The day Alfred Nobel combined the relatively innocuous components of nitrates and glycerol was a wondrous day for us all. On their own, they were fertilizer and fat, respectively; together, they could split the world in two.
Porsche's 911 Carrera and Cayman could represent those two elements: a fat man's sports car and mid-range fertilizer for Porsche's sales figures. But German tuning firm 9ff has blended them together in its Dortmund lab to produce the CR-42, a 911-engined Cayman so volatile it could convince George W. Bush to invade Germany.
It's common knowledge the mid-engine Cayman could have toppled the 911 had Porsche wanted to consign its greatest car to the trash. All it required were a few extra ponies and a limited-slip differential for this lithe sports car to leave the icon breathing its dust. Porsche couldn't let that happen and deliberately filed down the crocodile's teeth.
Jan Fatthauer doesn't work for Porsche. He owns 9ff, the tuning firm that produced the world's fastest production car (for a while, at least), which recently turned attention to the Cayman. He fitted that LSD, and then couldn't stop himself.
"The Cayman is a much purer sports car than the 911," he says. "The basic configuration is near perfect, if you can do without four seats. And we saw so much potential. Porsche has other considerations, but we just wanted to make a great car. And the Cayman is the best starting point in the line-up."
He went for a full engine transplant, grabbing the nearest 3.8-liter from a new Carrera S and boring the cylinders out from 99mm to 102mm. That encroached into the soft aluminum of the casing and required further reinforcement with Nikasil to stop the block melting after the first dose of throttle.
Fatthauer reveals the new engine is no match for the 996's unburstable 3.6-liter; it even comes with a Chinese stamp on the casting. So the Nikasil is just as important as the forged pistons, engorged intake manifold, an air filter to better feed the monster and a stainless steel sport exhaust featuring 9ff's trademark woven-steel exit pipes.
New software for the ECU and a lightweight flywheel complete the engine upgrades and this little Cayman now has real bite-420 bhp and 320 lb-ft of torque in a 3000-pound package.
The CR-42 hits 60 mph in a claimed 4.4 seconds, thanks in part to the LSD with its 40/60 percent locking mechanism and the outrageous dose of extra power. It can bang with the 'grown-up' Porsches until the very furthest reaches of the performance envelope, before kicking in their teeth through the corners. With the flamboyant approach 9ff has to exhaust tones, you'd think the flat-six had been mounted inside the cabin.
Banging through the gears (with a short-shifter pillaged from the Cayman S) is altogether sharper, courtesy of a bespoke Zaks clutch with a 30 percent stronger pressure plate. There's no rubber in the gate, just metal rods and ball joints, plus shift cables from the mighty GT3 RSR.
The top end is just 195 mph, agonizingly close to the milestone 200-mph mark that would elevate this car to iconic status and leave even the 997 Turbo behind in every single way. But modifying the cogs in the Getrag gearbox is apparently out of the question.
Porsche's Cayman was never about straight-line speed anyway; it's the precise and fluid handling that excites everyone. Yet placed next to the CR-42, the standard car would feel like it was suspended on Jell-o.