Ever since Porsche neatly incorporated their powered hood under the metal rear deck of the 996 model, the previously distinct line between Cabriolet and Speedster blurred somewhat. In the pre-996 era, the ungainly, folded canvas ragtop that sits proudly on the rear deck like a folded pram hood, marked out the Cabriolet from the sleeker lines of its roofless Speedster brother.
The 9ff Speed9 is a Speedster in the traditional sense, and the lack of a roof and its heavy electro-hydraulic mechanism removes crucial kilos from the rear of the car. As all that weight is concentrated high up in the structure, this also helps keep the center of gravity low, where it counts most in a 911.
However, the 9ff Speed9 is far more than just a 997 Cabriolet converted into a Speedster, as 9ff boss Jan Fatthauer explains. This car is owned by one of our regular clients, a car dealer from Bochum Germany, for whom we have done several cars, including a GT2 in Gulf colors. One Saturday last summer, he visited me for a chat as he often does. He said he had just bought three 997 Carrera S Coupes. He wanted a special car for his wife, and asked what we could do with these cars.
Fatthauer thought about it for a moment and realized that 9ff had never done a Speedster. There was a moment’s silence as the gravity of what he had just been told sank in. A Carrera S was dropped off at 9ff a couple of days later.
Technically, it would have been easier to start with a Cabriolet, Fatthauer says. On the other hand, I am not fond of the high rear deck necessary to cover the folded top. I wanted a lower line for the rear deck to make the car look longer, lower and sleeker.
The bodywork specialists at 9ff set about removing the Coupe’s roof and rear bodywork, and fabricating the new panels that would make up the distinctive, flatter rear deck.
Although all the variants of the latest 997 cars are designed together, the Cabriolet has additional bracing to make up for the loss of its roof. The engineers opened the sills to install the factory strengthening members, and extra metal where it would further strengthen the shell. We also installed our own strengthening tubes into the A-pillars along with fixing points for the seat belts, Fatthauer says.
The factory engine cover was spliced horizontally in the center and re-contoured to suit the new lower lines. As well as lying much flatter, it is now nearly an inch shorter as well. The rear bumper is a completely new molding to suit the new rear, and incorporates a center cutout for the unique twin central exhaust outlets. The company fitted its distinctive front bumper spoiler and side sill extensions too.
Small but significant details are the latest 997 LED taillights, which had only just been seen on the facelifted car when the Speed9 was made. At the front, the inner lights are painted black, something 9ff often does on its cars to give them a stronger face.
To be worthy of the Speedster name, a car has to have a shorter front windscreen. We used a Boxster front frame, shortened by two inches, Fatthauer says. Carglass has a special division that makes one-off and low volume runs for race cars and special cars. They came up with a bespoke laminated front screen to suit.
Using the Boxster frame meant that we were able to use factory interior parts such as the sunvisors and interior light. The side glass is also Boxster, and this was easy to fit as the Boxster and 911 Cabriolet share lots of common internals in their doors.
Unlike with most Speedsters, 9ff does not expect its clients to use such a car only when the sun is shining. They wanted a car that you could use year-round. Using a Boxster hardtop as a model, 9ff made up a glass-fiber copy using the factory mounting system. As this hardtop was part of the brief, the design of the new rear deck was also partly led by the shape of the hardtop.