It really is horses for courses. But I know which stable door Iíd be opening, and itís just south of Sudbury on the A131.
With a few mods, reckons Stephens, you could make this 2.7 Carrera eligible for Historic motorsport. My advice: donít, leave it alone. Enjoy it the way it is. Because frankly, itís the best Porsche Iíve ever driven.
Puffed up poseurs? Niche opportunism? Or is there engineering merit in Porscheís Turbo-bodied, normally-aspirated 911s?
On a fast and flowing B-road the Spyder is a thoroughly engaging car to drive. Dynamically itís an addictive blend of old-school 911 handling and a very healthy power-to-weight ratio. In short, itís terrific fun.
With the 996 Series 911, Porsche introduced its now legendary GT tag to a series of production cars. We gather all five varients of the 996 GT2 and GT3 and relive some of Porscheís finest moments.
Porsche has always hit the spot with its Renn Sport formula. We chart the progress of how the cars have evolved during our time.
It's not cheap, but retro 911s don't come better made or better engineered than this. Pose value high, reliability high
GT Porsche - 996 GT2/3 Test
Following in the footsteps of a 911 as revered as the 993 Carrera RS was never going to be an easy task. Here was, after all, one of the most accomplished and well-rounded sports cars to have been produced, combining the sweetest air-cooled flat-six with a slick six-speed gearbox and a rear drive chassis to die for. As the pinnacle of the air-cooled 911 genre, the 1996 Carrera RS is hard to touch. Building a successor would be an impossible task. Which is probably why Porsche let the dust settle on the RS name while it embarked on relaunching its product line with two all-new sports cars: the Boxster and the 996 Carrera – a water-cooled 911.
Just as it is today, news of a hot 996 Carrera was never far from the chatrooms and forums of enthusiast websites soon after the first Carrera models started being delivered. Friends of friends had been approached by dealers with news of a mystical, low volume, high performance model in the pipeline that, if they provided a letter of intent and a small deposit, said dealer would put them at the top of the waiting list. This would be the new RS. The model everyone would want. The 911 you’ve been waiting for. Except that Porsche had other ideas, a bigger picture to paint and something called a model strategy and a clear timetable of the 911’s development future. Weissach had been given a model plan outlining exactly what Zuffenhausen wanted and expected from the high performance 996 models, where they would fit in the market, how many would be built and how they would be filtered into the market place. Every new Porsche model had its place and a job to do, and for the 911 that meant launching a whole new sub-brand of performance 911s that would capture the imagination of existing, traditional customers while attracting new clients to the portfolio. And Porsche would do it without its famous RennSport tag, but instead with the less evocative, more mainstream ‘GT’ nomenclature.
In little over six years Porsche had created one of the strongest performance sub-brands in the industry, backed up with a handful of products that have gone on to develop cult followings and draw new customers to the company who can’t contemplate being without the latest Porsche 911 GT car. Every 911 to wear the GT badge has gone on to become an icon; a legend that generates the superlatives like no other.
They increase the footfall through the showroom, on to the show stands, into the magazines and on to the internet. A new Porsche 911 GT model is big news, and these are the famous five that put the hard graft in, laid the foundations and provided the footings for the current crop to excel at everything they do.
As a collective they make quite a sight.
Independent Porsche specialist, Paul Stephens, who has amassed the collection has seen interest in all five steadily increase as each successive generation is released. “These 996 cars may have taken a bit of hit early on, but people have come round to appreciate and understand what they are and where they fit in the Porsche hierarchy,” explains Paul. “And remember none of these were ever built in big numbers, so the rarity factor also plays a part.”
The five generation defining GT cars are: 360hp 996 GT3 (1999–2001); 462hp 996 GT2 (2001–2002); Gen 2 381hp 996 GT3 (2003–2005); Gen 2 483hp 996 GT2 (2003–2005); and the 381hp 996 GT3 RS
Between them they chart the evolution of a species that signifies the end of an era, for these are the last truly organic 911s. Not one of our collective can call upon electronic intervention when it comes to controlling slip angles and
traction, and all offer just a single damper setting compared to today’s actively controlled PASM systems. These GT 911s may be the first of
a new breed, but they have as much in common with the old school collective as they do with today’s new kids.
Fittingly the first car to drive today is not only the original 1999 GT3 but it is the original press demonstrator, the very car that introduced the
UK’s motoring press to Porsche’s new performance world, me included. In the autumn of 1999 the occasion of driving this very car out of the showroom of the Leeds OPC still lives strongly with me today. Fresh faced and low
enough down the pecking order on evo magazine I was given the task to get a train from London to Leeds and a cab to the showroom to collect the GT3 late on Sunday afternoon where it had been on display for perspective customers to prod and poke so they could make their mind up as to whether or not Porsche’s new philosophy was for them. Before I even made it
to the M1 on my way home I was convinced Porsche had made the right decision, and have been ever since.
T670 CBL still carries so much presence, even in this exalted company. By today’s standards its aerodynamic addenda is subtle, almost nondescript
with its flowing front splitter, curved wide sills and a rear wing that looks like it has been formed by the wind. Those 18-inch BBS rims fill the arches so sweetly, the 30mm lower chassis hunkering the body to the ground. It
may be over a decade old but this original badboy still looks like it means business, a feeling that is magnified the moment you slip into the
cockpit. The fire retardant trim of the Recaro buckets is a little looser these days, but then it was endured nearly 40,000 bum and back miles. The Porsche crest stitched into the headrest area of the seat is a nice touch, too, and sadly lacking in today’s examples. Everything that made this original GT3 so special is still very much in evidence and time hasn’t diluted the experience. The big central tacho that blinds you to the surrounding dials,
the thin, three-spoke leather steering wheel that juts into your chest but won’t adjust for height. The slightly phallic gear lever and naked centre
console is all I remember it. It may have shared many components with a 996, but the similarities soon end. Not least when you sample the Mezger flat-six for the first time. This Clubsport version, providing you with the half roll-cage, buckets, battery cut-off switch and pull cord, fire extinguisher and harness, also supplemented the standard GT3’s dual-mass flywheel with a single mass item that, on tick-over, chunters away to its self until you dip the clutch and select first. And even today it brings a smile to your face
because, aside from the feeling it generates of you being sat in a pit lane awaiting the all clear from your race engineer to go hot lap until the
tyres go pop, it was also the biggest indication that with its first GT3 Porsche had developed something special.
As drivetrains go, this car’s original one is hard to beat. The later GT models may have more power, more aggressive induction intakes, throatier exhausts, switchable throttle maps and short, sportier gearshifts, but for pure unadulterated mechanical pleasure this original setup is hard to beat. The revs build cleanly and with a linear surge to its near 8,000 redline, the
ratios slot home with precision and with an impetus to get on with it, the speed is there for the taking. There isn’t that blatant shove you
get with a turbocharged engine from the same era, but within a few miles of dissecting our best loop for the day it’s obvious that the old timer of the group has no interest in giving anything away in terms of performance to its
With the pace comes a chassis brimming with talent and steering that does nothing but communicate the behaviour of the 18-inch running shoes wrapped around those BBS splitrims. Today’s 997 series of GT3s may ride the
lumpy surfaces that make up the UK road network with more aplomb and control, as well as isolating the driver from the pock-marked surface beneath, but this original car, the first GT3 is no filling rattler, and the commitment
you can put into it still leaves you a little wideeyed today. There’s grip aplenty, even from the relatively skinny – by today’s standards – 225 for a bit of an overhaul, too, with third, fourth and fifth gear receiving steel synchro rings in
place of the original brass items to improve both precision in the shift action and longevity.
The Mk2 996 GT3 is often overlooked for being, well, for not being the original Mk1. But has is the case with natural evolution, the later car moves the game on from its predecessor, although not in as many areas as you would
think, nor as far as you would imagine either. It benefits from the later 996 Carrera’s improved cabin quality but it also feels more accommodating in the process of getting from A to B. Or, as is more likely, the Nürburgring. It’s
more compliant, more rounded when it comes to doing big miles in a day and feels more of a faithful companion when driven at around 70 per cent of its capability. It flatters, it rewards and you can’t help but fall for its charms.
And when you push further into that engine’s deep reserves and begin to lean on that revised chassis set-up you can feel you are getting more
from both you and the car than you probably would with the same level of exposure in a Mk1 GT3. But it’s that last 10 per cent the Mk2
struggled with, or rather the driver did. It was possibly because of the higher levels of speed you could carry into a corner, but when you
started to reach the top of this generation of GT3’s performance envelope you had to raise your game considerably. There was more movement from the back of the car, less feel of what the front was doing and while calling it a
‘wild handful’ is egging the pudding, you needed to hang your conkers on that big rear wing and meet this flavour of GT3 head-on if you were to experience its huge potential.
Today, it still generates a similar feeling.
Reaching – and breaching – the performance envelope of the earlier GT3 is done in a stride, but start pushing harder and start chipping away at the last ten per cent and frustration is likely to raise its head before you reach your
goal. It may take more, and you may never reach its ultimate pace but the Mk2 996 GT3 still has an alluring appeal, one that makes you want to take it out for one more run and try and reach its peak performance. It was the same when the car was new, and today, if time permits, I’ll take it out one more time when the shoot is over and the rest are being parked away
for the night.
Then again, the 996 GT timeline continues with the most extreme of our famous five: the original GT3 RS. If you have read this magazine
in order you will already know a great deal about this model from Andrew Frankel’s appraisal (starting page 44). In this company, surrounded by its close relatives, the RS offers the most distinct driving experience.
The interior is no more extreme than a Club Sport specification GT3, save for the plastic trim for the dash top and doorcards, but somehow the small smattering of Alcantara for the steering wheel and gear and handbrake lever,
make the RS feel unique in this company. The reduced sound deadening brings a new soundtrack to the cabin with the harsh edge of the engine’s note reverberating around the cockpit, and when you move off the clatter of
stones pinging round the wheel arches adds to the excitement of experiencing what this car is capable of.
The reality of that excitement is a mix of the original car’s compliance and surefootedness with the edge that the Mk2, the car the RS is most closely based on, brings to the experience.
The ride is harsh, too harsh for many British roads but beneath the graphics and track day aspirations the RS generates a sense that the more time you can afford to invest in it, it will repay you with a 100 per cent proof experience.
It’s not a question of being too fast or extreme for the road, rather its two predecessors allow easier access to the sublime talents the 996 GT3
has to offer. The 996 RS would always be an indulgent purchase, where as the other two normally aspirated 996 GT cars are 911s you would want to drive again and again, all day and all night anywhere you chose. The finale to the 996 GT linage is, fittingly, the rarest of them all. Technically it arrived on the
scene prior to the 996 RS, but its production overlapped that of the heavily-revised 997 model series introduced in 2004 by some six months.
A mild evolution of the 996 GT2 the Mk2 widow maker produced an additional 21hp and 15lb ft of torque over its predecessor resulting in 483hp and 472lb ft being delivered via the six-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels with, once again, no electronic driver aids. The chassis was also fully-adjustable and the exterior was suitably wild but with leather covering the few remaining interior luxuries.
With no press launch or press car available to test when the car was new, this is our first exposure to the ultimate 996 GT model. And it’s raining again. Perhaps it’s the newer design of alloy wheels (ten-spoke as
opposed to the five-spoke items on the original) or the
design influence of the front bumper and valance from the
Mk2 GT3 carried over to this last 996 GT2, or the in yer face Guards red paintwork that does it, but this last gen 996 GT2 has far more
presence than the original GT2, and is only outshone in this company by the bright white and red GT3 RS.
This pristine example feels every inch the six-figure 911 Porsche intended to be, but, like many consumable objects, it is only when it becomes a used purchase is its value appreciated. As desirability levels go this GT2
is up there with the very best. Which is understandable when you first open the taps a poor choice of words considering the weather) and discover that Porsche did make a 996 that made a Gen 1 GT2 feel a little tame. The performance advantage isn’t light and day Porsche claim the later car was a tenth quicker to 60mph at 4.0 seconds and twotenths quicker to 100mph at 8.3 seconds, with its 198mph maximum 2mph quicker than the
original. No, it’s that combination of midrange kidney punch and top end fizz that awakens the senses and makes you wish you had a 12-hour schlep to the south of France ahead of you so you could get to know
this mysterious machine a it better.
Is it any better tied down with less understeer and clearer communication paths sack to the driver? In truth we didn’t try to find out.
This Porsche, this 911 GT2 was the pinnacle of 996 GT development, and while the original GT3 was the most rewarding instrument to use,
it’s successors frustrating and exciting in equal measure, the
pair of GT2s Porsche produced during this era are, perhaps, two of the company’s most misunderstood cars. Any of these five would be welcome in our garage, but it’s the last of the line 996 GT2 that would be the most
rewarding to get to know.
Thanks to Paul Stephens, for sourcing and supplying the five 911 GT cars (www.paul-stephens.com).