First Drive: Theon Design’s Latest 911 Restomod Is Both Raucous And Refined

The exquisitely reimagined Porsche 964, project name Chile 001, is a 400 hp iron fist in a purple glove.

By Tim Pitt 20/10/2022

When I was a kid in the 1980s, modified Porsches hailed from the likes of Gemballa, Strosek, Rinspeed and Koenig. Pop-up headlights, “Testarossa” side strakes and elongated whale tails were de rigueur, while turbocharged flat-sixes were short on subtlety and big on boost. This was the 911 turned up to 11.

The ever-vibrant Porsche scene is now more about restomods, particularly when it comes to air-cooled cars, and companies such as Theon Design, Singer Vehicle Design, Gunther Werks and Paul Stephens Autoart have come to the fore. They celebrate the 911’s classic curves, rather than grafting on supercar styling cues, and have, in many cases, abandoned the horsepower race in favor of naturally aspirated engines (although Singer’s new Turbo Study is something to behold). The focus is on high fidelity, rather than playing it loud.

Theon Design’s latest Porsche 911 restomod, project name Chile 001, takes to the road.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Today, a stock Porsche 992 Carrera offers the same 385 hp as the original Gemballa Avalanche (Google it and be amazed), so maybe this shift was inevitable. Nonetheless, there’s a part of me that yearns for a time when Porsche tuners pushed boundaries and stretched the 911’s potential. That’s where this car comes in.

After sampling one of Theon Design’s earlier restomods, known as Hong Kong 002, about 18 months ago, I jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel of this project, named Chile 001 after the location of its soon-to-be owner. The car moves the game on decisively, with more power, less weight and plenty of cutting-edge chassis tech—all wrapped up in a tastefully retro package. The best of past and present? Let’s find out.

The 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated flat-six engine makes 400 hp.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Based in the UK’s “motorsport valley,” close to the famed Silverstone circuit, Theon Design hand-builds about six reimagined Porsches each year. The cars are based on the 964 generation of 911 (built from 1989 through 1994), and prices start from approximately $690,000—plus a donor car and local taxes. “It’s all about keeping these classic Porsches alive,” says Theon Design’s co-founder Adam Hawley. “As we move towards EVs, the analog driving experience they [air-cooled Porsches] offer will only become more appealing.”

Theon Design hand-builds about six reimagined Porsches each year.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Commissioned by a blueberry farmer with a penchant for purple, Chile 001 is the same Viola metallic as the “30 Jahre” 964 Anniversary special edition. The paint looks almost black in the workshop, then pops with colour when it emerges into the sunlight. Riding 10 mm (.39 inches) lower than a 964 Carrera RS on deep-dished Fikse wheels (three-piece replicas of the iconic Fuchs design), the modified 911 looks squat and perfectly stanced. Even without OTT aero add-ons, it bristles with latent aggression.

Unlike the car I drove previously, this Porsche has a carbon-fibre body, which saves 220 pounds over the steel equivalent. Curb weight is just 2,566 pounds, which is 360 pounds lighter than a 964 Carrera. And with 400 hp coursing through the rear Michelins, it’s rabidly quick off the mark. Theon Design estimates a zero-to-60 mph time of less than 4 seconds.

With deep-dished Fikse wheels, the modified 911 looks squat and perfectly stanced.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Beneath a half-height “duck-tail” spoiler, the 4.0-liter engine is finished to show-car standard. The power-steering and air-con hardware have moved to the front trunk to improve weight distribution (now 42 percent in front and 58 percent at the rear), while other ancillaries have been tucked away or trimmed in leather for a minimalist look. Polished trumpets feed air to six individual Jenvey throttle bodies, then gasses are exhaled through a custom exhaust with switchable baffles. As I’m soon to discover, neither setting is what you’d call quiet.

Hidden away, the power steering and air-con hardware have been moved to the front trunk to improve weight distribution.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

The door is the only exterior panel still made of steel, a requirement for crash protection. Open it and the blueberry bonanza continues with the interior. Deep and intentionally aged purple leather swathes the Recaro seats, pleated door cards and dashboard. It looks like something Stuttgart’s legendary Sonderwunsch (Special Wishes) department might have cooked up in the 1980s. A magnetic smartphone mount and Focal audio system provide infotainment without spoiling the old-school aesthetic. “The buyer admits he’ll probably never listen to music while driving,” says Hawley. “For him, it’s all about the orchestra playing behind your ears.”

Open the door, the only exterior panel still made of steel, and the blueberry bonanza continues inside.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Those tuned 930 and 964 Turbos I idolised majored on visual drama, but they certainly don’t sound this intense. The free-breathing engine idles like a bulldog clearing its throat, its single-mass flywheel grumbling with the surly impatience of the hardcore 964 RS. There’s sufficient torque for town driving, but the motor really comes on cam above 4,000 rpm—at which point you still have 4,500 rpm to go. Keep the right pedal pinned and the multilayered mechanical snarl seems to increase exponentially, reaching a crescendo that’s pure RSR race car. I keep gratuitously dropping down a couple of ratios just to relish it again.

The gearbox is also a joy to use. A six-speed manual made by Hewland and based on the 993 Turbo ’box, its slick and springy shift is a world away from the “stirring a bucket of sand” 915 transmission of retro Rennsports. Beefy carbon-ceramic brakes from Surface Transform provide a suitably modern degree of stopping power, too.

The interior includes a magnetic smartphone mount and a Focal audio system.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

The modified 911’s suspension feels like the biggest step forward, though. The car I drove last year had passive KW coilovers, but Chile 001 rides on TracTive adaptive dampers with five switchable modes and a reaction time of just 0.06 seconds—a setup also used by the 993R project from Paul Stephens. The result is a chassis that raises its game far beyond any 964 built by Porsche. The vehicle attacks corners with alacrity, resisting body-roll while not getting deflected on uneven roads. And it reacts to throttle inputs with a progressiveness that quickly builds your confidence.

Pricing on one of Theon Design’s restomod versions of the Porsche 911 start from $430,000—plus a donor car and local taxes.
Mark Riccioni, courtesy of Theon Design.

Factor in the 911’s modest size and relative practicality (hey, it still has two rear seats) and you could enjoy this car every day. “Porsches are designed to be driven,” says Hawley as I park up and take a breath, the sound of flat-six fury still ringing in my ears. He’s right, of course, and Theon Design has enhanced that experience without diluting what makes the air-cooled 911 so special. Now, I wonder what he’d say to some Testarossa side strakes . . .

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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