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Wednesday 25th July 2012


TELL ME I'M WRONG: PORSCHE 911 996 GT3

You'd have to be very sure of yourself to take issue with the first-gen GT3 - Harris invites you to put him right


Let's de-bunk the myth first. Mechanically, the first generation 996 GT3 is almost entirely inferior to the car that replaced it, the one we shall refer to as the Gen.2 in the commonly used shorthand. This is an irrefutable fact.

It's among the most celebrated of 911s
It's among the most celebrated of 911s
How is it then, that there is a considerable body of enthusiasts who, for some reason, consider it to be the finest GT3 of them all? Knowing what we do about the specification of Porsche's hardcore 911, this has to based on something subjective. I just don't get it.

The case for the prosecution
When it was launched, the 996 GT3 was something very special, but it wasn't perfect. Track users found the brakes inadequate and the synchro rings were weak. It wasn't that quick either. I can remember struggling to extract acceleration figures from it that were better than the stock Carrera - it was barely any faster than the admittedly suspiciously fast 996 C2 launch cars.

Not quite as fast as the looks suggested
Not quite as fast as the looks suggested
Don't get me wrong, it was a lovely thing - just one which could be obviously improved. A second batch of Gen.1 cars added steel synchro rings, but by then Porsche was working on the Gen.2 car. The list of improvements was long, many of them contained in the engine bay - I won't list them here but the result was 381hp compared to 360hp. Drive them back-to-back and the difference feels far greater. The reason being that if you put the older car on a dyno it might just give you 355hp at the wheels - on a good day it'll be the full 360hp - whereas pretty much every Gen.2 car is giving 390hp. It revs more freely, it sounds better, has far more torque and the gearshift is more positive.

'Something' in the way
But apparently there's 'something' about the Gen.1 car. 'Something' is a word that tends to be used more frequently when people struggle to justify their opinions.

Track bias obvious from the interior fittings
Track bias obvious from the interior fittings
The chassis was changed quite dramatically too - and this is possibly the source of the myth - firmer springs and dampers make the later car busier on UK roads, where the original is more supple and less likely to be unsettled by lumpy surfaces or have the steering tugged by the camber of the road surface. I'll concede that point.

Being a Porsche geek I've thought long and hard about this situation, trying to understand the reasons why people prefer the first car in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And I keep coming back to the point listed above about choppy surfaces. And two others - looks and significance.

Flat rear wing for Gen.2, and more power too
Flat rear wing for Gen.2, and more power too
'Nuggety'
I've always suspected that some people just prefer the way the older car looks and the fact that it's quite rare (103 Gen.1s sold in the UK against 246 Gen.2s) and was the first of the breed. Which is absolutely the choice of the individual. But those people also want to project a more expert image to the wider car community and therefore feel the need to underpin this opinion with something more substantial and outwardly knowledgeable.

At this point the word 'something' emerges with increased frequency from the lips of the perpetrators, and people are prone to using a touch of air steering wheel - which I have always assumed is the mime-artists accepted sign for the word 'nuggety'. In other words, bollocks.

Later GT3 is the one to go for says Harris
Later GT3 is the one to go for says Harris
So I think the Gen.2 car is miles better, if a little less supple. But what do I know?

Tell me I'm wrong.

 

 

 

 

 


PORSCHE 911 GT3 (996, MY1999)
Engine:
3,600cc flat-6
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 272@5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.8 sec
Top speed: 189 mph
Weight: 1,350kg (DIN)
MPG: 22.6mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: N/A
Price: £76,500 (new)

Author: Chris Harris