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…

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Chris Randall Pho­tog­ra­phy by Dan Pullen

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

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