997 Sport Clas­sic v 991 50th An­niver­sary

An­niver­saries come upon us thick and fast, and car man­u­fac­tur­ers com­mem­o­rate the most sig­nif­i­cant ones with lim­ited edi­tions. We pay due dili­gence to a spe­cial pair, the 997 Sport Clas­sic and the 911 50th An­niver­sary 991

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

Some lim­ited edi­tion 911s are just badge spe­cials, but not these two. The 997 Sport Clas­sic was just that – a clas­sic, while the 50th An­niver­sary 991 marks a very spe­cial birth­day

There’s an el­e­ment of self­ind­ul­gence here, be­cause these two spe­cial edi­tion coupés hap­pen to be amongst my favourite 911s; slightly quirky, some­what idio­syn­cratic, and they are a nice fit for a back-to-back fea­ture. I’m talk­ing about the 997 Sport Clas­sic, in­spi­ra­tion for much dal­liance and heart search­ing (shall I, shan’t I) as to what to do with my own 996, and the 991 50th An­niver­sary model, cel­e­brat­ing half-a-cen­tury of the 911. For a closer ap­praisal, we’ve come to visit the JFD col­lec­tion at Kon­tich, An­twerp where they cur­rently re­side.

Pa­tron of the col­lec­tion is BBB, our Best Bel­gian Buddy, aka Jo­han Dir­ickx, the tai­lout king. But, given his ap­petite for clas­sic 911 RSS and pen­chant for trav­el­ling side­ways in them around sundry race­tracks and rally stages, these two cars are a strange choice. We’ll dis­cover what the at­trac­tion is in the course of our con­ver­sa­tions, but first up, let’s pin down the specs.

Start­ing with the slightly older of the two, the 997 Sport Clas­sic de­lib­er­ately set out to evoke, if not recre­ate, the com­pany’s il­lus­tri­ous his­tory, rather like the 991R. Jo­han’s is one of just 250 cars built, in­tro­duced at Frank­furt in 2009, on sale from January 2010 and priced at £140K in GB. Most ob­vi­ous ref­er­ences to an era that’s by no means by­gone are the duck­tail en­gine-lid spoiler, the pair of retro rac­ing stripes over the roof and front lid, Za­gato-style dou­ble­bub­ble roof, while the front panel is bereft of split­ter, but re­tains min­i­mal lower air scoops sculpted from the va­lence, plus black grilles. Is it Two-tone? It’s cer­tainly one of The Spe­cials as far as lim­ited edi­tions go. The aero­dy­namic pro­file of the sills is dif­fer­ent from stan­dard, and there are vents be­hind the rear whee­larches to dis­burse hot air from the brakes. Lights are sub­tly dif­fer­ent front and rear, while the stone guards on the lead­ing edges of the rear wheel arches are in match­ing grey. The fuel cap pur­ports to be clas­sic al­loy, and the doors are also in alu­minium. The Sport Clas­sic runs on 19in fac­tory-made Fuchs al­loys, shod with Pirelli P-ze­roes, 235/35 ZR19 on the front and 305/30 ZR19 on the back, and the off­set of the front rims man­ages not to look too shal­low. The Car­rera S 3.8-litre flat-six de­vel­ops 23bhp more than stan­dard, giv­ing 403bhp, achieved via mods to the in­take man­i­fold, air­flow and spe­cial ex­haust sys­tem with split twin tailpipes. It's cou­pled to a short-shift six-speed man­ual gear­box rather than an overly mod­ern PDK ’box, en­abling top speed of 187mph, while 0–62mph takes 4.6sec. Un­der the duck­tail lives a car­bon air­in­take box that’s de­scribed as a Porsche Ex­clu­sive Power Kit, and it’s re­fresh­ing to see some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent in­side a mod­ern Porsche en­gine bay. Anachro­nisms are all very well, but not at the ex­pense of safety

and ef­fi­ciency, so the 997 Sport Clas­sic is fit­ted with de­cid­edly non-clas­sic ceramic com­pos­ite brakes. It’s also equipped with a lim­ited-slip diff, and sus­pen­sion con­sist of PASM with 20mm lower ride-height and wider rear track. The body is 44mm broad­er­beamed, and fin­ished in Sport Clas­sic Grey with pale grey stripes that de­lib­er­ately un­der­play the rac­ing al­lu­sion, so pale in cer­tain lights that you can only just make them out. It may be wil­fully retro, but it’s cer­tainly noth­ing like as os­ten­ta­tious as the early ’70s RSS it aims to cel­e­brate. The Es­presso brown leather and tweed cabin is also agree­ably dif­fer­ent to stan­dard fare, and the Re­caro seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive, while the bas­ket weave up­hol­stery is echoed in the door pan­els, so the im­pres­sion is of a largely brown in­te­rior. It’s also got a proper hand­brake lever. The paired grey rac­ing stripes are echoed on the gear lever knob and the rev counter too. Sur­pris­ingly, the dinky rear seats are present as well, and the 911 Sport Clas­sic leg­end is em­bossed in the head rests, scripted in chrome on the door sills, while on the glove­box it re­veals that this car is num­ber 069 of the 250-off lim­ited edi­tion run.

Jo­han’s fancy was cap­ti­vated by this en­tire pack­age: ‘the day the Sport Clas­sic was an­nounced, I thought, “what a beau­ti­ful look­ing car,” the colour com­bi­na­tion, the dif­fer­ent in­te­rior, and the dou­ble-bub­ble, the duck­tail, the Fuchs wheels, so it was the whole pic­ture that pleased me. At the time Porsche did a pub­lic­ity shoot putting the Sport Clas­sic to­gether with a ’73 2.7RS which was kind of amaz­ing be­cause the Sport Clas­sic didn’t have any­thing to do with an RS. It was con­trived, be­cause in the brochure and pub­lic­ity stuff you have the Sport Clas­sic and the 2.7 RS side-by-side. But I thought it was a fab­u­lous look­ing car and so I thought I would or­der one. Then I heard about the price and it was over E200,000 eu­ros, so about E60- or E70,000 eu­ros more than a nor­mal Car­rera 2 even, so I let it go, but as time passed the more and more I thought it was a beau­ti­ful car. It was one of the Ex­clu­sive De­part­ment’s first ex­per­i­ments to make a short run series. Then a friend told me about a Sport Clas­sic for sale at the Porsche Cen­tre in Stuttgart with 15,000km, which means it’s a car you can use, and that’s what I wanted to have, and the value was at its low­est level, a huge drop from the new price.’ Hav­ing bought the car, Jo­han had the fac­tory’s Ex­clu­sive De­part­ment buff out a cou­ple of flaws in the paint­work to get it back to pris­tine con­di­tion, and re­pro­duce a “Ge­n­e­sis” book about the car which the orig­i­nal owner had or­dered but had be­come sep­a­rated from the car. This fac­tory visit proved even more fruit­ful when an art­work of the car emerged which had been done when the first owner bought the car.

Jo­han now owns both ex­am­ples of the 997

that he as­pired to: the Sport Clas­sic and the 4.0 RS. ‘In my opin­ion, the 4.0 RS and the Sport Clas­sic are the two 997s you want to have, and I’ll keep both be­cause they are beau­ti­ful and dis­tinc­tive. The Sport Clas­sic is the tour­ing car, the car to go to the South of France in, whereas the 4.0-litre RS is the track car, the one you’re go­ing to take to Fran­cor­champs to en­joy yourself and drive back on the road. That’s the way I look at the Sport Clas­sic, it’s more the bour­geois car com­pared to the rac­ing bias of the 4.0 RS.’

The 991 50th An­niver­sary is an­other story. It’s pre­ceded in the pan­theon of 911 birth­day hon­ours cars by the 25th An­niver­sary 3.2 Car­rera of 1989, the 964 wide-body 30th An­niver­sary from 1993, and the Turbo-fronted 40-Years 996 Cel­e­bra­tion of 2003. It’s also a lit­tle bit out­side the nor­mal realm of what Jo­han would go for, not hav­ing the RS suf­fix that em­bod­ies the ma­jor­ity of cars in the JFD Col­lec­tion. The 394bhp 3.8-litre flat-six is car­ried over un­changed from the Car­rera 2, aug­mented by an op­tional power-kit. It’s based on the broader Car­rera 4S body with wider track and con­se­quent sus­pen­sion changes, in­clud­ing re-pro­grammed PASM, styling tweaks in­clude Sport De­sign mir­rors, 20in Fuchs-in­spired wheels – and they are the brash­est as­pect of this party girl, which is, other­wise, rather un­der­stated; cue dark­ened head­light bezels and chrome high­lights across the en­gine cover, and that cov­ers the ex­ter­nal birth­day gift trappings. Whereas the Sport Clas­sic re­tains the 997’s more ro­tund front wing con­tours, those of the 991 An­niver­sary are sup­pressed, and that tends to sup­port the Sport Clas­sic’s retro as­pi­ra­tion. The 911 50th An­niver­sary cabin fea­tures spe­cial stitch­ing and hounds-tooth check, with “50” logo on the head­rests and dash­board, and a lim­ited-edi­tion plaque con­firm­ing it is num­ber 1678. Di­als are black with green num­bers, and I note it’s done just 5536kms. It was reg­is­tered to Jo­han on May 19th, 2014, with a scant 8km on the odome­ter. He was orig­i­nally con­sid­er­ing buy­ing just one spe­cial edi­tion 991 for the JFD Col­lec­tion, and the 911 50th an­niver­sary seemed like a sound idea. ‘Fifty years of 911 was a sen­si­ble choice, and when I bought it I also or­dered the Ge­n­e­sis book so the car is com­plete. It’s got the power kit and 7-speed man­ual gear­box and ceramic brakes.’ With 1963 ex­am­ples built, rep­re­sent­ing the first year of 911 pro­duc­tion, that was quite a big num­ber com­pared with 250 Sport Clas­sics, though the 996 Cel­e­bra­tion model of­fered in 2003 was also lim­ited to 1963 cars, in the same way that the 986 Boxster S 550 Spy­der 50th An­niver­sary model from 2003 spawned 1953 ex­am­ples. Jo­han be­lieves An­niver­sary 911s are be­com­ing quite sought after: ‘I think all the cars found cus­tomers, and now, peo­ple are start­ing to search for them, es­pe­cially when they have a power kit and a man­ual gear­box. At the time when I was go­ing to buy one, ev­ery­body said, “you need a PDK,” but I didn’t want a PDK, and that’s why I or­dered the man­ual gear­box, and there are very few cars built with that com­bi­na­tion of man­ual gear­box and power kit, es­pe­cially in Europe. In the US, every car had a power kit, but then again, they al­most all had a PDK, too, but Euro­pean buy­ers at least had the op­tion.’ Now, a cou­ple of years on, Jo­han has also bought a 991R as well. That says much for Porsche mar­ket­ing acu­men, when this

clas­sic RS con­nois­seur par ex­cel­lence, who brooks no non­sense in mat­ters 911, can be tempted by mod­ern spe­cial edi­tions. He bought the car through Porsche Cen­tre Gelder­land. ‘Ba­si­cally, they or­dered the car and I had a fac­tory de­liv­ery, and that was pretty easy to ar­range in Hol­land, with no fuss at all, and no de­liv­ery charge, whereas in Bel­gium ev­ery­thing is com­pli­cated.’ And now, does he feel the same de­gree of at­tach­ment to the 991 An­niver­sary car as he does the 997 Sport Clas­sic? ‘The thing is, as I bought it new I have a kind of com­mit­ment not to sell it, but ac­tu­ally, if some­body came by and wanted to buy it, I would sell it, be­cause now I have the R, I don’t ac­tu­ally need an­other spe­cial edi­tion 991.’

Jo­han be­lieves that too many spe­cial edi­tions de­value the con­cept of what they are meant to be cel­e­brat­ing, and make them seem trite. When Ant and I were pho­tograph­ing 928s at the Porsche Mu­seum re­cently, an­other spe­cial edi­tion – the Mil­lionth 911, no less – was do­ing duty on the con­course where Porsche mar­ket­ing exec Conny von Büh­ler slot­ted winners of a lo­cal news­pa­per com­pe­ti­tion into the driv­ing seat – most ap­peared to be non-driv­ers, let alone fa­mil­iar with the con­trols of a 911. But I di­gress – here’s pos­si­bly the ul­ti­mate spe­cial edi­tion – the one-off Mil­lionth car. In Ir­ish Green, too. Amaz­ingly, they let them drive it, and peo­ple were revving the hell out of the en­gine. Jo­han is scep­ti­cal. Badged as the 1,000,000th 911, he ob­serves, ‘we will never know whether that was the mil­lionth or the mil­lionth-and-one car; I’m sure they have four or five cars like that lined up, just in case they smack one up. It will be in the re­gion of the mil­lionth 911, that’s for sure, but I’m not con­vinced that it is ex­actly the mil­lionth car off the pro­duc­tion line. But I like that colour combo and in­te­rior with the wood ve­neer and hound’s tooth seats. It’s a good PR stunt, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if they made a small series of Mil­lionth cars – about 20 of them, like they did a green one with a duck­tail for the pres­i­dents of the Porsche clubs.’ Porsche is very creative with spe­cial edi­tions, but he thinks the mo­ment will come when peo­ple have had enough of them. ‘You remember that last De­cem­ber they made the Le Mans 991, a red, white and black car with the red stripe in the Le Mans liv­ery of the 919? You might as well buy yourself a white car and put on the de­cals yourself and get the wheels painted black. But with the Sport Clas­sic you have some­thing a bit spe­cial: at least you have new pieces of body­work like duck­tail and dou­ble-bub­ble roof, and that makes it dif­fer­ent, but I don’t see the point of hav­ing a Le Mans edi­tion, un­less you are to­tally ob­sessed with Le Mans or you have a taste for Mar­tini! We’ve come a long way since the Mar­tini striped 924 of the ’70s, and I think that Porsche should make a lit­tle bit more ef­fort than just putting some de­cals on a car and say­ing it’s a lim­ited edi­tion. It’s too easy.’

Per­haps, but on the other hand they have been dili­gent when it comes to cre­at­ing stand­out mod­els. Apart from strands of en­gine ca­pac­ity, body types, trim lev­els and tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, they have gone for the bullseye when mak­ing spe­cial ver­sions of the 911 – the RSS, the Ju­bilee cars, the GT2 and GT3, and it’s fea­si­ble that with­out these tan­ta­lis­ing short runs and the pub­lic­ity they gen­er­ated that Porsche might not yet have reached a mil­lion 911s. As Jo­han says, ‘you do need those lim­ited series, be it for rac­ing or to sell, to make peo­ple feel they want to have some­thing spe­cial, and all those things put to­gether are very se­duc­tive.’ And the up­grades that cre­ate spe­cial edi­tions do

pro­vide tar­gets for one’s own per­sonal mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

We cruise out into the arable coun­try­side south of An­twerp. The Sport Clas­sic has now logged 32,000kms. How does Jo­han rate its han­dling? ‘I never ac­tu­ally put this one on a track, so I never drove it side­ways, but it’s a good street sus­pen­sion set-up; I don’t think it’s a great track sus­pen­sion be­cause it will be way too soft. I see this car a lit­tle bit like the evening opera tour: you go to the opera and have some­thing to eat and drive back home. A car for spe­cial oc­ca­sions, and it’s very well suited for that; it’s got the beau­ti­ful al­most be­spoke in­te­rior that’s only made for one series.’ It’s a su­perb driv­ing po­si­tion, arms bent and close to the wheel, a taut ride, though not bounc­ing overly on the bumps, and se­cure han­dling. From the out­set, it’s beau­ti­fully re­spon­sive on the throt­tle, ac­cel­er­at­ing with­out drama but still go­ing hard, and there’s a dif­fer­ent ex­haust note as I ease through the gears. Jo­han be­lieves the ex­haust note changes over time: ‘after 10,000km, some things in the ex­haust start to burn in, then you have a dif­fer­ent sound to what it started off as, and I’m al­most sure that you would not get away with the sound re­stric­tions that you have now when the ex­haust is open.’

Time to try the 991/911 An­niver­sary. At idle, the sound­track is so­porific. Does it stand com­par­i­son with the GT3? ‘The GT3 is much peakier, though this has a much more us­able power band, whereas the GT3 you have to re­ally go into the higher revs. So, it’s like a tour­ing car.’ Some tour­ing car, though it does have de­cent air-con. At 3500rpm the power kicks in, bring­ing with it a dif­fer­ent ex­haust note, and it emits a lovely pop­ping on the over-run in Sport Plus. The chas­sis is a bit stiffer and the throt­tle re­sponse is a bit faster and drop­ping down to a lower gear it blips the rpm, fak­ing a heel-and-toe dou­ble de-clutch. The 991 is smoother, and you sense the evo­lu­tion logic of the 911 bet­ter in the 991 model than you do in the 997, which is closer to the 996 than it is to the 991. The Sport Clas­sic is more chal­leng­ing be­cause it’s live­lier than the An­niver­sary. The 991 sus­pen­sion man­i­fests it­self at dif­fer­ent lev­els de­pend­ing on the road sur­face, and is very ef­fi­cient. There’s not a lot to choose be­tween the two cars, en­gine-wise; it’s more to do with the feel of the brakes and the chas­sis, and it’s clear that the Sport Clas­sic is the sportier model – still more Grand Tour­ing than track car, though.

We chase up and down the coun­try lane for the cam­era­man’s ben­e­fit, and I con­clude that the Sport Clas­sic is the one with the sex­ier per­son­al­ity. Jo­han con­curs, up to a point: ‘so it should be, the wilder ex­te­rior, yes, the in­te­rior, prob­a­bly; but driv­ing, I would say the 991 An­niver­sary is a bit more ef­fi­cient, more planted. Brake horse­power wise the Sport Clas­sic scores with 403bhp over the 50s 394bhp, while the Sport Clas­sic is slightly lower-geared than the 991 too. So, the car that evokes the clas­sic 911 is the more rau­cous party an­i­mal than the one that’s ac­tu­ally cel­e­brat­ing its an­niver­sary. For me, lost as I am in the im­agery of RS duck­tails and Za­gato dou­ble­bub­ble roofs, the choice is clear: I’d have the Sport Clas­sic. But maybe in the real-life driv­abil­ity stakes, the 991 has the more valid claim to cel­e­brate the 911’s birth­day. Still, any ex­cuse for a party: so, many happy re­turns to the spe­cials. PW

Duck­tail a clas­sic nod to the past and a styling tweak that works in the present. The Edi­tor would like it said – be­cause he’s writ­ing the cap­tions for this fea­ture – that the 911 Sport Clas­sic is one of the best han­dling mod­ern 911s he’s ever driven

The 911 Sport Clas­sic saw the re­turn of the Fuchs wheel

Su­per sub­tle does it. Sport Clas­sic is fin­ished in Sport Clas­sic Grey, with pale grey stripes. So pale you can barely make them out! Bodyshell is from Car­rera 4S but Sport Clas­sic is rear drive only

It’s very brown in­side, and per­haps what you can’t en­tirely tell from the pic­ture is that it’s al­most en­tirely leather clad. Even the coat hang­ers on the rear of the seats are cov­ered in the stuff. Power kit equipped en­gine puts out 403bhp

Size of the 991 over the 997 is ap­par­ent in this rear view. We know which we pre­fer. Be­low: 50th An­niver­sary 911 got Fuchs style wheels rather than real thing

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