The exploding market for air-cooled Porsches over the past decade-plus foretold the recent pandemic boom, which looks only set to keep expanding as enthusiasts continue searching for their next dream car. But amid the craze, the longtime obsession with originality that often left Porschephiles worried about minutiae like air filter rubber seal colors jumped the shark and now, collectors often aim to stand out from the crowd at their local cars and coffee meets.
A host of shops and tuners caters to just such desires and some even earned enough fame in recent years to charge upward of half-a-million bucks for their air-cooled creations—to the point that today, names like Singer and Emory sound synonymous with Porsche performance. One such company called Classic 9 Motorwerks operates out of Jacksonville, Florida, toeing a finer line between respect for Porsche‘s motorsports heritage and all-out reinvention of the wheel with custom projects like an impeccable RS Turbo that builds on the potential of Porsche’s 930-generation 911 Turbo.
I recently spoke with Classic 9 co-founder, designer, and engineer Jason Faulkner about where he learned the skills required to build such spectacular customs and how he envisions tomorrow’s Porsche collector today.
Classic 9 Motorwerks Co-Founder Jason Faulkner
Faulkner grew up, like so many car-crazed kids, with a father who imbued an appreciation for anything and everything powered by internal combustion.
“It was kind of embedded in me from the very beginning,” he joked, “I think I was born with a Hot Wheels car in my hand.”
As a teenager, Faulkner followed his passion into building Volkswagens focused on big motors, dual carb conversions, lowered suspension—the works, as dictated by Southern California’s custom Beetle style. He even considered pursuing car design as a profession, before committing to a similarly creative career by attending architecture school largely, he told me, because architecture provided more flexibility on where to live while practicing. But Faulkner found that actually practicing architecture involves challenges school fails to prepare you for, which I can certainly understand given my childhood watching both parents in the same business.
“The architecture business model is a bad business model, from a lot of perspectives,” he said, “You’re always trying to sell people what they can’t see.”
Nevertheless, Faulkner found success and shortly after graduating from school, decided he wanted to keep up the car hobby by entering vintage races with his dad.
Investing In Vintage Racing
“I’m thinking, ‘How am I gonna afford this?,'” Faulkner recalled, explaining, “Dad’s not rich, but dad’s okay. And so we said, ‘Well, what if we pull both of our pots of money together? Maybe the two of us can do a decent car.'”
Over the course of a year and a half, the duo managed to save up around $60,000. The younger Faulkner then approached a friend from the Volkswagen days who ran a shop prepping racecars. But rather than taking that money, the friend allowed Faulkner entrée into the intricacies of building racecars himself—the whole megillah from basic fabrication to engine, suspension, and gearbox work.
“‘You come here every weekend,'” Faulkner remembers hearing, “‘If you’re ever gonna do this, you gotta learn how to work on your own stuff ‘cus you’re not gonna be able to afford to have somebody do it for you.'”
Putting In The Work
Faulkner lived up to the offer, showing up for five years straight to learn firsthand what motorsport requires from a car and its builder.
“I think I only missed two weekends out of those five years,” Faulkner laughed. “I’m not sure how I ever got married. My wife still stayed with me during that time. “
Eventually, he built a race-ready replica of the famous 1973 Porsche RSR, a clone that he and the elder Faulkner raced continuously starting in 2001. The passion turned into more than a side project, though, and the father-son team eventually decided to start building cars for their own customers by founding Classic 9 Motorwerks.
“Dad’s role now is basically my business partner,” Faulkner said. “He is handling the day-in and day-out operations of the company. I’m still playing double duty, half architect, half car designer-builder.”
A Unique Porsche Perspective
I asked Faulkner where he found the inspiration for a build that simultaneously focuses on impeccable details and serious performance, given his experience with dedicated track toys (which trend more towards stripped, gutted, caged, taped together, and filthy).
“I got so tired of going to the PCA events,” Faulkner recalled. “Everybody’s out there with the Q-tips, wiping down the dirt in between the plugs and stuff. If that bolt didn’t come from Porsche on the same line, you were dinged. It just felt so pretentious to me.”
Porsche’s motorsport history helped to propel the concept of the RS Turbo into reality, too.
“You look at any kind of sports car racing,” he said “It’s hard to not go to a race and see a Porsche that’s not there. And I think their design and their R&D that they did throughout the decades on their race cars is second-to-none, compared to any other manufacturer. “
Some of that racing heritage filtered down into production cars, like turbochargers in the 930 or specific lightweight models like the 1967 911R and the ’73 Carrera RS 2.7—but the early spikes in value seemed more concerned with paint colors, interior condition, and trivialities rather than actual race-honed performance.
“I was always surprised how that DNA just didn’t seem to manifest itself in the Porsche collector market,” Faulkner revealed. “When they would do stuff well, sometimes it wasn’t the prettiest thing, but if it didn’t run like a scolded dog!”
Sketches For The C9 RS Turbo
Of course, as a vintage racer, power always fit into the mix. And Faulkner recognizes the gap between road-going and race-ready well.
“I wanted a bigger motor than what they ever had,” he said, while hedging, “I don’t want it to be so much like a racecar that I can’t drive it on the street. But I really want the fender flares to look like they were handcrafted and hand-rolled, this really mean-looking car for the street. If it’s not numbers-matching, who cares?”
The extensive lineups of pristine, bone-stock Porsche 911s at car meets can end up actually detracting from the sense of special that these rear-engined, air-cooled icons formerly engendered. More recently, Faulkner happily notes a strong shift towards enthusiast projects like outlaws and fine-crafted customs.
“I’ve noticed that over the last 10 years, it seems like the Porsche market and community are starting to finally embrace that whole genre.”
Expanding The Business
After unveiling Classic 9’s RS Turbo at Amelia Island in 2020 and showing at Lufgekühlt 7 in 2021, Faulkner also expanded the business into other builds. One concept takes the mid-engined promise of the 914/6 GT and adds similar performance and cosmetic enhancements. But Faulkner will also happily work with clients to fully customize their cars from the ground up—much like an architect rendering a house. He even hinted at a forthcoming 911 project that involved tearing apart a project another shop apparently botched, according to the car’s owner.
“Somebody spent a couple hundred grand,” Faulkner explained, “And he said, literally, ‘Strip it down to the bare chassis and rebuild it!‘”
All the knowledge earned while building his own RSR replica for racing, the RS Turbo, and other client projects lends Faulkner the confidence to claim his father-son shop can crank out a car that adds a fresh twist to the custom 911. In the meantime, Classic 9 recently announced plans to expand into a new building designed from the ground up by none other than a certain architect and car nut.
“We’ve got an 8,000-square-foot facility,” Faulkner said. “Our plan is to be done by December, which is good. That’s our plan right now, but we’re running out of space already. “
Sources: classic9motorwerks.com, singervehicledesign.com, emorymotorsports.com, ameliaconcours.com, and luftgekuhlt.com.
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