Shark Werks Shop Visit, Gnarly 997s and More
By John Drummond
Photos by John Drummond and SharkWerks
It’s not surprising Alex Ross aka “Sharky” makes already fast Porsche’s go faster, drive better and certainly sound better. In a past life, the British born entrepreneur founded a company and a website solely dedicated to hopping up your personal computer. He sold that business lock, stock and barrel in the late 90s using the capital to chase his life’s passion – hi-performance Porsche’s. Teamed with partner and fellow Porsche enthusiast James Hendry, Shark Werks opened its doors in Fremont, California in 2005 with an aim to take what many consider to be the perfect sports car and make it even better. Tall task at which many have failed. Not these guys.
Porsche purists initially scoffed at Shark Werks mission asking “Why would you even consider modifying an off-the-lot badass machine?” And that right there is the beauty of Shark Werks. Not only did they pull it off, over the years they have become one of the world’s most sought after Porsche tuners. Silicon Valley tech giants send their cars to Shark Werks in droves as do pro athletes, rock stars and movie stars.
While their bread and butter is modding $250,000 997s (their personal all-time favorite is the GT3) they work on a wide spectrum of models from the German automaker. They have their own product line headlined by their sweet sounding exhaust which was developed over years of refinement and road tuning.
Ross handles the business, partnerships, marketing, PR and brand awareness while Hendry manages the shop and does all of the tears downs, installs and tuning. Friend and fellow go-fast entrepreneur Dan Kennedy handles the rest of the day to day operations while Joan Wood also works her entrepreneurial magic. Together, the tight-knit 4-person team has gained worldwide acclaim.
Their success emanates from a core philosophy of setting up their own personal Porsches for an engaging, fun and sport-based driving experience. Instead of brute power, they refine the car’s driving characteristics by improving handling, adding the right amount of additional power, retuned suspension as well as adding sweet exhaust notes producing canyon-carving German terrors. Their carefully tuned machines are unlike anything out there. So desirable is a Shark Werks car, owners and enthusiasts worldwide ship their machines here for full makeovers.
“Word of mouth and end results have been our best sales tool,” Ross said from his office. “Sure people hear about us online and through printed magazine articles, television programs and the like, but our cars run hard and handle really well. In the end, that’s what has kept us going.”
Ross’ love affair with Porsche began on the streets of his native London when he was a young man. “Porsches feature such an iconic shape,” he said. “I mean, a 911 is so iconic. Their shape and rounded contours have been around for so many years without the typical 3-year redesign of many automakers. The Porsche 911 and the Mustang are pretty much the two cars that have stood the test of time in terms of design. I collected all the Porsche Matchbox cars as a kid. A lot of people like Ferrari and Lamborghini but I just happened to like Porsche. Later on in life after I had moved to the States, I sold my dot com company and bought the car I had always wanted – a 911 turbo. That’s how all of this got started.”
So what exactly does Shark Werks do to make a Porsche better? Everything! Take their 2011 GT3 RS for instance. Engine wise, they made their own motor setup, turning a factory 3.8 liter flat six into their 4.1 liter spec engine. A bigger bore, tweaked cylinder heads, billet crankshaft, and their finely tuned and house-manufactured exhaust system makes for a ground-pounding mill.
Underneath, they refined the suspension using Bilstein Clubsport double adjustable coilovers for laser sharp cornering. When driven through a canyon, the butt-dyno kicks in launching the car forward down the straights. When cornering it cuts like a knife. Magnus Walker drove this particular car and the look on his face upon exit eclipsed any words he could have uttered. The 2011 GT3 RS is just one of dozens of Shark Werks’ house made hot rods.
As time has marched on, Shark Werks has spread their focus implementing the Cayman GT4 line into their repertoire. Their latest house car – a silver GT4 bullet has been given the full treatment. They rebuilt the transmission with tighter gear ratios, added a performance clutch and flywheel before sticking it all back into the business end. Following its transformation and road-ripping reputation, word got out again with GT4 and Boxster Spyder owners flooding through the doors. Much like Shark Werks’ other platforms, the Cayman GT4 was given the full makeover including transmission, exhaust and wheels. The trick retro wheels on their silver GT4 were designed by their friend and collaborator Magnus Walker. They look so good!
We were blown away by the simplicity of Shark Werks. These guys are laser focused, relatively quiet and very clean and organized. The shop runs as good as their cars with Alex, Dan and Joan holding down the front of the house while Hendry works his mechanical magic out back. For a four-man operation, they produce way beyond their means.
A spin through their website offers an extensive look at what they offer. Site visitors will find a dizzying array of parts, products, engines and tuning options for every variation of 997, GT3, Carrera, Cayman, Cayenne and Panamera. The site’s Press section shows the depth of which Shark Werks has been admired by the worldwide performance automotive media. And their clean and hi-quality merchandise is in step with everything else they do.
“We like to take the most fun cars Porsche produces and pull the strings even more,” Ross said in summation of their operation. “Once we have done everything to our own cars, people see that, word travels and they come to us to give them our setups and experience.”
Shark Werks is successful and still growing as a result of not sharing their opinions and guess work, but by providing their own personal experience and track-proven projects. The rest is a natural progression of supply and demand. Truth is, demand has never been higher.
To read more or to have your Porsche transformed, visit them online.