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Road Test: Gemballa Mirage GT Matt Blue Edition
For almost thirty years, automobile manufacturer Gemballa has shown us what its capable of when it comes to the development and production of exclusive programs for Porsche sports cars. Throughout its turbulent history they have set the standards on getting the best possible performance and unique design implemented into an existing full production sports car. Its doesn’t go unsaid that the brand has left its mark upon the tuning world.
We were given the opportunity to experience the Gemballa heritage for a full long day in bright sunny weather. Not one, but two keys were handed to the GTspirit team who gathered in Leonberg, Germany. One belonged to a tuned sports car offering more than 750hp, which we will not discuss right here, but in a few weeks time. For now we will share our story on the latest Gemballa Mirage GT built by the car specialist from Southern Germany; the Matt Blue Edition.
Over the past few years a small group of Mirage GTs have been produced. A total of 19 vehicles exist globally, making it one of the most exclusive and rare supercars out there. The basis for the vehicle is the Carrera GT, Porsche’s fastest and most expensive supercar in its time, challenging the Ferrari Enzo and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren for the title of ultimate supercar of the early twenty-first century.
The combination of technical achievements, performance, uniqueness and sound track makes the Porsche Carrera GT a beloved supercar around the globe. An example of its seamless technical highlights is the carbon fiber engine cradle and passenger cell, which comprises of a thousand layers, each one lovingly cut and laid into the mould by hand in a five-day process.
The engine however takes center stage and is a magnificent 5.7 liter V10, salvaged from Porsche’s aborted 2000 Le Mans program, capable of handling up to 16,000rpm. It has a 68-degree V angle, four overhead camshafts actuating four valves per cylinder, a forged steel crankshaft, and titanium connecting rods. Figures? Stock, it produces 612hp at 8,000rpm, 590Nm at 5,750rpm and it will take you to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, and from zero to 193km/h in 9.9 seconds. The red line is at 8,400rpm and the top speed is 330km/h.
Anybody would suggest that only a slight improvement would be possible, but Gemballa proved differently. Upping the power to 670hp at 8,000rpm and 630 Newton meters at 5,700rpm, the ten-cylinder accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in breath-taking 3.7 seconds. The top speed gained is five km/h, making it faster than the production model. The final engine performance and acceleration results were achieved by optimized engine management and a special exhaust system with sport catalysts and pneumatic valve control. The special tailpipe covers are iconic to the Gemballa Mirage GT and coated anthracite.
The package is not only performance focused, but also includes a characteristic set of body parts machined from ultra-light and high-strength carbon material. We made our way around the car and the first thing we noticed is the striking front. It has an apron with enhanced air inlets for improved ventilation of the front coolers and additional driving lights, a new hood and front wings. The front lip is adjustable and contributes a minimum of 35kg of down force at 250km/h, which helps counterbalance the 85kg available from the rear when the adjustable wing is jacked to its most aggressive ‘air-brake’ style setting.
The flanks have a set of newly designed side skirts with ventilation channels. In the area between the wheel housing and door Gemballa replaced the standard side panels with its own mudguards. The reshaped openings blend harmoniously with the original design of the Carrera GT. At the rear, a new diffuser is fitted into the new rear skirt and is complemented by an enlarged rear wing. The roof channel together with the air scoop of the engine compartment and the rear view camera casing complete the truly unique package.
To connect the car to the road, the Germans fitted multi-part rims GT Sport Forged in the dimension 9.5×19 and 12.5×20 with tires in the serial measurement 265/35 ZR19 at the front axle and 335/30 ZR20 at the rear axle. The full racing center-locks were painted in a white/black color trim suiting the car’s matt blue exterior color. The brake system on the Mirage is similar to the Carrera GT, the calipers got another color and logo.
The most noticeable difference when you step inside the Mirage is the redesigned center console, which is made of carbon fiber and contains a multimedia unit with reverse camera, dvd player, and sat nav. The black and white interior is a bit tacky, but suites the overall character of the Mirage GT’s exterior. The cockpit somehow feels like a combination between a true style statement and a work station. The Mirage GT isn’t overly practical. With the roof off, the trunk volume shrinks from nearly anything to next to nothing.
When we walked up to the Matte Blue Mirage GT and rolled it out of the workshop near Stuttgart, our minds hardly grasped the upcoming experience. You just hop in, twist the key (on your left, naturally), and go tearing off in a car that delivers a thrilling level of real-racer flavor. After a final instruction and unaware of the challenging workload that awaited, we set off for our drive.
For a start the clutch is a nightmare, even though Gemballa changed it for a sports clutch with special pads. When driving stop and go in city traffic, it is an advantage over the standard setup and allows a smooth and bump-free take-off, but it still has the biggest learning curve we have ever come across. It operates like an on/off switch and is tough to engage smoothly. There are two ways to control it; you ease the clutch out at idle with your foot off the accelerator slightly, getting the Porsche rolling forward, or give it plenty of revs and drop the clutch for a tire-smoking launch.
At lower revs the Mirage feels like more than a handful. The steering is tough, the throttle response is twitchy and the steering feels nervous. It is an intimidating car you have to tame, before you even want to try its full potential. Just bring it above 3,000rpm and the character changes to a full race-bred sports car. It surrounds you with an F1 sound track coming from behind and a decent amount of acceleration from the excellent V10 pushing your forward in a linear, explosive, progressive and wild manner. Machine gun yourself forwards, but do not forget shifting gears asks for a gentle touch.
The more power and speed you add, the more brilliance you get. The ride becomes smoother, more agile through the superb steering. Gemballa added four individually adjustable coil over dampers in a unit with progressively coiled double springs. For everyday use, the body can be lifted 45 mm at the front and rear axle at the flick of a button clearing obstacles. Also by pushing a button or by reaching 80km/h, the Mirage lowers itself to its original level.
After kilometers of highway you gain confidence after the initial intimidation, but not enough to push it to the edge. The Mirage GT etches itself into your memory as one of those truly special driving experiences, but with a remark that this is a road-legal racer asking for a more than talented driver to pull the most out of it. Its twitchy character is always around the corner, available to reset your mind at any given moment and force you to build up your confidence from scratch; a characteristic well documented with the Carrera GT and still evident in the Mirage GT. Gemballa just added more speed, more exclusivity and a bolder look to this phenomenal equation.