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

911 Porsche World - - Practical Porsche -

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

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