Because of his bitter-sweet interaction with high-end customers in the past (like the person for whom Gotham Garage built the Delahaye-styled 1933 Ford Replica), Mark Towle, founder of the famous Hot-Rod auto shop was skeptical about the deal at first. His fear was proven right as the Laser 917 owner pitched in a set of criteria for the build. But on the flip side, a Porsche engine was being provided by the owner himself.
Mark and his team had to find a way to bring all the puzzle pieces together and some more, to build a track car. The build got interesting when Adam, the owner, sweetened the deal by offering to shell out an extra $10,000. The caveat was, if the Car Masters crew were able to give him a car that could do a hot lap around Willow Springs in under two minutes, he would lighten his wallet a little more. We tell you how this Porsche-inspired build went.
The Gotham Garage team tries their hand at making a track-spec machine with a Porsche-powered Elite Laser 917.
Elite Laser 917 Was A Porsche-Inspired Kit Car
We have come across a wide variety of kit cars. Some of these focus whereas on elevating the visual appeal others are hardcore creations that go skin deep. For this interesting build that we see in season 4, episode 1 of Car Masters: Rust to Riches, Mark and his team get a beaten-up Elite Laser 917 as the canvas.
This kit car is quite famous because it was designed after the Porsche 917 race car. This Porsche was the first to win overall at the 24 Hrs of Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. The kit car was the creation of Elite Enterprises by Gerald Knapp. The Laser 917 looks like a squashed Porsche 917 because this kit was designed to be a bolt-on kit onto either a classic Volkswagen Beetle or a Karmann Ghia chassis.
The kit was also offered with a choice of Volkswagen Porsche or Corvair engine. A total of 2000 Laser 917 kits were sold, but less than 200 are on the road right now. And with this Gotham Garage build, one more is getting added to the list.
Mark Is Provided With A Porsche 911 Engine
Apart from getting a beaten Laser 917 body and a VW chassis, Mark was relieved to see that the owner already had an engine at hand. It was a 1970s Porsche 911 2.2-liter motor that churned out close to 180 hp. So, the performance aspect of this build was taken care of. The owner, Adam, had also taken care of refreshing the old 911 motor with new headers and refreshed carburetors.
Adam said that he is an ardent Porsche fan and adores the 917. But as the original deal is almost impossible to get a hold of, this build would be the closest he can get to driving a “Porsche” on a racetrack.
German Troubleshooting And Race Mods
This build should have been a breezy affair, but the Porsche motor started giving troubles during the first test run. Upon inspection by Tony (which was tough, as the manual was in German), the problem was found to be with a bad distributor. This is a common issue among older 911s.
Tony went ahead and replaced the Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) box and the motor was back in form. Once the engine was taken care of, Mark and Tony went ahead and slapped on QA1 fully-adjustable Coilover suspension setup on all fours, and gave the Laser 917 disc brakes. And the icing to this race-spec cake were chunky race slicks.
The Laser 917 Build Gets A Track-Focused Interior
To tally along with the race-spec character, this Laser 917 build got a minimal yet focused interior. The cabin was packed with aluminum racing seats, a momo quick disconnect steering wheel, and a simple instrument cluster with all the vital meters spread across the dash.
Getting Wrapped In The Iconic Gulf Racing Livery
Mark took a detour from painting and gave this Laser 917 build the famed Gulf Racing Livery wrap job which has adorned loads of iconic Porsche racecars. Another reason for going for a wrap was because it put on less new weight than painting the car. All the other bits and pieces were catered for in true Gotham Garage style, and the front panel got “Gotham Garage” stickered as well.
The $10,000 Lap At Willow Springs
Adam was clever to pitch in a challenge with the extra $10,000 proposition. He stated that if the Gotham Garage team was able to transform his Laser 917 into a mean track machine that can do a hot lap around Willow Springs in under two minutes, then he will happily hand over $50,000.
The car was finished and revealed to Adam at Willows, and he was taken aback with the looks. But the suspense was due, and he took his hot lap. The souped-up Laser 917 and Adam’s track experience came together, and he was able to clock a lap time of 1:52:29. The challenge paid off, and Adam was more than happy to shell out $50,000 (inclusive of the $10,000 racing bonus) to mark and his crew.