We rally a mutant Porsche 911 through a frozen Finnish forest

‘All is going to plan until a cloud of white powder consumes my car’

“Come on, push it – I want to see you push it. Find the limit!” comes a crackly, but insistent, voice over the radio. As I peer through the ice-framed windscreen, a gleaming white carpet lies before me, interspersed with patches of green pine trees shrouded in snow. Welcome to Lapland.

The narrow, winding track in front goes up and down, as though it were a bobsleigh run through Finland’s dense Arctic Forest. My car is a Kalmar RS-6, a modified 996 Porsche 911 wearing studded, ice-crushing Michelin tyres – the kind typically found on World Rally Championship cars.

With those words in my ears, I push harder into the next corner and the tail-happy Porsche predictably slides sideways, crunching over the ice as it claws for grip. All is going perfectly to plan until a cloud of white powder consumes my car, followed by a heart-stopping thud. I had, as instructed, successfully found my limit.

Moments later, the same person who had urged me to push harder was standing by the car. “Very good – you almost had it,” he said with a smile, as he dusted off snow from the Porsche’s bodywork. Most owners of vintage 911s wouldn’t be encouraging people they’d just met to pile their cars sideways into a snow drift – but Jan Kalmar isn’t your average Porsche owner.

The founder and owner of both Kalmar Beyond Adventure and Kalmar Automotive, Kalmar has lived life to the max, both on – but mainly off – road. From the age of four, growing up in rural Denmark, he obsessed over machines, which eventually led him to get a job on a farm to earn money from the age of ten. “That’s really where my practical understanding of mechanical engineering came from,” says Kalmar, behind the wheel of his brightly liveried Porsche Cayenne SUV, which was fresh from a rough-and-ready expedition across the Sahara.

Desperate to trade academics for adventure, Kalmar used his earnings to buy a ticket to Australia and travel there solo, aged just 15. Following secondary school, he returned to the road and jumped around the world with nothing but a backpack for 13 months. “When I got back, I got a job with Avis, cleaning rental cars, just so I could drive around Europe, delivering them and picking them up.”

With his itch to explore momentarily scratched, Kalmar re-entered the academic world and applied for a course in automotive economics – the most car-centric course he could find in Denmark, a country with no real standout homegrown automotive brand. From there, Kalmar embarked on a successful career selling cars – dealing with Mercedes, AMG and Porsche – and simultaneously made use of his connections to get out on the track and develop his skills as a racing driver.

Still, with an appetite for adventure, he carved an unusual path in the racing world, embarking on a number of unconventional rallies, including the 17,000km Nordkapp to Cape Agulhas rally – from the northern tip of Norway to the bottom of South Africa – in 2015, for which he holds the record time.

This rich mix of adventure, business acumen and driving skill would eventually lead to the formation of his two companies: Kalmar Beyond Adventure – a specialist in planning and executing epic trips using vintage Porsches – and Kalmar Automotive, a producer and restorer of bespoke sports cars and special-purpose adventure vehicles.

“These cars were last in the desert,” he says, “so, don’t be surprised if you still see red sand from the Sahara coming out of them.” From the baking heat of the desert to the biting cold of -33 degrees Celsius in the Arctic Forest, Kalmar’s robust classic Porsches are remarkably well-travelled workhorses. One modified Porsche 964 shows 107,000km on the clock, while another, a more recent 993, sports 250,000km from new.

This is a refreshing reminder that cars are made to be driven, especially in an age where rising classic-car values see so many wheels locked away in storage facilities.

Though there’s no shortage of ice driving experiences on offer, Kalmar’s hit a little different. Far from the simplicity of driving in circles around a frozen lake – although you can also do that perfectly well with him, should you want to – Kalmar aims to make every one of his ‘students’ faster by the end of their stay. This involves one-to-one tuition and taking on real World Rally Championship test tracks. Sure, it’s not for the feint hearted, but Kalmar’s easy-going, no-fuss attitude creates a conducive learning environment, whereby drivers are encouraged to find the limit and – as I did – sail straight through it.

Despite just celebrating his 50th birthday, his appetite for thrills remains unchanged, with the Dane switching out snow for sand, once again, as his vehicles take on Morocco in the coming months. As for his bespoke-car and coachbuilding business, he and his team are busy preparing a handful of special projects, due to be rolled out later this year.

In the meantime, while I might be a little late to joining the ranks of legendary Finnish drivers such as Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen, Kalmar and his mutant Porsches provide the opportunity for any rally fan to live out their wildest dreams.

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