Porsche 911 Carrera (996.2)
A visit to a Porsche Classic workshop sees our deputy ed’s 996 prepare for a return to factory spec
AS YOU MIGHT HAVE ASCERTAINED from reading my sporadic reports on my 996 Carrera over recent years, I’ve struggled to feel satisfied with the way it drives, felt underwhelmed with the modifications I’ve carried out to it, and then generally moaned about it afterwards. It has given me more satisfaction through knowing I own a 911 than I’ve gained from actually driving it – and that’s an approach I can’t abide.
To briefly recap, I purchased my 2002 second-generation 996 back in 2016, and after a honeymoon period driving to the Scottish Highlands and spending over a week there, putting on nearly 1500 miles, I made the discovery that many a 996 or 997 owner has made: namely that once these cars reach 70,000-odd miles and advanced age, there are quite a lot of worn-out bits on them, particularly in the suspension department. I think the Highland fling was probably the stress that tipped many a component on my car over the edge.
Given this coincided with a change in work circumstances, meaning I would only be using the 996 occasionally at weekends for the foreseeable, I decided that it needed to be more of a thrill for those high days and holiday drives, rather than a great all-rounder. In short, I came up with a plan to turn it into a Club Sport sort of 996, albeit still some way short of a GT3. There’s no point in chasing the GT3 when it’s not one, I said to myself, but as it transpired, clearly shouting those words in a mirror would have been advisable in this case.
And so there followed a round of suspension polybushing, upgraded dampers, roll bars, arms, brake parts, exhausts, a remap, and so on, and without repeating old ground too much, the result was not what I wanted and almost entirely my own fault, as I now freely acknowledge. The lesson, which hopefully makes this a worthwhile read for anyone in a similar position, is that without an engineering-based approach to these things and a tightly defined end objective, you meddle at your peril. Hand on heart, I should have known better, but somehow, when it comes to our own cars, there’s a kind of blindness that sets in. Quite honestly, some may like the way my car now
‘The result of the upgrades was not what I wanted and almost entirely my own fault’
drives, but for me it’s too harsh, too noisy, and prioritises power over torque. It’s all just a matter of personal taste.
So I reckon it’s time to go back to the mothership. More than anything, it’s been a reminder that with their genius brains and multi-million-pound budgets, those engineers at Porsche really did – and do – know what they’re doing. Given my car is 20 years old this year, the 996 25 years old, and the type now eligible for Porsche Classic status, the solution appeared to be obvious. Which is how I recently came to be sharing floor-space with rows of 992s and 718s at Porsche Centre Hatfield, one of five main dealers in the UK with a Classic centre. Rather than be too prescriptive, I simply said to Classic tech Simon that I wanted their thoughts on returning the car to its original spec, and then sat back and waited.
Hatfield’s Classic ramp gets its own dedicated workshop, partitioned off by glass from the main showroom, so I felt my oldtimer was in something of a goldfish bowl as it rose up into the air, yet also a sense of pride at how good it still looks even amongst the latest offerings. It’s just a lean, compact, pure sort of 911 – if nothing else, pursuing this route has helped me to rediscover the love for this car.
My main priority is to get my hands on the official Porsche sports exhaust. It’s not the cheapest option out there, but for me it remains by far the sweetest-sounding exhaust on an M96-equipped 911 I’ve ever heard, and the ability to turn the volume down on a cruise is something I’d really value now. Thankfully, I still have my original catalytic converters, which I’ll need to put back on to go with the exhaust, and we’ll then need to reset the ECU back to the factory map as the car will once again be running with separate gas flows from each bank to the tailpipes. There was some confusion over whether such a reset was possible, but I now understand it’s simply an option in a sub-menu.
As for doing any other work, the main objective will be getting rid of the poly gearbox mount, but for now I’m waiting for the report and then we’ll have to see what’s possible and what’s not from there. Most of all it just feels impossibly exciting to once again make some progress on the 996. I’m hoping it’s going to be a case of good things coming to those who wait.
Date acquired May 2016 Total mileage 86,401 Mileage this month 61 Costs this month £0 mpg this month n/a