THE BIG CHOICES
With only a finite budget and some difficult choices to be made, Bennett has to decide whether to further mechanically improve his 996 C2, or tackle the rather nasty bodywork issues for 2018
Before looking forward, I think a bit of self congratulatory looking back is called for as I enter my 4th year of 996 ownership and my 996 enters its 20th year. Twenty years? Yes, I know, makes me feel old, too, but built on the 8th of June 1998, this is a pretty early example. I didn't really think about this when I bought it, but in retrospect I now rather like the idea. There are benefits from this, too. Being an early car, it has a throttle that's connected with a cable and it barely has any electronic interference gizmos, which gives it a certain purity that you can really feel. It's light, too, lighter even than a GT3 of the same era. Again, that's something to covet. Oh, and it's rare as well. A silver manual 996 C2 rare? Really? Oh, yes. As a colleague who's looking to buy one recently discovered, once you've discounted the C4, the Tiptronics, the Cabs, the Targas and the C4SS, you are left with just a small handful of 996 C2s.
Most 20-year-old cars went to the scrap yard some time ago, or they currently look as if they're on their way. Everyday cars rarely escape the downward spiral, but of course a Porsche is not an everyday car, and benefits from caring and enthusiastic ownership, particularly now that it's becoming a classic. However, taking my self-congratulatory, rosetinted ownership specs off for a moment, the 996 was built to a similar standard to the contemporary, aforementioned everyday cars of 20-years ago and it shows. As every year passes, the 996 is entering uncharted territory, but well documented engine issues aside, you can expect at this sort of age to be looking at a complete suspension refresh (regardless of mileage), including dampers, new rads at the front, a clutch or two and a good few sets of discs and pads, plus other ancillaries like exhausts and coil packs, which has certainly been my experience. There is nothing on a 996 that is hugely expensive in isolation, but accumulatively it all adds up.
So my car has fully refreshed suspension, which I've bored everyone enough here, without a dodgy bush or creaking coffin arm to spoil things. It's had new engine mounts, too, plus lovely new Michelins and radiators for water and air con. New discs front and rear, plus new pads. New coil packs and other bits and bobs like a new ignition switch and window regulator, oh, and a couple of services, one major and one minor.
All sounds pretty comprehensive does it not, yet at the start of 2018 I'm at a crossroads. Do I sort out further mechanical issues, or do I tackle the elephant in the room, which is the bodywork?
Mechanically the engine needs to be dropped so that the IMS bearing can be sorted and the clutch changed. According to Robin Mckenzie at Auto Umbau, the IMS is at 'stage 2,' which means it's visibly weeping. When it starts dripping, it's time to change it. The clutch is heavy and it's spoiling my enjoyment of driving the car. It needs to be done and the two jobs go hand-in-hand. Whilst the engine is out, I'll probably look at replacing the exhaust, too.
And the bodywork? Well, this is painful but I need to ’fess up. When I bought the car I clocked some paintwork on the nearside rear wing, but I didn't know what it was hiding. Unfortunately I do now. It's taken a whack. Not a car bending one, but a whack none-theless and the repair has been badly done and the evidence is now clear to see, with filler starting to lift and, horror of horrors, rust entering the equation. Like some horrible growth I want it gone, cut out.
Robin at Auto Umbau – my preferred repairer, knowing the quality of their work – reckons that I should get a whole new rear quarter, and I'm inclined to agree. It's not going to be cheap. In fact it's probably going to be horribly expensive, which is why I'm debating mechanical work first and leaving the bodywork until next year on the basis that it's relatively contained and isn't going to spread beyond the rear. And who knows, with the gun loaded up and a rear quarter to paint, there's a strong argument for doing the whole car... Did I really just say that?
Finally, while the interior is in pretty good shape, the driver’s seat is suffering a bit from wear to the bolsters, with some evident cracking. I've got a neat kit from leather specialists, Colourlock, to effect a repair/overhaul, which includes a specific leather dye to match the Space Grey leather of the interior. When the weather picks up a bit, I'll remove the seat and give it a go. PW