story by pablo deferrari photos by casey putsch
Maybe his life tour began on December of 1859 as the legendary pointillist Georges-Pierre Seurat, kick starting modern art by initiating neo-impressionism. Shortly after leaving that body in 1891, Casey came back into the swing as the fiercely courageous driver, Tazio Nuvolari in 1892. Then the trail goes cold since shedding Nuvolari’s skin in August of 1953 but after a brief sabbatical, he comes back decades later as Casey Putsch. This all begins to make perfect sense because here he is, in the 21st century mixing the two talents of previous lives to become what he is today. But he chalks up another talent in this go around…a builder of legendary racing machines.
"...she chose the 968 to build into her race car as a tribute to him."
casey-I met our client about 6 years ago. She was an enthusiast 911 cab owner who attended a concours that I put on to benefit a local historical charity. She was awarded our top award for her true car enthusiasm and spirit. Later she started getting involved with Porsche Club track events and I had introduced her to the world of vintage racing. The 968 actually had belonged to her late husband who used it as a track day car when it was in street form. When she decided to go vintage racing, she chose the 968 to build into her race car as a tribute to him. She had been a friend of myself and two of my workers and we were honored to do the build for her.
casey-The car was built with the intention to race with the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association in the US and we planned its design to be an ideal platform so that the car could would continue to perform as her driving skill evolved, but would be a solid, reliable, and safe platform to begin with.
pablo-We hear a lot about a Porsche build being created as if the factory would’ve done. Obviously, you must be pretty well versed in Porsche history, or at least 968 lineage. What were some of the details and elements that spoke to you regarding how this build should take shape?
casey-The history of global motor racing and the evolution of technology means a great deal to me personally and I feel vintage racing is a way to live adventures beyond your years. It was important to me to build a car that would be what Porsche would have done from the factory if this was to be their build. For instance, I didn't want to simply weld in a bunch of damn tubes and slap in off the shelf gauges, etc. We carefully fitted roll structure and made the fuel cell removable and accessible in such a way as to allow access to the transaxle as well as the rear suspension. Regarding the dash, it appears factory, however we painstakingly removed all the weight possible from the inside. While it appears stock, it is very,very light and utilizes the factory gauges with only a few extra VDO gauges to give more accurate readings. This only scratches the surface of what we did, where the whole build would require a book. That being said, we also gave the best consideration to her with regard to budget and worked to make sure we were not costing her money that didn't need to be spent with the build and kept her abreast of the build the whole way.
casey-The 968 did not phase me with regard to its engineering. It is a fine base for a race car and is attractive to boot. Personally, I have owned numerous 944's back in the day and am well versed with water cooled Porsches. Mind you, I have raced and prepared race cars ranging from pre-war to Can-Am and all the way to modern carbon fibre formula cars so this was simply a delight of a build and not terribly scary. I, for one, am most interested in Porsche's prototype racing history, but I personally enjoyed this 968 and would be proud to own and race it myself as it is a very fine car and very worthy of the Porsche crest that adorns its hood.
casey-I mean.... the car was white... What racing scheme is more iconic and beautiful than the white Martini and Rossi cars?! You could argue Gulf, but I would say you were wrong! Besides it stays very true to Porsche's history and looks very smart.
"For all intents and purposes, the car was perfect out of the box."
casey-Well, I'm an artist and have a pretty good photographic memory and especially for historic racing cars. I looked at my father’s coffee table books for hours as a child, so these images are burned in my mind. Of course we referenced the internet (or maybe my slot car collection; lol) to make sure our details and scales were perfect while working with our vinyl decal guys to get exactly what we want. We personally applied everything though.
casey-I seem to remember the build taking around 5-6 months. It would have been shorter, but our engine builder had taken a bit more time than originally planned. For all intents and purposes, the car was perfect out of the box. I did only a few laps in practice to make sure the car was set up nominally for a new racer before its first race and the car was already a top five car with no tweaking or practice in a very large group. We were very proud of that car.
pablo-Were the weight reduction methods used on this car your own ideas, or more inspired by Porsche’s racing history?
casey-Honestly, they were our own ideas in keeping with good engineering practices and in keeping with being a long lasting and user friendly race car. Sure we could have made some things lighter, but we wanted to stay within a decent budget as well.
casey-Indeed we did. This allowed us to stay well away from heated air. Our super lightened dash was one item. Also, the way we incorporated the fuel cell allowed access to the rear suspension, transaxle, and exhaust from above. We also made an air-splitter from clear polycarbonate that was light weight, directed the airflow smartly and allowed you to view the front of the engine and cooling system without removing any panels. There were many other items as well, such as the light weight short shift lever I fabricated in house and for fun, the personalized Martini champagne cork key fob. Naturally, we celebrated the car being finished with our client and a couple bottles of Martini sparkling white!
casey-The engine was built to our specifications by a local machine shop. While I have built engines for myself, I prefer to utilize a shop that does that sort of thing full time that will work with me closely. This way I can manage the details, ensure quality, and leave Putsch Racing free to concentrate our people's labor on the rest of the car. I will also oversee dyno tuning of any client's engine personally as I had done recently with a Can-Am American V8 engine and the tuning of its Weber carburetors.
casey-My father was a sports car enthusiast and would take me to road races as a child. I grew a love for vintage cars from that early age and then by my early twenties was already working as a Ferrari mechanic and restoring my first road racing car, a 1957 Devin sports racer that I not only won races with, but a few concours as well. You should have seen the looks on people’s faces when a 24 year-old was displaying his own car at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance that he not only bought on his own, but restored and raced it too. Racing Indy Cars has always been my life ambition, but not having come from a background that could write those kinds of checks, I've pursued racing by my own means and built Putsch Racing from the ground up. I'm very excited this year to be mentoring 8 college students that are forming a mini Indy racing team with me. We will be preparing and racing a 1997 Reynard Champ/Indy car and will actually be racing at Indy's F1 track and Oval in early June.
casey-Honestly this was the first Porsche build we have done. Of course, I have personally had Porsches so this was a natural step and one where I look forward for the next Porsche. Anything from a 356, 910, or GT3 would be right up our alley.
casey-Well, we clearly love racing cars from all around the world and throughout history. While we may have more experience with some more than others, we certainly understand the proper care of very special vehicles and have developed a fantastic network worldwide that gives us the ability to oversee any automotive project regardless of rarity, value, or scope. On the other end of the spectrum, we have been doing ground-up design work lately that we have been keeping mostly under wraps. A high-efficiency recyclable car using new manufacturing techniques that is nearing completion is one and even today we are planning a possible ground-up Ducati powered race bike design that is anything but conventional. That being said, we admit that it is impossible to know everything, but we continue to grow and always remain open and honest with our clients to form solid relationships so as to best care for their automotive endeavors.
Check out Putsch Racing’s website and witness how the wizardry unfolds.