wish I could try my hand at one of those cars! (Don’t we all?)

killa210309029 Dealing with faster traffic?

I’m used to scratch-racing and found it weird to be racing in a series where there are vast differences in the cars with regard to speed, but that’s why they run different classes in sports-car racing, I guess. The experience of getting lapped by the big cheque-book cars is not altogether bad. You learn to use the faster traffic to your advantage, they make holes for you.

The only thing that really grates my guts about being lapped by faster cars is when those pesky screaming Ferraris come by. I always wish I had a fly swatter nearby when those things come to pass me, he-he-he.

PT300509016 And that is Fat Bully’s story so far. It’s given me two class wins, two second places and two third places in its first year (2008). Not bad for a car that’s seen no on-track development yet, but there are some minor issues. It under-steers on the exit of slow corners, but I’ve got some custom front struts and wider rubber coming. And a short ratio crash-box from Transaxle Developments and a bolt-on supercharger from 928 Motorsports in the States, and, and, and…

You know how it goes. It never ends in this game. Would I tackle another project like this? Not likely. It’s far easier buying a completed race proven car. Do I enjoy driving the car? You bet. It’s a very easy car to drive smooth and fun to slide the ass off the throttle.

Would I ever sell it? Yes, for the right price of course, and on condition that the new owner keeps the name Fat Bully.


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