Fifteen years ago, Mr. Cris Huergas ignited the early 911 hot rod revolution, by applying a humble list of factory sanctioned modifications to this 1969 911S. The car attracted the attention of Mr. Freeman Thomas who, together with Cris, founded R-Gruppe, a club that in turn inspired countless 911 enthusiasts, to adopt the same modifications as set forth in the factory’s Sports Purpose Manual. Over time however, the tuning became more ambitious, extending well beyond the scope of the original 1968 manual and climaxing with super builds like the WEVO built PVX, a 1969 Porsche 912 with a water cooled, 425hp 996 GT3 Cup engine mounted under its carbon deck lid. Yet Cris's "sports purpose" car is remarkably simple, bearing little if any resemblance to the latter.
Even among the well-heeled Porsche community, one simply cannot walk into a dealer and buy the kind of cool so effortlessly exuded by this first R-Gruppe build. So when fellow POC member Mr. George Puckhaber, the current owner of the car, suggested that I borrow it for this story, I wasted little time accepting his generous offer.
I have always had a great affinity for the R-Gruppe and their admiration for early 911 hotrods, where creativity is expressed and celebrated, through cars that may otherwise have been lost. On the other hand, my experience with the Porsche Owners Club has been the antithesis of this; where cars are merely tools, subjected to the brutality of racing and while my passion for racing is absolute, the creative exercise and camaraderie the R-Gruppe promises, would be a welcome refuge from the harsh realities of racing.
This however, is all a moot point, as I am not among the lucky few to have been extended an invitation. Quite the contrary, my good friend and long time member Curt Autenrieth has said, and I quote "Bermudez your passion for Porsche is commendable, however you're still not R-Gruppe material!” So with that in mind, I squeezed into the driver’s seat of the Porsche that started it all.
After exploring the Antelope Valley in John’s SCRS, I felt it was time to go east towards Death Valley, after all, what better place to take a vehicle with no AC?
The following morning started with a brisk climb up Angeles Crest but once above five thousand feet the asphalt turned dark and reflective as rain battered the mountains and everything on them. To my relief, the forty-five year old windscreen wipers performed perfectly, eclipsed only by the magnificent chassis that came to life, as the Dunlop DZ101s floundered in the wet! With the Porsche rapidly approaching Wrightwood, snapping and popping on every upshift, I caught myself giggling like a schoolgirl, at this little car’s natural ability to rotate. If there was ever a vehicle that exemplified the concept of automotive theater, this was it!
As the rain subsided I traveled east from Wrightwood on Lone Pine Canyon Road, a largely forgotten strip of tarmac, which has the eerie distinction of being constructed along the San Andreas Fault. Thankfully, the five-mile stretch was free of seismic activity and I pushed the tachometer’s needle towards its redline. Lone Pine feeds into the 138 about a mile west of Interstate 15, the site of my first pit stop. With forty dollars of gas, and some bottled water, I was on my way to Baker. The next 115 miles of mundane interstate would provide ample opportunity to reflect on George’s car.