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
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.