The £10K Porsche 911(996). Why wouldn't you?

OK, we cheated - this one's up for £13,990 on 77k miles. But still,  what's not to like?
OK, we cheated - this one's up for £13,990 on 77k miles. But still, what's not to like?
It's been 14 years now since Porsche stunned devotees by making a 911 with a water-cooled engine, and if you have distaste for depreciation now is a good time to get one... or is it?

With some early cars showing well north of 100,000 miles and, inevitably some of the associated signs of age, if you look you will find examples for significantly less than 10 grand. There are - as has been discussed at great length in the PH forum - some issues you need to be aware of, though. The thread on the subject has run for four years and 47 pages...

But it's highly tempting, isn't it? To get an idea of what's around I looked for one that had a reasonable mileage and settled on this 1999 Carrera, which is up for £13,990 and has covered 77,000 miles. Before I went to see it I called Andrew Mearns at specialist dealers Gmund Cars to find out what to look out for on a used 996.

"Options are the key when ordering one new," he reckons. "Porsche equipped the cars with very little as standard so if you wanted things like traction control, PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), xenon headlights, heated seats and so on you had to spec it all when you ordered one. Ideally you want to find a car with all of the above plus the 18-inch wheels. Another thing to check is the build sticker (usually found under the bonnet) and that the first code on there is C16, which means that it's a UK car. If, for example it reads C98 then it's a right hand drive car which has been brought in from Cyprus."

With that in mind I went to have a gander at the metallic black 1999 V-plated car and headed straight for the bonnet release. The build sticker (and the handbook) confirmed that it was a 'C16' UK car, which was a good start, and a glance at the service schedule showed a series of stamps which had all been put there by either AFN or Porsche dealers.

The bodywork was arrow-straight and blemish-free, as were the 18-inch wheels, which have recently been shod with a full set of Avons. The Savannah interior might be a bit 'sudden' for some people's taste, but there were no signs of any fatigue to the leather on the steering wheel or the seat bolsters.

The flat six burst into life easily and sounded superb through the stainless sports exhaust. It was at this point that I asked if I could take it for a spin, but as seems to be the way with people selling Porsches the vendor insisted that instead of a quick spin we take it for a more thorough test. It would have been rude not to oblige.

On the road this 996 drives very well. Sadly it was a bit damp so we had to refrain from any grade 'A' hoonage, but still the grip and general manners of the car were very good, and there were no signs of anything that would give a potential buyer any concerns. So far, this affordable 996 lark looked like a bit of a no-brainer, but of course there are those 47 pages of forum activity to deal with...

There are a couple of common issues with 996s, which I'm told stem from the fact that in the early nineties Porsche was on the verge of going bust. Apparently, years of producing top-notch engineering products with old-fashioned methods resulted in both very strong engines and borderline financial ruin. Things had to change.

According to Barry Hart of independent Porsche specialists Hartech, letting the accountants influence the 996's engine design philosophy to try to reduce costs resulted in some 'weak spots', among which was the use of 'open deck' Lokasil cylinders . "The cylinders can distort and gradually become oval in shape," he says. "In some cases (at higher mileages) this will result in an engine rebuild, which will cost from around £4000-£5000 upwards - and which will fix the weak spot by changing to a 'closed deck' design."

There's another similar issue, too. The intermediate shaft bearing's design and lubrication system also seem to have been influenced by cost saving, and according to Barry they too can fail, although most Porsche specialists will replace them with superior items as part of any rebuild.

In the light of all that, I had to put it to Barry that perhaps a used 996 at the bottom of the market might not be such a good idea?

"Not at all" he says. "In my experience only around 5 per cent of cars suffer a failure related to the cylinders or the intermediate shaft bearing. My 996 had 154,000 miles on it when I sold it and there were no issues. You get an amazing car for £10,000 - £15,000 which can do 160mph and is comfortable, torquey, responsive... It would be crazy to buy any car of that age and performance and expect it to cost you very little to run and maintain. And some specialists even offer some form of warranty scheme to reduce rebuild costs if the worst happens."

So it's pretty straightforward. They're currently looking highly affordable, and if something goes wrong you might need to extend the bank loan. Go figure, etc.

Anyway, this is PH, so you can always worry about that later...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (542) Join the discussion on the forum

  • TommyBuoy 05 Aug 2011

    It's just such a shame I can't get on with how it looks.

    I drove an early 911 before I bought my current car (yes they are the polar opposites in terms of, well, everything) The stories of RMS etc put me off to the point of no return.

    Plus insurance for a 24 year old...don't ask!

  • Malam 05 Aug 2011

    The Ugly Duckling of 911s!

  • MATRS 05 Aug 2011

    Neighbour has recently bought one and I am very jealous, had been looking to buy one myself but invested in to my wifes business instead.

  • Bill Carr 05 Aug 2011

    Excess of beige and potential for big bills aside, that is a stunning amount of car of the money.

    I always thought the 996 got a bit of an unfair press from certain quarters, but I'm not a Porsche nut so my opinion is perhaps less coloured by the models that went before.

    Moot point anyway as I don't have the requisite folding to buy one!

  • robsti 05 Aug 2011

    SOOVY shout come in Soovy your thread is hear!!!!! wink

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