In the mid-1990s, Porsche had to modernize the 911. Building an air-cooled car with bones dating back to the early 1960s simply wasn’t sustainable, so Porsche had no choice but to go radical.
The resulting car, the 996, was the profitable sales success Porsche so desperately needed, but it came at the expense of credibility with enthusiasts. In embracing modernity, fans felt 911 was no longer the car they had grown to love. In their eyes, it became a sell-out. A pretender. A shadow of itself
I always thought the 996 never got its fair shot. Even ignoring its genuine faults—intermediate-shaft bearing failures among them—the 996 was going to have a hard time in life. Purists weren’t ready to accept that the 911 had to change, and that negative sentiment carried on long after it left production.
The 996 GT3 calls bullshit on those purists. It’s proof that Porsche never lost sight of what made the 911 great as it entered the 21st century.
Last year, Porsche brought this beautiful 1999 GT3 out of its museum to a road-trip in Scotland celebrating the millionth 911. In a group of amazing old and new 911s, this 996 stood out as a singular achievement. It’s one of the last truly old-school 911s, and easily one of the all-time greats.
This becomes evident as soon as you climb inside and start its 3.6-liter flat-six. It might’ve been one of the first water-cooled engines ever to find a home in the back of a road-going 911, but in 1999, it was a proven workhorse.
Problems? Well, it was probably a little too stiff for Scotland. The country’s roads are as beautiful and curvy as they are rough and bumpy. The GT3 tended to skip around on the worst stuff. The damping is good enough that it was never uncontrollable, merely annoying. You could also probably dial some of that out, since everything’s adjustable.
I got out of the car after just a half-hour mesmerized. I wondered if it was perfect 911. Others are more daily-drivable, lots are much quicker, and I didn’t care in the slightest. This car does the whole race-car-for-the-road thing beautifully. It’s my Goldielocks 911.
While I’d suspected all the hate the 996 receives wasn’t deserved, I didn’t expect to fall for this car quite so hard. After all, Porsche brought a choice selection of 911s to Scotland—a 1985 Clubsport prototype and a new 911 R among them. Even if the 996 GT3 was good, there was no way it could live up to those heavy-hitters.
That’s exactly what happened. Thirty seconds elapsed between me shutting the GT3’s door, and my mind racing to come up with ways to afford a 996 Carrera to turn it into something like this.