The wail of an air-cooled flat six is a beautiful sound, one that is unforgettable and is undeniably Porsche. Now imagine that harmonic melody magnified in a tunnel, without any mufflers or emissions restricting the flow of that song. Congratulations you are now deaf, but the smile it brings is so big, your face will hurt tomorrow. I am behind the wheel of the Beck 904, a recreation of one of the most beautiful Porsches ever built, doing just that, racing through tunnels again and again just to hear that beautiful song.
The Porsche 904, known as the Carrera GTS was built in 1963 as a dual-purpose car for street/track duty. It was a car produced in limited numbers just to meet homologation rules and only around 125 cars were produced in total. It was the first Porsche to use a fiberglass body and was highly desirable because of its dual-purpose ability. In the current market a fair condition Carrera GTS will set you back $750,000 or more. This is where craftsmen like Chuck and Randy Beck come into the picture. The Beck name is well known in the Porsche circle for their classic 550 Spyder replicas. Chuck Beck was in love the 904 when it first came out in 1963 and with the knowledge of working with fiberglass building the 550 Spyders, the Beck 904 was born.
“The threat or promise I made to the kids in the Porsche Owners Club was that I was going to fire it up in the morning, turn on some good sounds and cruise on up to Willow Springs and outrun them all, then drive it home.” Chuck Beck said describing his 904. Boy, did he deliver with a car weighing in at around 1700lbs and over 200hp this little German powered rocket is seriously quick. The cars are built to customer specifications and delivered with everything installed minus the motor and transmission. A fully assembled car runs around $65,000 depending on the motor and trans used. A true bargain compared to the original at $750k.
The car we are driving is prototype number 3 owned by Randy Beck, Chuck’s Son. Currently Randy is running a stock 3.2 liter motor putting out about 202hp. This car is prepared for track duty with a full roll cage, fuel cell, widened fenders to accommodate over sized track rims, and 1 five-point racing harness. The passenger seat does not even have a seat belt. Randy says it is to “deter the added weight of talking ballast at the track.” So as I continue my solo journey up an amazing mountain road, I pass through another tunnel downshifting into 2nd and blasting up to 3rd and through 4th just to hear that beautiful song.
As I dab the brakes heading into the next bend and downshift into 3rd I am reminded how much weight effects the dynamics of a performance car. There is no weight transfer forward as I brake and no body-roll as I turn into the corner. The 904 feels very balanced and by balanced I mean that the chassis rotates nicely into the turns and never feels like it is trying to kill you. The manual steering rack is a pain in the parking lot but bliss in the canyons. The steering wheel feels hardwired to the contours of the pavement. Considering this car was built in a workshop by Chuck and Randy as a development car, I am very impressed with the end result. Aside from the track preparations driving the car is very easy and civilized in my opinion, although if you are expecting a Porsche Cayman you will be disappointed. I see it more as a German Lotus Elise far from luxurious but all the better for it. As the sun starts to set I am racing back down the hill and looking forward to my last blast through the tunnels. Now that I am deaf, I won’t have to hear my wife yelling when she finds out I just wrote a check for my own Beck 904.