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Lee’s 996 Carrera 4S Diary: new brakes and tyres verdict

So that’s how a 996 C4S is supposed to stop! I mentioned last month I had discs and pads replaced all round on my Porsche 911 after the items present when I bought the car were looking very tired. I got the new parts from VW Heritage’s newly-created Heritage Parts Centre and have now had a chance to bed them in. I am so impressed. The C4S now stops with the ability I’d expect from a set of Porsche’s ‘big red’ brakes and has transformed the way I drive the car. In short, I have more confidence in the 911, and can drive it harder as a result – as we all know, the harder you push a Porsche 911, the more you get back from it.

I also replaced the worn Continental tyres for a set of N3-rated Michelin Pilot Sport 2s. A few people have since asked me why I didn’t get a set of the newer PS4s, but the honest answer is there weren’t any available in my size when I needed them, so PS2s it was. Again, I am immensely impressed by my new rubber.

500 miles in, in comparison to the Continental Contact Sports, the Michelins are noticeably quieter, which is great for me as I wrack up a lot of miles, plus the Michelins are simply superb in the wet – I’ve not come across better for a 996. If the PS4’s can build on that, I already know what tyres I’m getting next, though I do note the PS2s have a slightly quieter rating. In the dry, there’s not a lot between the Michelins and Continentals (for fast road driving at least) but I’d love to try a track day to see how they differ at greater speeds and temperatures in them. Any excuse…

I’ve also had the C4S back at Porsche Centre Bournemouth for its annual service, this one being a major/72,000 mile service. We’re lucky that in the UK we have a broad selection of very good independent specialists that in the past I’ve had little hesitation in using, however my current 911 has an immaculate service record at Porsche main dealers and I’ve decided it’s important for me to uphold that for the sake of its value. As ever, the Centre didn’t let me down, even sending me before and after pics of the various parts, consumables and sundries being replaced on the 996.

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: the six month assessment

Six short months ago I sold my BMW E46 M3 and, with a bit of extra cash, stepped into Porsche 911 ownership with the purchase of a late Gen2 996 Carrera 4. As those familiar with my story from Total 911 magazine’s ‘Living the Legend’ owner reports section will know, I purchased the car from trusted independent Porsche specialists, RPM Technik, in a cut-price deal as it needed work before RPM considered it to be ‘ready for retail’. I was happy to take on the project and purchased the car without any warranty (the ‘brave vs naive’ debate is still open for comment!).

In the 193 days since, my 996 story has evolved rapidly. The car has taken in 8,000 miles including two track days and two weekend roadtrips to Scotland and then Wales, had shiny new upgrades fitted, had its basalt black paintwork brought back to life, and most importantly, it’s not failed me once. During that time, I learned more about my 996’s history thanks to OPC Bournemouth, who revealed the car had a complete bottom end rebuild and later IMS fitted at a main dealer in 2010, meaning half the engine had covered just 35,000 miles before my purchase. I’ve also done my best to look after the M96 flat six as much as possible, avoiding short journeys of less than 15 minutes and changing the oil after 6,000 miles.

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

Track days are addictive but they provide the ideal environment for both car and driver to find their limits. Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB.

Used mainly at weekends, I’ve been nothing short of delighted with my 996.2 C4. I like how classic the driving experience is compared to the mammoth new 991s; I’m positively thrilled with the value for money the car represents compared to other 911s; and I’m impressed by how cheap, relatively, the 996 is to run. It didn’t take long to identify one or two nuances with the model in general though, most notably of which was the lack of any stimulating engine sound whatsoever beneath 6,500rpm. Redlining the car everywhere isn’t exactly practical and the flaps on factory PSEs are known to jam open over time, so I plumped for a pair of Milltek rear silencers to rectify the situation. As you can see and hear from the video, they’ve proved a great addition.

It’s true the build quality inside is light years away from the lavish confines of a 997 or 991, but then I remind myself if it wasn’t for the 996’s production frugality there would be no 997 or 991 to begin with. I also think the 3.4-litre flat six from the Gen1 996 is the more rewarding engine, its peaky nature encouraging a driver to live in the top half of the tacho to progress quickly. However, the torquier bottom end of the 3.6 is ideal for track work and Sunday jaunts, intensified in my case by the CSR lightweight flywheel for quick heel-and-toe gear changes. A short-shift kit will complete the experience – watch this space!

Ventures with my plucky 996 inspired my friend, Alex, to join me in early water-cooled 911 ownership.

Ventures with my plucky 996 inspired my friend, Alex, to join me in early water-cooled 911 ownership.

So far, the 996 has given me everything I wanted from 911 ownership, and a few things I didn’t. It being a proper sports car that’s incredibly addictive to drive falls into the former category, while annoying failures of the indicator stalk (accompanied by a £500 quote from Porsche for a new one!) and driver’s door microswitch fall brazenly into the latter. I’ve improved the 996’s response and directness of handling with the addition of Bilstein PSS10 coilovers all round, though there’s work still to be done to reduce the inherent understeer plaguing the C4 through even medium severity turns. All in in all though I’ve immensely enjoyed entry-level 911 ownership so far and am relishing the prospect of driving the car through the winter months and beyond.

What’s the point of sharing my 996 story, I hear you ask? Well, my answer is two-fold. Firstly, I promised nothing but honest journalism in my owner reports, giving you real-world feedback, warts n’ all, of life owning an entry-level Porsche 911. The second reason – and most important – is because sharing our stories with others is all part of the unique Porsche experience. And that’s exactly why I want to hear from you.

What’s your 911 story? Whether you’re 53 minutes or 53 years into 911 ownership, we want to hear your very best 911-related anecdotes. Comment below or email us: [email protected] The best comments will be published in an upcoming issue of Total 911 magazine.

 

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: Road trips and track days

British summer time: the cynical may define this as roughly a two-week window of high temperatures and peak sunshine amid a perpetual rainy season, but for driving enthusiasts like you and I it defines six months of prolonged daylight and dry(ish) roads, perfect for digging the Porsche out of its winter slumber in search of glorious, sweeping roads and high-octane track days. British summer time is awesome.

You’ll already know from previous online diary entries that so far for the 2016 season I’ve completed one track day at Castle Combe and been on a driving tour of Scotland, but that’s hardly enough flat six action for your discerning Total 911 Editor. Good job, then, that I’m just back from a Porsche Club GB track day at Brands Hatch, with a weekend driving through Wales with the magazine’s fellow ‘Living the Legend’ 911-owning contributors to follow.

IMG_9884

Before any of that though, I needed new tyres after the Continentals perished at my last track day. I sought new performance rubber that would ably complement the 996’s brief under my ownership of fast road and occasional track use all year round, in a variety of conditions. I decided to try P Zero Rossos from Pirelli, after the Italian brand relaunched its range of new N-rated tyres for classic cars (as many will know, the 996 is bizarrely now classified as ‘classic’ by Porsche). A relaunch it may be, but the blurb is the technology underneath that sticky rubber surface is all-new, with Porsche-specific testing carried out by none other than Walter Röhrl.

I had the tyres fitted at Protyre in Poole, which is my nearest Pirelli Performance Centre (before you ask, it’s a scheme that rewards excellence for dealers using Pirelli in the UK. Dubbed PPC for short, the key objective is to provide a network of dealers with high technical details and commitment to service. These businesses have to pass a 130-point technical audit twice a year, so awarding and renewal of PPC status is no mean feat). I then covered around 400 miles on the road before my track day, where I discovered the P Zero Rossos need little heat in them to come to life, offering very good grip levels near enough immediately. I found this to be most impressive. I was also very happy with the levels of rolling tyre noise, which is reduced compared to other N-rated variants I’ve experienced.

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

For the acid test on track, I booked myself and my brother, Jack, into an evening session with the Porsche Club GB on the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch. Save for a passenger ride in a 997 Cup car with Total 911 columnist Ben Barker in 2012, I had no previous on-track experience at Brands and, with the standard of driving at PCGB events usually reasonably high, it wasn’t just the new tyres under scrutiny! To add further spice to the evening, monsoon-like rain descended upon us during the first group’s initial sighting laps, leaving a completely sodden track in our wake. Perhaps those summer time cynics are right after all?

Regardless, this meant the first half of the evening was largely processional as all cars attempted to skate through the elements, meanwhile contending with severely limited vision thanks to the spray from cars in front. However, I felt the Pirelli tyres held their own in truly adverse conditions, communicating nicely to me when grip was in short supply (and, on one occasion skirting around Clearways, completely gone!).

IMG_0083

As the track started to dry out for the second half of the session, my brother and I could push the car a bit harder. The P Zeros again performed well as we rode the tyres on their shoulders through the infamous Paddock Hill bend and on to Druids, their progressive feedback communicating fluidly where we could push more or ease off. For a do-it-all performance tyre, the P Zeros have wasted little time in winning me over. They’d already proved themselves an astute purchase as we left Brands in one piece despite the slippery conditions.

It was great, too, to share track space with like-minded owners through the Porsche Club GB and I’m already eyeing up another session on the calendar before this year’s out, but before that I need to look at a serious understeer problem that dogged the 996 at Brands. That’ll involve starting again with the car’s geometry, but the problem likely stems from the fact a lot of different people have tinkered with the adjustment underneath the 996 in the last few months in between the fitting of new suspension, brakes and then tyres. I’ve precisely three weeks to get this sorted, as the car and I have a 300-mile road trip along eight of Wales’ very best driving roads to contend with before autumn approaches, and with it… more bloody rain!

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: performance brake upgrade

You may have read from my last 996 Carrera diary entry that I was on the lookout for some twisty roads after having the excellent Bilstein PSS10s fitted. Well, it happened: I took the 911 up to Scotland for a weekend touring from Pitlochry, just above Edinburgh, across to the Isle of Skye and back down via Glencoe and Loch Lomond.

Returning to the south coast, I realised two things. First, I’d by now accumulated 5,000 miles of driving (including one track day!) in the Carrera 4 since I bought it in February, which was the point at which I’d previously said I’d treat the 996 to an oil change. Second, my brakes were crap, and needed a change.

before after

My 996 had a major service (including the obligatory oil and filter change) just before I bought the car, but I’ve since been wilfully advised by a number of specialists to change the oil at an increased rate over 996 factory service intervals, just to be on the safe side. Considering the M96 engine’s reputation with IMS issues as a case in point, I figured for the cost of a few litres of Mobil 1 and an oil filter, it’s a price worth paying. Having fresh oil will keep the engine optimally lubricated and protected, and of course there’s a chance when extracting the old oil to check for significant detritus that could hint at imminent catastrophe from an IMS failure (even though the reality is, by this stage, the news isn’t going to be good anyway!).

I booked the car in to RPM Technik to carry out the oil change. I always favour RPM when it comes to service and maintenance, and not just because that’s where I purchased the car from; the 996 911 is a real favourite at RPM and Ollie and Darren, two of the company’s directors, have 996s themselves, which means genuine empathy is guaranteed for any work undertaken. For an owner such as myself, that means a lot.

oil

Having my car on the ramps served as a good time to upgrade the brakes, and here I went for EBC discs and pads all round (I brought these along on the day and Ollie agreed to fit them with a labour charge). EBC’s Yellowstuff pads appealed as they’re designed for fast road and occasional track use, which typifies what I use my 996 Carrera for. The discs are cast iron and made to OEM specification here in the UK, complete with drilled slots to aid heat dissipation.

The difference, already, is positively startling. I previously had to really jump on the middle pedal to get my tired factory brakes to scrub any speed, and even then brake feel was minimal (I had brake lines renewed when I bought the car and calliper pistons checked so this wasn’t a question of hydraulics). It wasn’t confidence inspiring at all.

pads

Even though I’m still bedding in the EBC brakes – I’ve done circa 400 miles thus far – the merits of the high-friction surface on the face of Yellowstuff pads is giving me a confidence in stopping ability that should always have come with a 320hp 911 weighing 1,430 kilos. Brake pedal feel is also noticeably increased, too, for added inspiration at the wheel.

EBC claim the pads’ high friction surface improves brake effect by 30-40%, which I’d say is absolutely spot on, and they’re still very capable even from cold. EBC also promise me there’s no such ‘fall off’ from heavy brake use and while I’m yet to significantly test that, a track day at Brands Hatch in two weeks should make for a worthy baptism of fire. So far then I’m pleasantly satisfied with the performance of the brake upgrade – just as well, as stopping is important!

wheel

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