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Classic Porsche test: story of the Carrera 3.0

In many Porsche 911 books the Carrera 3.0 hardly merits a mention. Sandwiched between the revered Carrera 2.7 and all-conquering SC, it’s a mere footnote in a 56-year story. Has history judged it too harshly? Is the ‘Carrera 3’ underrated or simply underwhelming? Only driving one will tell us for sure.

The odds seem stacked against the 3.0 from the start. First, Porsche broke an unwritten rule by launching a new car with less power than its predecessor. And while a 13hp shortfall mattered more on paper than the road, the outgoing Carrera 2.7 also boasted perfect pedigree, being mechanically identical to the 1973 RS 2.7, barring the US model. The new 3.0, conversely, was defined by what it lacked. It was, in essence, ‘a Turbo without the turbo’.

On sale for just two years between 1976 and 1977, the Carrera 3.0 was the middle rung of a revised 911 range. The base model – called 911 Lux in some markets – retained a 165hp version of the 2.7-litre engine. The 3.0, meanwhile, adopted the 2,994cc lump from the flagship 930. This development of the 1974 3.0 RS engine would serve the 911 in various guises until 1984. In naturally aspirated form quoted power was 197hp at 6,000rpm, this versus 260hp at 5,500rpm for the top-dog Turbo. Fuel economy was improved, albeit not sufficiently for US emissions legislation. The 3.0 was never sold Stateside as a result.

Transforming a 930 into a Carrera 3 wasn’t merely a case of unbolting the blower. The N/A engine also had larger inlet ports, while compression ratio increased from 6.5:1 to 8.5:1. Further fettling for the 1976 model year included a die-cast aluminium crankcase, Nikasil cylinder liners, a five-blade cooling fan and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, replacing the plunger-type system. The use of K-Jetronic, which endured until the 1994 964 Turbo 3.6, also meant the demise of the hand throttle, supplanted by a vacuum-operated warm-up regulator. Most buyers chose the five-speed manual transmission, but Porsche also offered the four-speed ‘box from the Turbo and the clutchless Sportomatic – the latter now reduced to just three ratios.

What the 3.0 lacked in peak power it made up for in mid-range muscle. Maximum torque of 255Nm matches the outgoing Carrera 2.7 and is developed 900rpm lower in the rev range, meaning it equals the older car’s 6.3-second sprint to 60mph. Top speed is an Autobahn-friendly 145mph. The 3.0 is a relatively light 911, too. At 1,093kg it weighs 67kg – or a typical adult passenger – less than a 1978 SC.

At first glance the Carrera 3 looks little different to other impact-bumper 911s. ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ alloys in 6×15- and 7×15-inch sizes were standard, with wider Turbo-spec Fuchs for the Sport pack. The latter included a Whaletail spoiler and optional ‘Carrera’ side script, plus Bilstein dampers replacing the standard Koni or Boge set-up. A Comfort pack was also added for 1977 with 14-inch wheels and softer Bilsteins. Coupe versions of the 3.0 outsold Targas by a factor of two to one.

The most significant cosmetic update, however, is hidden from view. 1976 saw Porsche introduce hot-dip zinc coating for all panels, vastly improving the 911’s traditionally rather feeble resistance to rust. Stuttgart then put its Deutschmarks on the line with an industry-leading six-year corrosion warranty, which boosted resale values and reinforced a growing reputation for quality. Sadly the zinc protection is rarely so effective in the longer term; even slight damage exposes the steel underneath, allowing rust to take hold.

Inside, the Carrera 3 made a significant step towards curing another of the 911’s age-old issues: inadequate heating. Until this point regulating cabin temperature had been a hit-and-miss affair, using levers between the seats to mix air heated by the exhaust with fresh air from outside. The new system, standard on the 3.0 and Turbo, used two thermostats and a rotary controller to manage this process automatically. Separate fan and heater sliders were also introduced for 1977 along with face-level air vents, albeit only on the passenger side.

Further improvements to comfort came from extra sound deadening and a plusher interior, including carpeting on the lower doors from 1977. A larger driver’s door mirror was fitted, now electrically operated and heated, and cruise control – called Tempostat in Europe or Automatic Speed Control in the US – was an option for the first time. Porsche even changed the design of the locks to improve security. Now, instead of pop-up buttons that could be hooked with a coat hanger, the 911 had round knobs on the door panels. The Targa’s opening quarterlights were discontinued to deter smash-and-grab opportunists, too.

We could go on, of course. But there are only so many facts about thermostats or carpeted doors even the most committed enthusiast needs. What matters more is how the Carrera 3.0 drives and, ultimately, its place in the air-cooled 911 hierarchy. To find out we visited Classic Motor Hub, a huge multi-marque showroom that at the time of writing has the car pictured for sale at £87,500. CMH is also nestled among some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages
and finest driving roads. If the Carrera 3.0 can’t impress here…

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996.2 v 997.1 GT3

Passers-by seem impressed, if a little nonplussed as to why we’re photographing two seemingly identical 911 GT3s. But to Porsche aficionados the 996 and 997 generations actually represent two very different flavours of GT3, and spark lively debate. Today we’re comparing the last of the 996 GT3s with the first of the 997, putting the GT3’s first generational shift under the microscope and declaring a winner.

It’s now 20 years since Porsche released its first 911 GT3, a road car that was produced to homologate the racers. The arrival of Andreas Preuninger soon after saw ‘Mr GT3’ put his stamp on the 996 generation with the revised 996.2 GT3 of 2003. He had to wait for the subsequent 997 GT3 of 2006 to take ownership of a GT3 generation from the start. That car is now identified as a 997.1, differentiating it from the later 997.2 GT3.

Both 996.2 and 997.1 Porsche GT3s remain highly coveted sports cars today, and overlap in pricing – the bulk of 996.2 GT3s span £60,000 to £80,000, with 997.1 GT3s grabbing the baton at £70,000 and accelerating off to £90,000.

We’ve come to Porsche specialists Paragon in East Sussex to explore two excellent examples currently residing in stock. Paragon’s 996 has covered 37,000 miles and is up at £74,995. The 997, meanwhile, is yours for £84,995. Both have undergone significant prep work to lift them to Paragon’s standards.

Both are as road-spec as they come in Comfort trim – no roll cage, fire extinguisher or buckets – featuring stock six-piston brakes with no carbon-ceramics, and factory suspension specs including camber settings. You’re unlikely to find two fitter, more representative, more comparable examples.

I jump into the 996 for the 20-mile trip to our Beachy Head photo location for two reasons: I’ve had good seat time in 997 GT3s, but have only once driven a 996 GT3, and pretty briefly on track – this is the car I really need to get my head around. I’m also curious to see how different it is from my own 996 3.4 Carrera.

The GT3’s headline changes versus the Carrera included lower, stiffer suspension; deletion of the rear seats; slightly wider 18-inch alloys; uprated six-piston front brakes (four rear) and, most importantly, the completely different Mezger 3.6-litre flat six, here rated at 380bhp and 385Nm.

I’d expected a significantly more aggressive temperament than my own car, but that’s just not true. Yes, it bobbles a bit when driven slowly over imperfect urban tarmac, and you notice the more responsive front end, a little extra weight to the steering on initial turn-in and reduced body roll even at more moderate speeds, but it actually rides with generous compliance, and there’s no huge penalty in terms of road noise. More aggressive than a Carrera, of course, but potter about and I don’t think there’s a huge trade-off here.

Driven harder on the twists that course down to the coast from the top of Beachy Head, the 996 is sublime. The steering immediately loads up with weight to contextualise lateral forces loading through the suspension; its intimidating detail encourages you to hold the wheel gently to better let it breathe and communicate through your fingertips. 15 years on its ratio still feels perfectly quick enough, and the way the front end arcs into corners without delay remains strikingly immediate – there’s very little roll and waiting for mass to settle, no slack to work through to get the steering working.

For the full 996.2 v 997.1 GT3 head-to-head test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 177 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 index: 993 Carrera buying guide

HISTORY AND SPEC

As the last 911 to feature air-cooling, the 993 cemented its place among the pantheon of Neunelfer greats, but its talents run deeper than just acting as a historical milestone. For one thing it built on the modernity that had been introduced with the 964, not least by featuring the clever multi-link LSA (lightweight, stability, agility) rear suspension that finally banished the tricky handling reputation for good. It further improved the quality of the 911’s construction in all areas that mattered, from an impressively stiff body – it was claimed to be 20 per cent stiffer in Coupe form compared to the 964 – to a richly appointed and hewn-from-solid cabin.

A major advancement, much of the credit for its appeal should go to Tony Hatter, who styled a body that was both notably redolent of earlier models and aerodynamically effective. Claimed to be 80 per cent new, the shell shared just the roof and bonnet with its predecessor. Under the rear decklid sat the M64 3.6-litre motor, although notable changes included lighter and stiffer internals, improved lubrication and freer-flowing inlet and exhaust systems.

The result was an increase in power to 272bhp, a figure that would swell further in 1996 when the VarioRam induction system was fitted to provide 285bhp and a slight increase in torque. Also improved was the manual transmission, now a stronger and slicker-shifting six-speed unit, or buyers could opt for the revised Tiptronic automatic, which now featured shift buttons on the steering wheel. Much of the interest, however, was reserved for that new rear suspension, it proving mightily effective in finally taming the 911’s less desirable handling traits. Mounted on a cast-alloy subframe, the set-up both reduced squat and dive and provided closer control of the geometry for greater confidence near the limit.

Launched in Coupe form initially, the 993 range would grow to encompass a Cabriolet in 1994, followed a year later by the Targa, although this latter model was rather ingenious. Doing away with the slightly cumbersome lift-out panel, Porsche provided fresh-air thrills by using what amounted to a large glass sunroof that slid away beneath the rear window. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but an interesting option all the same. Production ended in 1996, though the 993 has always been held in high esteem by enthusiasts since.

For your full, in-depth buyer’s guide to the 993 Carrera, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 176 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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Which Super Fast Euro Lux Family Hatch Brakes Better? — Porsche Panamera Vs. Ferrari GT4C Lusso

Gorgeous settings, two staggering cars, and a frightening challenge ahead.

Matt LeBlanc, sat snugly in the enveloping seats of his Ferrari GTC4Lusso, uses all 680 horsepower available to sprint down this picturesque runway with almost reckless abandon. At the end of the straight, a craggy stretch of rocks are all that separate him from the sea.

He’s not doing it for daredevil points alone; he’s challenging Chris Harris to try and hit the highest speed before hitting the brakes. It’s primarily a demonstration of straightline speed, though the danger at the end of the straight makes getting to 200 miles an hour before stomping on the brakes a real test of courage, and not simply power.

Since Joey—err, Matt—has some 140 horsepower over Harris and his Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Harris tries to use his know-how, superior skills, and guts to even the playing field.

Predictably, it’s Harris who is the braver of the two on the binders, but even when utilizing the Porsche’s launch control and overboost functions, he can’t quite match the Lusso at the end of the straight. Power is power.

Though the view from the side window doesn’t quite match the windshield, the spectacle is gorgeous.

The greenscreen comments in the comments section might hold some water—no pun intended. Note the motionless sea and the slightly strange onboard footage at around 1:29. Whether or not the footage is modified to favor the Ferrari, it’s still an impressive demonstration that these two plush can carry their drivers comfortably to nearly 200 miles an hour before stopping confidently in a short space.

Not bad for cars that can brave snowy weather and cruise casually to the golf course.

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996 40th anniversary: coming of age

Forty: one of the big ones, passing into the fourth decade tends to be a significant generational marker. To celebrate or commiserate, though? Porsche obviously decided to do the former – after all, producing a sports car for 40 years is an undeniably notable achievement.

It was a while ago now, too. It’s incredible to think that with the 992 we’ll see the 911 tick over to 60. That’s in just four years time, so it’s been nearly two whole decades since this Anniversary model was introduced.

Back then the 911 was the 996. Old enough to be in its second generation, Porsche’s awkward transitional 911 benefitting from the revised headlights that were introduced with the Turbo. As we all know, the 996 brought water-cooling to the 911, it igniting a debate that still resonates to this day, the 996 arguably the most divisive 911 in our favourite sports car’s now 56 years. Time heals, or at least softens resolve, and the 996 has found favour in its advancing years, the Turbo, GT3, GT3 RS and 4S all generating justifiable praise.

The Anniversary should be included among them as, unlike Porsche’s ill-considered Millennium Edition of 2000, the ‘40 Jahre’ car’s specification verges on perfection. Visually it is a demonstration of dignified restraint, perhaps with the exception of the shot-blasted and polished 18-inch Carrera II lightweight wheels. With the finish of those wheels prone to damage, many Anniversary cars have had their alloys refurbished with a more conventional painted finish. That might rob them of their originality, but does arguably improve the looks.

Elsewhere the Anniversary follows a proven Porsche formula that defines a special model. It does so without dropping any weight; as any 40-year old will testify, shifting bulk is tricky. The 996 is fairly light as standard though: the Anniversary’s kerb weight of 1,370kg matches that of the standard Gen2 Carrera. Instead of losing mass, Porsche focused on other facets to improve the offering with the Anniversary, particularly relating to how it drives.

Key to the Anniversary’s spec is the addition of an X51 Powerkit. It’s an option that would have added around £9,000 to a standard Carrera should you have asked for it back in the early 2000s. The X51 sees the power rise to 345bhp. Admittedly it’s not a significant gain over the 320bhp Carrera, but writing off the X51’s revisions on the modest bhp gain alone is to do the not-insubstantial revisions it brings a serious disservice.

The Powerkit adds cast-aluminium intake manifolds with a modified cross section, the exhaust ducts too benefiting by being larger in their width and being flow optimised thanks to machining and polishing. The valvetrain differs too: the valves and their springs, caps, guides and seats are changed over the standard car, allowing increased movement to benefit the X51 camshaft’s greater inlet valve stroke and modified inlet and exhaust timing.

The lubrication system is improved with a different dual-chamber suction pump for cylinder bank four to six, new oil lines and the oil pan coming with bulkhead baffles to help prevent high g-force oil surge. The changes via the X51 are anecdotally said to improve the durability of the 3.6-litre flat six because it counters the under-lubrication of cylinder six, with the benefit of helping prevent overheating and premature wear.

Controlling all that is a modified engine map which, like all the X51 Powerkit’s development, was apparently the work of the Motorsport department. That arguably makes X51-equipped cars ‘under-the-counter’ GT machines, and worth seeking out.

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