Alex Ross and Magnus Walker at Jay Leno’s Garage
You may or may not have heard of Alex Ross, but you have probably heard of Porsche tuner Shark Werks. Alex is the co-owner of the high performance company.
Even if you haven’t heard of Shark Werks before, you have likely seen them on Jay Leno’s Garage. They have been on the web series a few times, the most recent being about a Porsche 911 GT2 RS (997) project collaboration with Magnus Walker.
Click past the jump (or scroll down if you came directly to the full article) to read Alex’s answers to our questions.
Us: How did you get started tuning Porsches?
Alex: After selling my online PC Technology Magazine in the early 2000s during the dot.com era I retired and started playing with four wheel toys my favorite which happened to be a Porsche 996 Turbo. In stock form it had 415hp but being a turbo platform I knew it would be possible to modify for even more power.
It has an AMD Flash chip much the same as ones found on PC motherboards that I used to use/write about. My friend and co-worker Dan Kennedy was at the time living in Bakersfield and his hobby was modifying his cars and in order to test and drag race against other people at the track. I would mostly raced American muscle cars at the time but he egged me on.
He also had a PC online review/technology web site. Modifying PC’s and making them operate faster than the manufacturer intended (we called it overclocking) actually shares a lot of the same principles. At the same time I started experimenting with other modifications on my garage floor and getting more into the road course stuff when I met James Hendry (Shark Werks co-owner now) who was working at a local Porsche shop. We hit it off immediately and with his knowledge/guts (self-taught) and methodical mind he helped me set up the car for a couple of Magazine Shoot outs.
By the end of 2004 the car was getting some notoriety, making noise at race track and was the first 996 Turbo in the US to get into the 10s (10.5 @137). I had made several good friends in the industry that helped us get there such as Todd Zuccone / EVOMS who still works with us to this day.
The short story; I made a bit of noise, my friends noticed, helped and I made some new ones along the way. The local Bay Area Porsche community then wanted James/I to do similar things for their cars and hence by 2005 we decided to turn the hobby into a more serious thing with a silly name aka Shark Werks Inc.
Us: You are known for your work on water-cooled Porsches, why do you prefer to work on the newer cars over the air-cooled cars?
Alex: I think we’re very much a product of our environment. We grew up owning, driving, testing, braking, repairing and modifying these 996/997 era of cars. There were already some well-established shops that worked on air-cooled cars so we didn’t want to step on any toes. At the same time there wasn’t much work being done on these newer cars and the possibilities of taking a 415hp car to 800hp just seemed too hard to resist. Everyone at Shark Werks has enjoyed owning air-cooled 911s, 912s and even a 930.
Us: Recently, you worked on a 997 GT2 project with Magnus Walker, what was he like to work with?
Alex: Enjoyed every single second, day, month of it. He’s so different to what most people would think of as being a typical Porsche owner.
In other words he’s very kind, giving, funny, full of character, integrity, charm and passion. He has dreads and a beard but beyond that you don’t often get to meet and work with people of this caliber. He has an amazing eye, obviously artistic and yet very brave and open to try new things. We were so thrilled he took our White 997 GT2 under his wings. It’s fun to tell people about the whole design origin.
The blend of Porsche Cup R Hybrid, with Magnus’ STR and a touch of cheek along the way. The Aberdonian tartan fabric that he picked up on a recent trip to Scotland then ended up in our carbon fiber bucket seats. Stuff like that is pretty magic!
Us: What has been your favorite build that you’ve been involved in so far?
Alex: Tough one to call. The “outlaw” GT2 has been a whirlwind, thrill a minute and happened so fast. The end result of our Blue/orange GT3RS 4.1 is probably my personal favorite but the journey was the most expensive, challenging, demanding, bitch-slapping, draining, divisive, bonding, innovative, humbling, irritating but character-building adventure ever.
KERMIT, our mk1 Green GT3RS 3.9 probably has my heart though. Helping land U-2 Spy Planes on Telly? Check. Going sideways with Tanner Foust driving? Been there and done that. 25,000 miles of 8800 rpm 3.9… Can’t beat it!
Us: When you aren’t enjoying working on cars, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Alex: I have a few back roads and canyons I like testing/playing on. Other than that I’m just your average chap that loves his doggies, wife and enjoys British-made movies on a big projector with sound coming from 8 obscure Danish-made speakers.
I do sometimes dream of getting back into surfing the red triangle regularly like I used to, but along with my EDM raver days I think that chapter is over. It hurts a lot more when you get slapped around by a surfboard when it all goes wrong once you’re past 25.
Us: What car have you not had a chance to drive but want to get behind the wheel of?
Alex: McLaren F1. NSX Type R. Driven a lot of Ferraris, lambos etc.. and not a fan. The Porsche Carrera GT is a favorite that I’ve driven a bunch.
Us: You’ve been on Jay Leno’s Garage a few times, what is it like to shoot a video with him?
Alex: It’s overwhelming, hard to keep your focus and concentration with everything that’s in that place. I would liken it to going with your parents to a car museum in London for the first time only better. The staff there are so friendly and just excited as you. Every car has a story. Each time I’ve been there I’ve met a kid or two that’s obviously there out of kindness or enthusiasm.
For a car person it’s like going to Buckingham Palace and meeting the Queen or something. Jay is really down to Earth and knows his stuff.
He’s an encyclopedia of car information but also genuinely interested in anything new, different or wild. He was down to the nitty gritty of what we do and why. Aside from seeing the Ecojet laying underneath an F1 or oogling the Shogun, one thing that really stood out was on one day when Porsche NA, Shark Werks and his crew were in his kitchen talking and finishing lunch I saw Jay in the corner washing everyone’s cutlery and dishes in his sink.
Down-to-earth? You bet. That makes the entire day be very off-the-cuff and just like hanging out with a bunch of car buddies swapping stories.
Us: What do you think of the new Cayman GT4 and 911 GT3 RS?
Alex: Both look neat and I’m sure the later lays down some great times at the ‘ring. I prefer the driving experience of a manual car with three pedals. Maybe it’s because I was very heavily left-footed during my Football (Soccer) days? PDK is best saved for racing games on a computer or console I
Us: Do you have any plans to build a tuned GT4 and / or 911 GT3 RS?
Alex: They’re not especially mod-friendly these days but we do and will have some fun with those cars I’m sure. Start ripping up that warranty fellas!
Us: Is there a build that you are currently working on that you are
Alex: Joe Rogan’s GT3 RS 3.9 came in for a revamp with the EVOMS headers and the new Bilstein Clubsport suspension amongst other things. Here’s another guy that totally “gets it” in terms of driving feel, experience and utter enjoyment. I can’t wait to see his reaction after this round.
We would like to thank Alex for taking the time to answer our questions. I don’t know about you, but after seeing his answers I’m even more interested in Shark Werks cars.