996 Carrera vs 997 GT3

 

Is the 996 GT3 a suitable everyday car? It’s a question that’s been asked often and much time has been spent arguing it. Some say the car’s suspension is so harsh that it’s really only suitable for trackday use and occasional road driving. Others, though, reckon that’s nonsense and they’re perfectly happy to commute to the office in their 996 GT3.

I’m not planning to throw fuel on the fire of this argument today, but rather to meet a man for whom a 996 GT3 wasn’t right. Bob Bax will be familiar to Total 911 readers, as we featured his striking Speed Yellow 996 Carrera in the March 2008 issue.

Southampton-based Bob admits that he used to hate Porsches, being a died in the wool British car enthusiast. “I’ve owned a number of Lotus Elans, a range of E Types from the 3.8 to the V12, a number of Astons from a 1934 Bertelli Saloon, through DB2/4s, MkIIIs, DB5, DB6, DBS6, DBSV8s and finally an AMV8 Vantage. There have also been TVRs, Lotus 7s, and fast British saloons like Lotus Cortinas and Mini Cooper Ss.”

However, when Bob saw Top Gear’s Stig demolishing an Aston Martin V8 Vantage and a BMW M6 on the Isle of Man, he sat up and took notice. He did his homework and decided that, although he really wanted a GT3, it just wouldn’t be right for him. Bob was determined, though, to find something just as eye-catching. “I like bright-coloured cars, and the look of the GT3,” he admits. So when a 2003 Speed Yellow 996 Carrera with a factory Aerokit (essentially a GT3 bodykit) came on the market, he lost no time whatsoever in snapping it up.

As we reported in our previous feature on the car, Bob made a few subtle modifications, most notably a remap, sports exhaust and intake which, he believes, has upped the power to around 370bhp. He also fitted a Cargraphic front lip spoiler and some tasty black alloys, all of which add to the car’s GT3 look and feel.

At the time, Bob was delighted with the car and claimed he’d no plans whatsoever to sell it. And then the 997 GT3 came along and he started to have thoughts about buying one of those. “People were telling me that this new GT3 was much more user-friendly for someone with my needs and abilities,” he explains.

Eager to spend some time with a 997 GT3 in order to evaluate it, Bob got in touch with Total 911 to see if we could help. Unfortunately, he’d been pipped to the post by another reader, Steve Parfett, whom we let drive John Boggiano’s car (see the November 2008 issue). Steve was suitably impressed with the GT3 to buy one of his own, and when Bob read this in the magazine, his mind was made up. “I’d driven a couple of 997 Turbos, and while I was impressed with these, they weren’t really what I wanted.”

As when he bought his 996, Bob turned to the Official Porsche Car Locator website and typed in his requirements. The 997 GT3 is a relatively rare car, so there weren’t many on offer but he did find three that fitted the bill. “The first was relatively local to me at Porsche Centre Bournemouth,” explains Bob. “So I looked at that one first. It was a nice car but was finished in GT Silver which, after the joys of Speed Yellow, was just too ordinary.”

It was then on to Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, where the other two GT3s were on display. “These were more my sort of colours – one was Viper Green and the other Guards Red,” grins Bob.

Although he liked both colours, it was the specification of the red car that swayed Bob. “It had all the electronic toys like Bi Xenons, PCM, Sports Chrono Plus, Porsche Sound Package Plus, Cruise Control, and TPM,” he says. “Not to mention plenty of leather and carbonfibre, including leather-trimmed Lightweight Bucket seats. It had also been lowered by 20mm so it looked even better than normal.”

Apparently, the car had been owned by a regular customer of the OPC, Tony Green, and he’d just traded it in for a brand-new 997 GT2 in the same colour.

Bob was impressed by the Sutton Coldfield sales staff and was soon the proud owner of the Guards Red 997 GT3. And, not surprisingly, he’s delighted with it. “I’m really hooked,” he grins. “The package of options – especially the leather, carbonfibre and seats – is just so intoxicating. However, it’s the sound, the gearchange and the phenomenal grunt the engine develops that is most wonderful about the car.

“People say that the GT3 clutch pedal is heavy, but it’s remarkably light compared to my Aston Martin V8 Vantage experience, where my left leg ended up like Popeye’s and the right like Olive Oyl’s!

“And finally, I love the Guards Red paintwork. I’ve always had a soft spot for red cars – my V8 Vantage was Red, too.”

Although Bob made a number of changes to his 996 to customise it to his requirements, he has no such plans for his new Porsche. “It’s pretty much perfect,” he smiles. “However, I will have to return the ride height to normal, so I can negotiate normal road hazards and – most importantly – get up and down my sloping driveway without grounding! Then I just need to transfer my ‘GT03 BAX’ numberplate from my other car.’

So is this now Bob Bax’s perfect Porsche? “Well, we’ll see,” he ponders. “I’m planning on keeping it, but then again I could well be tempted by Tony Green’s GT2 if that ever comes onto the market…”

 

Yellow Fever

It’s hard not to ignore Bob’s old car when it’s standing next to his bright red 997 GT3 – one of the greatest Porsches ever. However, his 996 is hardly a shrinking violet, with its Speed Yellow paintwork, Aerokit and beautiful black-centred Victor Equipment Le Mans alloys (sensibly, he’s kept the original wheels, too).

There’s nothing unique about Aerokitted 996s, though, and most disappoint when you get behind the wheel because, of course, they drive just like any other Carrera of the period. And sitting in Bob’s, surrounded by grey leather, you can’t get away from the fact that this isn’t a GT3. Only the bright yellow seatbelts add an element of drama to the otherwise ordinary cockpit.

Start the engine, though, and you can’t help but smile. The Supersprint exhaust and HiFlow induction system give the flat six the sound that was sadly lacking from the original 996.

This 911 has the later 3.6-litre engine which would originally have developed 320bhp. Bob claims his is now developing 370bhp, which sounds optimistic, but let’s see.

First impressions are good; the engine remains flexible throughout the rev range, and is noticeably more responsive, which is testament to Bob’s efforts in getting rid of an annoying flat spot by remapping the ECU. There’s also noticeably more power than a standard Carrera. Is it 50bhp more? That’s hard to say, but it’s probably not far off that.

The uprated brakes are a noticeable improvement, too – positive with plenty of feel, thanks no doubt to the braided hoses.

Does it feel like a 996 GT3? No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t have the right engine for starters, and the ride is much softer. Sure, it doesn’t handle like a GT3 but, on the plus side, neither does it ride like one. Again, this is a car you could happily use every day without feeling you’re making compromises.

Flying Lesson

The Cup Aerokit, as it was called, was first offered on the original 3.4-litre 996 Carrera and Carrera 4. It consisted of a deeper front spoiler, sill covers and a GT3-style biplane rear wing. There was also the option of the Carrera Aerokit, which was basically the same but with a smaller, more subtle fixed rear wing, not unlike a ducktail. The Carrera Aerokit could also be fitted to the Cabriolet.

The facelifted 3.6-litre 996 Carrera and Carrera 4 could be had with a revised Aerokit that had a slightly different front spoiler and sideskirts, plus the single rear wing from the MkII GT3. The smaller rear wing option was discontinued.

An additional and attractive option for the 996 was what was called GT Side Trim – additional panels for rear quarters which visually linked with the Aerokit sideskirts.

Note that, although the Aerokit was offered as a factory-fit option, some cars have since been retrofitted with the panels, using either genuine Porsche parts or replica ones. To see whether an Aerokit is an original part of a car, check the option codes under the bonnet; the Carrera Aerokit had the code XAE, while the Cup Aerokit was XAA (this was also the code for the kit on the later 3.6-litre cars). Some cars were fitted with just the sill extensions, which were option number X76.

The 997 (pictured below) can be ordered with what is now called the Aerokit Cup (again, option XAA). This emulates the look of the current GT3, with a new front bumper and fixed rear spoiler.

 

This was taken from issue 45, for all Total 911 back issues visit www.imagineshop.co.uk/

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