When wheel design engineer, Peter Tran, bought his 1995 Porsche 993 911 Carrera 2, he had an obvious goal in mind—to build a 911 he could drive on the street every single day, rain or shine.
Many supercar owners refer to their Porsches as the most reliable European cars in their supercar stables. With proper maintenance and upkeep, that is definitely possible.
Peter first set his sights on the Porsche marque in 1995 when he saw Will Smith driving the unforgettable black 3.6-liter 964 Turbo in the movie "Bad Boys." As he studied Porsche's iconic lineage, Peter found himself magnetically drawn to air-cooled 911 models, especially the long nose models from the early 1970s. However, due to the insane vintage air-cooled Porsche "tax" that has been surging in recent years, Peter decided to go for a newer model. He explains, "I always liked the look of the 993, and bought this one just about a year ago. Since my fiancé and I have our wedding coming up, and plans to start our own little family around the corner... I figured this would be a better time than ever to buy my forever car."
Peter vocalized his thoughts further, saying, "the reason I chose the 1995 993 in particular was because I really wanted an older air-cooled Porsche, but I definitely appreciate a more modern feel. I wanted a car that had things like a hydraulic clutch and hydraulic valve lifters, which eliminate the need to do valve lash adjustments, as with previous generations of 911. It's also super nice to have a 6-speed transmission for high speed cruising on the freeway and the rear multi-link suspension setup for increased confidence when I'm driving in the canyons."
When asked why he chose the specific year of his car, Peter elaborated, "the 1995 model year was an ideal choice for me, because the cars of that year are pre-OBD2. Having a pre-OBD2 car means simplified electronics, which helps in avoiding the all-too-common secondary air injection check engine light. Having that CEL will keep it from passing California smog, which is super strict."
What sets Peter's 993 apart from the most others is not so much the aesthetics, but his attitude about it. The Porsche 911 has always had the reputation of being an “everyday sports car" that a person could drive every day, and Peter wanted his 993 C2 to live up to that claim.
"My 993 is my daily driver, rain or shine and I drive the car as it was intended," he explains, "rock chips, paint fade, restoration, maintenance, and even small oil drips all add to the unique charm of owning an old car. I bought this thing because I wanted to drive it."
This 993 obviously sits lower than the factory intended, thanks to a set of Feal Suspension 441+ coilovers that were custom valved to match up with high-end Swift Springs from Japan. The springs have an 8.0 kg/mm spring rate up front, and 12.0 kg/mm in the rear.
Other footwork essentials include Eisenlohr Racing Product (ERP) 993 bump steer tie rod kit, ERP adjustable Kinematic links, ERP adjustable camber links, and ERP adjustable toe steer links. This bit of kit makes dialing-in the perfect alignment a breeze.
When Peter originally purchased his 911 C2, he intended to build it up to Carrera RS specs. What's "Carrera RS spec" you ask? That means a completely modified suspension setup, 3.8-liter engine build, full Carrera RS interior pieces with a Carrera 2S/Turbo front bumper, and a stylish ducktail rear wing to pay homage to the 1970s 911 style that he loves so much. To Peter, these mods would make his 911 into the perfect canyon carver, and what he personally considers to be the ultimate evolution of his 993.
As with all things in life, sometimes plans tend to change—at least little bit. Peter admits, "as with most car builds, finances get in the way of people buying every single part they want right away. Some of the major mods will have to take a back seat for a while. I'll have to wait until after I get married and handle other adult things like getting a house. It was a promise to my supportive fiancé, who persuaded me to get the car in the first place, because she knew all too well it is an itch that I would have to scratch eventually. I feel like the original intent for the car hasn’t changed much in terms of the end goal. I still want to turn it into the ultimate canyon carver 993, but for now, I plan on enjoying the car by driving it as much as I can, and upgrading the parts and components gradually as they wear out."
At the time of our photo shoot, Peter's 911 had a factory Porsche airbag steering wheel, but he admitted that right after our shoot, he decided to order a Personal Trophy steering wheel and steering hub.
This 993 C2 had about 93,000 miles on it when Peter bought it, and at the time of our photo shoot, it had just over 105,000 miles on the clock. This Porsche might be older, but it still runs well because Peter always has his eye on maintenance issues—the key to owning an older car for the long-term.
Since air-cooled 911s don't come with navigation systems, Peter installed a Rennline ExactFit magnetic phone mount to the bezel of his VDO clock in the dash, so he could mount his phone to the car. This setup is really clean, since it doesn't require you to mount something to the dashboard or window using double sided tape. Plus, it sits the phone under the dash still in perfect view of the driver right next to the steering wheel.
Peter's 993 has a 6-speed manual transmission; however he complained that the factory shifter on the car didn't feel as precise as other shifters he has tried in other cars. To remedy this situation, Peter bought the "Sleepwalker short shifter kit" from the popular Southern Cali custom Porsche builder, Sleepers Speed Shop.
The Sleepers team has a history of doing amazing fabrication and engineering work on many race cars in the automotive industry, so when they made a short shifter for the 993 Carrera 2, Peter knew he had to have it. He says he likes supporting local businesses, and all the guys from Sleepers have great reputations in the industry individually, so he knew he could have confidence in buying something they designed. The Sleepwalker short shifter doesn't require any modifications to the underbody panel or factory shifter box, and most other short shift conversion kits involve cutting up his 911's undertray—something Peter did not want to do.
Peter says that he really likes factory leather seats for daily driving. "I like the soft leather, and the factory seats have good bolsters too," he continues, "but I'm always thinking ahead. I'm actually planning to buy a set of Recaro fixed-back bucket seats that I can swap out when I want to drive my car on the race track."
Peter knew that he had to acquire his 911 before starting a family, but just to be sure he never has to drive a soccer van or SUV, he bought a 993 with 2+2 seating. Even though it will be tight back there, he could fit kids in the back if he really needed to. The only other thing he'd have to figure out is how to strap a kid into a Recaro child seat in the back of the car, which can be difficult when there are Recaro SPG or Pole Position fixed buckets up front. He's an engineer though, so we're sure he'll figure something out.
Peter says he always gets a positive response whenever he takes his 911 to car meets. Car enthusiasts young and old alike all share the same enthusiasm for the Porsche marque.
Although he is proud to own such a car, he says that sometimes he gets frustrated with the cost of upkeep on his vintage Porsche. Peter explains, "this 993 is 25 years old, and as things go out, replacing them can be a trial of patience and out-the-box thinking. Being a Japanese car guy at heart, I find these cars to often times be unnecessarily complicated and require tools I normally wouldn’t need to own."
Maintenance needs come in doubles with the 993's 3.6 liter M64.07 engine—2 oil filters, 12 spark plugs, 2 distributors, and 10+ quarts of oil, all in a relatively confined engine bay. Peter says that doing maintenance on his 993 can be challenging at times because everything in the engine bay is so tight. When all is said and done, though, he feels that it's rewarding to do as much as he can by himself.
Even though trying to fit his hands into his 993's engine compartment can be a pain, Peter explains, "I get frustrated sometimes when working on the car, but when I'm in the driver seat and hear it roaring down the street with its Fabspeed Supercup exhaust, I always think... Yup. Worth it."
Adding to the excellent exhaust note that the M64 engine produces is the factory optional Porsche Motorsound cup airbox. It's easy to spot thanks to the big polished funnel moving air expeditiously into the intake.
One might notice other funnel shaped objects bolted in the engine bay. These are Rennline solid motor mounts, which according to Peter, gets rid of some of the 993's noticeable slop in acceleration and shifting, giving the car a more visceral feeling.
The thick black bar sitting in between the rear bumper and the engine is a Rennline tubular engine carrier, which comes recommended when you're running stiff motor mounts. Since Peter's factory motor mounts were worn out when he bought the car, he opted to upgrade to solid motor mounts, and upgraded to the Rennline tubular engine carrier to replace the weaker stock unit that comes in the 993 from the factory.
Of course, fresh spark plugs and plug wires are essential to keeping any car running well. The engine bay was a bit dirty at the time of the shoot because it was raining for a couple weeks prior, but Peter replaced the plugs and bought a set of Beru wires to keep things running smoothly.
It's rare when a person is able to engineer the wheels they have on their own car. Peter says that being a design engineer for a wheel company satisfies both the creative and practical sides of his mind.
He continues to explain, "when designing, I draw a lot of inspiration from the late 1980s and 1990s, which I regard as the golden era of automotive and motorsport history, with the homologation special race cars and forward design aesthetics. I like to pay homage to vintage timeless designs, and modernize the look without bastardizing the original design intent. It is just like the old don’t reinvent the wheel idiom. I like to keep my designs simple and clean, and let the subtle details speak for themselves. I truly believe these custom Motegi Racing MR409 on my car are a perfect example of my style as a designer, blending classic elements with modern design cues."
When asked about the wheel design process, Peter explained, "almost all my designs are hand sketched in my little black sketchbook, with notes on the tiniest details of how I want it to look. From there, I would start the solid modeling in either Solidworks or Fusion360 to see my designs come alive. The reason I like to use Solidworks or Fusion360 is because of my practical engineering side. As an engineer, no matter the design or look of an object, that object must be able to fulfill its purpose efficiently and effectively. Each of my custom designs will go through a series of Finite Element Analysis simulations, recreating SAE standardized testing to ensure that the wheel is strong enough for real world applications."
"The beauty of designing and engineering all in one package is that I can really fine-tune the final product. I can reduce unnecessary weight and maintain the same strength throughout the entire wheel without sacrificing much in the looks department. After months of trial and error, I was able to reduce the weight of the MR409 17x9 3-piece front wheels to about 16 lbs, and got to less than 18 lbs for the 17x10.5 rear wheels, fully assembled (without tires)."
When it comes to wheel and tire fitment, it can be a difficult topic to cover, as no two cars are exactly alike, and the tastes of each owner can often be different. Peter says he's not into the stance scene anymore, but tire fitment to both the wheels and the fender is still crucial to him, so he always specs his wheels around his chosen tire selection first.
When he was building out his set of wheels, Falken Tire had just released their Azenis FK510 tire, which Peter says is a good balance of streetability and grip. He chose to get a set of 235/45/R17 Falken Azenis to mount up to his 17x9 front wheels, and then chose to build 17x10.5 wheels for the rear instead of 17x11. When combined with a set 275/40/R17 FK510 tires in the rear, the 10.5 inch wide rear wheels would give the slightest amount of stretch, which was the look he was after. Peter wanted the front and rear tire profiles and stretch to look similar, because he was going for a fatty tire retro look on the car.
Peter explained, "with the basic measurements of the inner wheel well and fender, I was able to calculate the right amount of offset for both the front and rear. I really wanted to push the boundaries of fitment on the car because I was planning on lowering the car's ride height quite a bit using coilovers - not air suspension. Go hard or go home right?"
After that, it was just a matter of finalizing the ride height, corner balancing, and aligning the vehicle with all the new suspension parts, thanks to JP Parra at Rstrada in Torrance, CA. Rubbing is inevitable when you push the limits of ride height and wheel offset, but it's nothing that strategic fender shaving can't handle. The best part is, Peter's 993 fenders still look OEM to the naked eye.
Peter admits, "since I designed and engineered the wheels on my 911 myself, it took me months before I was completely happy with the looks, strength, fitment, and weight of them."
Peeking behind the 993's Motegi Racing MR409 wheels are factory Porsche Brembo 4-piston calipers with cross drilled rotors and Stoptech Sport Performance brake pads. When we were shooting, I mentioned to Peter that he might want to order some new brake rotors. He laughed and said, "I actually started browsing the FCP Euro site while you were shooting my car, and I just bought the 993BK1 Porsche Brake Kit with the Zimmermann rotors and Pagid pads."
"As a wheel design engineer, I think my biggest contribution to this car has to be the engineering of the wheels." Peter explained in detail, "for all the Japanese wheel heads, the design was inspired by the Manaray Turbina S wheel, even down to the paint scheme. The final product had a perfect blend of the JDM Turbina S and the European Compomotive Turbo wheels of the 1980s. I spent countless hours taking measurements of the wheel well, brakes, and fender clearance. I took into account how much stretch I wanted from the tires, and even accounted that into the final width and fitment of the wheel. Big shout out to my boys at Falken for helping me get tires for the car. I have a thing for small diameter wheels with a meaty tire setup, so I opted to stay with 17 inch wheels rather than step up to 18s, which are a lot more common. I wanted my car to have the perfect static stance for the 993. I wanted to capture that retro flair of an era gone past, and I feel like I achieved it."
When asked what he might change if he had to do it all over again, Peter said, "I definitely would have tried to buy this car a lot sooner. As we all know, thanks to events like Luftgekühlt there has been a huge surge in air-cooled Porsche ownership. I bought this car in the middle of the air-cooled Porsche bubble, and although I got a great deal on it, it could have been better if I bought it several years sooner. Owning an air-cooled Porsche has always been a dream in the back of my mind, but I never truly believed that I would own one at all. I always used to worry myself out of buying one, fearing it would be a huge money pit. Instead of buying the 911 I always wanted, I ended up buying and selling different cars every few years trying to find something that would alleviate the urge to buy that one. Until one day, I came to the realization that you only live once. That's when I said, screw it. Let's do this."
Future plans for Peter's 993 include a complete suspension refresh to replace all the 25 year old components. He also wants to rebuild the motor to 3.8-liter Carrera RS specs with an individual throttle body setup for the throttle response and the amazing ITB growl.
Peter summed it all up by saying, "I think the biggest thing I learned from all this is just to do what makes you happy and success will follow. I never in my life imagined that I would be an engineer in the automotive industry. I get to work on dope projects, and I'm having fun working alongside various heroes I grew up reading about when I was growing up. I always thought I was going to be trapped behind a cubicle, working in the aerospace or natural gas industry, but I was crazy enough to believe the old saying, love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life, and it actually paid off. Having my car noticed by MotorMavens and FCP Euro, and getting recognition for the wheels I designed is one of the coolest achievements in my career as a designer."
If you enjoyed this 993 Porsche 911, you can find additional Porsche-related content at porsche.fcpeuro.com, as well as more build features like this one, here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS