The Porsche series 996 marked the beginning of the modern watercooled era for the 911, which was embraced by some and completely shunned by others. It is interesting that this same sentiment still exists 13 years after the 996 was first introduced in 1999, the proof being that an equivalent model Porsche 993 (the previous generation 911, and the last of the legendary aircooled models) fetches a significantly higher price in today’s used car market. We fully concede that the 996 is not quite as beautiful as the 993 (or even the current 997); its “fried egg” lights up front, lines that were somewhat less sexy than the previous generation, and questionable interior styling definitely take some points off. But for savvy european car enthusiasts, there are indeed some very good reasons for selecting a 996 as your first or next project car buildup. The top incentives being: 1) amazing bargain base prices; 2) very good power, brakes, and handling (it is a real Porsche after all); 3) all inherent problems are now very well documented; and 4) there is an abundance of aftermarket products available.
We decided to back up our claims by starting our own 996 project build. After reviewing the 996 market, we felt that the best bang-for-the-buck model, and the one that had the greatest potential for the type of performance machine we were looking for (i.e., flippin’ fast and slot-car handling) was the 996 Turbo. A 7- to 10-year-old 996TT can be purchased for anywhere between $25,000 and $45,000, depending on age and condition. And it is representative of a true budget supercar, as it once cost some poor (rich) soul well over $100,000.
When purchasing a used 996TT there are a few minor mechanical things to look for. Wheel bearings, rear spoiler hydraulic leak (leading to the wing failing to rise at speed), and both the clutch accumulator and slave cylinder are prone to failure and are all known weak points. Also, we recommend a full pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a well-respected Porsche technician when considering the purchase of any used Porsche.
We began by addressing all outstanding maintenance and repair items, and gave our car a good once-over for both safety and peace of mind. After that formality, we got to know our new friend both on the street and at the track. Getting some seat time will allow you to learn the car and, more importantly, help you decide what direction you want to go in terms of future modifications, if any. As mentioned, our goal will be all-out performance, so most certainly driving the car at the track will red-flag the high-performance deficiencies that we will document in our project car series.
Our subject is a 2001 996 Turbo, which was purchased for $32,000 in California. The “new to us” machine is gloss black with a full black leather interior and adaptive sport seats. As luck would have it, this car came with a few aftermarket upgrades already installed by a previous owner. These goodies include Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, aftermarket engine ECU programming—believed to be Evolution Motorsports (EVOMS), due to the EVOMS air intake box system also installed. The factory exhaust and turbo system are still in place, and with a maximum measured boost 1.1bar, it is highly probable that the car currently has, give or take, 500 hp at the flywheel (note that the factory 2001 996TT was rated at 420 hp at 0.8bar boost). It is comparably as quick or quicker in a straight line than the current 997 GT3, GT3 RS and Turbo models, with the exception of the latest 997.2 Turbo S and the GT2 RS. Essentially, it’s a great place to start our project car build.