Buy the 964-based prototype that made the internet fall in love with safari 911s
Whether or not you believe Stuttgart’s finest creation was ever meant to go off-road, know that the “safari” 911 craze is upon us—hoisted ride height, big tires, yellow fog lights, and all. This bananas 964 “Baja 911” from Russell Built Fabrication deserves much of the credit for putting these unorthodox restomods into the spotlight. The shop’s first prototype, which has been seen everywhere from the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders contest to countless YouTube videos from the likes of TheSmokingTire, this Baja 911 is now for sale through the online auction site CollectingCars.
T.J. Russell, the madman behind this desert-stomping build, has a background in building high-end 911s for a who’s-who of collectors, as well as extensive experience in the world of off-road racing. Naturally, his two lines of expertise have converged to create something truly remarkable.
The build starts with a clean 1991 Porsche 911 964 Cabriolet C4, and things get a little bit nuts from there. A chromoly tube chassis has been fitted to the car starting at the bumper to increase rigidity and safety. The Baja 911 is three inches longer and nearly 15 inches wide than a standard 964 Cab, courtesy of some wild, custom composite fenders and heavy-duty front and rear bumpers. Impressively, the added size doesn’t cause the weight to balloon. In the video with TheSmokingTire, Russell mentions that the car weighs just over 3100 pounds all-in, which is actually less than the 3252-lb curb weight of the donor car.
Those girthy fenders house a custom-engineered suspension comprised of high-grade alloy and chromoly steel which provides a whopping 12 inches of travel in the front and 13 inches in the rear. The 30-inch tires are delightfully knobby and ready to claw through the nastiest sand and rock you might dare, and the chassis incorporates a full-size spare, should a rock win one battle.
Power comes from a specially-tuned Rothsport Road & Race 3.8-liter flat-six. The 360-horse engine inhales through independent throttle bodies and plenums and exhales through a GT3 exhaust system for a soundtrack befitting of a desert predator. A five-speed G50 manual transmission handles ratio-swapping. While the virtues of the 911’s engine placement may not make it the absolute best on a track, having that much weight over the driven wheels is a huge boon on the dirt, where every extra ounce of traction means that much more pace.
The car’s now-enclosed cockpit is similarly spectacular. The bespoke olive-green leather and black Alcantara that adorn the seats, headliner, and dashboard look straight out of a more civil road-going 911 build—say, something from Singer Vehicle Design—but the roll-cage pokes out in certain areas to assure you that the Baja 911 is built to leap, land … and repeat. Driver controls are just as stout, with a three-spoke Sparco steering wheel front and center and a Tilton Racing pedal box for braking, clutch, and loud pedal. There’s even a brake bias adjuster in the center console so you can tweak handling characteristics on the go. This build sports the ‘RS’-style spec, which in the case of the Russell Built team, just means that it doesn’t offer air conditioning or a stereo. (Not that you’d be able to find a better soundtrack than the yowl of a free-breathing flat-six anyway.)
With four days left to go in the sale, the leading bid stands at $235,500. (For perspective, these sold for around $500,000 when new.) Expect that number to soar in the closing hours. Should you miss out on this one but have the burning desire to add a Baja 911 to your own collection, good news: This is the first in a limited series of builds from Russell’s crew. With Porsche itself readying a light foray into the world of dirt-destined 911s, the specialty shops that helped make this A Thing will need to push it even further to continue to stand out. We’d say that’s job-well-done for Russell Built Fabrication.