- Available for £1.1m
- 5.7-litre V10, rear-wheel drive
- Light, fast, superbly built, sounds amazing
- Fierce maintenance costs
- At one time they were only £200k
- Even now they’re cheap compared to the only serious rival
Recycling has become a way of life nowadays, but you probably wouldn’t expect to see that word associated with an entire car. Not just any old car, either, but a genuine supercar.
But recycled is actually a reasonable word to use for the Porsche Carrera GT, or to give it its proper title the Carrera GT Type 980. It was essentially a roadgoing amalgam of two aborted motorsport projects. One was the LMP2000 (internally 9R3) Le Mans racer that was built in 1998 with the specific purpose of taking on Audi’s soon-to-be legendary R8. The LMP was canned in 1999, the money for it being diverted to the development of the Cayenne. The other was a redundant V10 engine that had come about as the result of Porsche’s unsuccessful liaison with the Footwork F1 team.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and in Porsche’s case it was their engineers’ determination not to give up on any project, even officially abandoned ones, that brought the Carrera GT into being. The project was cloaked in secrecy. Two hours before the Paris motor show opened on 28 September 2000, selected journos were invited to a 6am private reveal at the Louvre Museum. They had no idea what they were about to be shown, but they were promised that it would be worth getting up for. It turned out to be a film of two-time world rally champ Walter Rohrl beasting the concept CGT through the Nevada desert, followed by a bleary-eyed step outside to witness Rohrl in real life using his skittery skills piloting the CGT on the wet cobblestones of the Champs-Elysées.
From a distance, it looked like some kind of enlarged Boxster, but when the engine was lit your ears told you that it was not that. A 2mm overbore of the dry-sump V10 increased the concept’s 5,500cc to a new production capacity of 5,733cc, lifting maximum power from 550hp to 612hp. Peak torque was slightly reduced from 443lb ft to 435lb ft, while weight went up from 1,250kg to a still pretty light 1,380kg.
In short, the CGT was a carbon fibre monocoqued mid-engined rear-wheel drive road car with a screaming V10 behind your head, a 0-62mph time of 3.9sec and a 0-100mph of 7.4sec. Today it is seen as a true Porsche great, earning plaudits for its ‘alive’ chassis, the wondrous tactility of its controls, and the spine-chilling yell of its engine. It was the first production car to have a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic monocoque chassis. The main chassis componentry (built by the same people who made the Enzo for Ferrari) weighed under 100kg, but the CGT was more rigid than the 911 RSR racer despite it not having a conventional roof to stiffen everything up.
Some of the items in the concept, like the flip-up seat side supports and the exquisitely crafted aluminium pop-up camera mount between the seats, didn’t make production, but there was no shortage of other stuff to drool over like race-style inboard suspension with pushrod-actuated dampers.
Despite its exoticism, however, the CGT was far from an instant hit. In fact, there was some doubt as to whether it would even be built. Porsche said in 2000 that if they received 500 orders they would go ahead with it, in which case they would be aiming for a Geneva show launch in 2003 with deliveries starting in 2004.
Enough orders were indeed received, so they did indeed go ahead. There was talk of making 1,000 and then 1,500 cars. Press reports in 2000 predicted an on-sale price in Germany of just under £220,000, but when the cars began to be delivered in ’04 the sticker price was 452,000 euros, or £330,000 in the UK. It doesn’t seem like a lot now, with the benefit of hindsight, but the fact was that interest in the car was relatively low during the entire three-year production run. Röhrl’s admission just before it went on sale that it was the first car he had ever driven that had scared him probably didn’t help to boost sign-ups.
When production stopped in May 2006, officially because of the arrival of stricter airbag regulations in the US, the final tally was 1,270 cars. At that time CGT values were actually dropping. They went down to not much more than £200k at one point.
Things have changed somewhat since then. The realisation that there might not be many more naturally aspirated, highly analogue, ‘seat of the pants’ supercars with manual gearboxes coming down the pipe shifted this limited-run lightweight Porsche into the smart money sector, gradually at first but then all of a pop. By 2019 the entry price for a used CGT had risen to £500k-£600k. It’s hard to be too specific on that as CGTs were tending to get more road use than other cars in this category, and as we all know mileage has a significant effect at this end of the market. These relatively low prices remained in force for a couple more years but another huge jump in ’21/’22 made those prices ancient history.
By 2022 the average sale price in the US had risen to $1.6 million. In January of that year, a 250-mile car was sold for $2 million. Prices are a bit less extreme in the UK, for now at least, maybe because there were no right-hand drive cars. At the time of writing (May 2023) you’ll typically be looking at an average asking price of £1.3m here. There are no sub-£1 million CGTs to be had anywhere, but you can find cars in the UK that fall within the £1m-£1.3m range. We’ll be linking you to CGTs of every price at the end of this piece.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE CARRERA GT 980 (2004-06)
Engine: 5,733cc V10
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 612@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 435@5,750rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.9
Top speed (mph): 205
Weight (kg): 1,380
MPG (official combined): 15.8
CO2 (g/km): 429
Wheels (in): 9.5 x 19 (f), 12.5 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 265/35 (f), 335/30 (r)
On sale: 2004 - 2006
Price new: £330,000
Price now: from £1.1 million
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The indicators as to the CGT’s racy DNA weren’t just in the carbon fibre chassis from which Porsche hung rose-jointed pushrod suspension. They were also in the drivetrain. Along with a dry sump and titanium connecting rods, the 5.7 litre V10 had gear-driven cams so there were no belts or chains to worry about. 5,750rpm seemed like a lot of revs to achieve peak torque until you saw that peak power wasn’t delivered until 8,000rpm, not far short of the 8,400rpm maximum. That gave the CGT a power-to-weight figure of around 440hp per tonne and the V10 was dishing out 300lb ft not far off tickover so, in spite of its high-rpm personality, the engine had no difficulty whatsoever in moving the vehicle briskly along in less frantic driving situations.
Porsche’s head of design Harm Lagaay wanted the CGT to have a sequential paddle-operated gearbox along the lines of those then being brought in by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, but he was overruled by Walter Röhrl who demanded a manual. The gearbox used in the CGT was built by HÖR Technologie in Weiden who, when they weren’t working in F1 and aerospace, made specialist auto transmissions like this one and the one for the ridiculously successful Audi R8 GT3. The CGT’s power ran through a tiny Sachs carbon ceramic clutch, a world’s first in production cars. Only just over six inches in diameter, not much more than half the size of a conventional 911 clutch, and weighing just 7lb, the ceramic clutch allowed the engine to be sited lower in the car than a normal clutch would have, lowering the all-important centre of gravity.
Getting a CGT off the line wasn’t easy until you read the manual and realised that you weren’t supposed to give it any throttle. Porsche fitted the car with an automatic anti-stall throttle setting for this reason. Your job was not to slip the clutch but to slowly release it with no right foot input. If you gave it a bootful the anti-stall would disengage and you’d most likely stall. Porsche said that the PCCC had survived 16,000 racing starts in testing, so it is durable, but if you do mangle it a new one will cost you around £10k not counting VAT or labour, based on the simultaneous common-sense replacement of other parts like main oil seals while the car is in bits. In the States, the all-in cost was quoted at $20k by a YouTube owner. Later (2005-on) cars were reportedly fitted with a modified version of the PCCC which was better at non-clunky start-offs.
Once you were moving, your next task was to drive the car smoothly. This was another acquired skill. Everything about the car was ‘now’. You pressed the throttle, the engine responded. Instantly. The combination of its extreme lack of flywheel effect and the slick but long-throw shift made it hard to execute smooth gearchanges, up or down, even with hearty throttle blips. You wouldn’t want to miss a shift either as the going rate for a replacement factory engine, as of 2022 anyway, was 180,000 euros, or £156,000 at current rates. The only consolation being that the last but one sound you would hear before the nasty one that signalled engine expiry would be indescribably lovely, especially if your car was on straight pipes.
On servicing, there are two superb threads here and here set up by stefan1 that will give you a brilliant insight into CGT costs. In short, you’ll need pretty strong finances to keep one of these in prime condition. There’s only one accredited CGT service centre in the UK and that’s the Porsche Centre in Reading. They have an excellent reputation for looking after these cars. Intermediate services should be under £2k, which you might think outrageous until you hear how much the big services cost, especially the engine-out one that comes around every four years (or 30,000 miles) to check the valve clearances. The valves rarely need adjusting but other issues could be more easily traced and rectified with all the rear body panels removed, for example any cracks in the overflow tank at the front of the engine, which could happen. This four-year service typically generates a bill for 50 hours labour. The American YT owner referred to a couple of paras ago paid $40k for his service but that included labour and cost charges for a new clutch slave cylinder and labour charges for complete camshaft replacement.
What’s that now? Complete cam replacement? The biggest enemy of the CGT from a mechanical health point of view is underuse. This can negatively impact the camshafts, specifically the (very) sharp tops of the cam lobes which get pitted. Jimmy Repasi, ‘the’ CGT guru on the east coast of the US, reckons that roughly half of the ten or so cars he attends to every year will have this problem. If you got no goodwill assistance from Porsche (there was some muttering about manufacturing defects), replacement camshafts were about £5k a go – and there were four of them. Coil packs could crack with heat. They were getting on for £100 each, or more than that in the US apparently – and there are ten of them. Clutch slave cylinders have been known to leak. If you need another, fitting a new one might cost well over £5,000.
Some owners take the engine-out opportunity to have elective maintenance done at the same time – stripping down, cleaning every nook and cranny, hoses, belts and seals checked, that sort of thing, along with renewing paint protection or actual paint that’s gone dull. The bill for Stefan’s most recent big service in 2019 (by which point it had done 20,000 miles) came to £20k but around 60 per cent of that was elective. The core service was £7,500. HÖR, the only people authorised to work on the CGT box, found a crack in one of Stefan’s 2nd gear synchro rings after he had noticed some notchiness there when cold. Sending the box over to Germany for new forged differential parts (the originals were milled) added another £19k to his bill.
His clutch by the way was showing 1mm of wear in 2015 when it was eight years old. The plates would have had 31mm of meat on them when new and were supposed to be replaced when they get down to 28mm. By 2019 the PCCC had hardly any additional wear beyond that 2015 level of 30mm.
The CGT was a good driver’s car. Correction: it was a car for good drivers. The difference is important. Even Walter Röhrl – a steel-balled deity from the very top echelon of wheelmen – approached the CGT with the same wariness that the rest of us might feel when approaching an angry lion. Admittedly Röhrl drove it like an angry Tasmanian devil, that was his job after all, but even at less extreme speeds, it was more than capable of biting those less skilled.
A PH representative was at the Nürburgring when one of these was being gloriously revved up in the collection area. The next time he saw it, it was being winched onto a low-loader at Bergwerk with one rear corner stoved in, having failed to complete its first lap. One car was written off at the press launch and legend has it that Röhrl binned another one at the Ring. Large-chinned American comedian Jay Leno made the mistake of lifting off the CGT’s throttle when entering a 190mph banked turn at Talladega. The result was a trouser-soiling five-revolution spin that somehow didn’t end up in the concrete retaining wall.
The combination of old tyres and old-school stability electronics did give this car the potential to create an ‘interesting’ experience if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 2013 Fast & Furious star Paul Walker was killed in the passenger seat of a 3,500-mile 2005 CGT that was still wearing its original Pilot Sport 2 tyres. Today, Cup 2 and 4S tyres are the preferred rubber and some say they have usefully reduced some of the CGT’s snappiness, but you do have to make sure that all tyres used have the appropriate Porsche N-rating.
The lesson really is to never take liberties with a CGT or any powerful mid-engined car that doesn’t have modern stability control measures. What you got in the CGT was a big button on the centre console next to the steering wheel to switch the traction control on or off. Next to that was a manual control for the rear spoiler in case you thought that raising it manually before the automatic deployment came in at 120km/h (about 74mph) would give you some extra safety. Other than that it was down to you, the prevailing conditions, and whatever god you subscribed to.
Last word on this. Sorry if this getting a bit grisly but it’s all part of the CGT story. A collision at the California Speedway track in 2006 that caused the death of a CGT passenger generated a lawsuit. In the courtroom one Porsche engineer said that they didn’t fit their standard PSM system to the CGT because the chassis suspension mounting would have created vibrations that would have interfered with it. Another said that Porsche customers didn’t want stability control on their CGTs. There was some other stuff in the lawsuit about the difficulty of correcting high-speed oversteer. Again, some might say welcome to the world of mid-engined motoring. Many have positively enjoyed the high-speed handling.
The magnesium centre-lock wheels (12.5 x 20 rear, 9.5 x 19 front) had their own rather beautiful aluminium removal socket (monogrammed ‘Carrera GT’) which lived in the front boot. The wheel nuts were red on the nearside and blue on the offside to stop you mixing them up as they were different-direction threads left and right. It was good practice to stave off magnesium oxidisation by re-lacquering the wheels on a regular basis, whether you drove on salty roads or not. Four years seems to be the accepted frequency for this. If you didn’t want to spend the £100 or so on treating each wheel you could always get new wheels at £5,000 a go.
Carbon brakes were in their infancy in the early 2000s, but they were standard on the CGT. In fact, they were the largest brakes on a production car at that time. Generically the pedal feel on carbon brakes has often been criticised but the feel on the CGT pedal was excellent once a little heat had been brewed up. There have been some reports of the anodised aluminium ‘top hats’ on the Sachs pushrod rear suspension units gradually coming undone, and of some front springs starting to rust. There was a factory recall on ’04 and ’05 CGTs to replace wishbone components that had been showing a tendency to corrode, leading to a potential fracture. Front engine mounts could also show signs of wear.
You can get hydraulic-pump suspension lift kits for the CGT from KW. Via a neatly integrated button on the centre console these kits provide extra compression and rebound adjustability and extra body clearance to help preserve the carbon undertrays, which can cost upwards of £50k to replace. The KW kit will automatically put the car into its lowest setting at speeds above 50mph.
Is the California-designed Carrera GT good-looking? That’s a question no one can really answer. It’s certainly purposeful. As with anything from Porsche, function generally triumphs over form, and there’s a beauty in that. Every body piece had a job to do. The big side air intakes fed three radiators with a total area five times that of the contemporary 911 Turbo.
Although there were five colours available – GT Silver, Seal Grey, Basalt Black, Guards Red and Fayence Yellow – the overwhelming majority were ordered in silver or the oddly named but somehow massively appropriate Seal Grey. Used CGTs in the other three colours tend to be more expensive. Here’s our story on a Fayence Yellow example which in the summer of 2022 was priced at a fiver under £900k. Not bad for a car with 54,000 miles. Custom-painted cars can be even pricier.
Some owners have noted paint dullness over time, even on protected cars. The wing sections behind the front wheels were vulnerable to gravel attack and front splitters did get beaten up if the car had no lift kit but they are surprisingly cheap at not much more than £200.
Once the carbon roof panels were removed and stored in the random-looking but factory-intended manner there were covers in the rollover hoops to slide over the unsightly latch mech. The tool kit and warning triangle lived behind individually shaped carbon covers on either side of the upper engine bay. Great detailing abounded.
The CGT worshipped at the altar of sparse functionality. Porsche 917 racers of the 1960s and 1970s had wooden gearknobs to protect the drivers’ hands from burning on a metal knob in the heat (literally) of battle. The 917’s was made of super light balsa. Nobody said if it ever caught fire, but you’d like to think that wouldn’t be an issue for the CGT’s tribute knob which was fashioned from a more robust-sounding mix of birch and ash. If it did spontaneously combust, or your forgetful old retainer absent-mindedly chucked it on the fire in your stately pile, a factory replacement of the wooden piece alone will cost you over £1,000. Carbon fibre knobs were added to the CGT options list in the second year of production.
The seat shells were a carbon fibre/Kevlar mix and the cushions were only Velcroed into place, allowing the owner to choose between thick or thin. That was how you gained or lost height behind the wheel because the seats only moved fore and aft, not up and down. The aluminium pedals were floor-hinged, and the ignition keyhole was on the left of the steering column in homage to the old Le Mans days when that positioning allowed panting drivers who had just run across the track at the sound of the starting klaxon to turn on the engine while hopping aboard and grabbing the gearshift with the other hand.
A tiny bespoke Becker radio was wedged into the space at the top of the centre console. Navigation and air conditioning were also standard equipment. You’d struggle to hear any music from the audio in the carbon-tubbed and extremely light CGT. The cabin had its own noises, mainly great ones. Having said that, the main beneficiaries of the CGT’s scream were pedestrians. Some say that the Lexus LFA sounds better inside. That’s a discussion for the pub. Fine workmanship meant that rattles weren’t part of the CGT deal.
Every CGT came with a bespoke leather luggage set comprised of a briefcase with a curving handle made from the same wood as the gearknob, a folding suit bag that hung behind the seats, a slender man-bag type thing that went between the seat and the sill, a small oddments case that clipped onto the carbon fibre piece below the ‘flying buttress’ gearshift housing, two dinky pouches that hid inside the doors, and a large soft bag for the front boot which was lined with a quilted fabric for protection when the two removable roof sections were stored in there. You had to move the seats forward to access the roof panel latches.
It’s tough to keep a low profile in something like a Zonda or a LaFerrari. That type of car is always ‘on’. The Carrera GT doesn’t have the bombast or glitz of cars like these. In fact, in the standard colour offerings that most of them are in its looks are positively understated, but those who buy it for its exquisite engineering and the promise of a highly immersive, incredibly responsive analogue experience also consider that low-profile aspect to be a nice part of the ownership appeal. You can sneak around a Waitrose car park in a CGT knowing that you always have the option of indulging yourself mightily in the power and the glory at a moment of your own choosing.
Unlike many pampered supercars, CGTs do accumulate miles. There are some that have covered over 100,000 of them. Given what’s been said in this story these high-milers might well be the best ones to buy, assuming the maintenance has been kept up, and frankly it would be extraordinary if it wasn’t. The lure of a low number on the odometer is tough to resist though.
It’s hard not to gasp in amazement at some of the costs involved in spare parts and servicing. Even everyday stuff is far from everyday in one of these – to get to the battery you have to take off the offside rear wheel – but even so cynics may suggest price massaging has been applied to the running costs side of things. They might be right. Who are we to say? Owners seem happy to pay. They regard it as a rite of passage, part of the honour of running a CGT, and who are we to deny them that pleasure?
It’s not as if they’ll be losing money on the deal. Prices have shot up in the last couple of years. Rarity helps of course and the CGT is rarer than it was meant to be if you believe a Porsche employee email from 2006 which said that 200 cars had already been written off at that point.
There are thought to be around 70 CGTs in the UK. Seven of them were for sale on PH Classifieds in May ’23. Here’s the ‘cheapest’ one, a 10,500-miler in silver at £1,099,950 It’s had a new clutch and one engine-out major service. For about £50k more, a mere trifle at this level, there’s this freshly-serviced 24,000-mile ’04 car that came to the UK via Mexico, Florida and Holland. Throw £1.375 million at the dealer and you could have this ’05 Basalt Black 8,000-mile car with terracotta leather and the KW suspension lift kit. This one’s slightly less well-travelled, having started its life in Monaco.
Two of the seven PH Classifieds cars were ‘price on application’. This one, based in Hong Kong, had covered just 430 miles. If we applied, what price do you think we’d be quoted? £1.5m? More? Point being, you’d need to spend a hell of a lot more than £1.5m to get a McLaren F1, which is arguably the only thing that beats the Carrera GT on immediacy, noise and specialness.
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