Porsche In­dex: 996.1 GT3

To­tal 911 looks at the his­tory and fu­ture of the first GT3, as well as the costs as­so­ci­ated with buy­ing an ex­am­ple right now

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Chris Ran­dall Pho­tog­ra­phy by Neil God­win

Ev­ery­thing you need to know about the very first 911 GT3, with ex­pert ad­vice and buy­ing tips

His­tory and spec

The car you see here was in­tro­duced for just one rea­son: so Porsche could go racing in the GT3 en­durance cat­e­gory. How­ever, even as a road car it was a hugely tempt­ing – not to men­tion rare – con­fec­tion. And it’s also un­usual, it be­ing the only GT3 model not to have a more fo­cused RS vari­ant sit­ting above it, fur­ther adding to the unique ap­peal.

At its heart was the 3.6-litre, M96/79 Mezger en­gine that pumped out 360hp at a tan­ta­lis­ing 7,200rpm. Dry sumped and fea­tur­ing a raft of light­weight parts that in­cluded ti­ta­nium con­nect­ing rods, it was im­pres­sively rapid, with the 62mph and 100mph bench­marks dis­missed in 4.8 and 10.2 sec­onds. Flat out you’d have been knock­ing on the door of 190mph, and only the Turbo that ar­rived three years later of­fered any­thing of a sim­i­lar pace. Power was sent to the rear wheels only via a six-speed manual gear­box that ben­e­fit­ted from a shorter throw link­age and ra­tios that could be re­placed for track work.

The rest of the me­chan­i­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion was just as tasty, the sus­pen­sion a mix of Macpher­son struts at the front and a multi-link ar­range­ment aft, both of which were ad­justable for height, cam­ber and toe an­gle. Brakes were up­rated for the new ap­pli­ca­tion, too, with four-pis­ton mono-block alu­minium calipers and 330mm discs. Ex­ter­nally the hun­kered-down stance was bol­stered by aero­dy­namic ad­denda that in­cluded an ad­justable rear wing, and the look was fin­ished off with a gor­geous set of multi-spoke rims.

At the car’s UK launch in 1998 Porsche asked buy­ers to part with £76,500. Of the 1,858 built just over one hun­dred ex­am­ples made it to these shores, with less than 30 of those in cir­cuit-ready Club­sport trim. Opt­ing for the lat­ter bought a half roll cage, six-point har­nesses, a fire ex­tin­guisher and bat­tery cut-off switch and a sin­gle-mass fly­wheel for even quicker re­sponse. One thing that did sur­prise, though, was that Porsche didn’t take the light­weight route with its new model, es­chew­ing the likes of thin­ner pan­els and glass and equip­ping Com­fort­spec cars with leather bucket seats and air con­di­tion­ing among the lux­u­ries. The GT3 ac­tu­ally weighed an ad­di­tional 30kg com­pared to the Car­rera 2. Pro­duc­tion ended in 2000 and it would be an­other three years be­fore the Gen2 model ar­rived.

What’s it like to drive?

That 3.6-litre mo­tor is an ab­so­lute peach, com­bin­ing a de­li­ciously free-revving na­ture with the sort of au­ral drama that’ll have every hair stand­ing on end as you hone in on the 7,200rpm power peak. It cer­tainly shifts but that’s far from this Ne­unelfer’s only tal­ent. As var­i­ous To­tal 911 con­trib­u­tors have dis­cov­ered there’s a real del­i­cacy to the way it drives, dishing up oo­dles of feed­back that in­spires real con­fi­dence as the lim­its are ap­proached. At the heart of that is su­perb steer­ing feel, but the GT3 also boasts a ride that be­lies its track-fo­cused na­ture – along with the nar­rower di­men­sions of the 996 shell they make thread­ing this car down a wind­ing B-road an im­mensely re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, if you can forego a lit­tle com­fort. This is the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 996 turned up to 9, only bet­tered by the GT3 RS.

The val­ues story

De­spite their rar­ity and the rev­er­ence af­forded to them when new, the GT3 wasn’t im­mune from the nor­mal ef­fects of de­pre­ci­a­tion. Ten to fif­teen years af­ter the launch it was still pos­si­ble to pick up a good ex­am­ple for some­where in the re­gion of £40-45k, and that would have rep­re­sented crack­ing value given this was a nigh-on £80,000 car when new in 1998. By 2016, for­tunes of the car be­gan to dra­mat­i­cally change, how­ever, with val­ues mak­ing a no­table up­turn ac­cord­ing to Greig Daly from RPM Tech­nik and Paragon’s Jamie Tyler. Those same ex­am­ples were now at­tract­ing prices closer to £60,000, per­haps a lit­tle more. It’s a pat­tern that’s con­tin­ued, with a good ex­am­ple with sen­si­ble mileage worth up­wards of £70,000 to­day. We shouldn’t be sur­prised, given the rar­ity and de­li­ciously ana­logue ap­peal and, as both of our ex­perts point out, these were never dif­fi­cult cars to sell.

Be­fore you buy

Some 911s are born for the track, and this is cer­tainly one of them. It’s supremely ca­pa­ble and en­gag­ing, but that also raises the spec­tre of pre­vi­ous dam­age, so a thor­ough check of the body­work by some­one who knows these cars is vi­tal. Spot­ting ev­i­dence of repairs isn’t al­ways easy, and spend­ing an early life ham­mer­ing over cir­cuit kerbs could have re­sulted in a tired and creaky body shell.

It goes with­out say­ing that Gt3-spe­cific body ad­denda is on the pricey side: re­plac­ing the ad­justable rear wing will cost in ex­cess of £5,000 be­fore paint­ing. Be­fore parting with any money you’ll cer­tainly want to be sure that the his­tory of the ex­am­ple you’re look­ing at is ex­actly what it pur­ports to be. The same ap­plies to the en­gine, which spe­cial­ists say is essen­tially bul­let­proof with scrupu­lous main­te­nance, cer­tainly when it comes to cars that have spent their life amass­ing road miles rather than cir­cuit laps. Mi­nor oil leaks and some noise from the top end and tim­ing chains are the key is­sues to watch for, but bear in mind that lap record hero­ics will have taken their toll.

With ti­ta­nium con­nect­ing rods cost­ing nigh-on £2,000 each, it’s easy to see how ma­jor surgery can re­sult in a sub­stan­tial five-fig­ure bill. Gear­boxes are tough, though, and ex­ces­sive wear or ham-fisted abuse will be be­lied by ex­ces­sive noise and weak syn­chro­mesh. Bud­get £2,500 to £3,000 for a spe­cial­ist re­build de­pend­ing on the ex­tent of the work needed. It’s worth check­ing that the clutch feels healthy, too – re­place­ment is around £1,000, and you can add the same again if the dual-mass fly­wheel on a Com­fort model is noisy or jud­der­ing. A noisy or in­ef­fec­tive lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial could be the re­sult of hard track use, lead­ing to worn fric­tion plates and a £1,000+ bill to re­place them. As for the rest of the run­ning gear, it’s a case of check­ing for the usual signs of wear and tear, or in­ad­e­quate main­te­nance.

While the brakes don’t give trou­ble in nor­mal road use, some own­ers opted to up­grade to the six-pis­ton calipers and big­ger discs from the Gen2 GT3, so see if this has been done; parts are in the re­gion of £3,000 if you fancy do­ing the job your­self. Un­less it’s been the sub­ject of a re­cent re­fresh then the sus­pen­sion could be ready for an over­haul, so bud­get ac­cord­ingly. En­sure that front lower arms aren’t show­ing any signs of cracks or fa­tigue – they’re around £550 each – and check the in­tegrity of coil springs and dampers, along with any ev­i­dence that the ge­om­e­try has gone awry. In­ex­pert tin­ker­ing with the set­tings will ruin the way a GT3 drives, so spend­ing a few hun­dred pounds on a spe­cial­ist check and ad­just­ment is money well spent. Lastly, the wheels are prone to cor­ro­sion, so bud­get up to £100 per cor­ner for re­fur­bish­ing.

In­side the cabin there’s lit­tle to worry about if the pre­vi­ous own­ers have been the car­ing sort. Like all 996s the build and ma­te­rial qual­ity were fairly de­cent, so a check that ev­ery­thing works and that trim and seats aren’t dam­aged or scuffed will suf­fice for the in­te­rior.

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