HomeCar CulturePorsche’s Sonderwunsch program completes its first car

Porsche’s Sonderwunsch program completes its first car

Le Mans-winning driver wanted a new 911 GT3 created to match the ’85 956 racer


Back in 1985, Paolo Barilla drove a privately entered Porsche 956 to overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now, in celebration of his 60th birthday in April, he became the first person to take advantage of Porsche’s new Sonderwunsch program, working with the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur team to create his dream car, a new Porsche 911 GT3 based on his Le Man winner.

In addition to winning at Le Mans, Barilla drove in Formula One for Minardi and since early in 2017 has been deputy chairman of the Barilla Group, the bakery and pasta-producing company founded in 1877 by Pietro Barilla Sr., Paolo’s great-grandfather.

In 1985, Barilla joined Klaus Ludwig and John “Winter” (whose real name was Louis Krages) in guiding the New Man Jeans-Jost Racing Porsche 956 to victory at Le Mans, three laps ahead of the second-place car, another 956. Porsches swept the top 5 places in the race. 

Paolo Barilla, Klaus Ludwig and John ‘Winter’ drove this Porsche 956 to victory at Le Mans in 1985

“The Italian entrepreneur wanted to design a unique Porsche 911 GT3 (992) based on his Le Mans winning car and to be fully involved in its creation,” Porsche said in its news release revealing the car. 

“In addition to the characteristic racing look in Summer Yellow, white and black, this special car has the winning race number 7 on its bonnet and doors. Other features such as the rear wing and the gear lever were also reinterpreted and in part developed independently.

“In the ‘80s, I had the chance to drive the wonderful Porsche 956, an iconic car in terms of performance and beauty,” Barilla is quoted in the Porsche news release. “The interpretation of some elements in a modern GT3 makes that memory exciting and vital – for me and for people who are close to me.”

The creation of the 962-inspired rear wing involved a series of Porsche aerodynamic engineers, who used the company’s wind tunnel to assure the wing’s use would maintain the correct dynamic balance between the GT3’s front and rear axles.

The car’s interior is primarily black, “as you would expect in a racing car,” Porsche notes. However, there is yellow trim and a special logo embroidered into the headrests that combines the 956 font, the “Le Mans 1985” logo, and a stylized silhouette of the racing car. 

The gear-shift lever is inspired by the magnesium ball used in the 956 racing car, but was milled from an aluminum block and then sanded to the proper finish.

In the Sonderwunsch (“special request” in English) program, the client serves as project manager, working with the Style Porsche and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur engineering teams.

“Many times in this project we would have had good reason to say ‘It’s not going to work’ or ‘It’s too complicated,'” said Philipp Setter, head of Sonderwunsch customer consultation. “Once we decided to take on the challenge, we pushed the boundaries and were able to achieve a lot. With his clear vision and grasp of tight schedules and decision-making, Paolo Barilla was the right client and project manager for this ambitious project.” 

Barilla was allowed to attach the transmission to the engine of his car using a torque-controlled screw device.

“Authentic experiences like these are ultimately what makes Porsche Porsche,” Setter said. “Our customers have generally seen and experienced a lot, but for projects of this size, we always try to open a few more doors that would otherwise be closed, for very good reason.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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