Many of the cars we see at events have had famous former owners or racing history, while others have been resurrected from the ashes or creatively reimagined. Some even have stories to tell before they roll off the production line.
What I’m trying to say is, most of these cars have interesting pasts; revealing them just depends on how deep you’re willing to dive. At the recent F.A.T. Ice Race in Austria, I was spoilt for choice went it came to interesting cars, because they were everywhere. For this follow up to my main event story last week, I chose six cars with fascinating stories to take a closer look at.
The Final Lotus Elise
This Lotus was absolutely impossible to miss in the F.A.T. Ice Race paddock, mostly because of its fluorescent orange paint. The color – RAL 2005 – is so special, that private vehicles in EU countries are not allowed to use it, as it’s reserved for emergency vehicles only. Luckily the owner is UK-based, and Lotus were able to be convinced to deliver it in the special color.
It’s special because back in the 1960s, Team Lotus used the luminous hue on its STP-livered Indy cars. Beyond the paint allure, this Elise Cup 250 Final Edition was the very last ‘250’ to leave the assembly line, hence the ‘FI NAL’ registration plates.
Porsche 997 R-GT Art Car
This 997 build was a truly collaborative effort. Its creators say the PlayStation livery pays homage to 1990s nostalgia, and I totally got that when I first saw it. My mind instantly traveled back around 25 years, to the day my older brother brought a PlayStation console home with a bunch of games, including Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, which got me hooked on cars and racing in the first place.
The project was managed by James Howson, who came up with the concept together with digital artist Davide Virdis. Davide took care of the styling, but the actual paint was laid down by David Gwyther, AKA Death Spray Custom. Underneath the artwork is a rugged 997 R-GT that was originally built by Tuthill Porsche and competed in the 2014 World Rally Championship, where it claimed the first WRC finish for a Porsche 911 in almost 30 years.
Porsche 911 Projekt e01
I spotted this Porsche 911 on the road while travelling to the F.A.T. Ice Race’s registration spot, but couldn’t put my finger on what was different about it. When I caught up with it again at the carpark and took a closer look, I noted the lack of exhaust, at which point I more or less understood what was going on. But as it turned out, this isn’t your average electric-converted classic…
Projekt e01 is the work of Classic eCars in Germany, who reimagined the 911 with a retrofitted Direct eDrive electric drivetrain that delivers a crazy 3,250Nm of torque to its rear wheels. The company produces electric motors with impressive performance data: A single powertrain is good for 256kW/1,625Nm, but this Porsche has a double system in place, thus twice the output. The car now weighs 1,450kg (3,196lbs), but having batteries both front and rear helps with the weight distribution and keeps some of the car’s original handling characteristics intact.
Peter Rotenberger, Classic eCars’ chief technical officer, was behind the wheel of the 911 at the F.A.T. Ice Race, and from where I was watching, it handled the slushy track very well.
Porsche 356A Type 1 ‘European’
This striking silver and blue-flamed Porsche 356A race car (chassis #55301) started its life as an early Type 1 example built in December 1955. A US import model, during its lifetime in the States it was owned and raced by Pierre Honegger and David Loring, and even competed against F1 driver Jan Lammers in the La Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico.
As I found out later, this is a very rare model with ‘European’ badging. To explain, when the 356 T1 was first imported into the US, they were badged ‘Continental’, but after just 860 coupes and 69 cabriolets were shipped, Ford Motor Company asked Porsche to withdraw the name, as they owned the rights to it for the Lincoln Continental.
Back in Germany, Karosserie Reutter had already punched many more pairs of front fenders for the golden ‘Continental’ script badging, so a solution was needed. In the end, Porsche opted to re-badge the model ‘European’, which allowed the prepared fenders to still be used. It’s hard to know exactly how many cars received the ‘European’ badges on them, but the 356 Registry shows there are only 41 ‘European’ type 356s accounted for today.
These days the car resides in the UK, but still remains true to its racing DNA with a full roll cage installed and everything else you’d expect to find inside an old rally car. The power output is 130hp, which is not terrible for a 68-year-old car that weighs less than a tonne.
Adrian Stevens, the 356A’s current owner, continues to race it. Notably, the Porsche returned to Mexico in 2006 for that year’s La Carrera Panamericana, and prior to the 2024 F.A.T. Ice Race it participated in the 2020 event.
1972 Volkswagen Beetle
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that despite this Volkswagen Beetle (owned by Michael Klein) looking rather original, it’s actually one of the most modified of its breed anywhere in the world.
Look close and you’ll see that the hood and boot lid, side skirts, and even the bumpers are all made from lightweight carbon fiber. Inside, only the important bits remain.
There’s still a Volkswagen flat-four out back, but now it’s a stroked 3,000cc WBX from a T3 van that was converted to air cooling and fitted with a glorious stainless steel exhaust system among other performance upgrades. The 250hp engine is connected to a dog ring gearbox for faster shifting, while Porsche brakes ensure the Beetle can easily stop from speed.
1991 Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Dakar
If you’re an Italian wine connoisseur, you might be familiar with Agostino Rizzardi, whose family winery in Bardolino has been around since 1678.
Apart from running the business today, Agostino is a serious motorsport fanatic who loves to compete in extreme rally events. His heavily-modified 911 was originally set up for rally use by Jimmy McRae (the late Colin McRae’s father), but in preparing it to conquer dunes, everything apart from the 3.6L flat-six was overhauled. The drivetrain in particular was modified to withstand long-distance and high-temperature runs.
The strengthened chassis, massive 160L fuel tank, quad double-wishbone suspension with adjustable Reiger shock absorbers are all there to help the owner compete in the Dakar, Tunisia, and Morocco rally raid events, plus others.
There is one more unique car from 2024 F.A.T Ice Race that I want to share with you – a road-legal homage to the legendary Gulf Porsche 917, recreated in carbon fiber in Norway. But as I managed to complete a full photoshoot while I was in Austria, look out for a standalone feature on this one very soon.