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20 years of GT3: every generation tested

Mention ‘GT3’ and Porsche’s now-legendary moniker conjures a host of vivid adjectives: Loud. Unrestrained. Pure. Mechanical. Fast.

Porsche’s GT3 is already considered an icon – an exemplary feat given it’s only just turning 20 years old. Launched just before the turn of the millennium, Porsche’s new 911 model line had already positively asserted itself by breaking the Nürburgring lap record for production vehicles with a time of seven minutes and 56 seconds, thereby firing its way straight into the hearts of admiring enthusiasts.

Built to homologate Porsche’s FIA race cars, the GT3 was originally built for the UK and mainland Europe only, yet the line-up has since flourished into a worldwide motoring phenomenon, each new model a highlight within its generation of 911. 

Total 911 has gathered all six generations of GT3 for a special test, as we relive two decades of a special sports car perennially at the peak of its class. Beginning, of course, with the 996 of 1999…

For the full group test of every generation GT3, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 178 in shops now or get it delivered to your door via here. You can also download a digital copy with high definition bonus galleries to any Apple or Android device.

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Porsche 911 Cabriolets: G-series v 964 v 993

Yorkshire dry-stone walls have a very useful application that was never intended by the original builders several centuries ago. In addition to providing the unique signature style that is the Yorkshire landscape while also containing livestock over the centuries, they also make a superb surface to echo back the bark of an air-cooled 911 engine. Combine that with the final days of a long, hot summer and a trio of Cabriolet 911s – all with the hoods folded as they truly should be – and we have the perfect recipe for a great day’s driving and a chance to investigate the appeal of the open-top 911 experience. Will we enjoy a day in the sunshine, or will the bumpy Yorkshire lanes highlight the compromise of 911 body stiffness?

Heading out of the market town of Malton, I’m at the rear of the convoy in the 993 Cabriolet. The air is filled with the bass burble of air-cooled exhaust tones at low RPM, the whiff of that unique 911 aroma of hot oil and burned hydrocarbons from the two cars ahead spilling over into the interior, the sun providing a warmth on my face that is still pleasant so late in the summer. Good times.

Turning left down some of our favourite B-roads, the sunshine dapples the tree-lined road ahead… it’s time to increase the pace. We’re staying away from the vast, open moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors today, instead staying on the lower ground of the Vale of York and the twisting, turning B-roads that keep hands and feet busy as the road snakes between those ancient dry-stone walls. The three cars span an eight-year period of 911 evolution, from the torsion bars and impact bumpers of 1989, through the transformation of 1990 with power assistance and coil springs, to the final development of the air-cooled Porsche 911 in the 993.

Without a doubt everyone will have a personal favourite. Indeed, as we gather the cars together for photographs, the debate commences even before photographer Alistair has rigged his first flash head. The most visually arresting is the 1989 Super Sport in Guards red. For me this car is the epitome of that period of Porsche sales. The hedonistic period when excess was encouraged and every businessman and city trader in the City of London had to have a giant Motorola brick phone, expensive Italian shoes and matching briefcase, plus a Guards red Porsche 911. For the full-on effect it had to be the Turbo body, Fuchs alloys and the whaletail spoiler. And if you really wished to be publicly on display through the city streets, then the Cabriolet ensured that you shared your cellphone conversation with everyone around you as you discussed the day’s share trading at the traffic lights.

So how does the drive compare almost 30 years later? We hand over the keys to the 993 that we arrived in and swap to the cream seats of the Super Sport. Instantly I’m missing the powered steering as we shuffle back and forth to leave the photo location, the non-standard steering wheel not helping with its smaller diameter, though once rolling along the country lanes it’s much less of an issue. The road is initially bumpy, and several things become apparent. Firstly there is indeed that flex and shake from around the windscreen area that I recall from previous drives. Secondly, despite there only being a few years between the registration dates, the 1989 car does feel as though it’s from a much older generation of Porsche.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car – far from it. And as the road smooths out and widens we’re able to enjoy the bark of the 3.2 engine and use the echo board of Yorkshire’s dry-stone walls to enjoy some rather delightful pops and crackles on the downshifts. Through the avenue of trees we return to our location, and I swap into the black 964.

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Total 911 issue 144 now on sale

“Why £100,000?” That will undoubtedly be your first question when you see our six-figure superstars on the cover of Total 911 issue 144. The answer is two-fold.

It’s quite easy to spec a new 991.2 Carrera to £100,000 with a few options, so we wanted to investigate the similarly priced alternatives and a six-figure budget opens up one of the largest (and most diverse) selections of old and new Porsche 911s around.

From a pre-impact bumper 911E to a top of the range 991 Carrera GTS, £100,000 has the potential to satisfy pretty much every type of prospective Porsche buyer. We got behind the wheel of all our options to see which six-figure superstar offers the best bang for your buck.

930 3.0 v 3.3

The Porsche 930 also takes a staring roll in issue 144 with the first and last iterations of Zuffenhausen’s classic 911 Turbo going head-to-head in a battle of the 3.0-litre versus a G50-equipped 930 3.3.

We get behind the wheel of a 911R homage too. Based originally on a 912, a flat six has been swapped in under the decklid and a full rebuild has turned the car into a celebration of Porsche’s record-breaking run at Monza in 1967.

If you prefer a more modern flavour of Neunelfer, Lee gets behind the wheel of the latest 991.2 Carrera 2S and 4S to see if the now faster four-wheel drive package can provide more thrills than its rear-wheel drive counterpart.

To read all of this and much, much more, pick up Total 911 issue 143 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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Throwback Thursday: Porsche 991 GT3 RS vs rivals

At its most reductive, the idea that certain activities can “make you feel alive” is a peculiar one, especially when you consider the flipside; I have certainly never done anything that has made me feel dead. Yet this supposedly tangential notion is never more evident to me than when I am out on a racetrack, pushing a car to its limits.

The often delicate and sometimes brutal dance on the edge of adhesion from corner to corner is enough to get thousands of petrolheads’ pulses racing. It is a sensation that is intrinsically woven into the fabric at Zuffenhausen and it is, therefore, the key ingredient in what is undoubtedly the 911’s most exciting and renowned subdivision: Rennsport.

Based near the race teams in Weissach, Andreas Preuninger’s GT cars department are the current custodians of this legendary moniker. This crack squad of engineers has proven that they truly understand what is needed to create an enthralling Neunelfer experience, with a track-focussed character that is equally captivating out on the open road.

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Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 997 generation of GT3 RSs. From the 3.6-litre, first generation iteration to the instantly iconic 997 GT3 RS 4.0, Preuninger’s team never missed a beat between 2006 and 2010, somehow managing to improve on perfection with each revision

The culmination of this work was the aforementioned 4.0-litre Rennsport – a car that we concluded in issue 125 was “the king of kings”. Now though, the RS ranks have been bolstered with a new 3,996cc pretender to the RS 4.0’s throne.

The 991 GT3 RS is, on paper, the antithesis of the 997’s analogue thrills: a PDK gearbox in place of the lauded six-speed manual shifter, a flat six based (loosely) on the Carrera’s 9A1 engine rather than the motorsport-derived Mezger, and rearwheel steering in place of the previously passive back axle.

These changes have made the latest RS devastatingly effective – our first drive in issue 128 proved as much – and hugely coveted, just like its 4.0-litre 997 forebear.

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That was in isolation though; context is key here, which is why we have gathered both 4.0-litre Rennsports (as well as both previous generations of the 997 GT3 RS) together for the ultimate test on track and road.

As a supposed standard production model, the 991 is intended to be the successor to the 3.8-litre 997.2 GT3 RS. However, I’m going to start with the RS 4.0. After all, to paraphrase De La Soul, “four is the magic number”, especially in the world of water-cooled Porsches.

When it was released in 2010, I couldn’t believe that the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 was road legal. More so than any Rennsport before it, it looked like a race-ready 911. Those dive planes and that rear wing (taken straight from the 997 GT3 Cup car) have never failed to catch my attention. Yet, sat alongside its successor, my gaze is very quickly diverted towards the 991.

To read our Porsche 991 GT3 RS vs rivals group test in full, order your copy of Total 911 issue 136 online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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Rise of the classic Porsche 911 Targa

Born out of necessity, the Targa is an enduring if sometimes unloved model in the 911 range. Its inception was the result of Porsche’s obvious desire to offer an open-topped version of the 911 in the 1960s, though early 911s lacked the structural rigidity to offer a full open top.

Fate would intervene, with proposed US safety legislation effectively killing development of conventional Cabriolets thanks to the anticipated demand for roll-over protection. Given the potential of the US market and as Porsche is not one to shy away from the insurmountable, it took a more unconventional approach to give customers an open-air choice.

The solution was the Targa in 1967, which featured a full rollover hoop, to which a removable panel was fitted. On the earliest, short-wheelbase cars there was also a removable ‘soft’ rear window, which simply unzipped. Somewhat amusingly, Porsche’s safety-orientated open-top car took its name from a famously dangerous road race, the Sicilian Targa Florio.

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Coincidentally though, ‘Targa’ in Italian refers to an ancient shield; fitting given the Targa’s safety-derived inception. That US legislation would never materialise, though the Targa would remain Porsche’s only open-topped 911 until the Cabriolet joined the line-up in 1982.

The Targa added little weight over its Coupe relations, the roll hoop adding strength while the lightweight roof counteracted the additional weight of the four strengthened panels. The tooling costs were minimal, too, with most of the sheet metal below the waistline unchanged from the Coupe.

The removable rear window didn’t last long though, Porsche soon replacing it with that evocative curved glass, which was as much a signature of the Targa as that brushed Nirosta stainless steel finished roll-over bar (which later changed to black aluminium).

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That formula would remain from its late 1960s introduction through to the 964 series. The arrival of the 993 Targa in 1996 would see it adopt a large glass-opening sunroof, which slid behind the rear window.

This remained the case with the 996 and 997 models, which also benefitted from opening rear glass, creating a hatchback 911 as such. From the 993 onwards though, the Targa was no longer so visually distinct from its Coupe relations.

Only a company with the stubbornness of Porsche would persist in offering more than one open-top model in its range. At times when Porsche offered Speedsters, customers had as many as three ways of opening their 911 to the elements. The Targa could have quietly slipped away following the 993, 996 and 997 iterations.

To read ‘Targa Rising’ in full, pick up Total 911 issue 141 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now. 

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