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
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