Many think the answer to speed humps and potholed roads is a crossover. They’re wrong. The correct answer is a ‘Safari’ Porsche 911, as auto journalist Matt Farah has discovered in Los Angeles.
Glamorous it may be, but Los Angeles has one thing in common with Britain: how damaged its road network is. Farah sought to find a solution.
”Although we are blessed with places like the Angeles Forest and Malibu Canyons, two of the finest places on Earth to drive a sports car, the city itself is a nightmare,” Farah explains.
“The infrastructure is crumbling, repairs are rarely thorough, the freeway expansion joints are a sports car owner’s worst nightmare, and for a city as ‘spread out’ as LA is, it’s awfully crowded all the time. It can be a real challenge in low, modern sports cars.”
A baja-bashing Ford Raptor might have been a more obvious choice than a 911. However, such a truck would be more difficult to thread through LA than the compact, classic Porsche.
“I wanted something like the Raptor, but smaller, so the obvious answer was a rally car. Once I drove Leh Keen’s personal Safari 911, it was like a light bulb moment.”
Keen is a builder of go-anywhere Porsche 911s, aping the classic ‘Safari’ rally cars. Farah had a taste of the first build a few years ago. He then described it as “totally different to what most people think you should be doing with a 911”. Contrarian though the idea is, he was sold on the project: “I sent him a deposit check (sic) almost immediately afterwards”.
Going for an 87-onwards car, Farah wanted to ensure a better gearshift feel, and be able to pick the colour. Keen can handle the job from start to finish, including sourcing a car, if the buyer wants. Matt’s is a 1987 Carrera 3.2 in Cassis Red, a desirable colour preserved underneath a wrap.
Building a ‘Safari’ Porsche 911
Turning a sports car into a diet dune buggy is no small job: the parts list is extensive. Front to back, it features bash bars, skid plates, rally light pods, shaved side door mirrors, tucked bumpers, Braid Motorsport Fuchs-style wheels, Elephant Racing Safari suspension, a Quaife limited-slip differential and BF Goodrich K02 tyres. It’s jacked-up, jump-ready and looks the absolute business.
On the inside, Matt made a bold but practical choice for the trim. Replacing the burgundy leather is commercial-grade LA city bus fabric, designed for 20 years of constant wear. “It’ll probably outlast the rest of the car,” he says.
There were worries it wouldn’t match the rest of the burgundy leather that was retained (headliner, door uppers, dashboard upper and base carpet), but it turned out well. Even the new Momo Prototipo steering wheel was trimmed to match the burgundy, and apparently took 20 attempts to get right.
From the Baja to the boulevard
You can keep your Audi A1 Citycarver, or your Vauxhall Adam Rocks. Matt Farah has helped create the perfect city car. “It is literally my daily driver,” he concludes.
“I recently loaded three bushels of firewood behind the rear seats. I mean – it’s not meant for attacking the canyons or going to the racetrack, it’s meant for going to the shops, driving to my office, running errands and then taking to the dirt for some fun. It really is the best parts of a Baja truck and the best parts of an air-cooled 911.”