Porsche 911 Safari Sportsman Debuts as Gentleman’s Off-Roader, Chases Jay Leno Filming in a Miura

As Porsche is preparing to capitalize on its 911 rallying heritage from decades ago by introducing a lifted version of the current 992 Neunelfer (this is expected to be named Dakar or… Safari), aftermarket builds based on retro 911s are flourishing. And the latest player to enter the game is the Porsche 911 Safari Sportsman, which comes from California’s Russell Built Fabrication and has a debut story accidentally linked to Jay Leno.

Back in 2019, company founder TJ Russell, who serves as both a designer and fabricator, entered the spotlight by introducing a somewhat similar proposal dubbed Baja 911. And while the Baja aims to offer the most rugged-terrain-radical 911 you can still daily drive, the new Safari Sportsman tips the balance towards the daily bit.

Russel cut his teeth by working on the air-cooled restomod jewels that are Singer 911s and the specialist is now making his own way into the market.

It’s worth noting that both creations are based on the 964 911 (the penultimate air-cooled generation) that Zuffenhausen built between 1989 and 1993.

The specs

The fresh kit, which can be considered a gentleman’s take on a 911 desert runner, introduces racing suspension with up to 10 inches of wheel travel, but that’s just the start of it.

In order for the driving dynamics of the vehicle to retain the 911 sportiness, each of the axles has been pushed 1 inch further. The resulting wheelbase extension is accompanied by wider tracks that serve the same purpose.

The whole braking system has been overhauled, but while this features billet-hat rotors, it still sports the factory calipers. Then there’s the skid-friendly hydraulic parking brake.

The Safari Sportsman rides on dedicated wheels supplied by Rotiform, which are covered by 911 Turbo-style fender flares (the car can be brought back to its stock look, as the kit is pretty much non-invasive). In addition, we have 911 Turbo front and rear bumpers, even though the skid plates and extra lights add a custom touch.

You see, Porsche did some serious rear-engined rally racing between the 1960s and the 1980s, which involved both air-cooled 911s and the Dakar Rally-winning 959. And Russel aims to shape his custom creations into what the German carmaker might’ve done had it continued rally racing into the 90s.

While Russell Built Fabrication introduced the 911 Safari Sportsman just hours ago, the vehicle also made its YouTube debut by appearing in the latest Autotopia LA video.

Meeting Jay Leno is among the perks of filming in Los Angeles

While Russel was giving Shawn Davis, the enthusiast behind the said YT label, a shotgun ride in the Porscha, they came across Jay Leno filming in a Lamborghini Miura and decided to give him a quick rolling salute, as you’ll notice at the 11:32 point of the video below and in the last three images of the gallery—hey, is that Seth MacFarlane accompanying the former Tonight Show host for what should be a future episode of Jay Leno’s Garage?

Now, while we’re on the it’s-a-small-world topic, we’ll quickly remind you that Ken Block recently made headlines for driving Audi’s latest range-extended electric Dakar racer and also for his 964-based Hoonipigasus he’ll be using at Pikes Peak this June.

All this off-roading sophistication comes at a price

As Russell states in the video, the 964 is riding on the crazy market wave, with prices having tripled over the past five or six years. And while a donor car will set you back around $90,000 these days, the base kit discussed here is $120,000.

However, there are also optional goodies, like this build’s carbon roof rack and other accessories of the sort, be they for the exterior or the interior. On the tech front, the specialist can (re)build the engine and tranny-power can go up to 400 hp. With these extras, the 911 Safari Sportsman will climb to about $300,000, which is still some $80,000 below the starting point for the said all-out 911 Baja.



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