Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: the six month assessment
Six short months ago I sold my BMW E46 M3 and, with a bit of extra cash, stepped into Porsche 911 ownership with the purchase of a late Gen2 996 Carrera 4. As those familiar with my story from Total 911 magazine’s ‘Living the Legend’ owner reports section will know, I purchased the car from trusted independent Porsche specialists, RPM Technik, in a cut-price deal as it needed work before RPM considered it to be ‘ready for retail’. I was happy to take on the project and purchased the car without any warranty (the ‘brave vs naive’ debate is still open for comment!).
In the 193 days since, my 996 story has evolved rapidly. The car has taken in 8,000 miles including two track days and two weekend roadtrips to Scotland and then Wales, had shiny new upgrades fitted, had its basalt black paintwork brought back to life, and most importantly, it’s not failed me once. During that time, I learned more about my 996’s history thanks to OPC Bournemouth, who revealed the car had a complete bottom end rebuild and later IMS fitted at a main dealer in 2010, meaning half the engine had covered just 35,000 miles before my purchase. I’ve also done my best to look after the M96 flat six as much as possible, avoiding short journeys of less than 15 minutes and changing the oil after 6,000 miles.
Used mainly at weekends, I’ve been nothing short of delighted with my 996.2 C4. I like how classic the driving experience is compared to the mammoth new 991s; I’m positively thrilled with the value for money the car represents compared to other 911s; and I’m impressed by how cheap, relatively, the 996 is to run. It didn’t take long to identify one or two nuances with the model in general though, most notably of which was the lack of any stimulating engine sound whatsoever beneath 6,500rpm. Redlining the car everywhere isn’t exactly practical and the flaps on factory PSEs are known to jam open over time, so I plumped for a pair of Milltek rear silencers to rectify the situation. As you can see and hear from the video, they’ve proved a great addition.
It’s true the build quality inside is light years away from the lavish confines of a 997 or 991, but then I remind myself if it wasn’t for the 996’s production frugality there would be no 997 or 991 to begin with. I also think the 3.4-litre flat six from the Gen1 996 is the more rewarding engine, its peaky nature encouraging a driver to live in the top half of the tacho to progress quickly. However, the torquier bottom end of the 3.6 is ideal for track work and Sunday jaunts, intensified in my case by the CSR lightweight flywheel for quick heel-and-toe gear changes. A short-shift kit will complete the experience – watch this space!
So far, the 996 has given me everything I wanted from 911 ownership, and a few things I didn’t. It being a proper sports car that’s incredibly addictive to drive falls into the former category, while annoying failures of the indicator stalk (accompanied by a £500 quote from Porsche for a new one!) and driver’s door microswitch fall brazenly into the latter. I’ve improved the 996’s response and directness of handling with the addition of Bilstein PSS10 coilovers all round, though there’s work still to be done to reduce the inherent understeer plaguing the C4 through even medium severity turns. All in in all though I’ve immensely enjoyed entry-level 911 ownership so far and am relishing the prospect of driving the car through the winter months and beyond.
What’s the point of sharing my 996 story, I hear you ask? Well, my answer is two-fold. Firstly, I promised nothing but honest journalism in my owner reports, giving you real-world feedback, warts n’ all, of life owning an entry-level Porsche 911. The second reason – and most important – is because sharing our stories with others is all part of the unique Porsche experience. And that’s exactly why I want to hear from you.
What’s your 911 story? Whether you’re 53 minutes or 53 years into 911 ownership, we want to hear your very best 911-related anecdotes. Comment below or email us: [email protected]. The best comments will be published in an upcoming issue of Total 911 magazine.