Story by Nick Pon
It’s about time–with all due respect to owners and fans–for the Porsche 911 to get knocked down a peg. From the highly Instagrammed car-plus-luxury-wristwear images to the strange obsession with door handles to the astronomical auction prices, the whole 911 scene has gotten a bit precious. It’s not that the cars aren’t great–they are–but if you’re a gearhead with grassroots leanings, today’s 911 culture perhaps doesn’t resonate.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Volkswagen Beetle. Ironically a distant relative of today’s big-dollar 911s, the Beetle is among the least likely machines to appear in the same photograph as an Omega Speedmaster. If a Beetle’s door handles have holes in them or have been replaced with canvas straps, it certainly isn’t for fashion. And while collectible Beetles are starting to emerge, most of the millions produced were just cheap appliances.
Given the loose ties between Beetles and 911s, creative blending of the two isn’t unheard of. A 911-powered Beetle is a cheeky nod to that connection, and more than one customizer has pulled that off. But what if, thought Lemons team Zitronen Commando, that idea was reversed?
In Lemons, slow cars, bad ideas and anything that is hilariously dumb are all encouraged. Zitronen Commando’s previous Lemons racer, a hopped-up Vanagon, was a more spectacular sight on track than pretty much any “real” competition machine. So when the Vanagon ended its racing career on its side after an encounter with a (notably very wedge-shaped) Nissan 300ZX, the team wanted to continue its tradition of doing something–and we mean this in the best way–stupid.
Any 911, even an empty shell like the 996-generation model Zitronen Commando found on Craigslist, is likely beyond the $500 cap. But Lemons judges are famously flexible when bad ideas are afoot. So when the team showed up with a 1999 Porsche expertly fitted with the engine out of a ’74 Beetle, their tech sheet was quickly signed off with zero penalties.
The 1600 engine and stock Beetle transaxle were mounted into the 911 chassis with custom mounts, and special CV flanges to mate to the 996 axles. The rest of the 911 equipment was mostly left alone, with 17×9-inch Cup 2 wheels at all four corners and 996 Turbo brakes up front.
The engine, rated at 60 or so horsepower when new, is now estimated by the team to be closer to 40. Performance around (the unfortunately partly uphill) Sonoma Raceway was modest, although handling and braking were both impressive. In its debut race, the car crossed the line 54th out of 140, a staggering result for a 996 producing maybe 15% of its original power.
“It’s a venue where this type of automotive lunacy is accepted and encouraged,” team captain Eric Didier says of Lemons. “Plus, we wanted to shock the purists.” If the current definition of 911 purist is the expensive-watch-and-Instagram crowd, then they’ve definitely succeeded.
5/23/22 9:08 p.m.
That is officialy my second favorite Porsche, only after Ferkel The Nein Eleven
Damn, any more pics? This is hilariously awesome. I really hope a GRM version shows up at the challenge in the near future.
I was talking with my friend last night on what it takes to mount a VW motor to a later model 911 gearbox ,
it seems the early 901 gearbox is no problem , but the later 915 boxes have a larger main shaft spline so you can not use the VW clutch disc,
I am going to look into what clutch disc / throw out bearing you would need to use….
I’ve seen it in action. Quite possibly the most smile inducing car at the event (which is saying something), once you’ve gotten a taste of the exhaust note.
this was on Lemons 7 days ago…
7/20/22 11:31 a.m.
This makes me happy.
I wonder if they could sell it on CL as a running 99 Porsche before anyone knew the difference.
This is up there with the radial powered MR2 for making the Lemons judges look the other way on budget because the idea is so insane.
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