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993 Carrera v 996.1 Carrera: which is the better driver’s 911?

Manchester Free Trade Hall, May 1966: Bob Dylan casts aside his acoustic guitar and plugs in an electric Fender Stratocaster. The folk faithful look nonplussed. There are boos, and one heckler famously shouts “Judas!” as the feedback fades. 

Porsche had its own ‘Judas’ moment in 1998, when it replaced the 993 with the 996. In doing so, it called time on 35 years of the air-cooled flat six. This was progress but it felt like a revolution and, like those diehard Dylan fans, many 911 aficionados saw it as a retrograde step.

Fast-forward two decades and the 996 is viewed as an emerging classic: the start of something new, rather than the death of everything we held dear. Prices are edging upwards, yet the first water-cooled 911 remains a poor relation to its forebear in terms of values. Typically, you’ll pay twice as much for a 993 Carrera as an equivalent 996.1.

Myth-busting time, then. Is the 993 really a better car? Objectively, no: the 996 is faster, stiffer, safer and more efficient. Surprisingly, it’s actually lighter too. However, sports cars are subjective; a Porsche should feed the senses and stir the soul. So forget worn valve guides or failed IMS bearings, this latest Total 911 comparison is purely about driving.

The cars lined up are a 1996 993 Carrera and a 1998 996.1 Carrera, owned by Hugh Harvey and James Hunter respectively, and kindly supplied by RPM Technik. I’ll drive them back-to-back on some of Hertfordshire’s best A- and B-roads to distil the differences and pick a winner, straight up. Air or heir? This could get controversial…

It seems sensible to start with the 993 and it’s the car I’m more excited about driving – such is the mystique of the air-cooled 911. It’s smaller than its successor, but not to the degree you might think: overall width and height are almost identical. Even so, a narrower body (the extra width comes from those curvaceous wheel arches, which stylist Tony Hatter likened to bulging muscles) means its cabin feels ‘cosy’ if I’m being kind, ‘cramped’ if I’m not.

The 993’s dashboard is hardly an object lesson in ergonomics either. The steering wheel rim obscures the outer gauges and heater controls, and there’s precious little stowage space. My main issue, though, is with the pedals, which are skewed awkwardly towards the centre of the car. They’re floor-hinged (an original 911 design quirk expunged in the 996), and their height and spacing are perfect for heel-and-toe work. However, their alignment – or lack of – makes it all too easy to push the throttle instead of the brake in those first few miles.

To read the full feature of our comprehensive 993 v 996.1 Carrera test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 160 here or at any good booksellers. You can also download the digital edition to any device via Apple or Google newsstands. 

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Best of the Porsche 996

There are two core elements that create a collectable 996-generation 911. The first is the obvious requirement of rarity. Limited numbers 911s always make the cut. The second is the Mezger engine.

This core element, carried over and constantly evolved and updated through the timeline of the 911, creates a tempo, a personality that utterly transforms the 996.

At a moment in the 911’s history when the faithful may have wavered in the face of a water-cooled car, the Mezger-engined 911s showed that Porsche still understood its enthusiast driver market. They are and always will be something special, as Total 911 finds out when putting all five dry-sumped 996s to the test.

996 GT2 v 996 GT3 RS
DSC_4102

For anyone investing in Mezger-engined 996 Porsches, the GT3 RS has long been the default choice. Iconic in appearance and exceptionally rare, the 996 GT3 RS was a collectable for Porsche enthusiasts well before the current global 911 collecting phenomenon.

But there are other 911s of that era produced in limited numbers that are equally collectable, just as challenging to drive, and in some ways could be more satisfying to own.

We are talking, of course, about the 996 GT2 – and with both cars currently commanding the same money in the Porsche marketplace, suddenly a GT2 vs GT3 RS is a 996 showdown many serious buyers may look to ponder over.

DSC_4024

Introduced in 2001 and intended for those who felt the 996 Turbo was just too civilised, the GT2 uses essentially the same engine as the Turbo but with larger KKK K24 turbochargers.

Together with uprated intercoolers, a revised exhaust system and ECU, the maximum power increased to 468bhp. The huge torque figure of 620Nm at just 3,500rpm was all delivered to the rear wheels only and the ever-reliable Porsche Stability Management was deleted. With the GT2 it’s all down to you.

The fact that almost every 996 GT2 that I’ve seen is finished in Basalt black makes the Porsche development engineer’s nickname for the car of ‘widowmaker’ particularly apt, as we walk over to the stunning GT2 Clubsport in our pictures.

To read our celebration of Mezger-engined Porsche 996s, 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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Sales Spotlight: Porsche 996.2 Carrera 4

If you’ve been following Total 911 Editor, Lee’s regular Porsche 996 diary, you’ll have seen that his 2004 Carrera 4 has proven to be an ideal entry into the world of Neunelfer ownership.

From road trips to track days, Lee’s 996.2 C4 hasn’t missed a beat, proving that (despite the internet scaremongering) the first water-cooled Porsche 911 is a more than suitable choice for those looking to get into a rear-engined Zuffenhausen sports car.

What’s more, despite prices starting to rise, the 996 Carrera remains one of the cheapest ways into the 911 market, as this second generation Carrera 4 from marque specialists, Finlay Gorham highlights.

Porsche 996.2 headlight

Complete with manual gearbox, Finlay Gorham’s 2002 Porsche 996 Carrera 4 offers a £17,995 opportunity to follow in Lee’s wheel tracks for the cost of a new entry-level Volkswagen Golf.

Although there’s no mention in the advert of an IMS bearing work, with just under 70,000 miles on the clock, the 996.2 C4 sits in that mileage sweet spot where it has probably been worked enough to prevent any problems but still doesn’t look or feel too leggy.

Finished in Midnight Blue Metallic, the paint finish makes a nice change from the usual black and silver hues seen on 996 Carreras, while the black leather interior is almost universally popular.

996.2 Carrera interior

Fitted with the same five-spoke ‘Carrera’ alloys as Lee’s own 996, the car comes with factory-fitted side skirts, the Bose stereo upgrade and a phone module (on top of other smaller options, such as the aluminium finish on the gear and handbrake levers).

Finlay Gorham’s 996 Carrera 4 comes complete with a full service history, with the specialist ensuring that the car has a fresh service and MOT for the new buyer. They’ll even include a warranty in case anything should go wrong.

For more information on this Porsche 996 Carrera 4, or any of the other Porsche 911 stock at Finlay Gorham, visit the specialist’s website now. 

Porsche 996 rear

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Sales Spotlight: Porsche 996.2 GT2

Last year, in issue 126, we put together a 30-strong selection of the best collector’s Porsche 911s, the cars that we thought would provide an enjoyable ownership experience coupled with the potential to increase in value.

Of the cars on that 2015 list, none have proved us right more than the Porsche 996 GT2. Over the past 12 months, values of the first water-cooled widowmaker have more than doubled, now sitting north of £120,000.

As part of our cover feature in issue 126, we assembled the five Porsche 911 ‘icons’ that we felt would provide the safest investments. Among the quintet, was a Guards Red 996 GT2 from independent specialist, Paul Stephens, the very car you see before you here.

Porsche 996 GT2 engine

That’s right, this is the very Porsche 996 GT2 we used to announce that water-cooled widowmakers were set for a jump in value. Now priced at £159,995, some people may wish we were wrong with our prediction however, the asking price means the 996 still falls a long way short of the incredible 993 GT2 values.

Compared to the early 996 GT2s, the Mk2 examples – released for the final year of production in 2004 – featured even more power (483bhp) from the twin turbocharged, 3.6-litre Mezger motor but were still bereft of electronic controls.

The 996.2 GT2 also featured a number of minor styling revisions, including new alloys wheels while it also benefitted from altered suspension settings that attempted to help tame the widowmaker on bumpier roads.

Porsche 996 GT2 interior

Finished in Guards Red, Paul Stephens’ example is undoubtedly one of the most alluring Porsche 996s around. Inside, the interior benefits from a number of carbon fibre options, including the carbon-backed bucket seats.

Just 16 right-hand drive Porsche 996 GT2s were delivered to the UK in 2004 (and four of those are believed to be Mk1 examples), making this Mk2 variant a very rare – and desirable – GT Neunelfer, which probably still has some room for a further price hike in the future.

To see more of this Porsche 996.2 GT2, or any of the other superb Porsche 911s in Paul Stephens’ stock, check out the independent specialist’s website now.

Porsche 996 GT2 rear

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Total 911’s five favourite Porsche 911 decklid designs of all time

The rear end of a Porsche 911 is one of the automotive world’s greatest views. However, it is not just the flared hips that make the angle so appealing; the sloping back of each Neunelfer also plays its part.

Whether its kitted out with an imposing wing or left plain and simple in flatback configuration, the decklid is an intrinsic part of the Porsche 911’s charming character. In no particular order, here are our five favourite designs from across the Neunelfer’s 53-year history:

Porsche 911 2.4S
911S 2.4

Made famous on the 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS, it was actually the E Series Porsche 911s of 1972 that began the short-lived tradition of engine capacity badges on the decklid.

The grill itself also switched from chrome to a black anodised finish for the 2.4-litre generation of Neunelfers, while the centralised model designation and spaced-out ‘PORSCHE’ badging used on previous iterations remained to create an iconic decklid style.

Porsche 991 50 Year Anniversary
Jubiläumsmodell 50 Jahre 911

After over a decade of predominantly plastic grills and vents (you’ll note there are no 996 or 997 generation cars on this list), the 50th Anniversary Edition Porsche 991 saw a return of genuine brightwork.

Not only was the decklid grill chromed though, the design itself was reworked with thinner horizontal slates to provide a more retro aesthetic befitting the Porsche 911’s golden anniversary.

Porsche 993 GT2
993 GT2

The huge wing obviously dominates the Porsche 993 GT2’s decklid but, as well as that spectacular spoiler, there are a number of other interesting details, such as the large horizontal openings in the grill itself, helping to feed the Widowmaker’s massive intercooler.

As would become de rigueur on later, water-cooled GT cars, the 993 GT2’s decklid also features a small ducktail-style flick underneath the main plane of the wing. But, the reality is, it’s all about those side air intakes…

Porsche 901
901

Produced for just one year – 1964 – after Peugeot protested the naming style, the Porsche 901’s decklid features a number of unique touches not seen on later short-wheelbase 911s.

The gold ‘PORSCHE’ running along the lower edge is a two-part badge (as opposed to the separate letters of later designs) while the grill is 20mm deep. Taken from a 356, it sits proud of the recessed air intake while the later 15mm grills provided a flush fit.

Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight
964 C4L

The whaletail is a cool wing, even more so in motorsport guise where it isn’t protected by the rubber strip necessary to satisfy pedestrian safety laws. However, it’s what’s not there that makes the Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Lightweight’s deck lid so cool.

There is no badging whatsoever, not even in sticker form, on the fibreglass panel. Jürgen Barth’s rally-ready creation is unswerving in its dedication to the Leichtbau mantra.

What is your favourite Porsche 911 decklid? Share your favourites in our comments section below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages now.

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