THE KITCHEN SINK
Having replaced 996 Pig Energy with another 986 Boxster S, Johnny Tipler is hellbent on raising its spec to that of its predecessor, a 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary Boxster S, AKA the Silver Bullet
Slamming Beetles is a popular pastime in that particular fanbased segment, and I feel like I’ve been there – or thereabouts – with various cars from times past, including an Alfa Romeo GTV6 race car and Porsches 964 and 996. I’ll write you a list if you want. Latest bolide to fall victim to the push-down penchant is my new 986 Boxster S, the recipient of a set of MO30 springs that drop it by 10mm. In my opinion, it now sports the perfect pose. Tell you more about that in a moment.
It’s a great car, acquired privately from a careful lady owner – plus one free jar of her homemade honey – with 45K on the clock, at Honiton, Devon. Apart from the skin-tone upholstery – make that terracotta if you can’t stand the sight of flesh – what also attracted me to it was the fact that it had been maintained for much of its life by Andy Moss and Stuart Mandell at Honiton-based SCS Porsche. Not only did we do a Specialists feature on them a couple of years ago, but Williams Crawford and Cargraphic exhausts also send work there. I spotted the Boxster advertised on their website, so I felt confident it would be a good car. It was absolutely pristine, which, after just a month in Cromer, I’m afraid no longer holds true, so moronic is the onstreet parking outside my house. I thought geriatric Norwich Cathedral Close was bad, but the Boxster’s been scratched more times in a couple of weeks than the Pep Pig was abused in a year. How it is.
As I say, my previous Boxster S – nominally Mrs T’s car – was the special edition 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary model, number 1602 out of 1953 issued, and which I’ve scribbled about in the past. One of my most treasured journeys in that was to our riverside gaff in the Douro, Portugal, courtesy of Brittany Ferries, and I hope to emulate that in some way in the autumn in the latest Boxster S. Before then, my goal with the new car is to replicate the uplifted spec of its predecessor, the 550 Spyder Anni, whose mods include 5mm lower ride height, 5mm wider track, 15bhp increase, and 18in Carrera five-spoke wheels. We won’t bother copying the exclusive Carrera Silver paint scheme; the reason for getting a standard S this time round was to provide a blank canvas on which to deposit all kinds of accessories and tuning kit. To this end, I thought best start with the wheels, and I had a set of four answering that description left over from the 996, but they were fairly corroded, so I had them powder-coated by Colorcote, located in the lee of the Lotus factory at Hethel. Instead of having just the five spokes painted grey a la 550 Spyder Anni’, I got them to do the whole wheel in a rather nice shade of battleship grey. They were delivered to Kingsway Tyres in Norwich and built up with fresh grey crested caps from Porscheshop, and shod with a set of Vredestein Ultrac Vorti tyres, 225/40 ZR18 front, and 275/35 ZR18 rear. Vreds are normally associated with classic rally boots, so we’ll see how they shape up on an everyday driving basis. So far so good. The newly finished wheels looked great on the car. But when I tried to drive away it wouldn’t budge. Kingsway quickly found that the 10in rear rims were rubbing against the dampers, even with 5mm spacers. A pair of 15mm spacers was substituted, but even these proved inadequate, so I obtained a pair measuring 20mm from Porscheshop, which nearly did the trick; the standard bolts that secure the spacer to the hub were catching on something inside the hub – handbrake spring perhaps – and basically about 2mm too long. We’ll see whether a set (or two) of shorter bolts will do the trick. The problem seems to be that the bolt-holes in the wheel are fatter than the ones in the 20mm spacer, hence the regular bolts protruding too far through the spacers. The alternative is to get a pair of the correct sized 9in Carrera rims from 9Apart and get them powder-coated to match, instead of mucking about with the 996 rims.
I was now in a quandary, though. I had a set of H&M 30mm lowering springs to hand, but now, with the wider rims, the back tyres were flush with the rear wheelarches, and a 30mm slam would bring the tyres into touch with the bodywork. I’d had a similar set mounted on Pig Energy, so I was aware of the perils that involved, too, in terms of grounding on sleeping policemen – though apparently their number’s up on account of urban emissions outrage. Plan B was the 10mm drop, also known as the sensible option, because the underside wouldn’t be so vulnerable to these traffic calming measures. To that end, the 986 spent a
couple of days with SCS and they fitted the M030 springs, lowering it by 10mm. In the process, they had to replace the two front top mounts, which were worn, and the nearside one had to be cut off due to corrosion. They then carried out the wheel alignment, and I’m delighted to say that the handling is transformed. It’s acquired a new attitude, up for the party, game for anything; slingshot into corners, hurl through the snaky bits, and so nimble around the lanes, while faster, full-on curves can be taken with absolute confidence, as there’s an extra depth to the Boxster’s already planted feel. It is a harder ride on uneven surfaces and a bit pitter-patter on bumpy country lanes where you do feel all the ruts, but the advantages far outweigh that ripple effect. Bouncy bouncy? Firmy firmy, more like. But why change just the springs and not the dampers as well? Again, past experience with the 996 showed that the standard dampers still provided a good ride when wrapped in shorter H&R coils, and that holds true with the 986 S and its M030 springs, too.
Not long after acquiring the Boxster I became aware of a problem engaging 2nd gear. At first, I cursed myself for my clumsiness as it graunched, but it was soon clear that it wasn’t pilot error, but to do with the transmission’s mechanical selection process. One or two people I mentioned it to said that 986s were susceptible to it. I quizzed the phenomenon on line, and up popped Gbox in Erie, Colorado. Their solution is called the “Detent”, a small steel cylinder the size of an average boxspanner, with an inset roller, and this is substituted for the one already housed in the 986’s gearbox. All the forum threads claimed it did the trick, though I have to admit I’d never heard of it before: de-tent smacks of packing up a camping holiday or making out with the enemy. Anyway, more in hope than certainty, I sent off for it – hardly cheap at £250, though substantially less than a gearbox strip-down. And, after they’d done the MO30 springs, SCS fitted the Gbox detent. I drove the car from Devon to Norfolk and it behaved perfectly. So, if you have this problem accessing 2nd gear, I confirm the detent provides détente with your transmission: gboxweb.com/detent.html. Stuart at SCS thought that possibly the reason it works is that the roller seems smaller in the Gbox detent than the existing one. Is it now as fluent as the sweet short-shift on the 550 Anniversary S? Very nearly, but no complaints.
Already I’ve exceeded the spec of the old Boxster Anni’ in the suspension and wheels department. Next job is to get a Cargraphic silencer fitted and see how that affects noise and performance, though I think the complete system can usefully be upgraded, headers and cats included. Then, all that’ll be left to tackle will be the ECU upgrade. Or do we do something more radical, like fit a turbo or supercharger? Probably not. The 2003-onwards Boxster can accept the 996 and 997 engines, with a certain amount of adjustments to manifolds and hoses. As well as being an inveterate suspension slammer, I’ve long had a fondness for the engine shoehorn, too: from a Ford ‘Fatty’ Anglia, hiked from 996cc with a 1340cc Classic engine, to an Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300TI, upped to 2000cc to deliver that sh*t-off-a-shovel experience, I’ve never shied away from the heart transplant, and I certainly believe there’s no substitute for cubic inches. No half measures, then, it will have to be a 997 3.8 S! Any flat-six specialists out there game for partnering up? PW
Far left: Graunching second gear was cured by replacement ‘Detent’ (right) from Gbox in the States. Worked a treat. Middle: Both top mounts worn, plus one had to cut off due to corrosion. Above: New MO30 springs, plus top mounts and bump stops fitted
Below: Plan is to fit five-spoke wheels that were formerly fitted to outgoing 996, but these will require spacers and different lengths of wheel studs, the permutations of which are still being pondered