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Porsche Celebrates Twenty Years of the 911 GT3

The GT3’s formula is something that stirs any driver with a drop of motor oil in their veins. A high-revving naturally-aspirated flat six engine closely related to the engine used in motorsports, rear wheel-drive, a lightweight construction, upgraded aerodynamics, and track-focused suspension made the GT3 a must for the drivers wanting a little more than what most supercars could offer. While there are cars with greatest statistics, the well-rounded nature of the GT3 has made it a wondrous car that still pulls at our heartstrings after twenty years. As we’ve seen, integrating more tech hasn’t dulled its appeal, either.

The successor to the 2.7 RS, the 996 GT3 ushered in a level of performance not available to customers for two decades.

Spiritual Successor

Upon its release in 1999, the Porsche GT3 was one of the few road cars to lap the Nurburgring in less than eight minutes; Walter Rohrl snagged a 7:56.33 in one of these edgy, temperamental, and rewarding cars. Lowered suspension, a distinct aero kit with an adjustable rear wing, a standard limited slip differential, adjustable suspension, and 360 horsepower made this one of the sharpest 911s available. While we Americans didn’t receive the GT3 until the 996 was facelifted, the two years on the market had us all waiting eagerly for the arrival of the next generation.

More Tech, More Speed

It was the 997 which captured the public’s attention Stateside. A bevy of new electronic systems, divided control arms, more power, and eventually center-lock hubs, the 997 was a step or two in practicality beyond the first iteration. Traction control, electronic stability control, and an optional front axle lift system made this generation of car a much more usable product, but still as capable over a backroad or a circuit. In fact, the 997 GT3 was significantly faster with a 7:40 lap at the ‘Ring.

Sophisticated but Pure

Continuing on that theme, the 991 introduced both a PDK gearbox and rear wheel-steering. These gadgets caused outrage among the purists, but the resulting performance only helped cement the 991 GT3’s reputation as one of the best track cars on sale. With its 3.8-liter’s 485 horsepower pushing a still svelte 3,153-lb car, the 991 GT3 became much more of a dragster than its predecessors, and its improved aero and agility helped chop another massive margin off its previous lap time at the Nurburgring. There aren’t many cars in the GT3’s price range which can dawdle around town comfortably and still set a ‘Ring time of 7:25.

Despite twenty years of electronic assistance and greater practicality, Porsche’s rawest car is still a hot-blooded machine. Perhaps it’s not as focused as its spiritual forebear, the 2.7 RS, but it’s still a thrilling, demanding car that rewards the talented. The 911 GT3 represents the beating heart of Porsche’s commitment to building pure, uncompromised sports cars—and proves that involvement and usability aren’t mutually exclusive.

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Ride Onboard For Some Silky Smooth Laps in a Track-Spec 996 GT3 at Road America

Photos & video courtesy of Ryan Gates/311RS, LLC.

With the right modifications, the 996 GT3 becomes a car that will sway the most skeptical, please the frigid, and bring out the best in the timid. Not that it was slow from the factory, but with some talented tuners and a skilled set of hands making the most out of the least loved of the GT lineup, we see that it—like every other member of its purebred stable—is made for carving quick laps and stretching smiles.

Minneapois-based motorsports design firm 311RS is responsible for making this GT3 into something capable of cracking off consistent laps in the 2:26-range. They spared no expense here, starting with JRZ-RS Pro coilovers with custom 311RS damping. ERP arms and solid bushings came next, and the suspension maximizes the footprint made by the 311RS-spec BBS E88 18×9″ & 18×11.5″ wheels wrapped in Michelin Sport Cup 2s.

With roughly 400 horsepower courtesy of a Cup exhaust, BMC filters, an IPD plenum, and a tune, it’s definitely rapid and needs serious stopping power. The brakes, still factory reds, use Girodisc rotors, Pagid Yellow pads, and stainless lines. For a track as fast as Road America with heavy braking zones, these bring the ~3,000-lb GT3 to a stop. On that note—they trimmed a little heft by removing the airbags, sun visors, glove box, front console, and head unit. It’s a track special, no doubt.

More than its straightline speed and its stopping ability, this GT3’s stability and responsive front end are its most impressive features. Rather than some frightening, hair-trigger monster, it’s composed and neutral, especially in high speed corners. Granted, Ryan Gates has the deft touch of an experienced driver, but no wiggling under braking, no mild corrections in the quick stuff, and only a hint of oversteer on turn-in proves 311RS really dialed it in. Perhaps a more aggressive driver would bring out its fangs, but Gates is still clicking off quick times with a very economical, subdued style.

Perhaps the large RS wing at the rear must help there, and the broad front splitter can’t hurt. Clearly, it’s a reassuring car with balance, braking performance, and punch enables Gates to charge without breaking a sweat and reel in some 991s. Note the distance he gains in braking and entry speed through the daunting Turn 11, known as the Kink (6:54). There, you want a car to sit nicely lest you leave a big black streak along the outside wall.

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Video: How Long Can a 996 GT3 Last in the Real World?

Porsche 911s have a reputation for reliability. They’re robust. You might even hear them referred to as « workhorses. » All are undeniably true—spotting a forty-year-old 911 SC isn’t tough in most cities. They are the everyday supercar, the one to take your kids to basketball practice in style.

What about a 996.2 GT3 Clubsport that’s spent nearly 80,000 kilometers on the track? It’s seen some serious freeway and backroad mileage, too. In total, this car has been driven by its owner for some 230,000 kilometers, and best of all, its owner still frequents the Nürburgring.

At the Nürburgring, this old GT3 can still hold its own, thanks largely to its owner’s sensible driving and a strong engine. Note at 4:38 how the healthy engine keeps it in spitting distance of a 997 GT3, which ought to have an additional forty-odd horsepower on the camera car. Now, this 996 Clubsport’s engine was rebuilt 21,000 kilometers prior to the filming of this video—and it’s only gone through three clutches (skip to 20:44 for the full list of maintenance items). With only new dampers, and the occasional brake and tire refresh, this paragon of durability has provided its owner with hours and hours of stress-free smiles. Sounds like a deal to me.

Considering the life this GT3 has lived, it’s aged better than Morgan Fairchild.

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Sales Spotlight: Porsche 996.2 GT3

When Porsche first released the 911 GT3 in 1998 – part of the brave new generation of water-cooled Neunelfers – the team at Weissach knew they were on to something good.

That’s why, when it came to refreshing it with the 996 facelift, Porsche chose not to change too much; there was a 21hp boost for the 3.6-litre Mezger engine, a slightly revised suspension setup and improved styling.

Independent specialist, RPM Technik currently have not one, not two but three Porsche 996.2 GT3s currently for sale (as well as an example of the nearly as brilliant 996 GT3 Mk1), with all three cars commanding less than the cost of a new Porsche 991.2 Carrera.

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Ranging from £60,995 to £66,995, we’ve picked the most expensive latter example, a 2005 Porsche 911 GT3 with just 26,000 miles on the clock and “an exemplary over rev report”. With RPM one of the foremost GT3 experts on the independent market, we’d be inclined to believe them.

The Basalt Black car was one of the last 996 GT3s supplied to the UK before production in Zuffenhausen was ceased (only the Mk1 cars were built on the motorsport line at Weissach).

Thanks to its revised suspension setup, the Mk2 996 GT3 was a much more civilised proposition out on the open road without foregoing any of the dynamic brilliance that made the GT3 such a huge hit upon its launch nearly 20 years ago.

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This particular car from RPM Technik comes in ‘Comfort’ spec, complete with black leather sports seats (rather than the deep 996 generation bucket seats seen on some cars).

As well as raising your pulse on those early weekend morning blasts, the level of luxury inside makes this particular 996 GT3 the perfect partner for an extended road trip, preferably to somewhere motorsport-orientated. Get booking those Le Mans 2017 tickets now.

To see all the details of this 2005 Porsche 996 GT3, head to RPM Technik’s website now where their full range of 911 stock can be seen.

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Sales debate: Will Porsche 996 GT3 values overtake 997s?

Originally, this started out as investigation into when 997 GT3 prices would begin to rise however, as RPM Technik’s Sales Manager, Greig Daly points out, “they’ve already started [to rise]. 997s hit their bottom last year and cars that we were trading for early £50,000s are now selling for mid-to-late £60,000s.”

While 997 GT3 prices have gradually be increasing over the last 12 months, 996 GT3 values have rocketed in the same time period, to the extent that some sellers in the classifieds are chancing their arm with asking prices on the cusp of six figures.

But, do the GT3 retail experts at RPM Technik and Paragon expect the 996 GT3 to regularly exceed the 997 version in the valuation stakes?

“When they [996s] slipped as low as £30,000, it was just nuts. That car is absolutely outrageous and it was just too cheap,” Daly explains. “Gradually the best ones rose up to £40,000 and that dragged the rest of them up; it’s simple economics of supply and demand but everyone just woke up at the same time.”

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Daly feels the reason for the 996 GT3’s ever-increasing popularity is its ability to withstand hard track work. However, despite “a few people chancing their arm” he’s unconvinced that values will continually eclipse those of the 997 GT3:

“Perhaps [996 values will rise above 997 GT3s], I wouldn’t be surprised because nothing surprises me anyone more in the modern classic market but, is it a better car [than a 997 GT3]?”

Jamie Tyler, head of sales at Paragon, initially answers with a definitive “no” but, on further consideration of the question he explains, “it’s difficult to tell; it’s what people are prepared to pay for the good cars”.

Tyler does feel that the few 996 GT3s currently on the market at £80,000 to £90,000 are “not worth anywhere near that”. Both him and Daly would value such cars in the current climate at around £55,000-£60,000.

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However, Tyler can see why the car is enjoying a resurgence. “They were the last of that real, hardcore driving car,” he explains, “whereas the 997 has got electronic dampers and traction control was introduced which, personally, I didn’t think the GT3 should have.”

While both agree some 996 GT3 values are currently optimistic, the hardcore experience provided by the car is seeing it catch up the 997 on the open market. At some point rarity may play into the 996’s hand but, until then, the 997 continues to rule the roost.

If you’re looking to buy any generation of Porsche 911, check out our full selection of sales debates, where we ask the 911 experts the pertinent market questions so you don’t have to.

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