JLP-4 was the final race car in the line of Porsche 935 specials built for the John Paul father and son team. Using this final ‘weapon’, the Pauls notched up several outright victories in IMSA races and, in combination with JLP-3, John Paul Jr won the 1982 IMSA Camel Driver’s Championship.
JLP-4 was the only Porsche 935 with full ground effects, and it proved to be four seconds a lap faster than JLP-3, which itself was one very fast 935. Designed by Lee Dykstra and built by Dave Klym, JLP-4 featured a front suspension design with a rocker arm/inboard dampers/coil spring set-up. The car had full length ground-effect Venturis and right hand drive, to put the driver on the inside of most corners of a race course. This was the most radical design of all the 935s.
Appearing first of all at Brainerd Raceway on 11 July 1982, John Paul Jr forsook his baby blue Lola T600 GT Prototype and scored a runaway straight-out-of-the-box victory there with JLP-4. At Portland three weeks later, John Jr did it again.
After 1979, Porsche no longer built 935s for its customers and several customers, amongst them the Kremer Brothers from Cologne Germany, had built several of their own, very fast 935 specials, starting with the K1 in 1976, fitted with Porsche mechanicals. The Whittington Brothers, partnered by the Kremer’s own driver, Klaus Ludwig, won the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours and John Fitzpatrick used two Kremer-built K3s to win the 1980 IMSA Championship.
Reinhold Joest’s team built two copies of Porsche’s 1978 Moby Dick and one of these went to John Fitzpatrick’s team, along with a Kremer-built K4 copy. Bob Akin’s team built two specials, John Paul built four, Jack Atkinson built one for Peter Gregg and Andial built two, one for Preston Henn and one for Randolph Townsend.
The new GTP Lola T600s and March 81 and 82Gs started to race in 1981 and immediately proved very fast but the 935 specials were equal to the task. All were fast, reliable and outstandingly successful. Today, these later specials will beat any Porsche factory built 935, given drivers of the same calibre.
Using a sophisticated space frame chassis with ground effects, the only Porsche parts used in JLP-4 were the turbocharged 3.2-litre twin-plug engine, the big brakes and the upside down gearbox. Even the suspension uprights were specially designed, cast and built. JLP-4 was the most complex and advanced of the JLP/935 specials. JLP-4 was finished in blue/yellow livery but later this changed to red/white with ‘Miller Beer’ sponsorship.
1982 list of results
|11/07||#18||Brainerd||John Paul Jr||1st|
|25/07||#18||Sears Point||John Paul Jr||20th|
|01/08||#18||Portland||John Paul Jr||1st|
|22/08||#18||Road Atlanta||J. Paul Sr/H. Haywood||9th*|
|28/11||#1||Daytona Finale||John Paul Jr||DNF||Transmission|
* Crashed at Road Atlanta in testing but rebuilt for the race
1983 list of results
|10/04||#1||Road Atlanta||John Paul Jr/Rene Rodriguez||6th|
After the 1983 season, the car was sold to Phil Conte and it was stored in the Peterson museum, Los Angeles. In 1998, the author helped Robert Tornello of Florida buy JLP-4 from Grand Prix Classics in San Diego. Robert immediately entered it in an Enduro at Daytona but sadly a turbocharger failed and he retired.
The following year Robert competed in another Enduro at Sebring and then, in November, he invited the author to drive with him in the Daytona Finale in November. Here the team of Robert Tornello and John Starkey finished second in class. I’ll never forget driving that 935 – yes of course she went like a rocket, but it was the smoothness of the ride that I found amazing. It felt as though I was driving a very fast Cadillac!
In 2004 the car participated in the Rennsport Reunion at Daytona after which it was totally rebuilt. JLP-4 was again present at Rennsport Reunion III in 2007, where it participated in a race at the Daytona event.
Robert Tornello kept JLP-4 for many years but in 2014 another old friend, Mauro Borella, then residing in Milan, Italy contacted me about her and bought JLP-4. He ran the car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed before Mauro sold her to another Italian.
Mauro remembers JLP-4 vividly, here’s what he had to say about driving it: “There is something of a mystique about JLP-4, at least for me. Here we have the most sophisticated 935 ever built, the only one with full ground effect and the last of the infamous JLP specials built by FABCAR and designed by Lee Dykstra.
“The first time I saw this car for real, it was a bit of a shock. It was at one of the first Rennsport Reunions held at Daytona many years ago, and I couldn’t keep my eyes from it. I was fascinated by the size, the technology, the details and I remember standing in front of it in the Daytona garages for quite a long time when the mechanics took off the bodywork. I was looking at the front pushrod suspension, the rear Venturi extractors, the lateral moving skirts like the ones fitted on early ‘80s Formula One cars. It was just incredible!
“When some time later I had the opportunity to buy it, I didn’t think twice about it! When it came to Italy, we went through the engine and gearbox completely, changing and refreshing all that was necessary and I can still vividly remember how nervous I was the first time I sat in that lollipop seat, where the likes of John Paul Jr and Hurley Haywood had sat before. As many of you know, JLP-4 is a right-hand drive car, like the proper Sport Prototypes and the last factory version of the 935/78, Moby Dick. The driving seat is slightly offset towards the centre of the car as the pedals are not in front of it, but slightly on the left, making for an off-set driving position very similar to the early 911s or, if you are old enough like me to remember them, the old Minis. The gear lever is in the centre too, making things even more complicated. With only 4 gears to operate and the enormous power and torque you have at your disposal, you don’t use that short stick very much!
“The first time I drove JLP-4, I had almost the same sensation as with the 917, i.e. not very much in front of you except a big steering wheel and a rev counter, with the awareness that in case of an accident there’s no protection ahead of your feet, and that raucous, unmistakable flat-six turbo sound behind you. I have always liked big, powerful cars: I enjoyed driving Can-Ams, Lolas T70 a lot and obviously, 934s and 935s, as I believe the reserve of power those cars possess makes the driving easier than with the light and nervous 2-litre Prototypes. JLP-4 is no exception, and at fast tracks like Monza, I enjoyed the way it behaved in fast corners like the Parabolica, with always a good reserve of power on hand. The brakes are exceptional too, and I still have to find the real limit.
“As I said, the gearbox is not a real pleasure to use, and quite slow in action. But the twin-turbo engine in its latest 3.4-litre guise delivers the power in a much smoother way than in the previous versions, not to speak about the horrible tractability of the single-turbo early 934s.
“Despite having driven quite a lot of 934/935s, I’m not a big fan of the turbo boost wheel inside the car. I know other drivers do like to play with it quite a lot. I normally use the boost only during qualifying, and very occasionally during races. On JLP-4 the difference is not enormous like in other, smaller displacement, 935 engines but you can still feel a distinctive ‘punch’ on your back when you turn it, and with over 800 bhp on hand, this is pretty understandable.
“As John Paul Jr stated in many period interviews, JLP-4 was so much faster than JLP-3 and all the other 935s he raced, especially in corners, due to the ground effect. You need a lot of track time to get accustomed to the enormous grip JLP-4 delivers in quick corners where the stability is exceptional for a car that is now almost 40 years old. The only problem is to find the limit, something that very frankly I never approached, also because the only time I used it against other 935s, JLP-4 was so much quicker than the opposition that really it was not necessary to risk more than that!
“Unfortunately I never had enough track time, nor the ability, to discover the full potential of this car. But I’m pretty sure that in the right hands it is still the quickest 935 around, exactly as it was in 1982 when it contributed to the victory of the IMSA Championship for John Paul Jr with the Brainerd and Portland overall wins. It is a really special, unique piece of engineering from an heroic era of racing, that I think it will be never repeated.”
The car was sold to Italy in 2014 and rebuilt, and then in 2016 it was sold to its present owner in Europe.
There is no question that JLP-4 was a one-off, uniquely fabricated race car, built in a time when one-off specials like this were not uncommon. This was an era in which the cars and drivers enjoyed a degree of freedom that has since been lost, which is a huge pity, as these cars, people and races formed the basis of so many of our great memories. Motorsport enthusiasts today must put up with Balance of Performance and Equivalence of Technology adjustments that artificially control speed, performance, fuel consumption, aerodynamics and much more. We will soon be bringing you many more stories like this one of raw, high-octane, unrestricted motorsport, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled in the weeks ahead!
Written by: John Starkey
Images by: Mauro Borella, Bill Oursler, Corporate Archives Porsche AG