Imagine that your brand-new Porsche Cayman S, with only a handful of delivery miles on the clock, now sits in bits and pieces all over the shop floor. Its factory-fresh 3.4-liter, 295-hp engine has been carefully removed and placed in a crate for shipment to a new owner, an anonymous Porsche racer on the other side of the continent.

This isn't a scene from some high-end chop shop near the docks. Because on the other side of the shop sits another crate shipped directly from Zuffenhausen. Inside is an equally fresh example of the factory 3.8-liter engine usually found under the rear lid of 997 Carrera S. Better, this 3.8-liter flat six has been blessed with the factory "X51" power kit option that boasts 381 hp when fitted to a 997 S. This particular unit will be installed in your new Cayman.

This was the very scenario for Project Cayman X51 in the workshop at Norden Performance in Calgary, with one additional spanner thrown into the mix: having the vehicle complete and ready for showing at an auto show the very next month. The hurry-up offense was called in, and extra points were definitely needed.

In order to make this engine swap work, a healthy amount of custom work had to be done. Up first were modified engine and transmission mounts, which allowed the "taller" X51 engine to be set slightly lower in the Cayman chassis. Next, consideration was made for the custom exhaust manifolds that were fabricated to delete the primary cats. This was done by starting with a pair of 997 S X51 headers, cutting out the cats, lengthening them, and creating a joint to allow perfect mating with a Cayman-spec header-back aftermarket exhaust. For this build, a Supersprint header-back system was chosen, which included metallic cats and sport mufflers in 304 stainless steel. This will allow the X51 to exhale more efficiently--and with a mighty roar.

An additional (third) radiator, from the 997 Tiptronic, was plumbed and retrofitted to deal with the additional heat generated by the X51 engine. A custom cold air intake with a cone-type air filter was designed and installed to help the X51 monster breathe fully and deeply. Additional drivetrain upgrades were also necessary to take full advantage of the extra grunt without worry. The OEM Cayman S clutch was tossed aside in favor of a heavy-duty setup from Sachs that was purpose-built for the X51. Finally, the high-pressure power steering line was insulated with a Pyrojacket sleeve; stock Caymans have been known to cook their power steering fluid in extreme conditions, and our track-fighting X51 Cayman would have been a prime candidate.

To ensure driver safety, comfort, and additional feedback from the chassis, the interior was fitted with Porsche 996 Euro GT3 seats and Scroth six-point harnesses for driver and passenger. In addition, a Cantrell Motorsport full rollbar was welded into place for additional protection and improved structural rigidity.

With the mechanicals in place the X51 engine sensors had to be connected into the Cayman's OEM circuitry. This was a relatively simple procedure, as all that was needed was to simply plug in the various Porsche engine sensors, with the occasional wire trim or extension here and there. The original Cayman S ECU was retained but required a major software overhaul to run the "foreign" X51 engine smoothly and to its full potential. The programming was outsourced to the experts at REVO who began work on the initial software revisions. Further iterative tuning will be ongoing for several weeks once the Cayman X51 hits the road and track.

Due to the attention of detail and the custom fabrication required for such a project, even with a team of highly skilled technicians, the deadline to complete the final build before the scheduled show appearance could not be met. So we formulated a plan to display the vehicle mid-build; thus it was possible to show off the sexy and exotic hardware bolted into our Cayman X51. After its appearance, work continued steadily for an additional four weeks.

This build has certainly broken new ground in terms of our usual flow for previous project car series. We're not entirely used to tearing brand-new motors out of brand-new cars. In the next installment, we will complete the build description with full details on the suspension and wheel/tire combination. We'll also get our first impressions from the driver's seat under full power, and home in on final suspension settings in preparation for our track shootout with Big Brother (the 911 Carrera S) in the grand finale.

Working hard, or hardly working?
The owner of Project Cayman X51, Ed Siffledeen, a realtor and developer, Porsche enthusiast, and performance-driving instructor, was hell-bent on creating the ultimate streetable track car. While he didn't get his hands too dirty in the process, he did a large amount on research to aid the cause. We will, however, force him to get under the machine at some point to help with shock setting and sway bar adjustments, R&R the track wheels, and polish the bodywork for photo shoots. Just for the sport of it.

By Doug Neilson
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