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

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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

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