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TPCRacing Porsche Cayman S Turbo – Click above for high-res image gallery

When Porsche introduced the Cayman in 2006, one thing was abundantly clear: Porsche had muzzled its midship coupe to prevent cannibalizing 911 sales. Despite a more favorable weight distribution and an unflappable chassis, the Cayman lacked the power to exploit its excellent underpinnings, even in "S" guise. So like its Boxster sibling, the Cayman was destined to play second fiddle to Porsche's iconic rear-engine flagship. From a business perspective, Porsche's decision made sense. For enthusiasts, it was yet another bitter pill from Zuffenhausen.

When the Cayman underwent a refresh, there was always hope that a turbocharged variant would be included in the line-up. Predictably, that never happened. So the Cayman continued to stand on the lower/middle rung of the Porsche ladder, offering less power and a lower price than the 911. The Cayman could dance. It just needed an extra bit of oomph.

That's where Mike Levitas comes in. Mike is the brains behind TPCRacing of Jessup, MD. Born of a family of automotive tinkerers, Mike spent most of his formative years learning about turbos and turning that knowledge to race cars – fast, reliable race cars that won championships. Like most other Porsche enthusiasts, Mike thought the Cayman could use more power. Turbocharged power. But unlike most of the marque's devotees, Mike made it happen.

Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

Levitas began producing race cars back in the late Eightes, and over the course of the next decade and a half he managed the turbocharger programs for the Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX7, Lotus Esprit and Consulier GTPs in the IMSA Supercar Series. Mike's background and advanced aeronautical training eventually led him to build some of the best Porsche race cars around. Porsche Club racing, Motorola Cup action, and a brief dip into Mercedes sedans eventually led him to the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.

In 2000, TPCRacing began racing under its own banner, racking up more than 20 class wins (including one at Daytona in 2006) and an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 sweep of the driver's championship. The team was so dominant that the lead car during that championship season never missed a podium. With all of that race history as a test bed, TPC thought it was time to offer some of its accumulated wisdom to the masses.

TPCRacing is now known as one of the premier outlets for readying your Porsche for track duty. Turbochargers, suspension upgrades and computer reflashing are all available to professional and club racers. And for those who'd like a little more performance out of their daily drivers, TPCRacing has you covered in spades. While most of the company's work is devoted to 911s, TPC thought the Cayman needed a little something extra as well. They picked up a Guards Red 2006 Porsche Cayman S a couple of years ago and went to work.

The result is the TPCRacing Cayman S Turbo Kit. Producing around 485 horsepower, it's packing more ponies than – until recently – nearly any vehicle in Porsche's lineup, save the GT2. And that's only with 5.5-pounds of boost. With such a low amount of pressure, the turbo kit puts barely any additional stress on the stock internals of the 3.4-liter flat-six.

TPCRacing sells its Cayman Turbo Kit (with intercooler) for a buck less than ten grand. It includes nearly everything needed for installation: a cat-back exhaust, turbocharger, liquid-to-air intercooler, new intake plenum, all brackets/plumbing/fitting/hardware/clamps, upgraded injectors and custom silicone piping. The ECU needs to be shipped to TPC for reprogramming, but anyone with a fair amount of mechanical aptitude can do the installation. The total tab for our tester was about $12,000 according to the owner. Of course, he also went nuts with suspension, brakes, wheels, tires and body mods that more than doubled that figure.

A few extra bits are recommended by TPC, although they're not included in the kit. Pop for a set of GT3 spark plugs as well as the factory Porsche front-center radiator and associated ducting and brackets, and it will add around $750 to the tab. Tiptronic cars can skip that last item, as they're already equipped with the front-center radiator. The downside for Tiptronic owners is that the installation requires modifications to the transmission mounting brackets as well as relocating the transmission oil cooler.

TPC is also working on a non-intercooled Turbo Kit that eliminates the need for the liquid-to-air intercooler as well as the front center radiator and all the additional plumbing and water pump. Boost levels are a bit lower, but so is the price – an estimated $7,490.

We got a chance to sample the full-on intercooled turbo kit and, needless to say, it's like no Cayman we've met before. It's a mid-engine Jekyll and Hyde. In normal commuter duty the TPC drives exactly like any other Cayman on the road. That's to say it has near perfect handling, with some of the best brakes and most precise steering ever engineered into a road-going vehicle. But dip into that throttle a bit deeper and... whoosh! As if a giant hand dropped down from the sky and gave you a gentle shove, you're hurtled along into extra-legal speeds in seconds.

There's no drama, only a throatier roar from the exhaust that fades as the RPMs drop. Although not quite as transparent as the factory turbo setup in the 997 Turbo, it feels just as fast. The power is available at seemingly any RPM too. There's a progressive feel rather than the expected lag and burst of traditional tuner turbos – further proof that Mike and his crew know more than a thing or two about balancing linear performance and potent thrust.

Our seat time was all too brief, but it was more than enlightening. Levitas is a manic bit of energy, equal parts mad scientist and grassroots racer. Two of his customers, David and Kevin, happened to be computer engineers and even they were hard pressed to keep up with Mike's constant stream of technical babbling. The one thing they definitely picked up is Mike's passion for his work and ability to build an impeccably well-thought out and professional turbo kit.

Our sentiments and disappointments were echoed by several of Mike's customers. While most would prefer a factory Cayman Turbo, Porsche didn't build one. That left the door wide open for tuners and TPC happily stepped in to fill the void. For around $12,000 over the price of a Cayman, customers can have a unique, track-friendly daily-driver that's ready to trounce its rear-engine grandfather, while still costing less and retaining its reliability. That's a 400-hp formula we can get behind. Now we just need to start trolling Craigslist for used Caymans...

Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

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      • 4 Years Ago
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      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey patrick i just think u just need to grow up, and so wat if u can make a firebird for half the price... Its still a firebird idiot, ur just mad cuz pontiac makes shitty cars and no one likes them, and u mad cuz camaro made it into transformers and pontiac didnt, so quit ur whineing and go cry somewhere else, try a pontiac forum maybee
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, $12k for a monster killer. And I been seeing used 987 boxsters for 30k around here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Holy crap! I used to line in Jessup, MD, how do I not know about these guys? I am swinging out that way tomorrow I think. And yes, this is the 'real 911'. Why do you toy with us so, Porsche?!
      • 5 Years Ago
      To me this car is the "real 911".
        • 5 Years Ago

        911 is almost defined by being rear engined.

        But this car is most certainly a REAL porsche sports car, and likely shows what the inherently stable, small, light platform is capable of.

        It is probably along the lines of the purest Porsche road-going sports cars there are, including the Carrera GT.

        Now all it needs is a lower profile double-bubble roof skin, (carrera GT had that, also, although not fixed in place.) Also, quarter windows more like the 996/997, but perhaps a bit shorter along the length of the car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, like I didn't want a Cayman so badly it frickin' hurt before. C'mon stupid student loans! Pay yourselves off already!
        • 5 Years Ago
        What, so you'd rather take a 'stang GT over a CS? A brute pony car that everyone hails as handling well, and a MR Porsche, renowned for their sports car pedigree. Wow, that's hard to choose /sarcasm
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ LaserRed : A Porsche Cayman or a Mustang GT? Are you serious? Are you one of those guys who bought a V6 Camry because the 0-60 time was good?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I hear you. Used Cayman S or 2011 Mustang GT 5.0...AHHHH!!!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        chris you can easily pick up an 06 or 07 cayman s for like 30 to 35k
        check out the listings on cars.com, low ball like crazy and you may get a good deal.
        at least that's my plan, been checking listings every other day for past 8 mths

        also tpc told me the auto cayman's can't be turboed with their kit
        but he could fit it into a 5 speed cayman
        • 5 Years Ago
        @LaserRed I hear you. I have never, ever wanted a Mustang before, but somehow this 2010 redesign with the new 5.0 has got my attention. This higher education thing needs to start paying off here sometime soon.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The wing is ugly!
      • 5 Years Ago
      You guys do realise that the Cayman is just a Boxster with a hardtop? Saying that though, I would love having either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd take a Cayman over a 911 any day of the week.
        • 5 Years Ago
        First and foremost, the GT500 is one of the ugliest cars on the road, so if I was spending GT500-level money, I sure as hell wouldn't be wasting it on that. The regular Mustang is pretty darn decent looking, and the new 5.0 GT makes more than enough power.

        "this post's very existence is evidence that the Cayman S is not a better car than the 911."

        This comment makes absolutely zero sense - so when there is an AB post about a tuned 911, what does that mean about the 911??

        With the Cayman, Porsche righted the wrong that they made initially with the 911 but weren't allowed to correct due to all the douchebags... opps, I mean 911-fanboys that wouldn't accept anything but an engine located in the wrong spot. Of course because of those same people, Porsche must essentially "cripple" their best car so it doesn't step on the toes of their cash-cow.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes, please.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Three cheers for TPCRacing. Screw the 911. Think what Porsche could do if it wasn't pointlessly committed to that ass-heavy evolved Super Beetle.

      The Cayman looks better and has better balance. The brilliant engineers who have made the 911 so formidable could do so much more with this platform.

      I. Want. One. NOW.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This car is effing hot.
      This makes it very hard to justify a 911, really hard.
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