How much is too much? In the world of the 911 there would appear to be no such thing. Every generation becomes more extreme than the last and the 997 GT2 is no exception. The premise is very simple: less weight, more power, fed to the rear boots only, and a premature trip to the morgue if you get it wrong. Forgiving they're not and, while some fans dismiss the GT2's reputation as the widow maker, I personally know of three people who are no longer here because the 996 GT2 turned out to be way too much.
Still, here I am with a 993 Turbo, a 996 GT2, a 996 Turbo, and a crazy-looking 930 Flatnose that's been under the knife at Ruf. All four are more extreme than when they left Stuttgart, and this isn't to be a scientific, against-the-clock exercise but rather an experiment in seat-of-the-pants experience: How different are they really and what thrills do they individually offer?
I tried the 996 GT2 first and the "GT2 RS 650 Evo" decals on its rump show it's a bit special. It started out as a '03 GT2 Club Sport before being overhauled and treated to a 600hp makeover courtesy of our helpers at Specialist Cars of Malton.
It still wears its factory-fitted carbon brakes, so at least I know it'll stop when I want it to, but then again, not much use if the car's airborne at the time. It was given an H&R fully adjustable and lowered suspension, hybrid turbos, high-flow intercoolers, revised inlet manifold and ignition system, upgraded ECU, a stainless steel sport exhaust with equal-length manifolds, and 100-cell cats.
Waving goodbye to our gathered party, possibly for the last time, I head off for my first adrenaline rush of the day. The extra power over the factory GT2 is obvious right from the start and, as I pile on the speed, snatching gears as quickly as possible so both hands remain on the wheel, I remember that a will is still on my to-do list.
Not merely fast, it's from another dimension entirely. I find myself too scared to pile on the speed when exiting corners, simply because I could end up in the next county if I get this even slightly wrong. It's too much for these roads, with the front end bobbing about and the rear tires smoking in First, Second, Third, Fourth-I know my limits and this GT2 is way past them. I suppose that if the suspension settings, particularly up front, were a bit softer to allow more bite I'd feel a bit more confident. It's usable enough at low speeds but, deeply impressed as I am by how much force is on tap, it's not for me.
Perhaps the 993 will be more like it. Another 500-plus horsepower nut job, this gorgeous car has a Bilstein PSS9 adjustable suspension, bigger brakes, hybrid turbos, Cargraphic ECU, a high-output fueling system, extra oil cooler, and a Cargraphic sport exhaust with equal-length manifolds.
What about the speed? There's a lot of it but frankly, after the GT2 RS, it feels a bit slow. There's at least 525 hp to play with but it feels sedate and I find myself, quite inexplicably, yearning for more power-it's bizarre. I do like it though-it's benign enough to let me exploit the performance potential without wanting to commit murder and that full-bore symphony letting rip out back does make me feel like a hero. In this company, though, it's just not mental enough, and that's what this test is supposed to be about.
So, to the Viper Green monster lurking in the background. Adding to the visual impact are a Gemballa rear spoiler and 19-inch Techart alloys. Under the skin is a Bilstein PSS9 adjustable suspension and a Techart sport exhaust. Up front is a GT2 nose section incorporating GT2 radiators. Remapped, this 996 Turbo is generating 510 hp, making it the least powerful car here today.
Instantly, though, I connect with the car in a way I never could with the previous two. It's obvious there's power going to the front wheels and the confidence this builds in me cannot be ignored. Every gear brings on colossal speed, yet it all feels remarkably safe. It has predictable, usable power and there's no discernable turbo lag to spoil progress. The brakes do a fine job of hauling it up and, color-coded interior aside, I could live with this.
Any 911 Turbo is an extreme car-always has been, always will be-but for proper extreme thrills I've saved the best 'til last: the Ruf. Photographer Lipman, being a fanatic for the older cars (he owns a '72 911T), bags a passenger ride-I think he's fully aware that this is the real wild child of the bunch.
Out of the few Flatnose 930s converted by Ruf to BTR-3 specification, two are believed to have been cabriolets-meaning this is one of probably eight coupes. That would be rare enough, but this one is actually unique, as Malton's boss explains, "We've tried to maintain the car's Ruf heritage but at the same time brought it up to date in some respects," he says. "It's a 22-year-old 911 at the end of the day but I think it'd give absolutely anything out there a run for its money. Ruf reckoned they'd tested this at 211 mph, which is incredible when you consider how far back that was. I've had it reading 200 myself-it's an absolute animal."
Malton has carried out further mods, apart from the obvious cosmetic changes. "About 500 miles ago the engine was rebuilt. We fitted a much larger turbo that was rated to 750 hp, the heads were gas flowed, and stainless steel valves were fitted. It's now a 3.8-liter and we built a custom exhaust system for it." What's the power output now? "I don't think 550 hp is too wide off the mark ..."
Back to the drive and Lipman is giggling like a schoolgirl as First is selected and we move off. The gearbox is pretty horrid-a bit like stirring soup-and First is a dogleg, which is always enough to confuse the couple of brain cells I have left. Stirring for Second, I eventually find it and gun the throttle. We're pinned into our seats as all hell breaks loose. The boost gauge is zinging up and down and I get to Third. Even by this stage I could lose my license and in the blink of an eye we're doing 200 km/h-which is 125 mph. Still in Third, still accelerating hard, I back off, and worry I may have soiled myself.
By now Lipman seems to have developed Tourette's syndrome. It's brutal, raw, shocking-and I'm not just talking about his language. This has to be the maddest 911 I've ever driven. Totally insane, it wants to rip off our heads, dismember us, and then go to work on us. Balls-out, hairy-chested, crazy, and totally addictive, with no driver aids, no concessions to modernity, and definitely no compromise, this is truly a scary proposition, making any GT2 seem a bit, well, limp wristed.
Out of all four cars I've been privileged to give a thrashing today on these wide-open roads, it's the Ruf that leaves the biggest impression. It's old school in the extreme and shouldn't really be allowed on the road. Lag is immense: select a gear, floor the throttle, then wait. And wait. But be prepared for a riotous shove in the back once that huge blower spools up because it's the closest you'll get to a bungee jump on four wheels. A slingshot doesn't come close to describing the effect once the turbo is doing its stuff.
I adore it but I couldn't live with it for obvious reasons. For me personally, the green 996 Turbo is the best all-rounder. As a standard car it's pretty hard to find fault but this is just a little bit edgier, while still treating its occupants to warp speed whenever the accelerator is squeezed. It feels safe, usable, exploitable. Pirelli's advertising used to say, "Power is nothing without control," and this Turbo has plenty of both, making it my personal weapon of choice.
But even as I write this I'm dreaming of that crazy Ruf. The 996 could be viewed as the wife, while the Ruf is the dirty, slightly deranged mistress. You know it's risky, downright dangerous, and you'll end up in big trouble, but in the heat of the moment all those doubts are cast from the mind as the touch paper is lit, the turbo works itself into a frenzy, and the world once again becomes a complete blur. Epic stuff.
Thanks to Specialist Cars of Malton.www.specialistcarsltd.co.uk
996 Turbo*Engine3.6-liter flat-six, water-cooled
*Power510 hp (est.)
Transmission*Six-speed manual, all-wheel drive
*ModificationsBilstein PSS9 adjustable suspension, Techart sport exhaust, Revo engine tuning, Techart 19-inch alloy wheels, Gemballa rear spoiler, GT2 nose with radiators, Viper Green respray with color-coded interior, GT2 carbon seats, Techart steering wheel
993 Turbo*Engine3.6-liter flat-six, air-cooled
*Power525 hp (est.)
*TransmissionSix-speed manual, all-wheel drive
*ModificationsBilstein PSS9 adjustable suspension, upgraded brakes, high-output fuel system, Cargraphic ECU, hybrid turbos, Ruf oil cooler, 100-cell cats, Cargraphic exhaust system, Cargraphic 19-inch alloy wheels
Ruf 930 SE BTR-3*Engine3.8-liter flat-six, air-cooled
*Power550 hp (est.)
*TransmissionRuf five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
*ModificationsEngine rebuild with stainless steel valves, gas-flowed heads, high-output turbo, 19-inch Cargraphic alloy wheels, Morris biplane rear spoiler, Porsche GT2 seats, Alcantara trim
996 GT2 RS*Engine3.6-liter flat-six, water-cooled
*Power620 hp (est.)
*TransmissionSix-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
*ModificationsH&R fully adjustable suspension, hybrid turbos, high-output fuel system, remapped ECU, stainless steel sport exhaust with equal length manifolds and 100-cell cats, Cargraphic 19-inch alloy wheels