BEAST

THE NUM­BER OF THE The num­bers say it all: 993, 520 horses, two tur­bos and one driver hang­ing on for dear life. Nine­teen years ago, a Ger­man tun­ing com­pany flew its me­chan­ics to Dubai to con­vert a 993 Car­rera 4S into a 996 Turbo-hunter. Al­most two decades

911 Porsche World - - 520bhp 993 -

Do you re­mem­ber when you were a lit­tle child (come on, you can if you try)? You would lust af­ter a spe­cial toy sat in the lo­cal shop win­dow, some­thing so spe­cial that you couldn’t live without it. Some­thing that was maybe too costly just to be a reg­u­lar birth­day or Christ­mas gift from a lov­ing aunt, or dot­ing par­ent. It might have been a new Scalex­tric set, with your heroes’ cars em­bla­zoned across the box lid, or one of those big 1/8scale model kits of a leg­endary race car.

You’d tell your­self to be pa­tient, save your pocket money, or hard-earned wages from the pa­per round. Then came the day when you re­alised you could at last walk into the shop and say ‘I’d like to buy that, please!’, point­ing at your ob­ject of de­sire with a huge smile on your face. But what if you were then told ‘Sorry, it’s just an empty box. They’ve stopped mak­ing them. But we can sell you the new model…’.

And such was the po­si­tion some Porsche cus­tomers found them­selves in when the much-loved and revered 993 range was con­signed to his­tory in 1998. This marked the end of the air-cooled era, for all that lay ahead were the new wa­ter-cooled Boxsters and 996s.

From Porsche’s point of view, this move was filed un­der the head­ing ‘Progress’, but from the hard­core en­thu­si­ast’s stand­point, it was to be filed un­der ‘The last straw’.

Porsche had been strug­gling, off and on, for many years, with sales not as buoy­ant as they once were, pro­duc­tion costs es­ca­lat­ing to the point where some­thing had to give. The front-en­gined 968 and 928s were a thing of the past, leav­ing the 993 as the sole prod­uct in the dealer line-up.

It was quite a re­spon­si­bil­ity, and a lesser car would have wilted un­der the strain, so to speak. That Porsche sur­vived this pe­riod of tran­si­tion is a mea­sure of what a great car the 993 was.

The 996 and 986 Boxster were built us­ing new ad­vanced pro­duc­tion line tech­niques, shar­ing many com­po­nents in an ef­fort to keep costs to a min­i­mum. Wa­ter-cool­ing the en­gine used in the new ranges was a nec­es­sary step to­wards mak­ing the new mod­els com­pli­ant with in­creas­ingly strin­gent emis­sions and noise reg­u­la­tions – some­thing an air-cooled mo­tor would strug­gle with. It was a ma­jor (truly ma­jor!) step as far as Porsche was con­cerned, but a step too far in the minds of many long­stand­ing cus­tomers.

The 993 had been seen as be­ing the ul­ti­mate 911 by many, and still is to this day. Work be­gan on this re­place­ment for the stop-gap 964 as far back as 1989, in par­al­lel with the front-en­gined 968, the ill-fated 989 and the rather bizarre Panamer­i­cana styling ex­er­cise (it­self a birth­day gift to a some­what unim­pressed Ferry Porsche…). Its styling was the work of Harm La­gaay, Di­rec­tor of Style Porsche (the of­fi­cial name for the styling stu­dio) who con­fessed in a con­tem­po­rary in­ter­view that 1989 had been one of the busiest in his ca­reer: ‘Our stu­dio

de­signed more mod­els in that year than in the pre­vi­ous five. We were up to our eye­balls in work, but there was tremen­dous mo­ti­va­tion, will­ing­ness and mo­men­tum present in the team, and the man­age­ment were very en­cour­ag­ing in their back­ing of the projects and our vi­sions’.

The 964 had re­tained the same body­work above the bumper line as its Car­rera 3.2 pre­de­ces­sor, the ma­jor changes oc­cur­ring be­neath the skin in the form of a new driv­e­train (four-wheel drive was of­fered for the first time, along­side the more con­ven­tional rear-wheel drive lay­out) and heav­ily re­vised sus­pen­sion, with Macpher­son struts at the front and coil-sprung semi-trail­ing arms at the rear. Porsche’s favoured tor­sion bars were now a thing of the past.

The re­sult was a taught, well-han­dling 911 but one which lacked so­phis­ti­ca­tion, the new rear sus­pen­sion in par­tic­u­lar held re­spon­si­ble for trans­mit­ting road and me­chan­i­cal noise to the cabin.

The 993, on the other hand, was in an­other league. Rather than be­ing a rather hasty re­vi­sion of an ex­ist­ing model, it was a groundup re­design, tak­ing the best points of the old and com­bin­ing them with fresh new ideas. The styling was slick and mod­ern, re­tain­ing the es­sen­tial qual­i­ties of the tra­di­tional 911 pro­file, but with greater at­ten­tion paid to aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency. Un­der the skin, though, what made (and still makes) the 993 such a great car to cover the miles in was the new rear sus­pen­sion.

A coil-sprung multi-link de­sign, it was leap years ahead of that of the 964, as it was a largely self-con­tained unit re­volv­ing round a cast-alu­minium sub­frame, it­self mounted to the main body struc­ture us­ing rub­ber bushes. The driv­e­train was im­proved in ev­ery quar­ter, too, with a much im­proved four-wheel drive sys­tem and six-speed trans­mis­sion (a four­speed Tip­tronic, as used on the 964, was also avail­able).

Through­out its life, the 993 range grew like the prover­bial Topsy, start­ing at the bot­tom with a 272bhp 3.6-litre nor­mally aspirated twowheel drive Car­rera, be­fore ex­pand­ing to in­clude such de­lights as the 300bhp 993 Car­rera RS and mighty 408bhp Turbo. King of the hill was the 450bhp Turbo S, a prod­uct of Porsche’s ‘Ex­clu­siv’ pro­gramme which, at DM 252,300, cost some 14 per cent more than the reg­u­lar Turbo. Both ver­sions were four­wheeled bal­lis­tic mis­siles in their day, ca­pa­ble of hit­ting 60mph in well un­der four sec­onds, be­fore top­ping out at well over 180mph – the Turbo S was pushed to 188mph by Car & Driver mag­a­zine.

With their all-wheel drive, larger brakes, biturbo en­gines and wide-body styling, it’s no won­der the 993 Turbo and Turbo S were so revered through­out their all too short life – the Turbo S was only of­fered for one year (1997) and just 183 ex­am­ples were built. Their demise marked the end of the line for the air­cooled tur­bocharged Porsches.

The 996 Turbo which fol­lowed was un­doubt­edly a fine car in ev­ery re­spect – to­day it is held in high re­gard, not only for its breath­tak­ing per­for­mance but also the fact that its en­gine proved im­mune to many of the prob­lems that are known to be­set the nor­mally-aspirated M96 pow­er­plants. The 996 Turbo is as bul­let­proof as any car can be and cur­rently rep­re­sents in­cred­i­ble value on the used mar­ket, although be aware that prices are ris­ing as we speak…

But it isn’t a 993 Turbo, and thereby lay the prob­lem for the orig­i­nal owner of the car you

see here. In 1998, Ital­ian Porsche en­thu­si­ast Francesco Della Barba de­cided time was right to buy a new car, but look­ing at what was on of­fer, he couldn’t bring him­self to get ex­cited about the new 996 range of Porsches. He wanted a Turbo, and although the 996 Turbo promised to be a rock­et­ship, he wasn’t im­pressed by the styling. So, what to do?

In­stead, he opted to buy one of the last 993s avail­able, in this case a Car­rera 4S, with its wide-body styling, Turbo brakes and sus­pen­sion and all-wheel drive. In ef­fect, it was a Turbo without a turbo. Francesco’s po­si­tion as a di­rec­tor with cloth­ing man­u­fac­turer Benet­ton took him to Dubai, with the 993 fol­low­ing obe­di­ently be­hind. The C4S is a heck of a car, and one of the most sought af­ter of the model range, but it lacked the punch of a Turbo which the owner de­sired. Once more, what was a man to do?

About a year later, Della Barba met Willy Brom­bacher, owner of the FVD Brom­bacher Porsche tun­ing es­tab­lish­ment in Ger­many, who was on a visit to Dubai to pro­mote the race car side of his busi­ness. In the course of a dis­cus­sion be­tween the two, Brom­bacher sug­gested to Della Barba that, as he could no longer buy a fac­tory-built car to meet his re­quire­ments, why not have FVD Brom­bacher con­vert his cur­rent nor­mallyaspi­rated 993 C4S into a 996 Turbo beater? With the added temp­ta­tion of a ‘spe­cial’ price, the deal was done.

Brom­bacher ar­ranged to ship the nec­es­sary com­po­nents out to House of Cars, one of the prin­ci­pal ex­otic car deal­er­ships in Dubai (which, we learn, has just ceased trad­ing), along with his me­chan­ics to over­see the re­build. Over the next 15 days, the team took what was al­ready a pretty im­pres­sive au­to­mo­tive pack­age and cre­ated a mas­ter­piece. As far as we can as­cer­tain, a to­tal of 25 cars were con­verted by House of Cars, with this be­ing the first of the line.

The C4S’S orig­i­nal 3.6-litre en­gine was good for 285bhp, re­sult­ing in a 0–100kph time of 5.5 sec­onds, and top speed of just over 160mph. How­ever, the 996 Turbo’s 420bhp knocked that into a cocked hat with a 5.0sec­ond 0–100pkh dash, be­fore head­ing on to max out at around 190mph. That was quite a gap to close, but FVD Brom­bacher did more than just al­low the 993 to hang on to the 996’s coat tails, they made sure the ‘old’ Porsche would blow it into the weeds…

There is no ex­ist­ing record of pre­cisely what was done to the en­gine in­ter­nally, but

of red cars, but the Guards Red suits the 993’s curves per­fectly. But what re­ally makes this ex­am­ple stand out is the im­mac­u­late tan in­te­rior, which is as clean as they come, only show­ing the mer­est signs of wear – I guess ‘patina’ is the word ev­ery­one would use to­day.

The 993’s in­te­rior will look fa­mil­iar to any­one who’s driven an ear­lier 911, the fa­mil­iar five-dial dash­board with its ran­dom scat­ter­ing of switchgear hav­ing changed lit­tle since the 1970s. To add to the pe­riod feel, there’s even the orig­i­nal Porsche stereo head unit still in place, ready to ac­cept your lat­est cas­sette tape. drive this car as your daily trans­port, if that is what floats your boat, but to be hon­est, this is a car which de­serves to be treated as some­thing spe­cial, which it truly is.

Head­ing out onto the A38 to­wards Ply­mouth, en route to a ren­dezvous with snap­per Fraser up on Dart­moor, the temp­ta­tion to give the throt­tle a lit­tle tickle away from the toll booths on the Devon end of the Ta­mar Bridge was too hard to re­sist. The roads were still damp af­ter one of the re­cent down­pours, but the sun was shin­ing and the birds were prob­a­bly singing. All was right with the world and as the tacho swung round to

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