It’s been two decades almost to the month since Porsche first showed the concept for its Carrera GT supercar. On 28th September 2000, it was left to Walter Rohrl (who else?) to drive Stuttgart’s pre-production masterpiece to the Paris motor show via the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre, with a police escort. While it wasn’t quite as unexpected as Ford’s surprise GT reveal at the 2015 Detroit show, the Carrera GT’s dramatic entrance created an enormous stir. And rightfully so - here was a car developed from a stillborn Le Mans machine with a Formula 1 derived V10 engine. That could be driven on the road.
You won’t need us to explain why the GT remains a notable engineering achievement. The numbers tell half the story; even by modern standards, the 2003 production car’s 612hp output is up there, especially as it's delivered by a natural-aspirated engine at 8,000rpm. And with a six-speed manual gearbox, as well. Moreover, and despite the car’s 4.6-metre length, it weighs only 1,380kg, and serves up 62mph in just 3.9 seconds - with rear-wheel drive. 124mph is reached 6.9 seconds after that. Top speed is 205mph. Those numbers are said to be conservative, too, as per Porsche tradition.
While the carbon fibre chassis wasn’t technically motorsport born, it did start life there as part of Porsche’s motorsport programme - to be used in an LMP2000 prototype (known internally as the 9R3). But thanks to a Le Mans rule change by the FIA and ACO (and, rumours suggest, pressure within the VW Group to not rival Audi’s then new R8 Le Mans car), the LMP2000 never made it past development. Instead Porsche saw fit to use the architecture in a supercar for the new millennium. Better still, the stillborn racer’s engine, a shelved ten-cylinder originally developed in secret for the Footwork team to use in the 1992 F1 season, was to be retained.
Imagine how excited the team were when that lot got signed off. The motor itself had been brought back to life before the LMP2000 project was canned, because engineers decided it was going to be easier to manage and cool than the originally planned turbocharged flat-six. It ensured that the Carrera GT would get one of the most celebrated engines to ever make production. It has genuine F1 ties – far more than those reckoned to have gone into the E60 M5’s V10 – yet it’s mated to a manual gearbox, with that 917-inspired beech wood knob. That was special back in 2000; these days, it’s even easier to get sentimental about.
There were changes, of course, evidenced by the road car engine’s larger capacity of 5.7 litres, compared to the 5.0 and 5.5-litre versions developed under the F1 project. Less power from a bigger capacity lump ensured reliability and easier operation in road use, but the 68-degree motor still required use of a motorsport-grade ceramic clutch to ensure the six-ratio manual could be consistently engaged without failure. The engine revved to 8,400rpm, after all, and despite Porsche’s road-bias tuning, the V10 must be approached with caution. To help keep it in check, the stopping power was provided by carbon ceramic brakes, which were still largely exclusive to racing cars at the time.
The aerodynamics borrowed much from the Le Mans car underneath, with the addition of an extending rear wing to aid stability at high speed, plus a flat floor and rear diffuser, the GT remains a force to be reckoned with. Delivered with no stability control the car demands respect; even Rohrl famously noted that the GT was "the first car in my life that I drive and I feel scared”. But he also adored it, and it's no accident that several other top-level drivers are said to have felt the same. Calling it the last of the hairy-chested hypercars would be overstating it, but 20 years on from the concept’s reveal, it seems no less extreme.
Which is handy because in 2020 it's still possible to experience the GT virtually as it would have been when new. Behold a 599-mile-old, £725k example in the classifieds. Needless to say, original components on a car like this aren’t necessarily a good thing – we’d be checking that the tyres are not still the factory set, for starters – but the mileage would suggest that this one has spent most of its life stationary in a collection. The most affordable car currently on offer has notched up a respectable 15k, and still retails at £575k. Between the two, expect to pay around £650k for a car which has recorded fewer than 500 miles per year. Any one of them will provide its new owner with a virtually peerless example of Porsche pedigree - and for several hundred grand less than its spiritual successor.
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