It’s 6:30am on a late winter Saturday morning when my alarm clock wakes me. The sun still hasn’t broken over the horizon, but I immediately rise from bed and prepare myself for the day, before heading out to the kitchen to grab a quick bite and a cup of tea. On any other weekend morning I wouldn’t be so eager at this hour, but today is different. Sitting on the kitchen bench is the key to one of my all-time dream cars – an air-cooled Porsche 911.
But not any an air-cooled Porsche 911, it’s a rally-spec 993 Kalmar RS. It’s also mine for the next two days, and I’m not about to let a single minute of this opportunity go to waste.
Owning any air-cooled Porsche would be a dream for me, but a safari version is the ultimate. This particular Kalmar RS is the real deal too, as it’s actually used for classic rally-style drives during ‘Beyond Adventure’ trips that Kalmar Automotive hosts.
The overland pedigree is very clear from the interior; it’s not spartan, but not luxurious either. The factory sound deadening is long gone, a half cage now occupies the rear seat space, and there are Recaro CS seats with Sabelt harnesses and a deep dish Momo MOD.07 steering wheel. Then there’s the motorsport equipment – a Racelogic timing system, large navigation display, and headphones with radio and intercom.
I slide into the driver’s Recaro, turn the ignition switch that is distinctively located on the left side of the steering column, and fire up the naturally aspirated flat-six. Inching out onto the empty streets of Tallinn, Estonia, it’s time to enjoy the Kalmar RS.
Immediately, everything feels connected, and after only 10 minutes of driving it could have been me who clocked up the 222,000km showing on the odometer.
Making my way through the city, the car attracts a lot of attention – including that of the police, who promptly pull me over, if only so they can take a closer look. It’s not everyday you’ll see a Martini-striped 993 off-roader at 8.00am in the morning.
My plan for the day is to meet up with a couple of friends and take a short road trip, but I have a couple of free hours to burn before then so I head for the beach. The Martini livery looks good on most cars, but seems right at home on a lifted Porsche with petrol canisters and a spare wheel on the roof. Granted, the look is a bit pompous for an urban setting, but at this very moment on the sand, it’s just right.
On meeting with my friends, we decide to go to Haapsalu, a small Estonian town that has old Soviet airfield to play on. I give the 911 a quick wash and we’re on our way.
En route we stop at MOMU, otherwise known and the Estonian Motorsport Museum. It’s the second-to-last day before Estonia goes into another lockdown, so one of the last chances to see the ‘100 Years of Estonian Motorsport’ exhibition.
The exhibition brings back many fond memories for me. As a child I was exposed to a lot of motorsport; there was drag racing, rally, road, and circuit racing all happening just a couple of miles from my home. Many of the cars and motorcycles from my past are on display in the museum, so it’s pretty special.
With a nice whiff of nostalgia, we press on to the airfield, where I finally have the opportunity to see what the rear-mounted flat-six engine is all about.
I mash the throttle, give the Porsche a flick, and hold a decent slide – for a split second at least, until the increasing angle plays a dirty pendulum trick on me. The Kalmar RS is clearly asking for more respect, especially on the dusty (read: slippery) concrete surface.
This off-road heritage-inspired 911 packs a healthy 286hp from its 3.8-liters, backed by a 6-speed manual transmission. It’s not overly powerful by modern standards, but it gets the job done. Additional lights, custom roof-rack, full underbody protection, lifted custom suspension designed to work both off-road and on the track, and beefy Michelin Latitude Cross tires clearly borrowed from the legendary Paris-Dakar winner complete the package.
The feedback I receive from the throttle, the steering wheel and suspension is very pure, and extremely satisfying.
I give the Kalmar RS a rest after a couple more oversteer attempts and pick up the camera again. I don’t picture this car in a rough off-road setting, like a tight muddy trail. My thoughts are more about open rural roads, vast deserts and mountains. That’s why I chose this empty plateau for a location.
We are all getting hungry now, so getting back behind the wheel of the Kalmar RS is an easy decision. With the sun setting, the road back to Tallinn is beautiful, especially after a dark, grey winter that only produced a couple of sunny days.
If you’re ever in Tallinn and craving a burger and fries, there’s a small place called 818 in the creative part of the city that I can recommend. Is this happiness? It definitely feels special enjoying a juicy burger and looking out a window at the dream car I drove here.
The weather is still spoiling me even as the sun goes down. The sky is clear, revealing a full Moon above. I’m pretty tired now, but know that stopping for a couple of night shots with a zoom lens will finish off this great day in an extraordinary fashion.
The next day, I cruise around continuing to feel out the car’s character. It might not be a perfect safari build, but it does provide a special feeling, and most importantly, it gets driven. Too many performance cars sit around behind garage doors, never seeing the light of day. This particular 993 definitely lives a happy, adventurous life. I believe that all of Kalmar’s rally Porsches have stories to tell, as would their drivers.
Finally, it’s time to return the Kalmar Porsche to its home at Audruring racetrack. This customizer’s journey is only starting, but Kalmar Automotive is already ticking off the heritage boxes, including having a racetrack in their backyard. Names like Tuthill Porsche, Leh Keen, and Kelly Moss are respected and familiar to Porsche enthusiasts, and I feel that Jan Kalmar’s name will be added to the list very soon.