The name Paul McKinnon may not sound all that familiar to the average time attack fan but we can assure you that is all about to change. For several years now Paul has been quietly tinkering away in his workshop up on Sydney’s Northern beaches building everything from custom motorcycles to vintage drag race cars and all out circuit race cars. These are all put together with a very small bunch of seriously talented young guys who under McKinnon’s close supervision have been learning to do things the old way – by hand. But there is so much more to this guy than meets the eye.
When he was young, Paul dreamed of becoming a race driver. That was all he thought about as he entered into go kart racing. Several years later, having won multiple State and Australian go kart titles, Paul ventured over to Italy with his Dad to compete for the World Go Kart Titles.
In the ultimate level for karts he competed against and out-qualified such household names as Fisichella, Verstappen, current Ferrari test driver Marc Gene and GM factory Le Mans driver Jan Magnussen. The only things keeping him from moving up through the ranks was lack of funding. Paul returned to Australia where he has kept his hand in driving the occasional production car or IPRA deal.
It was then that a fellow named Patrick Garvan turned up on his doorstep and said: “I want you to build my 944. Do you think you can make it go fast?”
WTAC: Congratulations on a big weekend at NSW Time Attack at Wakefield Park. You won the Pro Class and the Open Class along with RWD and a bunch of other awards. You must be pleased?
Paul McKinnon: I couldn’t be happier. The weekend could not have gone better.
WTAC: Tell us a bit about the development of the Porsche?
PM: It was a step-by-step development. We haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel, we have just chipped away and made small gains every time we take the car out.
WTAC: You have certainly made people stand up and take notice. How much more do you think is left in this car?
PM: There is still a bit to go before WTAC 2014. We are pretty sure we can get a high 57 out of it at Wakefield in the not too distant future, but we will be using the H pattern synro box for a little longer.
WTAC: It must be a fun project to be involved with?
PM: I’m living the dream! I get to play around on one of the coolest time attack cars around and drive it too. I jump out of bed on days that I know I am working on the Porsche. I have learned a lot on this build.
WTAC: And you have also taken to driving the Pulse Evo in recent months. What are your thoughts on this one?
PM: I was a little chuffed when Paul asked me to drive it. I’m looking forward to working with Paul and the boys from Pulse Racing to get the Evo to where it could be. It’s all there, we just need to give it the right tweaks. We have already learned quite a bit from the little testing we have done.
WTAC: You have also built some other crazy things. Tell us about the Guinness Book of Records challenge you were involved with…
PM: A mate of mine was working on an ad campaign for Ice Break iced coffee. He rang me one night while I was cooking dinner and asked me if I would be interested in building the World’s Fastest Couch. There could only be one answer to that. It was a lot of fun. A mate of a mate had a GSX1400 drivetrain for sale so that automatically became the power source We then built a tube chassis around it with a lot of left over suspension parts laying around the shop. We got one shot at it, we had to beat 143kph, our goal was the ton, 100mph. We managed an average of 101mph/163kph.
WTAC: Tell us about your 1940 supercharged Harley.
PM: Well, I can’t afford a hot rod, so it was the next best thing. A friend of my dad’s is a Harley collector. He had a 1940 W side valve motor plus a box and supercharger set up that I had helped him fit to one of his bikes a couple of years earlier. I built the rest. I made the frame and all the controls, made all new hardware for the supercharger and I designed a billet girder front suspension that we cut on my mates CNC mill. It’s my hot rod!
WTAC: Apart from cars and bikes what else does Evolution Custom Industries do?
PM: Evolution Custom Ind. is a custom automotive fabrication business that prides itself on high quality workmanship. We cover all aspects of the industry, cars, bikes and even race boats. We believe in form and function, it has to look good and do its job. You can check us out at www.evolutioncustomindustries.com
Finally we had a few words with the owner of the Porsche, Patrick Garven.
WTAC: You must be ecstatic with this build. Has it exceeded you expectations?
PG: Well yes and no. By that I mean, I’m fully charged at how well the car has been going pretty much from the time we unwrapped it. With only a few of the normal developmental glitches aside, it has continued to perform better and better each time out. On the other hand, like most project cars, I had been developing this one over many years. There have been a number of disappointments along the way but I also might have been unrealistic in anticipating overseas vendor’s promises. However that is all behind us now and meeting Paul and forming a great working relationship with him has been an extremely lucky break. To put it simply, the car would not be where it is today without Paul’s total involvement.
[pullquote]The car is now quicker than David Wall’s ex Le Mans RSR
which has been highly modified since then.[/pullquote]
I have to also thank the continued support that Buchanan Automotive offer. They were my original mechanics and workshop and are always there to help when we need it. One other aspect that I have to touch on is the involvement of Andrew Brilliant. We are implementing a list that he left us with and slowly ticking off all the boxes. Seems to be working ok….
WTAC: You must have a few of the GT3 owners shaking their heads at the Porsche days?
PG: I guess so. We worked our way up the list in the Porsche Club of NSW between 2006 – 2010. The car, while still road registered was as fast as the quickest road-going GT3s in the club in 2010. That was when I decided that it was too quick to run without a cage and I was recommended to go and speak with Paul. I Haven’t looked back since then.
Now it’s the quickest car in the history of the club and that’s including David Wall’s ex Le Mans RSR which has been highly modified since then. The irony of our little car beating something like that isn’t lost on all involved. Not sure how happy they are about it, but there is some friendly banter across the pits. Many don’t realise we were on last year’s R specs when they’re on nice new sticker Michelins!
WTAC: You have certainly been getting a lot faster behind the wheel yourself. Has Paul been coaching you?
PG: This is a whole lotta car now. It’s genuinely fast for someone of my limited experience. I love it but I really have to concentrate when behind the wheel. Corners seem to come up somewhat faster than before! While we don’t have a passenger seat for direct coaching, I’ve watched and listened to Paul extensively and having Mark ‘Robbo’ Robertson running data and highlighting the differences has been invaluable for my progress. Slow as it’s been. Just got to stick at it!
WTAC: We are looking forward to seeing you guys in October!
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