Porsche Index: 996 GT3 RS
With only 682 models in existence, the 996 GT3 RS is a guaranteed collector’s gem. But what do you need to know about the second-rarest Rennsport? Total 911 reveals all…
Here's how to get into Porsche's first watercooled 911 Rennsport before its values soar
History of the 996 GT3 RS
The last 911 to bear the Carrera RS badge was the 993, a lightweight, rearwheel drive racer-for-the-road that wasn’t a choice for the faint-hearted. But when Porsche was looking to homologate the Neunelfer for GT3 endurance racing it was to the 996 that they turned, and that opened up a whole raft of possibilities, including the hopedfor return of those two famous letters.
The Gen1 996 GT3 came and went, but when the Gen2 was launched in 2003, it was surely only a matter of time before Porsche upped the ante; that time was the 2004 model year. Beneath the rear deck lid was the same M96/72 Mezger unit powering the GT3. The bald figures said that it was only a fraction more accelerative, but relying on those numbers alone would be to underestimate the work that had gone into producing an RS worthy of the name.
Just 682 would be made, with just 113 of those coming to the UK in right-hand drive, for which buyers were asked to part with more than £84,000. However, it would have been a good move, as Russ Rosenthal from JZM and Paragon’s Jamie Tyler reveal. Securing a cherished example today – one with a low mileage that hasn’t spent its life trying to set Nordschleife lap records – will set you back north of £150,000. We’ll be returning to such matters a little later, but for the moment it’s worth a reminder of just what those fortunate buyers were getting for their cash.
That engine, then. 3.6-litres in capacity, and with dry sump lubrication and Variocam, the aluminium unit produced 381bhp at 7,400rpm, backed by a stout 385Nm of torque. Those were the same figures as the GT3, despite the cylinder heads of the RS having been mildly re-worked, so Porsche were probably underplaying things a little. Those outputs are only part of the story, though, the engine’s construction proving somewhat compelling thanks to the use of lightweight pistons and crank, and costly but featherweight titanium connecting rods. With Motronic ME 7.8 engine management the result was a 0-62mph sprint dispatched in 4.4 seconds, and a 190mph maximum. Tempting enough? Perhaps, but the RS went a whole lot further by featuring a plastic rear screen, carbon-fibre for some panels, tweaked suspension featuring stronger components and revised geometry and a fixed rear wing.
PASM and traction control were absent, and the RS shed close to 50kg from a GT3 that was hardly portly to begin with. If onlookers needed any reinforcement of its credentials they would have found their answer in the colour-coded body script and wheels. It remained in production for just a year, the 997 GT3 RS arriving in 2006. As our expert from Paragon Porsche explains, that meant the 996 was in for some track time: “there’s no doubt that a very large number of these cars found their way onto a circuit at some point, so plenty have led a hard life.”
It’s safe to assume that notably cheaper prices would have been a factor. “When prices were at the £50,000 mark – maybe even slightly less – that’s understandable. That sort of usage probably ended around four years ago as values started to head upwards of £70k,” says Jamie at Paragon. Since 2014, 996 GT3 RS values have risen consistently.
What’s it like to drive?
Given the specification, you’d expect the RS to be nothing less than exhilarating to drive, and you’d be right. We’ve previously referred to it as ‘the very essence of driving involvement’, which tells you all you need to know about Porsche’s intentions for this special 996.
Central to this sensation is the car's steering, which Total 911 believes is the best system of any Neunelfer, bar none. The caveat to a setup offering feedback from the road like no other is a tendency for the 996 GT3 RS to tramline on public roads at even low speeds; keeping the car straight can prove a minor wrestle on less than perfect surfaces. However, feel from the car more than makes up for this and, in true Rennsport tradition, the harder you push, the more the GT3 RS comes alive.
The G96 gearbox may be slightly recalcitrant from cold, but fear not: once warm the shift is as direct as you'd expect from a track-focused 911. As the last RS bereft of driver aids, this 996 is one of the best.
Before you buy
An RS is the pinnacle of any given 911 generation, and given the purity of purpose and laser-like engineering focus lavished on this one, it’s no surprise that owning one is a unique proposition. Approaching a purchase as you would another Neunelfer would be unwise, not least because the cost of significant repairs will have a deleterious effect on the healthiest of bank accounts, and nowhere is that more true than the issue of bodywork. Unless you’ve got incontrovertible evidence that it’s spent its entire life in a collection – cosseted and barely used – then assume there has been track action in the past, with the potential for damage that implies. Both the front luggage compartment and engine bay need scrutinising for signs of previous welding and panel replacement, and equal care should be taken when it comes to examining the external panels, especially those composite items.
The carbon bonnet can suffer from surface blistering – thought to be caused by storage in damp conditions – and it’s a headache to sort: a new one costs £7,000. Should there be any need to replace the rear spoiler or front bumper they are far from cheap, the former setting you back £7,800, so the need for caution is obvious. Keep an eye out for stone chips around the front wings and rear quarter panels, but there shouldn’t be any corrosion concerns. As for that Mezger engine, you’ll need to see evidence of an unimpeachable maintenance history, along with the results of an over-rev check, but even extended track use shouldn’t be a worry if it’s been fettled religiously. If not, then circuit pounding can result in small and big-end wear, and a rebuild is far from cheap. You might get away with a £12,000 bill, but you’ll pay twice that sum should those pricey titanium connecting rods need replacing.
The six-speed manual G96 transmission was beefed up for the GT3 and RS applications, benefitting from stronger internals, including steel rather than brass synchro rings for the upper ratios, but hard use on track will inevitably take its toll. Should the worst happen, you could be looking at a £30,000-plus bill for a brand new unit. Thankfully, replacing the clutch is somewhat less, with specialists charging around £1,500 to do the job, which can be undertaken with the engine in-situ. Naturally, Porsche ensured that the Rennsport variant stopped as well as it went, fitting cross-drilled and ventilated steel discs as standard with the option of PCCB items. Expect to pay around £2,000 to have the former’s discs and pads replaced and, while that’s not unreasonable given their
performance, it’s still advisable to ensure they aren’t suffering from excessive scoring or cracking around the cross drillings.
As we’ve observed on a number of occasions, even greater care is needed if the composite brakes have been specified, as each disc costs nigh-on
£5,000. The suspension of the RS essentially mirrored that of the GT3, featuring strengthened components and a greater degree of adjustability – anti-roll bars and toe angle were tuneable, while camber could be fine-tuned thanks to two-piece lower arms. While fundamentally straightforward, it is well worth seeking specialist advice before committing to a purchase. There’s the potential for age-related issues such as perished bushes, and you’ll want to be certain that the geometry hasn’t gone awry, either as a result of track abuse or incorrect adjustment. Front lower arms are £539 each and dampers are around £450 apiece, although some specialists can overhaul them, significantly reducing the outlay.
Lastly, those 18-inch colour-matched wheels (8.5inches wide up front, 11-inches aft) were a key part of the RS look, but they cost more than £2,000 each, so check them carefully. That just leaves us with the cabin, a simpler affair than regular 996s thanks to the weight-saving regime’s stripping of luxury kit. It’s easy enough to check whether everything’s working so, instead, spend the time ensuring the overall condition is up to snuff. Examples that spent their early lives as track-day warriors could be suffering from scuffed seats
(manually adjustable Recaro items) and worn-smooth Alcantara that covered the steering wheel and gear lever. Clubsport cars were fitted with the full gamut of race-bred equipment, including a half roll cage, fire extinguisher, Schroth harnesses and a lighter flywheel. If, by some chance, you’re considering taking to the circuit, the RS will be in its element, but it’s certainly advisable to get advice on suitable preparation from a specialist such as those we’ve spoken to, along with an inspection to ensure areas such as suspension geometry are spot-on.
“You’d expect the RS to be nothing less than exhilarating to drive, and you’d be right”
Investment potential & ownership experience
Let’s talk ownership first, and you’ll hardly need us to point out what a special car this is. There’s a rich history attached to the Rennsport badge, one that adds immeasurably to the feeling you get when you experience the bark of the race-inspired flat six, not to mention the performance on offer. The latter is immense, make no mistake.
Both Russ at JZM (who currently have this car for sale) and Jamie agree that the market for the 996 GT3 RS has settled a little this year, but remember that ability and rarity are always going to remain a very strong draw for buyers. That rings especially true here: as one of the rarest Rennsports, Total 911 predicts a very bright future for the 996 GT3 RS. This is also the last RS devoid of any driver aids, which stands it in good stead as a future classic. The appeal of such an analogue 911 is never going to dim to any great extent, so while we may not see any major leaps in the car's value in the immediate future, this is an RS that will prove a very solid investment in the longer term.
RIGHT cloth recaro seats offer superb hold with choice of schroth harnesses or Porsche lap belts; carbon wing was adjustable