IT PAYS TO FORGET REALITY SOMETIMES, AND today is one of those days. The surroundings make it easy enough. We’re meeting at Trancas Country Market in western Malibu, the sun has a bleached-out movieset quality and the aroma of the Pacific Ocean hangs in the air. Trancas is nothing more than a little shopping centre with barn-style buildings dotted around a central car park, but it became renowned for its Cars and Coffee events where you’d find 959s and F40s parked up next to Gullwings and Stratoses. Real life doesn’t really apply around these parts, but fantasy car culture is everywhere.
Why Malibu? Well, if you’re going to drive a hotrodded, air-cooled 911 anywhere then the famous ‘canyon roads’ that climb the Santa Monica mountains are probably the location, conjuring up images of Hollywood icons howling around without a care in the world back in the ’60s and ’70s. Oh, and because the owner of this particular 911, based on a ’72 and created by Los Angeles-based Workshop 5001, lives nearby. Of course.
Workshop 5001 is a small operation a world away from Singer, the behemoth of this obsessive, cultish and (is this OK to say?) slightly self-reverential air-cooled world. Workshop 5001’s owner, Marlon Goldberg, is a fascinating character who tells it like it is, has impossibly high standards and believes that each car should be bespoke, its character defined and developed as a cooperation between owner and his team. So there’s no such thing as a ‘Workshop 5001 911’ that can be easily recognised and understood. Bespoke builds have included a narrow-bodied ’72, a 356 B Cabriolet, a barely disguised racer based on a ’74 fitted with a seriously rude 3.8-litre engine, and there are two short-wheelbase cars in build alongside a 930 Turbo.
‘We facilitate people’s insanity,’ he says with a smile. ‘And to be honest, our own insanity.’ You know I said about forgetting reality? Here’s why: a Workshop 5001 bespoke project will likely cost you 1 million US dollar. A mark of 5001’s work is that it has one client already on his second build and who would love to do a few more. At least. ‘I have to keep saying no,’ explains Goldberg. ‘I don’t want to build cars just for one client. It’s not a great business model and it’s cool working with different people with different ideas, too.’ Anyway, this is the fourth full build, an evolution of ‘Number 1’, which was a gorgeous Nardo Grey ’72 with steel wheels, skinny tyres and a fiery 3.4-litre engine. ‘I guess if Number 1 was a GT3, this is a GT3 RS,’ says Goldberg with a grin. Sounds good to me.
The ’72 edges out onto the Pacific Coast Highway ahead. I’m in a 992 Carrera S fitted with ceramic brakes, rear-wheel steering and all the other trick options you might like. It’s painted Racing Yellow. Yet the sparkling new Porsche may as well be invisible. The Workshop 5001 cars don’t do overt drama or huge rims, but there’s something magnetic about the look and the sound, and the Fashion Grey paint might be subtle but somehow intensifies the innate charisma of this fierce little car. Goldberg brakes at a junction and the rear brake lights pulse like a modern car’s when ABS activates. I ponder whether it’s an electrical fault and then realise how stupid I’m being. ‘Oh, we did that deliberately,’ Goldberg later confirms. ‘We really don’t want anyone rear-ending this car.’
No wonder. Like all Workshop 5001 creations, it’s a labour of love, and Goldberg built the engine himself. ‘I’m always on the lookout for donor cars,’ he explains. ‘I tend to buy them up first and find a customer later… You can’t hang around when the right thing comes up.’ He’s not kidding. Goldberg bought this car in San Francisco on New Year’s Day 2017 having seen an ad on Bring a Trailer. It was a non-runner but everything was complete. The engine came out of an ’86 Targa from Iowa and has been transformed from a sleepy 3.2-litre into a 3.4-litre twin-plug with titanium connecting rods, a straight-cut intermediate gear and a fuel-injection system co-developed with Michigan-based Kinsler. It produces 318bhp and 380Nm of torque.
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