John Sarkisyan amazed us two years ago when we featured his 356 Speedster replica; now he’s possibly outdone himself with a pair of Porsche hardtops.
It used to be that when you thought of a custom car you’d expect nearly everything to have been touched and replaced. Exquisite detailing and reworking of the interior, body, and other features on cars that require hours upon hours of work. But here in our modern era, we don’t see it as much.
That’s possibly because we in the media have lowered our standards just a little too much, and perhaps tried too hard to find cars that an average enthusiast could create themselves.
I think it’s time for a change; this is why I have a huge appreciation for John Sarkisyan’s Porsche 912 and 356 builds.
The detail and work put into both cars is incredible, especially given the timeframe they were built in, in order for them to be shown at the 2017 SEMA Show last November.
John wanted two cars to have nearly the exact same look and treatment, just one was going to be a 356 and the other a 912. “I found two cars that were trashed – there was no life left in them. It was seven months of really demanding work and 12-hour days, but they got done,” he told me.
It’s that type of pressure and challenge that John likes, and now that passion has turned into a bit of a business, too.
S-Klub is part mancave and part custom shop. You’ll only be able to get your car worked on there if John will take you, but it’s not like he’s treating it as an exclusive and reclusive shop. It’s a time factor; every project that he takes on get the same treatment he puts into his own projects, just a little more spread out over the year rather than the time sensitive builds he’s done for himself. So, at most, he’ll take on two to three cars that aren’t his own at any given time.Leather Art
The interior of either car alone would probably take most people more time to create than these entire cars did. “I’ve used the same leather guy for years, but I have to be there or the interiors wouldn’t end up looking like I want,” says John. “This was a three-month interior [job] done in 10 days, but I had to be there to make sure it was done the way I wanted in the time I needed.”
The seats in the 356 are not only just one-offs, but it was the third set created before John was satisfied with the result. “It’s all trial and error, but that’s why these cars turn out the way they do,” he says. Nearly every piece of the interiors are truly custom made, from the shifters and handbrakes to the Budnik steering wheels.
Even the dashboards have been be individually customized with the 356 having its TAG Heuer gauges moved to the center of the car. However, one standout for me is a sort of throwback to Porsche’s racing history: stopwatches. “I also like the Heuer stop clocks; I had two on my Speedster and now I have three on my 912 and six on my 356,” says John.
High-end McIntosh audio equipment – from the speakers to the head unit to the amps – features in both cars, but it’s not gear that’s easy to get your hands on. To hammer just how dedicated he was to the brand, John told me that he drove to Mexico for just one of the amps. When you look at the theme of both cars, you start to understand why. While the modern equipment is far more sophisticated and futuristic looking, McIntosh gear has a classic look that’s not matched by many audio companies today. A contemporary head unit just wouldn’t look right in a car that has a classic coach builder theme.The Tech Nerd Is Impressed
If you want to know just how impressed I am at the work put into John’s car, just think of this: I’m a technical nerd, but I’ve come this far into the story and haven’t talked about anything that technical yet. I haven’t even gotten to the engine bays.
These are the cars I genuinely miss; this level of work is what I remember seeing at car shows and magazine features in my youth.
It’s why I’m not the biggest fan of the current car show scene. Sure, there is some arduous work involved and a lot of the current cars have custom parts, but most of it is still off-the-shelf “custom”.
But the engine bays of these cars are exactly what I mean when I say the 912 and 356 are works of art.
Just look at the detail that went into the engine crossbar mount. The air horns of the IDF carburetors are not just copper plated but also sealed with a powder coat. “When you leave copper bare it turns green and looks bad,” says John. “My powder coater and I came up with a solution; we plated and polished the pieces to a high luster, then powder coated it with a copper sealer.”
Both engines were built by Fat Performance in Orange, California, a leading builder of air-cooled Volkswagen and Porsche engines for on and off-road use.Art On Wheels
The wheels on both cars are Fifteen52’s Urban Outlaw, with the set on the 356 only the second made for the chassis – the other set is on John’s Speedster.
The front brakes on both cars are Wilwood setups, but the rear of the older Porsche retains its drum setup which also incorporates the handbrake. “I haven’t seen any issues with them in spirited driving,” reports John.
While Edison, John’s brother, did have some hand in this build, John called out Patrick Graham saying, “If it wasn’t for him, these cars wouldn’t have been possible. He was hands-on both cars from beginning to end.”
It was a full team effort for everyone that John choose to work with to get two very sad cars into the shape we see them now, and in a very tight timeframe.
John has already said that he has an even better build in the works for SEMA 2018, and I for one can’t wait to see what he can create with more time on his hands. He hasn’t stated if it will be another Porsche, but whatever it ends up being, I’m sure it will be pure art.
Words by Justin Banner
Photos by Larry Chen
Lame. I'm sure he likes it, but personally, this is not what I would do with a Porsche. He didn't even do anything interesting to the engines. It's like taking a technically superior car and making a luxo-mobile out of it. Totally not in the spirit of racing, and basically a worthless Porsche because it's for...what, exactly? Not for the track, too expensive to take on the road, and be stuck in traffic.
Besides car shows, these cars are worthless. Who would park these things in public? I wouldn't trust them for 10 minutes in just about any neighborhood in SoCal.
I love the leather-work and all of the small details on this car! The mix of retro with the new technology looks super gnarly, awesome job dude!
That’s possibly because we in the media have lowered our standards just a little too much, and perhaps tried too hard to find cars that an average enthusiast could create themselves.
What a lame excuse for advertising rich boy toys. Those cars has had good details, sure. Most of lowrider cars had same levels of details. Do we care or why you did not advertise them as those cars.
All of those cars has stuff which you can buy or order to customise. Which part of those cars done by owner himself...
And why those cars has more than one expensive stop watch.
Any before pictures?
You have to be kidding me, he smokes in that work of art.
I have to say these are way overdone. Too much leather, and in most places where it's not practical other than for a strictly show car. It's like lowrider styling meets old school Porsche – something you would put on the shelf but definitely not a driver.
I’m not a fan of either, gaudy and pretentious. The exteriors couldn’t get more drab and boring however
These border on comical. They remind me of a big-gawdy belt buckle worn by a slightly overweight wanna-be cowboy with pressed jeans, a snap shirt and a cheap cowboy hat. All that talent wasted vomited-out into a couple of ONCE nice cars. This proves once again that you can't use money in the place of taste.
Instead of appreciating the work, people are busy criticizing!! Bunch of hooligans who never put in a day's work to go after a vision, even if they had any. The builder never pretended that were race cars designed to go fast, they are rolling pieces of art designed to show the skill and dedication. Just because something is expensive doesn't mean its bad. You do not have money, go cry to your mama, ehh!
Great pictures Larry, the rustic background fits perfectly with the subjects. Keep up the good work!!
And S-Club, do they have a website? I tried Googling them but came up with some Serbian bullshit!!
...these are great rolling advertisements for the level/quality of the shop(s). I don't really care for the outcome and also wonder how much was done in house and how much farmed out. If the interior/leather was done elseware not so sure of what the shop can do that is special.
What is more important Elon Musk's vision or the run-of-the-mill engineers who realize it?? Seriously demented comment!!!
Mike, get over yourself, dude. Nobody cares what you think.
Atleast, I have a name in front of my comment, boy! Unlike you too chicken to even put a name. Kid, before commenting on the philosophy of Porsches get one!!
It is a demonstration of your ignorance that you put, what I assume, is your real name. You are having all your comments parsed for brand names so they can directly market worthless merchandise to you. Obviously, you're too stupid to understand that, so the technique works wonders.
I'm quite surprised at the response to these, TBH. I checked them out at SEMA and the quality of work and craftsmanship is absolutely superb. Of course, everyone's taste is different, but there should at least be respect for the standard of work, regardless if it's something you would do yourself or not.
Skilled craftsmanship certainly, but thwarted by juvenile execution IMO - really lacking in restraint. The six stopwatches on the 356 are a glaring point to that (two is the functional number, or are we to assume he runs 3 rallies at a time?). These cars have some nice touches but were finished in the most overwrought manner. Though as long as he enjoys them that's all that really matters.
Show cars are like art pieces in an exhibition. They are bound to get criticized and they should.
I think it's unrealistic to expect that every car is going to suit the entire audience.
I will provide a rational argument for my opinion.
For one, Porsche has worked obsessively for over 70 years to evolve their cars. The major reason why they evolve a car, rather than build new models all the time is because most of Porsche's are actually meant to be raced. Meaning, they are optimized for performance.
The reason why these resto-mods annoy me is because they didn't take the original philosophy of the car into account. Porsche goes a long way to refrain from adding friviolous features in the car. Porsche is one of the very few companies, in which, you can order a vehicle without a stereo, rear interior, integrated roll cage, and other 'not so luxurious' options. You even get cheap looking nylon straps for handles in their most expensive 911's.
The reason that Porsche goes through all this effort is because Porsche knows that weight is the ultimate performance limiter.
What bugs me specifically about this build is that it completely ignores the spirit that the car was built on. The mods don't make it more driveable. They don't improve the performance. Almost all of the mods are done specifically to make the car more luxurious. But, Porsche's don't need luxury. I would even suggest that Porsche deliberately removes luxury items for their halo-model vehicles. They take the money that would've been spent on luxury accessories you don't need in racing, and they upgrade the vehicle for the track.
I just think these types of cosmetic mods are left best for cars that aren't going to ever see track time, and aren't built to be canyon carvers. As those cars sit, they simply have no purpose outside of a car show.
Which, as we all know by now, "A Porsche is a horrible thing to waste."
If they were only built for performance, they would only have the GT3 and would only come with a PDK. The truth is that they are cars built for enthusiasts, built to be driven. This guy fits that bill because of the fact that he has spent more time, money and effort on these cars than the majority of people will on any of their vehicles. These cars are not a waste.
Well, obviously, everybody has their own tastes. But, I will say this, if you took the money, time and effort that they spent on this car, and spent it on technology, like dampers, or suspension, no matter how ugly the car was on the outside, it would be a serious blast to drive.
It's how you spend your resources, that really matters in the end. Porsche is a company driven by a very specific philosophy. It just so happens, that the builder of these cars is in conflict with the philosophy of Porsche.
And, of course, not every Porsche is specifically built for a race track. But, as you said yourself, these cars were built to be driven. I just don't see how a bunch of leather, ornate dash, 'artisinal' motor mounts, etc are actually going to improve the driving experience. In fact, the mods as built are going to make that experience worse, because it will have a lot more weight to lug around. For example: Porsche makes great pains to lower the center of gravity of their vehicles. They chose a boxer engine, specifically because of CoG. They never have sunroofs, because of CoG. But, then the builder of these cars decides to say 'fuck that' and put a bunch of leather, and luggage, and totally unnecessary booze mounts (and illegal, mind you (unless those bottles were unopened).)
To make those modifications, is to go AGAINST the spirit of the car as defined by Porsche.
Of course, you can do whatever you want to your car, but when you make certain compromises you have to take responsibility for those actions. You can't expect everybody to think spending, what I'm pretty sure was over $10k to do something that was not only unnecessary, but useless.
But, to me, this is nothing but a rush build for a car show.
I don't think you know what Porsche's "philosophy" is. They build cars for enthusiasts, just like this guy. They build cars at all different levels, with or without sunroofs, with 2 or 4 doors, with rwd and awd, with leather and steel or with carbon fiber and magnesium, with flat 4's or turbo V6's. If these modifications allow this guy to enjoy driving his vehicle more often then he is using it in the way they intended. You don't get to decide what the "spirit" of this persons car is. As far as you know the owner does think these are a blast to drive, and therefore every bit of money and time was absolutely worth it.
Well said. Appreciate the editor defending the feature! Well done, Paddy!!
Wouldn't be the speedhunters comment section without people hating on the feature vehicle/s.
I think it may be in part a knee jerk reaction to the "perhaps we've lowered our standards" which kinda comes across as a dig at pretty much everyone under this level. Although we also all know the internet is full of peoples best.
The quality of the work is very very impressive. Some of the details and fixtures are really unique and stand out. On the whole not really my thing but I like the interiors and they are very unique.
Amazing level of detail, almost Steam Punkish...
I had the exact same thought.
note the Goyard straps, how much more baller can you get.
Merging and taking inspiration from different car scenes is what has powered the aftermarket and custom car scene since its inception. This is simply progress, if you like the style or not, you have to appreciate the attention to detail and level of commitment. That being said, this quote
-"This was a three-month interior [job] done in 10 days, but I had to be there to make sure it was done the way I wanted in the time I needed"-
Is the real problem with the build. You cant rush artists unless you inevitably want shortcuts to be made and compromises in quality. Forcing a 3 month build into 10 days and clearly micromanaging the master leather worker is not conducive to our industry, and actually a real problem these days where people with too much money think they can have everything perfect how they want it in their unrealistic time frames... just my 2c
That is actually very true. A lot of guys in the industry who commission cars to be built are morons. Have heard my fair share of hysterical customer complaints over the years. True that you can't rush quality.
You are absolutely correct on this issue. More money than brains. And when you're dumb and you have money, you are always impatient. I mean, if this makes the guy happy, then I'm all for it. But, personally, I love to take my time on a build, and make sure I have thought EVERYTHING through before I start on a project. Inevitably, it's much harder to fix something that you have not anticipated.
Most mechanics will point out, that you can have quality, but you have to sacrifice time and money. There is no way around it. The faster you rush a job, the more you will miss on the details.
That's the nature of shops from places around the corner to people who build $1,000,000 custom stuff for (insert name here). Got out of it a long time ago. It's a pretty shit industry to work in lol.
yes, they did TRY hard. there's literally no reason to come after people for the hard work they did. you wouldn't say that in person lmao
The details are fucking gorgeous!
I want the 911. Replace that steering wheel, with a genuine wooden wheel
I'll be glad when this Porsche fad has blown over.
All these "OUTLAWS" are making me want to obey whatever laws they're against.
Isn't that 912?
Yes it is, I always wonder why Speedhunters has one person write the article and one person do the shoot because there are times that they don't seem to have the correct information.
Anyone else remember these in that Will Smith film wild wild west XD
Jokes aside, I appreciate that the detail in these cars is ridiculous, although personally not my taste also I've never understood why people put bottles in boot builds. Fair enough if its in the back seat of a full blown VIP style car, but just don't get why you'd display it in the boot.
Cops have told me, that if they see a bottle of booze, out in the open, and the bottle is already opened, then they pretty much automatically test you for alcohol.
Say what you want about the cars.... but that location is 10/10!! More deets please!
These cars are almost there... very close. There are just a few very obvious mistakes that could be easily rectified.
Firstly, whilst the interiors are certainly very striking, I think some areas ought to be toned down. I love the quilted leather door cards and similarly coloured carpets, but I think some contrast is necessary. The roof lining would look much better in perforated cream rather than the same quilted leather as the rest of the car and the dash would look considerably better in black. The leather straps are cool, but again overdone. The rears look cool on the 356, but the front straps just look ridiculous. The steering wheel doesn't fit the theme at all. A classic woodgrain Nardi really is the only choice.
I rather like the grey paintwork but the copper plating doesn't really fit in my opinion.
I like that there are details such as the under-bonnet items, but seriously why have two bottles of Cognac? Surely a restored vintage oil can and maybe a nicely detailed jack or tool kit would work so much better and actually make sense.
Perhaps most importantly though, why the yellow writing on the tyres?! Tyre letter stickers are without a doubt one of the worst 'Sema' trends out there, even on modern cars. But to do it to an older car, especially one that is going for a glamorous 'classic' style just seems absurd! The same goes with the wheels. He could have gone for a similar theme but nailed the look so much better by using chrome Fuchs with vintage style poly tyres with the raised 'Goodyear' yellow logo.
Wow, what a load of garbage. 6 Stopwatches, Bottles? WTF is this?!
Saw these reviewed by the Hoonigan's and was blown away by the level of detail and attention of the builds, Larry's photo's just add to those feelings of wow - John is a true artist and would love to see where he goes next from here.